Major League Soccer announces changes to schedule and playoff structure

As all eyes across Major League Soccer focus on the Home Depot Center for tonight's MLS Cup final, the league made a major announcement Sunday about how next season's schedule and playoff format will be structured.

We already knew that the schedule will be unbalanced. Now we know a lot more details of how things will work.

- With the Montréal Impact joining the league next year as MLS' 19th team, the Eastern Conference will have 10 teams and the Western Conference will have nine teams.

- Teams in a given conference will play each team from the other conference once next season, instead of twice. Western Conferenc teams will get five home games and five road games; Eastern Conference taems will get either four home and five road games, or vice versa. A given road fixture will be a home fixture in the 2013 season.

- Teams in the Eastern Conference will play seven conference opponents three times each and two conference opponents twice each. If a team plays two road games and one home game against another team in 2012, it will play two home games and one road game against that team in 2013.

- Teams in the Western Conference will play each team in the conference three times each. As with the Eastern Conference, if a team plays twice on the road and once at home in 2012 against another team, it will play twice at home and once on the road in 2013.

- Five teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, and the playoffs will be conducted entirely within conferences until the championship game. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds will play a single-game knockout round. The conference semifinals and final will be two-game, aggregate-goal fixtures.

- The MLS Cup final will be hosted by the team that finishes with the most number of points in the regular season. There was no tiebreaker scenario established if both teams finish with the same number of points. One would assume that the head-to-head result will be used, but that could be a draw. We'll see what happens with that.

- The regular season will start in March and end in October. The schedule is expected in early January. I'm betting we'll get it at the MLS SuperDraft, which will be held January 12 in Kansas City, Mo.

As for the last game this year, the Los Angeles Galaxy will face the Houston Dynamo tonight at the Home Depot Center. ESPN and Galavisión will be on the air at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, with kickoff set for approximately 9:25 p.m.

What do you think of all these changes? Which Western Conference road games do you want the Union to play? Have your say in the comments.