Scratching the Pitch and others have had a lot to say about the USL schedule since it was announced on Wednesday. We decided it would be fair to allow the league to explain some the rationale behind the construction of the schedule. David Wagner (@AVOCATdeFOOT), USL Vice President of Competition and Operations, took the time to answer some of our questions.
Jason Bailey: Did clubs request increased regional matchups, which created the unbalanced west schedule where some teams play multiple opponents four times and others just once?
David Wagner: Yes. The USL Board of Governors, comprised of the teams, votes on the format.
JB: Is this an attempt to lower travel costs?
DW: The large geography of the Western Conference and the desire to develop rivalries factored into the decision.
JB: Is the expanded playoff field an attempt to mitigate the effects of the unbalanced schedule?
DW: It is not. The League and Board of Governors felt with the expanding size of the league more playoff teams were appropriate. There was also a preference to this over the format last season which featured byes.
That’s an interesting tidbit. The league did not want to continue having the top seeds receive byes. With an unbalanced schedule, I believe that does level the playing field. It doesn’t necessarily mean the #1 and #2 seeds will lose in the opening round but they also won’t receive extra rest for the second round.
JB: Do clubs push back on playing 2 games in 3 days, or is it a request on their parts?
DW: The only instances of two games in three days are when a club requests it. They league does everything to ensure there are always at least two full days between matches.
JB: Harrisburg plays at home Sat, May and Mon, May 9. Is that to accommodate Charleston that plays Rochester Friday and at Harrisburg Monday?
DW: This is not the case. With Harrisburg’s new venues this year they often had tight windows when soccer could be accommodated at the baseball stadium.
JB: Do clubs request the chance to piggyback away games?
DW: Clubs can share whether they prefer this, but it comes down to what’s available.
JB: Two of 3 times that Harrisburg play 2 in 3 days, they do so at Clipper Magazine Stadium, and Tulsa’s 2 games in 3 days scenarios are all at home, is that in response to availability of the minor league baseball field?
JB: USL has stated they want all their clubs to play in soccer specific stadiums in the near future, is that stance softening based on the large crowds teams were able to draw at baseball stadiums this past season?
DW: The USL would still like all of its clubs to be in soccer-specific stadiums in the near future, as has been previously stated.
There you have it, the league works closely with the clubs to create the schedule, would like to see a minimum of 2 rest days between games and everyone in soccer specific stadiums with lots of regional rivalries. StP would like to thank Nicholas Murray and Dave Wagner for their time and input.