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Officially Official: Big Changes Coming to the Western Conference

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Major League Soccer made it official today: Chivas USA is contracting, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City are changing conferences, and the schedule is getting even weirder.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Today's slate of announcements were things that everybody already knew. You could see them coming from a mile (or a season) off. That does not change the fact that, now that they are here, the three big announcements from the league today mean significant changes for next year.

Chivas USA

It has been hinted at and danced around for some time now, but Chivas USA is finally, officially going away. The team will cease to be at the end of this month according to MLS's press release and the team's players, and presumably assets, will be subject to a dispersal draft that will likely come in November, according to Sports Illustraited's Brian Straus.

The details of such a draft have yet to be announced, but previous iterations have included the right to select the contracting team's draft picks as well as their players. There are several big questions remaining about the dispersal draft, however, including just how newcomers Orland City FC and New York City FC will factor into it, and how the selection order will be determined.

What does seem to be for sure is that Chivas' standout striker, Erick Torres, will not be a part of the draft, according to a report from ESPN's Jeffery Carlisle. Torres is on loan to MLS from Chivas de Guadalajara and will likely be purchased and brought into the league as a designated player. Because of his potential designated player status, the mechanisms for acquiring Torres will be different, something we all remember from when Mix Diskerud and Clint Dempsey entered the league.

The exclusion of Torres leaves Dan Kennedy as the most sought after player in the dispersal draft, but there are other players who would make an impact outside the confines of Chivas as well. Players like Eric Avila or Jhon-Kennedy Hurtado could prove able backups for many teams around the league, while some might want to take a chance on one of Chivas' contingent of foreign players including speedy winger Leandro Barerra or midfield bruiser Oswaldo Minda.

The Western Conference and the Schedule

With NYCFC and Orlando City joining MLS next year along with Chivas' impending doom, the conferences needed changing. In this case, however, it was easy to move the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, both of which have been Western Conference teams previously, back west.

Of course, the move makes the West even more stacked going forward as they lose Chivas, consistently one of the league's worst teams, gain Sporting, this year's runner up in the Eastfor most of the season until a late run of bad form and last year's MLS Cup winners, and gain Houston, who were not good this year but not as bad as Chivas.

When coupled with the new format for the league's scheduling, however, the new inclusions may be a boon to some teams. After three years of the Timbers playing in-conference teams three times and out-of-conference teams once, the Timbers will now only play six of their in conference teams three times and the other three twice.

If the Timbers, who were one of the highest mileage-accumulating teams in 2014 along with the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps, were to cut out and extra trip to Dallas, Houston, or Kansas City they would certainly save some gas. Alternatively, if the Timbers were to play only two matches against Real Salt Lake or the Colorado Rapids it could save a grueling trip to play at altitude.