NEW YORK — Major League Soccer is adding two teams to its playoffs, realigning the conferences and welcoming two new franchises.
The league announced the schedule for its 20th regular season Wednesday, with the opener March 6 as Chicago visits the champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
Joining the league are Orlando City FC and New York City FC, who will face off at the Citrus Bowl for their debut game on March 8. NYCFC will play its home games at Yankee Stadium.
With the addition of those two franchises, MLS has moved the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City to the Western Conference, creating two 10-team conferences.
Each team will play 34 games during the regular season: a home-and-home series against each club from the other conference; at least two matches against each opponent within the conference; and six additional intra-conference games.
This year, 12 teams will qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs: the sixth-place team in both conferences will make the postseason.
Conference semifinals will be played during the weekends of Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and Nov. 7-8. Following a FIFA break from Nov. 9-17, the conference playoffs will continue on Nov. 21-22 and close Nov. 28-29. All of that matches will be a two-game aggregate goal series, with away goals serving as the tiebreaker.
MLS Cup will be hosted by the finalist with the better regular-season record; the date has not been set.
One longtime MLS member, San Jose, will unveil its new home, Avaya Stadium, on March 22 against Chicago.
MLS also has added flex scheduling and a "Decision Day" to the TV lineup.
The final week of games within each conference will kick off at the same time on "Decision Day." East games will be played at 5 p.m. ET, while West games will begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25.
MLS will allow its network partners to flex starting times for the previous week in October. That should place meaningful games on network television.
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