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.

 

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