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Report: MLS will adopt European schedule in 2014… Would August-May work?

Oct 14, 2013, 10:45 AM EST

Don_Garber

According to reports on Monday morning, Major League Soccer is extremely close to changing their game schedule to match that of Europe, with a season running from August to May likely to come in for the 2014 season.

If this is true, it would be the single biggest change to MLS in recent history, with a 6-8 week winter break rumored to be placed throughout December and January as the logistical problems of having franchises in Toronto, Montreal, New England, Chicago and elsewhere in the North, can be somewhat averted.

However, as early as next season? I think not. That would mean no MLS between December 2013 and August 2014, but with the World Cup coming up throughout June and into July, maybe MLS bosses think now would be a good time to switch things up.

The reports surfacing in the New York Daily News cited a league source revealing talks have intensified in recent weeks as MLS commissioner Don Garber has been eager to adopt a European-esque schedule for quite some time. But Dan Courtemanche, MLS’ Executive Vice President of Communications, has Tweeted out the following, suggesting no massive changes are imminent.

With pressure from Sepp Blatter and other FIFA officials in the past to switch the USA’s domestic soccer schedule to a more traditional August-May FIFA calendar, it seems as though Garber and MLS are seriously contemplating the switch as of next season. Which is much sooner than many would ever have thought, and pretty outlandish. Maybe somewhere down the line this would work, but not next year.

source:

Conditions like this back in November 2012, would make a August-May schedule hard to pull off in MLS

But, with many outraged in the MLS community at hearing these rumors, is this move actually a good one for MLS?

Let’s break things down, right now, throughout the summer months MLS only has regular season MLB and NBA playoffs to compete with due to the March-Decemeber schedule. But when NFL, College Football, MLB Playoffs and plenty of other sports dominate in the fall months, MLS playoffs and the race for the Cup is very much shoved towards the back shelf in the minds of most American sports fans. If this schedule change is about attracting more fans to watch soccer, then it could be a winner, with an MLS postseason in April/May really capturing the imaginations of fans alongside the NHL’s own playoff race.

However, there are many other reasons why this schedule wouldn’t work.

As we mentioned, extreme winter weather is a massive issue that plenty of European leagues don’t have to worry about. With the relatively moderate temperatures in Continental Europe, compared with huge sub-zero numbers in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and many other MLS cities in the Winter, no other league across the globe has to deal with these kind of temperature fluctuations. Just how will games be played in late November, early December or even late January or early February? I can’t see it working.

Apart from weather issues, the MLS would also be competing with several other sports that would likely see attendances at stadiums and TV viewership fall drastically. With NFL, NHL and College Football in full swing throughout the fall, MLS has a hard enough time as it is holding onto fans and nurturing new ones, so this calendar would stunt the development of North America’s fastest growing major league sport. Maybe switching the calendar to an August-May schedule running up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia would be a good idea, as MLS will likely have to shut down over the summer.

Surely MLS aren’t thinking of leaving domestic fans without soccer from December 2013 to August 2014 if they do adopt the schedule for next season? Because that’s the reality.

source: Getty Images

Scenes like these could become more regular for MLS fans.

Personally, I just can’t see this schedule change being good for MLS on multiple levels. FIFA executives, President Sepp Blatter, even USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and now seemingly MLS commish Don Garber think an August-May schedule in MLS would be best for everyone…

I guess they know best. But if this report is more than just tittle-tattle leaking out of MLS’ HQ on Fifth ave. in NYC, I’d be extremely worried for the future growth of the league. Going head-to-head with Europe’s top soccer leagues and the biggest American sports will be one heck of a struggle.

Why would MLS want to risk all the good work they’ve done so far, just to appease FIFA and some other executives who have it in their head that every soccer league should work in the same way. North America differs from Europe and Europe differs from elsewhere. It’s okay to have different schedules and for everything to mesh together, MLS should stay as it is.

I think many of us would argue that domestic soccer in the USA has never been healthier. So, if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

  1. khkevin - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    MLS should use the summer to their fullest advantage. They should not leave June and July without any soccer. -> “with a season running from August to May likely to come in for the 2014 season.” Switching to the European Schedule will harm MLS TV ratings because Americans will have to choose from NHL, NBA, NFL, College Football, College Sports, MLS, and other international soccer leagues. Americans will probably watch football on the weekends, so scheduling will have be on the weekdays. In the summer, most Americans can only watch golf, tennis, baseball, and other sports. If cold places are the problem, MLS can have playoffs in warmer areas or have stadiums with retractable.

  2. khkevin - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    MLS should use the summer to their fullest advantage. They should not leave June and July without any soccer. -> “with a season running from August to May likely to come in for the 2014 season.” Switching to the European Schedule will harm MLS TV ratings because Americans will have to choose from NHL, NBA, NFL, College Football, College Sports, MLS, and other international soccer leagues. Americans will probably watch football on the weekends, so scheduling will have be on the weekdays.

    • ian.campbell - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:07 AM

      No, the MLS needs to move to primetime and take on the other sports. The MLS can compete and grow on primetime.

      • tariencole - Oct 15, 2013 at 7:30 AM

        Nothing competes with the NFL on TV. That’s so far from plausible I can’t believe I’m hearing people say it.

  3. Dan - Oct 14, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Whine more, everyone. I’m not sure you’re coming across loudly enough.

  4. braxtonrob - Oct 14, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Does anyone even remember the top 2 reasons the NASL failed?!?

    – endless Expansion teams
    – a Winter schedule

    • v9ngu9rd - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:22 PM

      No stadiums was there biggest problem too! But I disagree with the European season, because it’s based on greed. The owner as well as the various Soccer (Football) federations are making the players play all year with bearly 2 weeks of to recuperate. They do this because there is no other sport as dominating as SOCCER in Europe, so they are trying to squeeze out as much soccer as they can from the players. The results, more injuries, poor World Cup performances & shorter Soccer players career.

      MLS season is good just as it is, we don’t have anything to prove to the Europeans or Latin America. We’ve shown to be a pretty decent team in the World Cup, not great, but we are getting there with the formula that we are using. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Just saying…

  5. griffinjohn - Oct 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Where is the endless expansion, it has been very deliberate.
    Two things and I know this first one never has a chance but, wouldn’t it be smarter for the world to shift to the MLS schedule and eliminate those cold/rainy European weekends in the winter, Scandinavian leagues would not have to take off, eastern Euro leagues would not have to deal with snow, etc. I know… no chance!
    Also, what happens to NYCFC and Orlando City, do they speed up and be ready for next summer or do they wait now nearly two years to join the league?

    • braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:23 AM

      At NASL’s peak they had 24 teams. You haven’t noticed how close MLS is getting to that number?

      (Or are you just ignoring any correlation?)

      • charliej11 - Oct 15, 2013 at 6:52 AM

        Obviously you were not alive when NASL was. Nice try at guessing what was going on though braxtonrob…not even close, but you gave it you best shot.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        @charliej, I was “alive” for all of it actually. Clearly, YOU don’t remember the schedule change that took place just before it’s demise, (also documented in ‘Once In A Lifetime’, the story of the New York Cosmos).

        Before you insult someone, research and collect the FACTS kiddo.

      • notaretard - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        watching “once in a lifetime” on netflix doesn’t make you an expert on the subject. and the soccer culture in america has grown exponentially since the NASL went under, so to try to say that the same thing will happen when we hit 24 teams and switch to a winter schedule. that argument is sophomoric at best and just plain terrible at worst. nice try though

  6. babatundew - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    All this talk about MLS having to compete with other US sports leagues for fan attention is nonsense. The MLS does not rely on fans of other sports. The US already has tens of millions of foot-ball (soccer) fans- the problem is that most dont watch the MLS for multiple reasons. The MLS needs to work on attracting the other US foot-ball fans- the fans of the European and Mexican leagues. To do this, they have to Europeanize the league so that it can be taken more seriously:

    1. Adjust to FIFA calendar- August to May+ a 6-week break in January and February makes sense
    2. Get rid of playoffs and change to single-table format- Regular season matches will matter a lot more and TV ratings will go up
    3. Increase salary cap or get rid of it entirely- the salary cap is a joke. Most MLS players dont make much at all so the best go overseas when they are young
    4. Add promotion and relegation with NASL and USL- probably the hardest one to implement due to ownership garbage but the MLS makes the final decisions on all the teams so they can implement this if they really wanted too
    5. Get rid off charted flight limits- I don’t know if this is still there but I read that there is a rule that MLS clubs are limited on the number of team flights that they can take for matches- dumb rule
    6. Attract younger youth academy players- I read that only players around 13 and up can enter academies. In Europe the age is 7 or even below. The MLS needs to stop relying on college players for talent.
    7. Talk to CONMEBOL about joining the Copa Libretadores. I feel that if the MLS improves and become too good for the CONCACAF CL then they should join the Copa Libretadores.

    If the MLS implements some or all of these recommendations, I guarantee that the MLS will become a top league in the world. And the US national side will be a serious contender for the World Cup title.

    • babatundew - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      Also if the MLS gets rid of the playoff system and adds promotion/relegation then the US Open Cup would be given added significance (because lower league teams would get better) and it would continue give fans the playoff system that they are used to. The US soccer federation and the MLS would need to do a better job marketing the US Open Cup.

    • footballer4ever - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      Where within those “magnificent” recommendations do you put your your money where your mouth is? Guaranteeing something with other people’s money is very easy to do. :P

    • khkevin - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:00 AM

      ” Adjust to FIFA calendar” – Euro Fans will watch more Euro leagues than MLS. Lots of Sports Competition.

      “Get rid of playoffs and change to single-table format” If there is no Promotion and Relegation, Bad Teams will lose viewership at the end of the season.

      “Rid of it entirely” – Soccer is a game of only a couple of major star players. It will only fuel more super teams already in place in leagues across Europe.

      ” Add promotion and relegation with NASL and USL” This helps cities with major populations of people. Small Market cities will probably never be in MLS if there was no salary cap.

      “Talk to CONMEBOL about joining the Copa Libretadores” I don’t think America should get involved in a South American tournament.

      • ian.campbell - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:14 AM

        If a city can’t support an MLS team it doesn’t deserve one. Divide the TV money amongst the teams and that should be enough.

      • tariencole - Oct 15, 2013 at 7:36 AM

        “Adjust to FIFA calender”–There is NO such animal. Blatter has already said he’s willing to hold the Qatar World Cup in the winter. That’s going to blow up the UEFA Leagues, whom he accused of ‘Imperialism.’ But hey, let’s adapt to a *UEFA* schedule no one in THIS hemisphere uses.

        I agree with respecting FIFA dates. That’s as far as I take this suggestion. I wouldn’t mind a South American style Clausera/ Apertura schedule, with closed seasons in the winter and the high summer. But the league is kidding itself if it thinks it will compete head-on with the NFL. Bad for TV, bad for the game in places like Seattle, New England and New York, that already have entrenched NFL interests. ESPECIALLY those that will suddenly have double-duty NFL/MLS stadia. Oh I love those yellow lines for soccer. Remember those days?

    • mknow406a - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:19 AM

      Who’s going to invest in soccer specific stadiums for NASL teams (if there is relegation)? The majority of all sports revenues in the US comes from ticket sales… the oversimplifications for relegation/promotion ignore this well established hard, PROVEN fact. Even some EPL teams have ended up having lean years/demotion because money spent on stadium upgrades meant money not available for transfers/salaries. Granted that no matter how bad a team is, they are still going to sell tickets when the Galaxy or Red Bull come to town. However, a team in a 5,000 seat stadium can’t complete against one in a 20,000+ seat stadium…. and an NASL team can’t support the cost of a 20,000+ seat stadium. The numbers just don’t work. Hence, Man U can ALWAYS outspend Crystal Palace and CP has no real long term stability. Who wants to invest in that?

      • footballer4ever - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:53 AM

        (applause) Someone with common sense speaking against the promotion/relegation which some of you swear or get your panties wet over that.

        One more thing to point out, England or other football, not eggball, loving nations that happens to be their national sport can afford to do so (relegation) because no matter where you go, football is king there. The same can’t be said over here because as we know it, football, is for the ones who like to bang their heads among each other or simply go egg-chasing and running away with it as if cops were chasing after them.

        If only football grows to have the same cultural /community connection like college eggball has then nfl would have a better chance at trying promotion/relegation than what world football has nowadays.

      • babatundew - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        Look at Manche$ter City, Chel$ea, Monaco, and P$G

      • babatundew - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        It doesnt have to be 3 teams a year going down and up- it can be 1 team down, 1 team up. Teams like DC United or Chivas USA have no reason to continue trying to win games once they can’t reach the playoffs.

    • omyomy96 - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:53 AM

      Number 2 there is absolutely no way you can prove this. Number 4 is impossible at this moment in time as the lower leagues couldn’t afford to play in MLS. Please don’t tell me that any of these stadiums would be able to generate enough income to pay players with (#3)a higher or no salary cap League. Number 7 would involve flights of anywhere from 10 to 17 hours, if not more, lets catch Liga MX first.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:28 AM

      “I feel that if the MLS improves and become too good for the CONCACAF CL”

      LOL! Are you serious?!?! We (MLS) haven’t even sent a team to the FIFA Club World Cup yet!!!!!!!!!!

      And you’re worried about us becoming dominant?!?! Lmao!

      • midtec2005 - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        We aren’t that far away, I think a moderate increase to the salary cap is all MLS needs to get to the Liga MX level, and we’ve seen that level is pretty good compared to the South American teams.

      • babatundew - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        I meant that in the future- like 10-20 years- It would be nice to have MLS teams in the Copa Libertadores and then the secondary MLS teams could play in the CONCACAF CL- similar to how the Europa League spots are awarded in the Premier League.

  7. ian.campbell - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    This is a good move. The MLS doesn’t conflict with other sports anyway. Different fans. The crossover fans can flip back and forth between MLS and NFL if they want. There’s room for all sports on the TV dial. MLS and NFL canhelp each other.

  8. adiez1975 - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I think the fall-spring calendar is a great idea. We can save the summer for FIFA tournaments as it was intended. We can push to move the US Open cup to the winter break. That will serve 2 proposes. First and foremost it will make the cup more significant. The MLS clubs won’t send second and third team reserves because they don’t want to tire out the starters on a quote/unquote meaningless competition. Second, it will keep our guys match fit during the break.
    ….. And for those that are complaining about the rain and bad weather? I’m sure MLS will figure out a way to schedule a game or two around a storm… And if they can’t, then man up and put on a friggin coat for God’s sake. It’s not the end of the world.

  9. adiez1975 - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Oh and just in case you wanna know a little background… I grew up going to Bears games at Soldier field in Chicago. Trust me… If your a dedicated fan that loves their team, you will go.

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