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: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT

    Olmes Garcia

    Olmes Garcia’s second half double lifted RSL.

  2. DaMarcus Beasley, introduced in Houston: I see myself as a left back

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    DaMarcus Beasley

    Introduced to the media in Houston, Beasley said he’s move on from midfield.

  3. Wenger talks Zelalem, gets taste of U.S. obsession for potential international

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    With Wenger interview, SI had to get Zelalem out of the way first.

  4. Henry, on Suárez sale: ‘We needed more depth’

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-US-FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Reds’ owner does not want a repeat of last year’s weaknesses.

  5. Barclays Premier League LIVE: Select U.S. theaters to show games during the 2014-15 season

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Premier League logo

    NBC Sports and Fathom Events are taking Premier League soccer to the big screen.

  6. 11 Things From AC Milan’s Training Session in New York

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT

    mario-balotelli-cosmos-1000

    Balotelli, Honda, Muntari, and more from the Rossoneri’s N.Y. training.

  7. Jorge Luis Pinto will not return as Costa Rica head coach

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT

    jorge_luis_pinto AP

    Pinto will depart after failing to come to new terms with the federation.

  8. Everton adds 21-year-old Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic

    Jul 24, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT

    muhamed_besic AP

    After appearing three times at Brazil 2014, Besic is set to add depth behind Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.

  9. Serbian club FK Jagodina set to sign Freddy Adu

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Credit: Blackpool Gazette Credit: Blackpool Gazette

    Adu close to joining the 10th club in his 11-year career.

  10. U.S. prospect Rubin suffers broken nose, concussion with Utrecht

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT

    rubio rubin

    After seeing time with the senior squad, 18-year-old prospect will be sidelined indefinitely.

  11. WATCH: Radamel Falcao’s batting cage cuts send pitcher diving

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.45.37 PM

    The Colombian striker takes a few hacks before AS Monaco’s friendly in Miami against Atletico National.

  12. Andy Carroll’s out a week, or four months (depending on who you trust)

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    article-2704570-1FCE5BED00000578-747_634x382 Getty Images

    Limited to just 16 matches last year after his big transfer from Liverpool to West Ham, Carroll is battling another ailment this season.

  13. Jay DeMerit’s retirement letter is as grateful, humble and classy as you’d expect

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    South Africa Soccer WCup US Algeria AP

    The rags-to-riches defender steps away from the pitch, at least as a player, while reflecting on his career journey from North America to Europe and back.

  14. EXCLUSIVE: Manchester United’s new signing Ander Herrera focused on success

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy AP

    Herrera chats exclusively to PST: “If we are a humble team and we work hard, we will achieve our objectives and we will win trophies.”

  15. Son of Mexican national teamer says he’ll represent United States

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Twitter.com/ferarceJr Twitter.com/ferarceJr

    His dad played for El Tri, but California-born Fernando Arce Jr says his U-20 bow with the States makes him an American player “forever”

  16. Premier League on tour, Weds roundup: Five play, only Liverpool loses

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

    Aston Villa, Manchester United and Manchester City all cruised, while Spurs had to find a late winner after coughing up a two-goal lead.

  17. Serbian boss: Freddy Adu sought by Europa, UCL clubs in Serbia, Cyprus

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    150px-FK_Jagodina_Emblem

    Goran Milanovic is hoping the former American prodigy chooses to revitalize his career with FK Jagodina in the Serbian top flight.

  18. Report: Jay DeMerit set to call it a career; ‘Caps to get relief

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v Vancouver Whitecaps FC Getty Images

    One of the best stories is United States men’s soccer history is about to move past the “playing career” chapter.

  19. Where does Frank Lampard’s signing rank in MLS history of mega-deals?

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:47 AM EDT

    Frank Lampard

    How big of a deal is the Chelsea legend signing for New York City FC? It’s up there.