From League release:
NEW YORK (November 5, 2021) — Major League Soccer today announced the schedule format and conference alignment for the 2022 MLS season.MLS release
To best align with the 2022 international soccer calendar, the MLS regular season will begin earlier than ever before, kicking off on Saturday, Feb. 26, and run through Decision Day, the regular season finale, on Sunday, October 9. Following three consecutive weeks of Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs action, MLS Cup will be played on Saturday, Nov. 5, more than two weeks prior to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21 and more than a week prior to the player release date on Nov. 14.
Major League soccer also confirmed today that Charlotte FC, set to begin play as Major League Soccer’s 28th team, will compete in the Eastern Conference, while Nashville SC will compete in the Western Conference, resulting in two conferences of 14 teams each.
All teams will play a 34-game regular season – 17 home games, 17 away games – facing each of their conference opponents two times and playing eight non-conference opponents once.
The MLS regular season schedule will consist of all weekend matches with the exception of five, or fewer, midweek matches – targeting one each in May, June and July, and two in August. The midweek match dates for each team will not be scheduled in consecutive weeks.
In observance of the 2022 FIFA calendar, MLS will seek to avoid scheduling matches during the FIFA international windows in March, June or September. Only at a team’s request will MLS consider scheduling a match during the March window, or during the second weekend of the June double window. Teams may not request to play matches during the September window, at the final stretch of the regular season.
The full MLS regular season schedule will be announced later this year.
I mentioned in a couple places earlier this week that I’d heard NSC would be moving to the West, and now it’s official. It’s certainly a frustration (particularly given that Nashville will almost certainly be right back to the East when St. Louis joins the following year, presumably alongside Las Vegas).
It’s going to make life very difficult for fans hoping to travel to games – though certainly that’s just the nature of a league that spans a country as big as the United States, in a lot of ways. With eight non-conference games, you can imagine that Cincinnati, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, and Charlotte will be prioritized for NSC’s cross-conference games. You know, all their rivals (or potential rivals) in existence, each and every one of whom is placed into the opposite conference. I’m not big on the “well actually Chicago is farther West!” complaining, but certainly trying to establish any rivalries of note when Nashville is placed into the opposite conference as all of them is bad form.
MLS has also determined each team’s home opener, though announcements will take place at a later date (for obvious reasons – a stadium that’s projected to be finished in mid-March – Nashville’s outcome there will be particularly interesting, more in the details than in the identity of the opponent).
Finishing the regular season Nov. 5 is a necessity for this year, thanks to the World Cup, but certainly in terms of long-term success for the league, that’s around when it should be ending anyway (before the November international window in a non-Winter World Cup year, and to reduce competition for eyeballs and in some cases facilities with American football as much as possible). It’ll nonetheless be a tight squeeze going forward with the Leagues Cup expanding (in 2023) to include every team from MLS and Liga MX – and occupying a full month in the middle of the subsequent seasons.