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MLS schedule fails teams once again in playoff push

Oct 3, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT

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With the Major League Soccer season drawing to a close, most teams would like to lean on their veterans and most experienced players to carry them into the postseason. That will be difficult next week, when World Cup qualifying kicks off again, and the MLS schedule continues despite it.

While most leagues in the world — at least the top leagues, a group that MLS considers itself to be part — take some time off, eight league games will be played between Oct. 9 and 16. The U.S. takes on Jamaica on Oct. 11 and Panama on Oct. 15.

Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann is prepared to call players in regardless of their club’s desires to keep them for important games.

“I see the MLS schedule, but it makes no difference to us,” Klinsmann told media before the U.S. Open Cup final on Tuesday. “This is World Cup qualifiers. We will call up who we need to.”

As he should.

The onus falls on the league to make sure its teams have their most important and most entertaining players for some of the biggest games of the year. The Cascadia Cup game between Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers, for example, will likely be far less compelling without the plethora of national team players on each side.

Seattle’s Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans are in the running for U.S. call-ups, and Portland’s Donovan Ricketts, Ryan Johnson and Alvas Powell could play for Jamaica in the upcoming CONCACAF matches.

In recent years, the debate over the MLS calendar has raged, particularly as the league has moved from a balanced to an unbalanced schedule. Instead of keeping the traditional format of every team playing every other team twice and taking FIFA dates off, the league introduced a strange system in which every team plays three games against conference opponents and one against non-conference foes.

The U.S. is a big country, but even nations such as Russia find a way to take those dates off an have every team play home and away against each opponent. Vancouver, B.C., to Washington, New England or New York is quite the trek, but it is not dissimilar to making the trip from Krasnodar to Tomsk in Russia.

If MLS wants to be in the top 10 leagues in the world, as is its stated goal, then accommodating international games and adapting a more traditional calendar will be vital.

  1. talgrath - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    Even worse for the Sounders, they play two matches between October 9th and the 16th, both of which are their final games against their Cascadia rivals, the Whitecaps and the Timbers. This is just silly, hopefully MLS fixes this next year.

  2. dogntarn - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    It would be harsh to say that American is a bit arrogance and ignorance. But I cannot find any other explanations!

    Its people are so confident that–in the past (yet in the past, not now anymore)–whatever they want, they will get it done! All of their popular sports are a bit or mostly alien to the rest of the world: American Football, Baseball, Golf, Nascar etc. These sports paying their players well and way above most of the world soccer super stars.

    That makes soccer look “SO CHEAP”. Beside, they said soccer is “cheating” because the players waste time, and the referees can add whatever time they want at the end of the match! (In American football, at the end of many games, players just “knee down” and let the clock runs, and they think this is not “time wasting”! Well???)

    It seems that the Americans DO NOT want to “follow” others, they want others to follow them! And they tried to create a “brand of soccer” of their own. And hope that people will pay attention like American Football, Golf, Nascar etc. But they don’t have the talent to make it work their way! The good news is they did not make it 7 points for a goal (Yes, they love high score, so it could be 10 or 100 points a goal?! Who cares!).

    In soccer, you’re BIG fatty boy, but you get bullied all the times by small countries like El Salvador, Trinidad, Guatemala etc. You realize that this is not American sport, this is the world sport! If you want to play with the rest of the world, you have to bend! However, if you bend too much, you feel that you’re losing face to others.

    The USA is the leader everywhere: technology, economy, army etc. So, it’s hard for them to give up on Soccer!

    But in about 20-30 years, soccer will be king sport in this country, because at that time Hispanic will be the major population!

    So if you don’t do it now, I don’t care! It will come!

    • bear06 - Oct 5, 2013 at 2:24 AM

      You’re an idiot.

  3. kb57 - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    North America’s travel problems are far worse than Russia’s. Perfect round robin will never happen, unless it’s just intra-conference.

  4. apritchard1979 - Oct 4, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Schedule is easy. Once you have 20 teams, make 2 conferences, each having 2 divisions of 5 teams each.
    2 home & 2 away against division rivals (16 games)
    1 home & 1 away against intra-conference teams from other division (10 games)
    1 home against all members of 3rd division, 1 away against all members of 4th (10 games – alternate which division is home and away each year)

    36 games, everyone has even schedules, less travel, division rivals have equal schedules.

    The whole taking time off for Fifa dates has to just be stubbornness, I realize that midweek matches produce less income, but having the Seattle & LA B-teams out there is just a joke,

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