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What does the addition of LAFC mean for the Dynamo's 2018 schedule?

This season, Major League Soccer will welcome its 23rd club, Los Angeles FC, to the field. LAFC have already made waves in the league by signing Mexican star Carlos Vela, hiring of former U.S. men’s national team head coach Bob Bradley, and boasting an ownership group filled with Hollywood A-listers. Soon enough, their impact will be seen on the field as results take the place of expectations.

As we look closer to home, though, let’s take a moment to examine what the addition of LAFC will mean to the Houston Dynamo 2018 schedule, which should be announced later this month.

GO WEST, YOUNG MEN

LAFC will compete in the Western Conference, which means the Dynamo will see the expansion club twice per year. That means two trips to the City of Angels each year rather than just one, as in most years past, and six trips to the West Coast. The Western Conference now features six teams that play in the Pacific Time Zone, two that play in the Mountain Time Zone and four that play in the Central Time Zone.

SLIGHTLY TOUGHER PATH TO THE PLAYOFFS

With LAFC settled in the West, an imbalance between the two conferences will exist until a 24th team is added to the league. That also means that the path to the playoffs becomes slightly more difficult in the Western Conference than in the East, as 12 teams will fight for six playoff spots as opposed to 11 teams fighting for the same six spots in the East.

UNBALANCED SCHEDULE

Something perhaps not considered last year is that with 11 teams in the East, the Dynamo, along with every other Western Conference team, will have an annual imbalance of home and away matches in interconference play.

Last year, the Dynamo’s home schedule looked like this:

  • Western Conference opponents – 10
  • Eastern Conference opponents – 5 (CLB, NYRB, ORL, MTL, CHI)
  • Additional Western Conference opponent (third game) – 2 (SJ, MIN)

While the away schedule looked like this:

  • Western Conference opponents – 10
  • Eastern Conference opponents – 6 (NE, TOR, PHI, ATL, DC, NYC)
  • Additional Western Conference opponent (third game) – 1 (DAL)

With the Dynamo playing at D.C. United for a second consecutive year, that likely means six away games to Eastern Conference opponents again this year

ONE “BONUS GAME” EACH YEAR

Last year, the Dynamo played every Western Conference opponent home and away, and played a third game against FC Dallas, San Jose and Minnesota United to round out the 34-game schedule. With LAFC coming into the fold, two of those three “bonus” games last year will be replaced by the home-and-away series with LA.

That means only one “bonus game” each year for all Western Conference foes. MLS hasn’t announced anything about plans for those games, whether it will consistently be the same pairings or if it will rotate annually, so we’ll have to wait and see when the schedule comes out who that game will be against.

If we again assume that the Dynamo will have six Eastern Conference road games, then we can expect something like this for the home slate in 2018:

  • Western Conference opponents – 11
  • Eastern Conference opponents – 5 (NE, TOR, PHI, ATL, NYC)
  • Additional Western Conference opponent – 1 (TBD)

While the away slate would look thusly:

  • Western Conference opponents – 11
  • Eastern Conference opponents – 6 (DC, CLB, NYRB, ORL, MTL, CHI)

All of these factors will be more clear once the full schedule comes out, but for now it at least gives us a framework to think about as we speculate about how that might shake out.