SPORTS

MLS shakes up conference alignment with demise of Chivas and expansion additions

10/27/2014 06:48 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - After picking up just five of a possible 18 points against Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo this year, one would think Toronto FC might wave a fond farewell when the two teams shift to the Western Conference next season.

But Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko suggests sometimes it's better the devil you know.

The East will face a new challenge next season with the addition of expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC in the East.

"In both those cases (K.C. and Houston) I think that we know our opponent," Bezbatchenko said Monday. "Whereas we have two (new) teams that are coming into this league that have shown their ambitions through their players signing so far, between Kaka (to Orlando) and David Villa and (Frank) Lampard (to New York).

"And there's speculation they're going to sign a number of name-type players. You don't really know what you're going to get and sometimes that's more dangerous than teams you do know you can prepare for."

The realignment announcement Monday was prompted by the closing of Chivas USA, as well as the expansion additions. The league, which took over the struggling second L.A. club this year, is unveiling another Los Angeles team and ownership group Thursday.

The new realignment leaves both conferences with 10 teams, each playing a 34-game schedule.

Clubs will play each team in the opposing conference once for five home and five away matches. Clubs will play each of their nine conference opponents at least twice (one home, one away), plus six additional intra-conference games (three home and three away).

Toronto went 0-2-1 against Kansas City and 1-1-1 against Houston this season. The Montreal Impact was 0-3-0 against Kansas City and 1-2-0 against Houston.

In the absence of Chivas (9-19-6), the Vancouver Whitecaps may welcome rubbing shoulders with Kansas City (14-13-7) and Houston (11-17-6).

The Whitecaps were 0-1-2 against Chivas this year, but beat both Kansas City and Houston in their lone encounters.

Houston started in the West in 2006 but shifted to the East in 2011. Kansas City began life in the West in 1996, moving to the East in 2005.

Sporting Kansas City has finished fifth, second, first and first in the East in the last four years. Houston was eighth, third, fifth and second over the same period.

Chivas placed seventh, ninth, ninth and eighth the last four years in the West.

"Today's strong conference becomes tomorrow's weak conference," said commissioner Don Garber when asked on a media conference call Monday if he feared a competitive imbalance.

"Our system is one that provides resources to those teams that don't perform as well as others. And as we've experienced throughout pro sports history, what is today doesn't necessarily exist tomorrow.

"The realignment plan is very much about how do we ensure that we have a great competition that minimizes travel, that provides the opportunity for close proximity between teams to further stimulate rivalry, and just to create order."

Toronto (11-15-8) missed out on the MLS playoffs for the eighth straight year.

Despite Chivas closing its doors, the league confirmed Toronto will still get the team's first-round draft pick in 2015. Toronto got the selection in a 2013 deal that gave Chivas top spot in the 2013 MLS allocation order, allowing it to take defender Carlos Bocanegra.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports