In 2015, New York City FC will be the newest member of Major League Soccer.
While there certainly won't be any expansion teams in 2014, it's entirely possible there will be a club or two entering MLS in 2015. But for the sake of this article, let's pretend that this will not happen.
When NYCFC—which has a nice ring to it—enters the league, there will be 20 teams. Which means (hallelujah!) there will be two conferences with the same number of teams in each.
With 10 teams in the East (NYCFC will play in that conference, obviously) and nine in the West, an Eastern Conference club will make the switch to the West. The question is, which one?
The teams on the coast are ruled out, so no Red Bulls or Revolution. Any team in the Eastern time zone is safe for that matter, so Toronto, Montreal, Columbus, Philadelphia, and D.C. United will all be staying put.
That leaves the three teams in the Central time zone, Chicago, Sporting KC and Houston. Chicago is safe, because it's visibly more east than either Kansas City or H-Town.
On a map, Houston is only slightly more to the west than KC. That's not the only reason they should move to the West, though.
Firstly, they were there until 2010, when the Portland Timbers expansion would have overcrowded the West, so they switched to the East. It makes sense to return them to the conference they played in for so long and where they won both of their MLS Cups.
Secondly, FC Dallas is in the West. If MLS wants to market the Texas Derby as a real rivalry, they need to play three teams a year. With the new scheduling, the teams switch from playing one to two games every year. How can El Capitan be decided in one game every other year?
In-state games are great: MLS should ensure they happen as much as possible. Two teams from the same state shouldn't be separated by conferences.
Returning to geography, if you look at every MLS team on a map, there's a grouping of teams (from KC to Montreal) in the northeast quarter of the United States and east of Canada. Houston is pretty far away, considering how far south it is. Dallas, Colorado and even LA are closer than the northeast. I'm sure MLS wants to market itself as an environmentally friendly enterprise, so the Dynamo shouldn't have to fly so far all the time.
Houston should therefore be the Western Conference addition. But as a Dynamo fan, I am conflicted by this prospect.
On the one hand, it will be great to return to our old conference and play Dallas three times a year; but when the Dynamo go to the west coast, which will be fairly often, the games always start late here, at 9pm or 10pm. When they travel east, the game usually starts no later than 6:30pm.
And I'm not looking forward to facing Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Clint Dempsey five times a year.
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