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Austin FC stays in Western Conference among MLS schedule, conference realignment announcement

The 2022 Major League Soccer season is scheduled to begin in February, and Austin FC will have a new conference foe after Charlotte FC starts its inaugural season.

AUSTIN, Texas — Major League Soccer (MLS) announced Friday that the 2022 season will begin on Saturday, Feb. 26.

The league also announced some conference realignment with the addition of Charlotte FC, which will go into the Eastern Conference. Austin FC will remain in the Western Conference, but welcomes a new foe, Nashville SC, to the west. Austin FC's inaugural season schedule featured mainly Western Conference opponents, but still played a match against Nashville SC, where the Verde and Black fell 1-0. 

The only other Eastern Conference team Austin FC played against in 2021 was the Columbus Crew. That match ended in a scoreless draw. 

A welcoming sight for Austin FC and its fans in 2022 will be less mid-week matches. The MLS announced Friday that each team would play a 34-game regular season – equally split up between 17 home games and 17 road games – with five or fewer mid-week matches. The MLS said these mid-week matches would be targeted in May (1), June (1), July (1) and August (2). Mid-week matches will not be scheduled in consecutive weeks, the league said.

In 2021, Austin FC faced a mid-week match in three consecutive weeks: Wednesday, June 2,3 in a 2-0 loss to Minnesota United FC; Thursday, July 1, in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers; and Wednesday, July 7, in a 2-0 home loss to LAFC. Austin FC then got a week off and played another mid-week match on Thursday, July 22 where the club lost 1-0 to Seattle. Austin FC played two mid-week games in August, two in September, one in October and one in November. In all, Austin FC played 10 mid-week matches in its first season, nearly one-third of its 34-game schedule.

Austin FC fans will be subject to more MLS teams next season, as well. The MLS announcement said each team will face conference opponents twice (26 matches) and non-conference opponents once (eight matches). 

Decision Day, the league's regular season finale, is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. The Audi 2022 MLS cup playoffs will follow those next three weeks leading into the MLS Cup, which is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.

The MLS said it will avoid scheduling matches in the FIFA International windows of March, June or September, but will consider scheduling a match during the March window or second weekend of the June window at a team's request. Teams are not allowed to request a match during the September window, MLS officials said.

The MLS said it will release a full schedule later this year.


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