Skip to content

A reduced, 28-game MLS season may be around the corner

Sep 3, 2013, 4:01 PM EDT

LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

Major League Soccer may be developing a plan to better deal with international dates – specifically with the maddening practice of playing through them, robbing league matches of game-breakers, sometimes at critical points of the season.

At the same time, league leaders could solve other vexing problems.

The answer, perhaps, is a 28-game schedule, a reduction of six league matches annually.

I am told that the notion began circling the board of directors’ table at meetings attached to Major League Soccer’s All-Star game five weeks ago in Kansas City. The tricky concept of addition by subtraction could create a couple of problems – but it solves a bunch, too.

It creates relief around these international breaks, which aren’t really breaks for MLS clubs forced to power through most of them, never mind the absence of high-dollar stars who are off for World Cup qualifier duty.

The FIFA fixture date problem could be marginalized now (without a league schedule reduction, that is) by cramming additional weeknight dates into the schedule, but that becomes too much of a revenue killer in some markets. (More Saturday nights mean more money for most clubs.)

It would also make scheduling a relative breeze in a 20-team league, which MLS becomes in 2015 with the addition of New York City FC. Play each team in your conference twice (home and away, naturally) and every team from the other conference once (home this year, away the next, naturally). That’s it. Quite simple. That’s 28 games.

It’s not 100 percent “balanced” because of the home-road asymmetry for cross-conference scheduling, but at least everyone is playing everyone an equal number of times, and that counts for a lot.

By reducing league matches, MLS would become slightly more competitive in CONCACAF Champions League matches; a few more of the first-choice types could be sprinkled into MLS starting lineups during the annual, regional tournament.

Major League Soccer played a 28-game schedule back in the “bad old days,” in the frugal 2001 and 2002 seasons, when cost containment became priority for a league more in the balance than most fans understood at the time. (Besides, with just 10 clubs, to which MLS was reduced by 2002, did fans really want to see the same old clubs roll through town one more time? Doubtful.)

MLS schedules rose to 30 games in 2003, then fluctuated some before arrival into the current 34-game set.

(MORE: Updated MLS rankings following 27 rounds of play)

Yes, pulling three home matches per club off the table reduces revenue; around MLS, a larger percentage of overall revenue comes from gate and stadium ancillaries such as concessions. It could also reduce sponsor value, a further cash drain. In other leagues, greater TV revenue means less reliance on ticket sales and game-day ancillaries for cash.

That’s the major debating point – but owners could determine it penny wise and pound foolish, that addition by subtraction works in this instance. If so, a 28-game schedule could be the new way around MLS.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

    That’s 7 losses in 8 games for the Sounders. Meanwhile, the ‘Caps go top of the West.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City

    Another Royal Rumble between old rivals. While the rest of MLS went goal-crazy, these two did what they always do.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 5-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

    The goals floweth over in MLS tonight. Cyle Larin scored his second straight brace for Orlando City.

  4. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 6-4 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    D.C. United and RSL combined for 10 goals at RFK Stadium Saturday night. Let the video do the talking.

  5. Premier League friendly roundup: Man City lose in Germany, Liverpool win in Finland

    Aug 1, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT

    Manchester City vs. VfB Stuttgart Manchester City vs. VfB Stuttgart

    The Premier League season is here…almost. The final week of preseason has begun.

  6. Wolfsburg, PSG knock off Bayern Munich, Lyon in German, French Super Cups (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 6:25 PM EDT

    VfL Wolfsburg, 2015 German Super Cup champions VfL Wolfsburg, 2015 German Super Cup champions

    The new seasons in Germany and France are underway following an afternoon full of Super Cup action.

  7. Ex-Mexico manager Miguel Herrera in hot water yet again, this time for political tweets

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    Miguel Herrera, Mexico Miguel Herrera, Mexico

    It’s not been the greatest week of Miguel Herrera’s life. He’s in legal trouble yet again.

  8. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-3 Montreal Impact (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Laurent Ciman & Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact FC Laurent Ciman & Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact FC

    Another wild afternoon at Yankee Stadium ends in defeat for NYCFC. Pirlo made his first MLS start and Lampard made his MLS debut.

  9. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Tottenham Hotspur

    Aug 1, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    tottenham.crest

    Can Spurs crack the top four? Or will it be another season on the outside looking in at White Hart Lane?

  10. Can Arsene Wenger end his 13-match winless streak against Jose Mourinho?

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-ARSENAL Getty Images

    Wenger has never beaten Mourinho before, but he’ll have a chance to do so tomorrow in the Community Shield.

  11. Brendan Rodgers says $50 million for Christian Benteke was a bargain

    Aug 1, 2015, 12:56 PM EDT

    Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke Getty Images

    Rodgers better hope his “bargain” buy scores a lot of goals for Liverpool this season.

  12. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Swansea City

    Aug 1, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    swansea.crest

    Coming off of their best-ever Premier League finish, Garry Monk has the Swans thinking about bringing European football to Wales.

  13. Brazilian Fred tested positive for banned substance at Copa America

    Aug 1, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    FBL-UKR-SHAKHTA-FRED Getty Images

    He still played in Shakhtar’s Champions League match this week, which could cause his club some troubles.

  14. Saturday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Berbatov to Villa, Rahman to Chelsea

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:07 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-MONACO Getty Images

    Is Dimitar Berbatov on his way back to the Premier League? All the latest gossip, right here.

  15. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Watford

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    watford.crest

    In both of Watford’s two seasons in the Premier League, the club finished in last place. Can the newly promoted Hornets avoid relegation the third time around?

  16. West Ham’s Enner Valencia suffers “significant” injury, no timetable for return

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Astra - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    A big blow for the Hammers as the Premier League kicks off a week from today.

  17. Manchester United, adidas unveil kits with “smashing” photos

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

    man-fb-mata_3331957

    The leaked images of United’s kit were the real McCoy, and the Red Devils white-cuffed kits are pretty sharp.

  18. Pep Guardiola on final year of contract: “Not completely convinced” he’s right for Bayern

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:14 PM EDT

    GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JULY 23: Pep Guardiola, coach of Bayern Munich FC looks on after losing the International Friendly Match of Volkswagen Cup between Bayern Munich FC and Guangzhou Evergrande at Tianhe Stadium on July 23, 2015 in Guangzhou, China.  (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Guardiola can erase a minor Bayern demon with his first Super Cup win on Saturday versus Wolfsburg.

  19. Fourth-tier NPSL, PDL to hold semifinals this weekend; PDL to hold final, too

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:08 PM EDT

    New York Cosmos B New York Cosmos B

    In the PDL, Seattle Sounders U-23, New York Red Bulls U-23, K-W United and Ocala Stampede are left, while the NPSL has New York Cosmos B, Chattanooga FC, Indiana Fire and CD Aguiluchos USA remaining.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?