Major League Soccer will not undergo any competition format changes in 2013 as the league strives for consistency after a number of changes in recent years, but MLS will have its earliest start date in league history.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said on a national conference call that the league will keep the same 34-game, unbalanced-schedule season while maintaining the same playoff format as this season next year as well.
"Consistency will be the theme for us in 2013," Garber said. "It's something that we've strived to achieve over the last number of years."
Under current rules, five teams in each conference make the playoffs, with the fourth and fifth seeds playing a one-game wildcard round ahead of the conference semifinals. One area that drew widespread criticism was the lack of rest time between rounds, as teams were forced to play midweek playoff games sandwiched in between weekend games. Coaches pointed to that schedule as a reason for fatigue and injuries, with a number of key players missing out on playoff games.
Garber did say that the league was looking to add more rest days between matches in the postseason for next year. He also said that the league will "do everything possible not to schedule games during World Cup qualifying dates" and that a concerted effort would be made to lighten the scheduling during the summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
One explanation for how the league could add more rest during playoff dates and be more flexible with its scheduling is that the league will have its earliest start date in its history. "First Kick," the opening day of the season, will occur on March 2, eight days earlier than the 2012 season, in a location to be determined. Garber said the league was in the process of finalizing a special First Kick plan that would be announced in the near future.
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