Looking at the 2015 NASL Fall Season Schedule

On Tuesday, January 20, the NASL announced the schedule for the 2015 Fall Season. Each of the 11 teams in the NASL this year will play each other twice for a total of 20 matches. Because of the odd number of participants in 2015, one team will have a bye and will sit out during every regular 5-game weekend fixture list.

The format is similar to the 2015 Spring Season that the NASL released on Wednesday, December 20. The spring campaign will see each team play each other once for a total of 10 matches before the mid-summer break in league play.

Since the NASL instituted the split-season format in 2013, the season has generally maintained a length from the beginning of April until the start of November.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 04/04/15 until 06/13/15 and the 2015 fall campaign will last from 07/04/15 until 11/01/15.
The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 04/12/14 until 06/08/14 and the 2014 fall campaign lasted from 07/12/14 until 11/02/14.
The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 04/06/13 until 07/04/13 and the 2013 fall campaign lasted from 08/03/13 until 11/02/13.

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly since its inception between 26 and 30 games for each team (not counting New York’s 2013 season).

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 12+14, 26 total games for 7/8 teams
2014: 9+18, 27 total games for 10 teams
2015: 10+20, 30 total games for 11 teams

The 2015 Fall Campaign will see each team play 20 games, 10 at home and 10 on the road, across 18 weeks. This format requires each team to play two mid-week games during the split season, an increase from just one in 2014.

There are three Friday night matches that are parts of the regular 5-game weekend fixture list. None of the teams that play on Friday will have played since the previous Saturday except for Carolina, who play the Sunday before: August 30 and September 4.

The league will play two games on Tuesday nights, Atlanta hosting Minnesota on September 15 and New York hosting Ottawa on September 22. Atlanta doesn’t play the weekend before that match while Minnesota plays the Saturday before. Both New York and Ottawa play on the Saturday prior their Tuesday meeting.

Teams will compete in 18 Wednesday night games to round out 20 total mid-week matches. Only two Wednesday night games feature a team that played the previous Sunday, all other teams playing the Friday or Saturday before. This ensures that for all but those two games, teams will have at least 3 full days in between games to travel, recuperate, and train between league fixtures. The two exceptions are when Edmonton hosts Ottawa on August 2 before hosting Indy on Wednesday, August 5, and when New York hosts Atlanta on October 4 before Atlanta hosts the return fixture on Wednesday, October 7.

Despite the difficulties of have an odd number of teams, the NASL maintained its commitment to a balanced schedule and proper rest between matches.

Analyzing the 2015 NASL Spring Season Schedule

The NASL released its schedule for the spring campaign of the 2015 season on December 17, 2014. The league will have 11 teams for the spring split and each team will play 10 games.

In 2012, the NASL regular season had a balanced schedule, in which each of the 8 teams faced the other 7 teams four times (twice home and twice away) for a total of 28 games. The season lasted 25 weeks from April 7 to September 23 and contained regular season 112 matches.

The NASL split season format was introduced for the 2013 season but was altered to accommodate a break during the 2014 World Cup. Throughout Latin America, most leagues cut the regular double-round-robin schedule down the middle with a brief break in between. These leagues, like Mexico’s Liga MX, split the season in half and crown a separate championship for each short tournament.

America’s second division has not yet played an equal spring and fall schedule because of mid-season expansion and the 2014 World Cup. In 2013, the NY Cosmos joined the league for the fall season only while the league shifted the break earlier in order to pause competition while on eyes were on Brazil.

The 2015 spring season will feature 5 matches each weekend with one team sitting out each week. In order to maintain the structure in the NASL schedule, one of the 11 teams must observe a bye each matchday.

Between April 4 and June 13, the league will hold 55 games. Only one match is scheduled for Friday evening, the NASL’s Canadian derby as Ottawa Fury SC hosts FC Edmonton on May 29.

With the professional schedule structure in place, there are clearly no instances of teams playing games on back-to-back nights or two games in one weekend as happens in USL PRO. New Minnesota United FC signing J.C. Banks recently told Doherty Soccer that the league’s scheduling was an important selling point in his move to MNUFC. Banks said that the congested schedule in USL PRO, where he played 4 seasons with Rochester Rhinos, threatened players’ health and often didn’t provide enough time for rest and adequate training.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 4/4 until 6/13

The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 4/12 until 6/08
The 2014 fall campaign lasted from 7/12 until 11/02

The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 4/06 until 7/04
The 2013 fall campaign lasted from 8/03 until 11/02

The 2015 season looks a lot like the beginning of the 2014 season even though there’s no World Cup this year to justify an early break,

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly between 26 and 28 games for each team.

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 26 total games
2014: 27 total games
2015: 10+?

The league has set itself up for a headache with the fall split of the 2015 schedule.

If the league remains with 11 teams, NASL could double the spring campaign during the fall, playing each other team home and away. This format would still require a team to sit out each weekend and would probably have to feature one or two mid-week fixture dates in order to wrap up a 30-game regular season by the beginning of November.

If the league adds a 12th team for the fall campaign, as reported by Neil Morris with regard to the creation of a team around the Los Angeles market, circumstances change. The 12 teams could play each other once for 11 games or twice for 22 games.A 22 game fall season would mean a 32 game full season for the NASL, which is a considerable increase over recent years.

Another option, regardless of whether the Los Angeles team materializes, is to abandon the balanced schedule. If the league decides to go an unbalanced route, teams may face certain opponents more often depending on geographic proximity or presumed rivalries. The NASL would join USL PRO and MLS if it released an unbalanced schedule for the 2015 Fall campaign.