- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Major League Soccer will have its longest season this year, with the final played Dec. 1.

The league announced in November that its 17th season will start March 10, five days earlier than in 2011. Last year’s final was Nov. 20.

With the expansion Montreal Impact giving the league 19 teams, MLS is switching to an unbalanced schedule while keeping the regular season at 34 games per team.

Just seven games conflict with FIFA fixture dates, when many star players are away with national teams: Chicago at New England (June 1); Los Angeles at Columbus; Portland at Toronto and Houston at Vancouver (Aug. 15); Portland at Colorado (Sept. 5); Salt Lake at Houston (Sept. 6); and Chivas USA at Seattle (Sept. 8).

About 83 percent of games are on weekends and holidays, and all 323 games will be televised live.

A record nine games are scheduled for April 28.