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One final word before we put the U.S. Soccer – FIFA calendar debate to bed

Dec 30, 2012, 7:30 PM EDT

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One final word about the topic du jour, and it starts with a true story:

A few years ago I got a call from an MLS suit in New York. We were just chatting about this and that when he started moaning about the lack of media attention. The corner offices were concerned, and so were some ranking club officials.

It was the beginning of American football season, and all the bright media sunshine of the summer was disappearing under a massive weather system known as the NFL. And disappearing even further due to another one known as “college football.”

That was at the beginning of the American football season. Can you imagine if we were trying to squeeze some soccer coverage in right now? Around bowl season? Around NFL playoff time?

Talk about “no contest.”

And that is yet another reason this move to the international soccer calendar is a bad idea.

Elements of new world media (blogs, podcasts, social media, etc.) have significantly reduced the need for “legacy media” attention. Still, it matters.

With football consuming such a big slice of the tradition media pie, so much of the rest would be divided among basketball and hockey. Soccer would get whatever thin little sliver was still left over – right after off-season baseball, that is.

Reduced coverage in legacy media translates at some point to reduced attendance and shrinking sponsorship dollars. Reduced attendance and shrinking sponsorship dollar gives legacy media even less incentive to cover the game (in a day when a lot of the older decision makers still don’t want to cover it anyway.)

Again, it won’t always be this way – but today it is.

(MORE: FIFA president Sepp Blatter demonstrates his ignorance of MLS)

(MORE: Factoring weather into the domestic soccer calendar debate)

  1. loudclapper - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Yeah… I don’t know how the NBA does it. I mean, man, it must have been tough being the only game in town on Christmas night!

    • tylerbetts - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      Yes. Because comparing a league with 18 years of history to a league with 68 years of history is apples-to-apples.

      The NBA has fans spread across the country. The NBA has teams where a fan today is a fan because his dad is a fan. And his dad is a fan because HIS dad was a fan. And, sometimes, there’s another generation involved. And it gets even stronger when you talk about some NFL teams, and even moreso when you talk about MLB teams.

      That’s why those leagues can command premium attention and TV dollars. And that’s why MLS can’t. Yet.

      I love my Crew. Love them. Willing to sit in freezing ass cold weather in Denver Colorado to watch them lose a playoff game level of love. But I’ve loved them for about four years. God willing, I’ll have a child. And that child will grow up loving the Crew, the way I grew up loving the Indians, Ohio State, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s a different level of love. And when we have second- and third-generation Crew, and Fire, and DCU, and Galaxy fans … then we’ll be able to compete for the TV dollars and the attention of the media. Until then, no, we can’t and shouldn’t try to have soccer go head-to-head with the NFL, MLB, or NBA.

      For now, MLS needs to be strategic about their schedules and their TV partners and all the rest. It’s good as a growth strategy. This is the crux, I think, of what Steve is saying here.

      • pensfan603 - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:42 PM

        I forgot to mention the family thing that plays a huge role but the whole why they get premium attention is bs, they get premium attention cause espn buys whatever it can and whoever has the biggest contract with espn gets the most attention.

      • loudclapper - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        I get what you are saying, old leagues have a fan base that go back generations. Stories are passed down from father to son about how they were at the freezer bowl or whatever. That makes sense to me, I get that. And with time the MLS will grow. But right now I think the MLS needs to recognize the FIFA international dates at least. I am a fan of the league and the USMNT and it bugs the shit out of me that games would be scheduled during an international break. CCL is another thing that bothers me. I think that CCL is exciting and is a good measuring stick of the level of play that the MLS is at. Going up against the best of the Mexican league (and the rest of CONCACAF) is fun to watch! But, the way the schedule is now sucks for CCL play.

    • pensfan603 - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      When you have espn promoting your ass you get the numbers because such a large majority of poeple only go to espn for sports and because of that are more willing to watch basketball, its rally annoying tbh if hockey ever got the press that nba does it would be numebr two sport behind football cause basketball really isnt that interesting with all the stuff going on with refs and the princess players in there league. And baseball is on the down anyways if espn didnt cover it they would be down and out

  2. bellerophon30 - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    Steve, is it practical to consider a long winter break, like they do in Denmark and Russia? Would that work here for MLS?

    • Steve Davis - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:01 PM

      I mean, I suppose it’s worth considering. On the other hand, I’m not a meteorologist, but I believe that weather patterns in places that do take a winter break tend to be fairly predictable. Here? You can get huge winter storms anytime between November (remember the Red Bulls postponing a playoff game due to snow, right?) and February. Heck, I’ve been in Chicago in March during a huge snowstorm. So in that way, a “winter” break makes much less sense.

      • bellerophon30 - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:20 PM

        Then what’s Blatter playing at? Does he really envision a January soccer game in Montreal? Or is it him taking a poke at us the way all foreign sports officials like to do? I mean he could just be that stupid I suppose…..

      • jsmith80 - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        I am a meteorologist, and no, it isn’t feasible in North America. Without dome stadiums in the northern half of the US, the league would have to shut down from Christmas until the start of March. Oh, wait, March to Dec is when we play now. England, and Continental Europe south of Denmark has a much milder winter.

        On another note…how is it that the Brasieiro Serie A in Brazil runs the EXACT same months as MLS and NOBODY complains about that? It doesn’t seem to hinder players transferring over to Europe or stop the national team from from being one of the best?

      • joeyt360 - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:38 PM

        Any time I’ve ever seen it gamed out, the so-called ‘break’ in the mid-season winds up being as long as or longer than the offseason, and that’s a good hint you’re trying to stretch a fundamentally bad idea to make it work.

      • randomhookup - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        Okay, jsmith80… how long have you been hanging around waiting to use the “I am a meteorologist” line?

        Good one.

  3. valiantdraws - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    March, hell…I grew up in Buffalo, just across the lake from Toronto, and we’ve had snow storms in April, not to mention some mighty cold days.

    Toronto, Chicago, Columbus, New England, and even New York, Philadelphia and DC have dicey weather in March and April. Any winter break would have to be mighty long. Like, several months. And that’s basically an off-season.

  4. dbldmr - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    Blatter is that stupid…and arrogant.

  5. cowartsh - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    The media covers what the majority of people are interested in. The fact is no one in the US gives a shit about soccer and they never will

    • bellerophon30 - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      In no small part because of 70 years of blithering incompetence by US Soccer. That takes time to overcome you know. Don’t worry though, Gary Bettman is helping us out nicely.

    • pensfan603 - Dec 30, 2012 at 11:05 PM

      you funny the media doesnt care about that, they just report on who they have contracts with and what can create them the most money (espn, fox). And poeple will care about soccer cause its a good intense sport, and hopefully through nbc, and espn they will be able to create a market, Soccer is said to be the second most liked/played something like that sport amongst kids if the mls ever tapped into those kids and got them watchign and carrying it would get big.

  6. drewvt6 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    MLS is on a good sustainable path. Their marketing approach the past few years has been great and as more of the teams get into good facilities the league will continue to grow.

    Hopefully the owners can find a way to dump the cdusa brand asap.

  7. charliej11 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Two comments it is 35 degrees out in Seattle, not raining currently, but very soon. I will check later to see if I am going to tonights game after not renewing my season tickets when they switched schedules to winter.

    There other comment is to people that want to take a long winter break…why ? The season was perfect before you switched it…doesn’t that tell you need to know ?

  8. randomhookup - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    One element of the calendar discussion that does need to be considered is MLS’s willingness to break for FIFA dates. As the league continues to bring in players who are part of other national teams, will they accept that it puts teams at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t break? I realize that breaking for the Euros makes no sense, but what about the WC or the Gold Cup?

    I don’t see an easy answer, but I would hope the league at least breaks for FIFA’s mandatory dates in the future and considers a World Cup break.

  9. valiantdraws - Jan 2, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Well, they’ve gotten a *little* better about it lately. But yes…FIFA dates would be a good thing.

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