The MLS soccer schedule is a very unique one in American sports, and also unique in the soccer world as well. While the major soccer leagues in the world play as one big division, and most play a real round-robin schedule, the MLS has two conferences. Some seasons, the teams from one conference don’t play the others, and some seasons they do.
The schedule also changes its setup as the league expands. Routinely teams will play others in their conference twice a season, both home and away, and teams from the other conference once. Some years this is a three/zero setup.
The MLS is the top American professional soccer league. The MLS began play in 1996 on the heels of the U.S. hosting the 1994 World Cup. After a couple seasons of struggling, the MLS found its foothold with soccer-specific stadiums and passionate fan bases. The league has a regular season schedule and a playoff schedule, crowning the champion at the MLS Cup Final.
Over the years the MLS has grown young American stars that have been sold to European teams to bring in revenue, and they have brought in major soccer superstars in the twilight of their careers.
Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride are among those that have played in the MLS as youngsters. David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steve Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Kaka and Andrea Pirlo are among those who have come over later in their careers with superstar, name-drawing power.
The MLS schedule has had many iterations over the years as the league has expanded. In the first season, 1996, there were just 10 teams and they played 32 games, leaving an unbalanced schedule. The schedule has fluctuated over the years from 32 games down to 26 and 28 in the early 2000’s then back up to 30 and finally to 34 in 2011. The only exception to 34 was in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
Main Events on MLS Schedule.
While the MLS schedule isn’t always the same and isn’t always locked in year to year like other leagues, there are some main events on the MLS schedule that draw soccer betting attention. Among the old-school rivalry games in the MLS are D.C United v. New York Red Bulls. LA Galaxy v. San Jose Earthquakes, the Canadian Classique of Montreal CF v. Toronto FC and Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders, which predates their MLS time.
Newer rivalries also dot the MLS schedule with El Trafico, LA Galaxy v LAFC, Colorado Rapids v Real Salt Lake, Nashville SC v. Atlanta United and NYCFC v. New York Red Bulls. Other games like the Texas Derby (Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, Austin FC) and the Florida Derby (Orlando City v. Inter Miami) have regional importance.
These rivalry games can be big for MLS betting and knowing which games are important to each team can give bettors an advantage.
MLS Main Venues.
The MLS started out with nearly every team playing in NFL or College Football stadiums. That evolved over the years as the league grew. Now, most of the teams play in soccer-specific stadiums, built for MLS teams though a few still play in larger NFL venues.
The larger venues are the NFL ones, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Gillette Stadium in New England, Lumen Field in Seattle and even a MLB stadium with Yankee Stadium for NYCFC.
Some of the soccer-specific stadiums also host USMNT games. Lower.com Field in Columbus, the Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park, Austin’s Q2 Stadium, TQL Stadium in Cincinnati and Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City are among the most popular.
After Covid-19 Details.
The MLS has pretty much returned to normal after COVID-19 with stadiums open and operating at full capacity. Some have local restrictions in place, requiring vaccines while others do not. The league schedule is fully operational though unvaccinated players cannot travel to Canada to face Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.
MLS Schedule Frequently Asked Questions
The MLS schedule typically runs from late February to mid October for the regular season. The playoffs start in October and end in early December with the MLS Cup. There are exceptions during World Cup seasons that interrupt the schedule.
The MLS schedule typically has 34 games with each team playing 17 at home and 17 on the road.
The MLS schedule is typically released in December, following the MLS Cup Final.
The majority of games are played on the weekends with Saturday and Sunday contests. Teams will have mid-week games as well with a handful of Tuesday or Wednesday games. The schedule will have changes for teams competing in the Champions League, U.S. Open Cup or Canadian Championships.