NEW YORK – The Eastern Conference just added a little Texas twang for the 2011 MLS season.
League officials on Friday announced the highly awaited plans for conference realignment with the inclusion of expansion sides Portland and Vancouver, and the Houston Dynamo will make the shift from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference.
Both conferences will carry nine teams for the 2011 season, and teams will play each other twice as part of the league’s new balanced 34-game schedule.
Houston were realigned because they were the franchise furthest east in the Western Conference, roughly 100 miles east of in-state rivals FC Dallas.
“With the addition of Portland and Vancouver in 2011, MLS wanted to have two conferences of nine teams each,” MLS President Mark Abbott said. ”The most logical solution was for the Houston Dynamo – the easternmost club in the 2010 Western Conference – to move to the Eastern Conference.”
The move adds some hard-earned MLS hardware to the already proven Eastern Conference, as the two-time MLS Cup winning Dynamo make the change. The Dynamo won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007 and had reached the postseason each of the past four seasons before missing the playoffs in 2010.
With Houston now in the East, the Conference now boasts the winners of three MLS Cups since 2005 (Houston in 2006 and 2007, Columbus in 2008). The Western Conference has won the last two (Colorado and Real Salt Lake).
The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps will both join the Western Conference, where they’ll compete with the regional rival Seattle Sounders and the rest of the conference.
The Dynamo open the season on March 19 at home against the Philadelphia Union.