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Bruce Arena agrees with Jurgen Klinsmann: MLS off-season is too long

Nov 18, 2013, 8:08 PM EDT

Bruce Arena, coach of the Los Angeles Ga

Jurgen Klinsmann created some ripples two years ago when he began a quiet crusade against Major League Soccer’s off-season, which he believed to be too long.

From a world soccer perspective, his sentiment made good sense. Most of the prominent pro clubs around the globe get 5-6 weeks off in the summer – and much of that is eaten up by national team activity.

But from the viewpoint of the American sports community, such thinking was a bit of a head-scratcher. After all, Major League Soccer already had one of the shorter off-seasons among domestic sports.

And the debate was tangled up in the playoff-structure nuance, something that sometimes gets lost in this particular conversation. See, from the MLS Cup final until the start of training camp, Major League Soccer’s break is really no greater than anywhere else, about six weeks.

But if your team doesn’t make the playoffs, then, yes … the break is probably too long. Then it’s about two and a half months.

Either way, count Bruce Arena in the advocacy corner of a shorter break. Here’s what the L.A. Galaxy manager, still one of the leading voices in the domestic game, said in an story when asked about the break’s duration.

I think we’ve been in position to be burned out physically and mentally over the last five years, so having a little bit of a break may be a blessing in disguise to prepare us for 2014. It’s not perfect. The break is too long, it’s too long for the entire league, it’s a real mistake, the time off, but we’re going to deal with it accordingly.”

Of course, the Galaxy being bounced out of the playoffs earlier than usual might have something to do with Arena’s thinking. The Galaxy haven’t been done this early since 2006, before Arena took over in Carson.

  1. dfstell - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    It seems like observing all the international dates would help to fix the problem. Not really sure what to do about the issue with playoffs where teams who advance deeply don’t get much time off, but other teams have their seasons end very early.

    I guess the only solution for that is to have fewer teams in the playoffs, but I doubt that’ll ever happen.

    • bostonredsoccer - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:05 AM

      But what problem are you trying to solve? That some teams have a shorter off-season because they go to the MLS Cup? Or that teams have too long a time off if they don’t make the playoffs?

      Seems that fewer teams in the playoffs means more teams with a “too long” off-season.

  2. jdfsquared - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:15 AM

    If MLS could find a way to avoid these ridiculous weeks off during the playoffs, that’d be a big help in lessening the break for teams who don’t make it or get bounced early.

    I’m a huge MLS fan, a Portland fan, and even I am losing track of the playoffs right now. I know it’s wrapped up in lots of other considerations, but they’ve got to do something about this silly playoff schedule.

  3. geojock - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    I still think they should start US Open Cup right before and into the first part of the MLS season. MLS many teams treat it like a training game anyways, may as well use it as a preseason. They could give pick a site for the games like Arizona or Florida and play lots of the games. You could knock out two rounds of the cup in two weeks.

    And the two weeks off is a joke for the playoffs. My dad is a very casual fan and he told me yesterday, “What happened to the soccer playoffs; How did they end up?” He thought they must be over any he just missed the final.

  4. maverickstar - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    What we really have with the MLS is a bit of a mess. They are caught in the middle trying to mix the way other North American sports leagues do things with the way football is handled around the world. In any league, different teams are going to have differences in time off or how packed their schedule is because of playoffs, cup events, and exhibition tours.

    First, if the MLS wants to grow and gain exposure around the world and lure players here, they have to address the schedule.I wont even touch the adopting the FIFA calender thing here. They really have to do a better job at recognizing international dates. Second, is the current playoff format really working or is it the right system? Would a single table, season champion system work for american fans? Rebrand the Supporters Shield as the League Cup then have a MLS Cup as a post season play off or over the next season? I’m not saying all changes would work, but as with have seen with MLS, making some changes sometimes works.

    As for the current play off format, is it really the right system? We start with a single elimination play in game, two rounds of 2 legs, then a single championship game? II just don’t see this as right. That may work for Champions League when the legs are spread out, but is it the right fit as a post season playoff? With the league expanding, further…what if they went to a single table system. Home and away against all teams. Then a 8 team single elimination cup playoff? I don’t know if that fixes things, or even addresses the time off/on problem enough.

  5. talgrath - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    If the playoffs didn’t have this huge gap, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. That said, at the very least MLS has to take off most of December and January completely since many of the northern cities will be too snowy and icy to play safely. Even then, November and February can be brutal for soccer schedules. If you want that short of an offseason, what you would have to do is schedule all of the opening games in cities with a mild climate (primarily in the southern area); but is it really fair to have northern teams starting their season on the road for a month or more?

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