The Houston Dynamo are moving to the Eastern Conference, at least for the 2011 season.
With the addition of the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, the Dynamo's shift will allow the conference to be balanced at nine teams apiece. The schedule will remain balanced for at least one more season, which each team playing every other MLS team twice, once at home and once away.
"This change is something we are comfortable with," Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. "As the league grows, these changes are sometimes necessary, and we accept that. With a balanced schedule, we don't believe this will have a significant impact on our season."
Once the Montreal Impact join the league next season and an unbalanced schedule expected to be put in place, the Dynamo will likely be moved back to the Western Conference to keep their rivalry with FC Dallas alive, but anything is possible with MLS.
For now, the Dynamo will be listed in the Eastern Conference and in Dominic Kinnear's mind, it really doesn't change the team's goals.
"This is a new challenge, but we have the same goals and expectations," Kinnear said. "Making the playoffs is always still the goal, no matter what conference we play in. We play every team twice, so the schedule doesn't change."
Is this a big deal? Sure, any time a team is realigned to a new conference it's a big deal, but to be completely honest it doesn't change things that much. With the schedule remaining balanced, making the playoffs is still about getting enough points and as long as MLS doesn't change how teams qualify for the post season, the Dynamo will have as good a chance of getting back to the playoffs in the East as they would in the West.
This move will become much more interesting next season if the league moves to an unbalanced scheduled with teams playing more games against conference foes. If the Dynamo are left in the East, they would potentially only play one match against rivals FC Dallas. We don't have to worry about any of that until next year though, for now it's all about getting back in to the playoffs.