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Record cold and nasty on the way! So, FIFA calendar change for MLS, anyone?

Jan 2, 2014, 8:28 PM EDT

cold weather

Perhaps we have our regular “Should MLS switch to FIFA calendar” debates at the wrong times. Seems like we speak of this coming transition – men on high keep saying it’s a matter of “when,”  after all – around FIFA fixture dates or around MLS All-Star game.

And plenty of those dates occur in far more pleasant weather, in times when we may sip cool beers beneath starry skies in scenes Vincent van Gogh himself could best appreciate.

But let’s poke this bear once again – because I do so love poking this calendar bear:

Anyone want to go see some MLS soccer this weekend?

This is the question that MLS officials must answer as they consider a realignment to a season that more or less follows FIFA’s annual calendar: How in the world would an MLS season work in this weather?

Have you seen what’s coming to our poor friends in the Northeast? Or the preposterously cold weather

Yes, MLS commissioner Don Garber has told us that a realignment – Major League Soccer currently kicks off in March, runs through the spring and summer and ends with MLS Cup roughly in the first week of December – would require a winter break. And, yes, we would be presumably be smack in the middle of the winter break right now.

But our land of less predictable weather can get this kind of cold, nasty unpleasantness anytime from November to early March. Remember what was going on last February?

source: APEverybody remember the MLS playoff game postponed for a day at New York’s Red Bull Arena (pictured below)? That happened in November. Or how about the unforgettable Snow Clasico, the United States vs. Costa Rica match in World Cup qualifying? That happened in March. Late March!

Bottom line here: the window of bad weather in this country stretches further than any reasonable “break” could possibly extend. Anything longer than six weeks or so is not a “break,” it’s a stinkin’ off-season!

And let’s be clear about this: the argument that “NFL goes on” or that “NHL’s Winter Classic” happens just won’t fly. Fans will bundle up to brave dangerously cold weather for special happenings (like the NHL’s greatest annual moment) or NFL playoff games. They certainly did in Kansas City for MLS Cup 2013 – and here’s to ya, heartland faithful!

But a regular season game in MLS? Too many fans will play it smart and take a pass.

The alternative is worse: it only takes a couple of postponements in the tightly packed soccer calendar to seriously screw up the entire scheduling works.

I’m not saying this thing is never going to happen: just saying MLS has a ton of work ahead to make this thing even possible.

  1. orbmech - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    Other than the weather concerns, I prefer the current schedule because I can watch soccer all year long. Just greedy I guess.

    • wandmdave - Jan 3, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      I like that and I like that our domestic MNT players have a chance to get in form but aren’t coming off an entire season for the WC but I do feel like its a disadvantage for the MLS when it comes to the transfer market, when it comes to scheduling because they almost have to play games during international breaks to fit everything in, and when it comes to player development because we have a longer off season.

      Hard to see MLS going to a winter schedule but it would be nice to figure out a way to mitigate those issues with the current one.

  2. huey88 - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    If MLS ever wants to get on the likes of the other big leagues it has to change the calendar to match theirs

    • techguy18 - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:48 AM

      There is an article above the comments which you might consider reading. In it, it specifically says why it would be an absolutely terrible idea to have MLS follow the same schedule as the other leagues

    • Sgc - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Why? The argument that “in order to be as popular as X, we have to be an exact copy of X” pretty much never works in any other walk of life. Why would soccer be so special?

  3. footballer4ever - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    I propose MLS changes to Fifa calendar only when all specific football stadiums have retractable roofs or when the eggball league auto self destruct with the future concussion lawsuits they will face in the future.

  4. hildezero - Jan 2, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    XD That’ll be dope, football4ever. Hope so.

  5. mvktr2 - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:06 AM

    Soccer On Ice … bring it! ;)

  6. babatundew - Jan 3, 2014 at 4:47 AM

    Poorly-written article…anyway, the plan is to have a winter break… also new MLS teams like the Orlando team, Beckham’s Miami team, and a potential Atlanta team are in warmer areas- an idea that has been floating around is that on either side of this winter break, no matches will be played in the home stadiums of MLS teams from cold cities.

    • crossmlk - Jan 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      So teams like SKC get to go on extended road trips, kind of like the one they had to endure in 2011 when they were waiting for Sporting Park to open. Wow that really went well, count all of us in KC in! (Sarcasm Alert)

      PS: Steve, this isn’t a poorly written article in case you were wondering.

  7. dfstell - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I mention this every time this topic comes up, but why can’t MLS just adopt some sort of regional schedule?

    I’m sensitive to this as a soccer fan in the southeast because I have to watch my local club (a USL-PDL side) play in 90+ degree weather all summer. The games are in the evening, but it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really cool off that much in the southeast in the evening. It’s still 85 degrees and 90% humidity at 9:00 when the game ends. And this is in NC. It’s worse in Florida, Georgia, Texas, etc.

    I’d rather see us stop trying to have ONE calendar for the whole country. We’re too big and too diverse weather-wise for that. It’s like trying to have Rome and Sweden on the same calendar.

    Why not just have regional leagues that play based on when the weather is decent in their areas and then have a “Champion’s League” where fans can see NY play LA and Seattle play Houston?

    And all this worry about “competing with football” is silly. In the southeast, American football matters from September to Thanksgiving + one bowl game. There is a HUGE vacuum in the calendar from December onward. The whole spring is open because nobody under the age of 50 in the southeast cares about baseball or even the NBA.

    • Sgc - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      It isn’t really equitable to have teams’ schedule vary so dramatically by region.

  8. tomcatfl - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Just once, I’d like to see an article on this topic that looks at how other cold-winter countries like Scandinavia and Russia manage to stay on FIFA schedule, and go through each measure taken in those countries, analyzing why or why not they might suffice in the US and Canada to do the same.

    Just pointing out the existence of snow in January is as unenlightening as just saying “we have to do it because everyone else does”.

    • Sgc - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      Many Scandinavian leagues actually don’t do this. Russia started only recently, amid rumors that it was designed to effectively kick certain teams in the colder hinterlands out of the league.

      • tomcatfl - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Sgc: Actually “don’t do” what? I didn’t specify any measures. Take a winter break? Schedule cold teams to play away games in the winter?

        If not, then how *do* they cope? Snowblowers? Something else? If so, what? Or is the midwinter weather actually milder than here after all?

        I just want to see real analysis of the issues and how they’re handled elsewhere.

      • tridecagon - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        For one example, Norway’s offseason is November to March. They don’t play in winter.

      • tridecagon - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        Sweden and Finland also play a spring-to-fall schedule, while Denmark (which has a somewhat warmer climate) has a July-to-May season, with a break from early December to late February.

        So basically, cold-weather countries don’t play in winter.

      • Sgc - Jan 4, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        tomcatfl, see the next comment. don’t. . . play during the winter.

      • tomcatfl - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        Sgc – thanks for the clarification…

        Tridecagon – now you see, that’s the kind of information that any sensible article on the subject of seasonal schedule should include, not just “FIFA does it one way, MLS does it another”. Thank you for providing it!

        So Norway, Finland and Sweden all do it more like MLS now. Do they honor FIFA dates? If so, why can’t MLS? Start the season a little earlier, or be willing to have a few more two-match weeks. Perhaps a small tweak is all we need to be FIFA compliant.

        Denmark has nearly a three month winter break. I’d love to hear what international coaches going into Denmark think about whether that break is too long, etc. (You could imagine Klinsmann would hate it!)

        What does Russia do? I would think that their largely continental climate, relatively unaffected by the Gulf Stream and the Mediterranean, could be more applicable to the situation of northern US and Canada.

        This is the kind of discussion that I want to see…

  9. talgrath - Jan 3, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Let’s not forget that the US and Canada have much more regional variance than most European countries. The only European country that has the same sort of regional variance is Russia, and most of their soccer is played in major metropolitan regions near Europe. In the Pacific Northwest we usually won’t see snow until February if we see any, the midwest might see snow anywhere from November to March, the southeast and southwest rarely see any snow and the northeast usually sees snow between December and January. Not only is there a variance of when snow usually shows up, but there’s variance in how much, the midwest and northeast get buried in snow for days on end at times while the Pacific Northwest rarely has more than a day or two of snowy weather. I’m completely fine with the current MLS schedule, why does anyone have a problem with it? Because Europe does it differently?

    • tridecagon - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      If I recall right, the reason it’s a problem is because FIFA’s international calendar doesn’t mesh well with MLS’s schedule, meaning that frequently MLS teams lose their best players to national team duty at critical stretches of the season.

      • tomcatfl - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM

        That begs the question of why MLS can’t make their calendar more FIFA-friendly. Most of the international breaks seem to be pretty short – a few two-match weeks in the season…push the playoffs to start after the Nov break…perhaps start a week or two earlier… the necessary measures don’t seem that hard.

      • talgrath - Jan 7, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        MLS could take those dates off though, they would just have to have double games for a few more weeks out of the year or play one or two fewer games. The season runs from the beginning of March until December, surely they can find some space in there for international dates.

  10. atxnole - Jan 5, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Change the calendar and have a winter break like most countries do. Done.

  11. chadmoon1 - Jan 7, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Switch to Mexico’s schedule and leave summer available for World Cup, Gold Cup, and high level friendlies with international clubs.

  12. dagetawayman421 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    I disagree with the assessment of moving MLS to match the rest of the world. In the summer, the only competition MLS has for attendance is baseball. When it comes to going from August to May, you pretty much take on every major professional and college sport. You’re going to lose both revenue and growth of the sport. What I think MLS should do is each team plays each other home-and-away like in other top leagues for a total of 36 games. Keep the schedule March to October. Respect the FIFA international match days which are usually from Friday to Tuesday once a month. Schedule matches on weekends, and rarely Tuesday-Wednesday. Once football season begins, take out matches on Sunday and Monday (because no one is watching) and move them to Tuesday and Wednesday. Have matches on federal holidays if they occur during the week and make all teams play. When hockey season ends, give NBCSN a “Rivalry” game every week on Wednesday so that they can continue that moniker year-round. Don’t have matches during the World Cup, because NO ONE is going to come watch MLS when the world cup is on, same with the CONCACAF Gold Cup. No one likes to see a team who’s missing their star players for international duty. Lastly, allow flexibility with the schedule, give teams the option to move games around if necessary down the line.

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