The Major League Baseball (MLB) season schedule generally consists of 162 games for each of the 30 teams in the American League (AL) and National League (NL), played over approximately six months—a total of 2,430 games, plus the postseason. The regular season runs from late March/early April to late September/early October, followed by the postseason which can run to early November. The season begins with the official Opening Day, and, as of 2018, runs 26½ weeks through the last Sunday of September or first Sunday of October. One or more International Opener games may be scheduled outside the United States before the official Opening Day.[1][2] It is possible for a given team to play a maximum of 20 games in the postseason in a given year, provided the team is a wild card and advances to each of the Division Series, Championship Series, and World Series with each series going the distance (5 games in the Division Series, 7 games each in the League Championship Series/World Series).

The regular season is constructed from series. Due to travel concerns and the sheer number of games, pairs of teams are never scheduled to play single games against each other (except in the instance of making up a postponed game, or more rarely, a one-game playoff to determine a postseason berth); instead they play games on several consecutive days in the same ballpark. Most often the series are of three or four games, but two-game series are also scheduled. Teams play one mid-week series and one weekend series per week. Depending on the length of the series, mid-week series games are usually scheduled between Monday and Thursday, while weekend games are scheduled between Thursday and Monday. Beginning in 2018, teams start and end their season on a weekend for 26½ weeks. Due to the mid-week all-star break in July, teams are scheduled to play 27 weekend series and 25 mid-week series for 52 series (24 divisional series, 20 inter-divisional series, 8 inter-league series). A team's road games are usually grouped into a multi-series road trip; home series are grouped into homestands.

Note that rainouts and other cancellations are often rescheduled ad hoc during the season, sometimes as doubleheaders. However, if two teams are scheduled to meet for the final time in the last two weeks of the season, and the game is cancelled, it may not be rescheduled if there is no impact on the divisional or wild card races. For example, in 2016, the September 29 game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers was cancelled due to rain because the teams were unable to reschedule a make-up date before the end of the season on October 2, and it did not affect the divisional race. In contrast, a 2008 AL Central division game between Detroit and the Chicago White Sox needed to be made up following the last day of the regular season because it affected a division race involving the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.

Historical season schedules

This account gives the length of the major league "championship season" schedule by league and year. It does not cover the curtailment of play by war (1918) or by strikes and lockouts (1972, 1981, 1994). The schedules for 1995 were revised and shortened from 162 to 144 games, after late resolution of the strike that had begun in 1994 required a delay in the season to accommodate limited spring training.

The listed years are those in which the league revised its schedule. For example, the National League (NL) scheduled 84 games during 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882 – that is, four seasons from 1879, ending before 1883, the next listing. 1876 is listed here for convenience although the NL did not schedule games (see 1871 to 1876, below).

National League

Start year Total Games Schedule
1876 70 10 games × 7 opponents – matches scheduled by the two clubs (as previously, below)
1877 60 12 games × 5 opponents – the first league schedule
1879 84 12 games × 7 opponents
1883 98 14 games × 7 opponents
1884 112 16 games × 7 opponents
1886 126 18 games × 7 opponents
1888 140 20 games × 7 opponents
1892 154 14 games × 11 opponents
1893 132 12 games × 11 opponents
1898 154 14 games × 11 opponents
1900 140 20 games × 7 opponents
1904 154 22 games × 7 opponents
1919 140 20 games × 7 opponents
1920 154 22 games × 7 opponents
1962 162 18 games × 9 opponents
1969 162 18 games × 5 opponents in-division, 12 × 6 interdivision games
(yielding 90 intra- and 72 inter-division games)
1993 162 expansion – 13 games × 6 opponents in-division, 12 × 7 interdivision games
(78 intra- and 84 inter-division)
1994 162 leagues split into 3 divisions – schedules based on 1993 alignments
1997 162 inter-league play introduced – opponent schedules vary
1998 162 expansion – opponent schedules vary
2013 162 19 games × 4 opponents within same division (76 games), 6 games x 4 opponents and 7 games x 6 opponents interdivision within same league (66 games), 20 interleague games[3]
2020 only (shortened season) 60 10 games × 4 opponents within same division (40 games), 20 interleague games[3]

American League

Start year Total Games Schedule
1901 140 20 games × 7 opponents
1904 154 22 games × 7 opponents
1919 140 20 games × 7 opponents
1920 154 22 games × 7 opponents
1961 162 18 games × 9 opponents
1969 162 18 games × 5 opponents in-division, 12 × 6 interdivision games
(yielding 90 intra- and 72 inter-division games)
1977 162 expansion – 15 games × 6 opponents in-division, 10 or 11 × 7 interdivision games
(90 intra- and 72 inter-division, as previously)
1979 162 13 games × 6 opponents in-division, 12 × 7 interdivision games
(78 intra- and 84 inter-division)
1994 162 leagues split into 3 divisions – schedules based on 1993 alignments
1997 162 inter-league play introduced – opponent schedules vary
1998 162 expansion – opponent schedules vary
2013 162 19 games × 4 opponents within same division (76 games), 6 games x 4 opponents and 7 games x 6 opponents interdivision within same league (66 games), 20 interleague games[3]
2020 only (shortened season) 60 10 games × 4 opponents within same division (40 games), 20 interleague games[3]

American Association

1882 – 1891

1882: 80 games – 16 games × 5 opponents
1883: 98 games – 14 games × 7 opponents
1884: 112 games – 16 games × 7 opponents
1886: 140 games – 20 games × 7 opponents

Thus the AA expanded its schedule to 140 games two years before the National League did so. After 1891 four AA clubs joined the NL and four were bought out, nominally creating one big league, the "National League and American Association" of 12 clubs.

Union Association


1884: 112 games – 16 games × 7 opponents

Players' League


1890: 140 games – 20 games × 7 opponents

Federal League

1914 - 1915

154 games – 22 games x 7 opponents

National Association of Professional Base Ball Players

The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (1871–1875) did not schedule games, nor did it control the number of teams, a major reason for its demise after the 1875 season. Clubs paid a $10 entry fee, later $20, to enter the Association for one season, and thereby declare for that year's national championship. Without continuing membership or heavy investment, there was little to deter a team from breaking a commitment, and though it happened, it was mainly due to clubs going out of business.

The National League organized for 1876 on a different basis, granting exclusive memberships to eight clubs that would continue from year to year — it was generally expected, if only because membership would be profitable. But the new league followed its predecessor in merely agreeing that each club would play a certain number of matches to a decision (excluding ties) by a certain date. Boston played 70 games with its quota of ten decisions against every rival. The others achieved 56 to 68 decisions, 64 to 66 for the four western teams as the teams from New York and Philadelphia (eastern) abandoned their schedule-concluding road trips.

For all six early seasons, prior to the first league schedule in 1877, member clubs scheduled their own matches by mutual arrangement, including championship games necessarily with member clubs, other games with members, and games with non-member clubs. Some may have practically dictated their arrangements with some others, but there was no central control or coordination.

This listing gives the greatest number of games played by any club for each season. Naturally, the leader by games played was always a strong club fielding one of the better gate attractions.

1871: 33 games (Mutual, New York)
1872: 58 games (Lord Baltimore)
1873: 60 games (Boston)
1874: 71 games (Boston)
1875: 86 games (Hartford)
1876: 70 games (Boston) – the first National League season (see text)

The leading numbers of games played to a decision were 33, 54, 59, 71, 82, and 70 decisions; by the listed teams except the Mutuals in 1872.

Recent season schedules

1998 to 2012

Since 1998, there have been 30 major league teams with a single advance schedule for every season that comprises 2430 games. Each team plays 162 games, 81 as the "home" team, 81 as the "visitor". (This is true even on the rare occasion when a game is played at a ballpark not home to either team.) Occasionally, the advance schedule is subsequently altered due to a game postponement or a one-game tie-breaker to determine which team will play in the postseason.

Before 2013, the schedule included 252 "interleague games" that matched one team from the American League and one from the National League; the other 2178 games matched a pair from within one league. About half of the latter matched teams from within one division and about half matched teams from different divisions in one league. In the Central Division of the National League, which alone had six teams, every pair of division rivals played 15 or 16 games. Within the other, smaller divisions every pair of teams played 18 or 19 games. These interleague games were played from mid-to-late May to late June or early July.

Division games (1091). There are 61 pairs of teams from within one division.

Other intraleague games (1087). There are 150 pairs of teams from two different divisions within one league.

Interleague play

Main article: Interleague play

The schedule for interleague play comprised 84 three-game series in each season from 1998 to 2012, divided as six series (18 games) for each of fourteen AL teams and as many as six for each of sixteen NL teams.

Among the 224 interleague pairs of teams, 11 played six games every year, which were scheduled in two three-game series "home and home", or one at each home ballpark. Five of these 11 special arrangements matched two teams in the same city or in neighboring cities, where they wholly or partly share territorial rights. Six were regional matches at greater distance, four of which were in the same state.

These special local and regional series accounted for 66 interleague games annually from 1998 to 2012, and the other 186 games were determined by rotation.

9/11 rescheduling

The 2001 season was suspended for one week due to the September 11 terrorist attacks and resulting disruptions in travel, resulting in games scheduled for September 11–16 being rescheduled to the first week of October and the playoffs and World Series being rescheduled one week later than their originally planned dates. This resulted in the World Series continuing into early November for the first time.


Schedule changes for 2013, precipitated by realignment that created two equal-sized leagues of 15 teams each, gave every team 20 interleague games.[3] Sixteen of which were determined by a match of divisions, one from each league; all teams in a given division play all teams in a given division from the other league. (Each plays a three-game series against four teams from the designated division and two two-game series against the remaining team.) With this change, interleague games were now scattered throughout the season.

The matched divisions rotate annually:

Each team played its four other interleague games against a designated "natural rival", with two games in each club's city. Thus all 30 teams, rather than 22 of 30 as previously, were deemed to have a natural rival in the other league. In 2013 the natural rivalry games were all scheduled for May 27 to May 30 (Memorial Day weekend) but in 2014 their scheduled dates range from May to August.

Ten of the natural rivalries from 2012 and earlier continued, while the Houston–Texas "Lone Star" rivalry had been transformed into an intra-division one with 19 games played. Five of the special arrangements were new in 2013 double-dagger, including one each for Houston and Texas.

For 2014, four of the five new rivalries have been revised (‡), all except Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Every team now plays 19 games against each of 4 opponents within its division (76 games), as well as 6 games each against 4 opponents and 7 games against each of the other 6 opponents from other divisions within its own league (66 games).

When corresponding divisions (i.e. NL East vs. AL East) play each other, a slight adjustment was made to the interleague games. Teams now play 6 games against their rival and 4 games (home and home) against two opponents plus one home and one away 3-game series (20 total) against the other two teams in the opposing division. This was done in 2015 and 2018, and will next occur in 2021.


Under the collective bargaining agreement reached in December 2016, several changes were made to the scheduling pattern for the 2018 season. The overall length of the season was extended to 187 days with the addition of four off-days for all teams. All teams were scheduled to play on Opening Day, which for 2018 was March 29. Sunday Night Baseball will no longer be played on the final Sunday before the All-Star Game, in order to ease travel time for those who are participating in the Home Run Derby. A single, nationally televised night game will be played the following Thursday, with all other teams returning to play on Friday.[4][5]


Due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic the start of the season was delayed until July 23. Each team would only play 60 games this season and every game will be against the teams in their division and teams in the corresponding division of the other league.

Time of first pitch

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Start of Major League Baseball games depends on days of the week, game number in series, holidays, and other factors. As of 2021, Most games start at 6:30pm, 7pm or 7:30pm in the local time zone, so there are more night games than day games even though baseball is traditionally played during the day. The reason why there are more night baseball games is to attract more fans to ballparks as well as viewers from home because most fans would be at work or school during the day. On Mondays (excluding Opening Day and holidays), Tuesdays, and Fridays, games are almost exclusively played at night except for Cubs home games. Getaway days, days on which teams play their last game of the series before departing for another series in another city the next day, are often day games, mainly Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. On Sundays, usually all but one are day games, with the final game reserved for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

About half of Saturday games are day games (1, 2 or 4pm ET). In some markets, Saturday night games start an hour earlier than usual night start times, but other cities start Saturday night games at the same time as weeknight games. In conclusion, weekday games are only played at night except for getaway days while many weekend games are played during the day.

First pitch typically occurs between 5 and 10 minutes past the hour, in order to allow time for pre-game ceremonies.

Boston Red Sox home games played on the local Patriots' Day holiday start at 11:00 am in order to coincide with the Boston Marathon. It is usually one of, if not the only game to start before noon local time during the season.


  1. ^ "Details of MLB, MLBPA labor agreement". MLB Advanced Media. December 2, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  2. ^ "2017–2021 Basic Agreement" (PDF). MLB Advanced Media. July 28, 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 28, 2019. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Newman, Mark (September 12, 2012). "MLB releases 2013 schedule with new wrinkles". MLB Advanced Media. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  4. ^ Newman, Mark (September 13, 2017). "2018 Major League Baseball schedule released". MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Stephen, Eric (December 1, 2016). "MLB minimum salary, 10-day DL, the 187-day season, and other CBA minutiae". SB Nation. Retrieved 2017-11-13.

Further reading