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MLS announces 2022 schedule format, season dates, conference alignment

The 2022 Major League Soccer season will have the earliest start in league history

SOCCER: JUL 21 MLS - New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 Major League Soccer season will start in 113 days. MLS announced Friday morning the major details for the upcoming year, the 27th season in league history. The announcement comes just two days before MLS’s Decision Day, the final matchday of the 2021 regular season. The schedule format for next season has major differences along with a new conference realignment and the earliest start date in league history.

This upcoming season will begin on Feb. 26, a full two-month difference compared to the late start date of the 2021 campaign. The regular season will run until Oct. 9 where the entire league will play on Decision Day. The MLS Cup playoffs will then take place over three consecutive weeks before the 2022 MLS Cup Final on Nov. 5.

The entire 2022 schedule was designed to work around the 2022 FIFA World Cup that is set to start on Nov. 21. The MLS Cup Final will be held two weeks prior to the first game in Qatar and before the Nov. 14 player release date for players called up to represent their countries. MLS is also going to make an effort to avoid scheduling matches during the international breaks in March, June and September.

Another unique factor of the schedule is the deduction of midweek matches across the league. MLS announced that every team will have five or fewer games during the middle of the week to focus a majority of the games over the weekend. The target is for each club to have a midweek match in May, June, July and two in August. No team will be allowed to have consecutive weeks with midweek games.

The addition of MLS’s 28th club, Charlotte FC, means the conferences will realign once again. Charlotte will join the Eastern Conference and Nashville SC will move to the Western Conference starting in 2022. This gives each conference an even 14 teams moving forward.

Each MLS team is set to play 34 regular season matches in 2022 with an even split of 17 at home and away. Teams will play their 13 other conference opponents twice, home and away. For the first time since the 2019 season, MLS clubs will get to play more inter-conference matches, with each team set to play eight opponents from the opposite conference. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLS only allowed two inter-conference games for the 2021 season.

For the Columbus Crew, this will mean a chance to play some Western Conference foes the team hasn’t played in years. The Black & Gold will also face Charlotte FC on two occasions with a match at Field and another at Bank of America Stadium.

The entire 2022 MLS schedule will be released later this year.

2022 MLS Season Key Dates

February 26, 2022: Regular season begins

October 9, 2022: Decision Day

November 5, 2022: MLS Cup Final

November 14, 2022: MLS player release date

November 21, 2022: 2022 FIFA World Cup begins

2022 MLS conference realignment

Eastern Conference: Atlanta United, Chicago Fire, Charlotte FC, FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Inter Miami, CF Montreal, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC

Western Conference: Austin FC, Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC, Minnesota United, Nashville SC, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps