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MLS announces conference alignment for 2020 season

Inter Miami to the Eastern Conference, and Nashville SC to the West.

Major League Soccer will introduce two new teams located east of the Mississippi River, but only one will compete in the league’s Eastern Conference for the 2020 season. Inter Miami will debut in the East, while Nashville SC will play its inaugural campaign in MLS’ Western Conference, per a Monday announcement.

This alignment balances the Eastern and Western conferences with 13 teams each, but it means Nashville will not play in the same circuit as its two closest geographic rivals. Atlanta United, located roughly 250 miles to the southeast, and FC Cincinnati, about 270 miles to the northeast, play in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting Kansas City, located roughly 555 miles to the northwest, is Nashville’s closest Western Conference rival.

One Eastern Conference team — the Chicago Fire — is located longitudinally west of Nashville. The league did not explain its reasoning for leaving Chicago in the East and placing Nashville in the West. Multiple MLS spokespersons have not responded to a Pro Soccer USA request for comment. 

The league will add Austin FC as its 27th team in 2021. MLS could conceivably place Austin in the Western Conference — along with Texas rivals FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo — and realign Nashville to the East. The Sacramento Republic and an expansion franchise based in St. Louis, Mo., will join in 2022.

MLS will continue with a 34-game schedule in 2020. Each team will face conference opponents twice — one meeting at home and one away — and play single games against 10 teams from the opposite conference. This will be the first season in which MLS franchises do not face every other team in the league at least once during the regular season. 

Inter-conference matchups “will be revealed with the full 2020 schedule release,” per Monday’s announcement. The league did not give a timetable for that release.

MLS’ conference alignment for 2020 is as follows:

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

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