Sporting Kansas City is headed west.
Along with the Houston Dynamo, the defending MLS Cup champions will relocate to the Western Conference, a long-anticipated move that will begin in the 2015 season, the MLS announced Monday.
The realignment is a chain reaction to the league’s announcement that Chivas USA will cease operations, effective immediately. The league will reveal Thursday a new MLS club for Los Angeles, which will have a new ownership group and begin play in 2017.
“As part of our new strategy for Southern California — a major hotbed of soccer participation and fan support — we believe that engaging with a new ownership group which has the resources and local community ties, and a plan for a dedicated soccer-specific stadium, provides us with the best chance for success,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a release.
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The league will feature 20 teams in 2015. The two expansion teams for 2015 — New York City FC and Orlando City SC — will join the Eastern Conference.
That necessitated Sporting KC’s move to the West.
“We’ve established some great rivalries in the East. Now we have to re-establish new rivalries in the West,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
The new conference alignment sways the balance of power further toward the new-look Western Conference, which will also feature the LA Galaxy, Seattle, Real Salt Lake, Portland, FC Dallas, Colorado, San Jose and Vancouver.
Sporting KC will play each team in the Eastern Conference once in 2015 — half of them at home and half of them on the road. It will play the nine new conference opponents at least twice, with six additional conference games.
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