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MLS shifting schedule? Sorry, Sepp. League president says it’s not happening any time soon

Aug 5, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT

mark_abbott Getty Images

PORTLAND, Ore. — MLS is about to align its calendar with Europe’s? That’s news to Major League Soccer; at least, according to league President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott.

In the middle of a wide-ranging media session Tuesday in Portland, Abbott denied by recent claims from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who said on Monday that MLS would soon adopt what’s often referred to as the “international calendar” – the late-summer-to-spring season footprint that’s used by most leagues around the world.

Asked about Blatter’s assertions, Abbott said Major League Soccer, which plays from March through early December, could not make the change at this time, reiterating a view expressed by league commissioner Don Garber in December.

“I saw the comments, we didn’t have a chance to talk to [Blatter] about those,” Abbott explained, “What I’ll say today is what Don (Garber) said last year, which is we looked at it last fall. We concluded that, at this point in time, it is not a change that we could make.”

Note: could, not would. A change in schedule could happen at some point, but there are no plans to sync up with Europe any time soon.

“We don’t rule it out for some point in the future,” Abbott said, “but there’s not an imminent plan to change to the international calendar.”

Blatter, speaking yesterday in Canada ahead of the Women’s U-20 World Cup, said “[MLS] has taken the decision … to adapt the FIFA calendar,” a claim that contradicted Garber’s statements in December at MLS Cup. There, the league commissioner said a schedule change was something MLS would “continue to look at it … to see if we can do this in the future,” but was “not something we are going to do in the short-term.”

In that short-term, Major League Soccer is focused on other things, like getting the league up to 24 teams by 2020. If it is a goal, changing schedules remains a long-term one.

  1. michaelsmueller - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Can’t wait until the January/February games in Kansas City!

  2. michaelsmueller - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    As soon as Duluth and Green Bay get their teams we will start to analyze a calendar change…

  3. gtizzo - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    This needs to happen but they need a media deal to really be serious. Without a network to broadcast games this is all just hopes and dreams.

    • jdfsquared - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:44 AM

      It’s certainly not a dream of mine to go to an outdoor game in Chicago in January and watch players trudge around on a snow-covered field.

  4. dfstell - Aug 6, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    I want to see MLS change the calendar, but not to conform with the rest of the world. There isn’t really a “rest of the world” schedule anyway. Different countries set calendars based on what they want. It just so happens that many of the big leagues in Europe kinda sync up.

    I would like to see MLS recognize that the weather in Houston is not pleasant in July/August, but that it is perfectly possible to play soccer there in December. Ditto for many of these other southeastern cities. If MLS is adding Miami, why NOT take advantage of the glorious weather there in December?

    We’re a big country(ies) and we have weather challenges that other countries don’t have to deal with. But, it would make sense to let different parts of the country play when the weather is nicer there rather than trying to find the middle ground between Boston and Houston. Instead of letting that diversity of weather be a weakness that has to be scheduled around, let it be a strength for the league.

    • jdfsquared - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:48 AM

      How would that really work, though? It wouldn’t be fair at all to tell a northern team they won’t have a home game for months on end.

      And it may be unpleasant to play in Houston in July/August, but it’s IMPOSSIBLE to play outdoors in January in outdoor stadiums like Chicago, New England, Montreal, Kansas City, Salt Lake, Colorado… It won’t work, man.

      • leviramsey - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        It’s doable if MLS basically schedules so every team has an 8-10 game road trip at some point. Houston/Dallas/Miami would have theirs in the summer. The northern clubs would have theirs in the winter.

        The issue then becomes where these fit in relative to the schedule. Starting with an 8 game road trip leaves the distinct possibility that a club will be totally cut adrift by their home opener.

        I’ve long said, however, that MLS should go to a split season format.

        The first part of the season would be split into divisions (of maximum size 10 and minimum size 6) spanning the country. Single table, home and away, promotion and relegation. Winner of the top (MLS Premier?) division gets the supporters shield.

        The second part is split into geographic conferences. Points earned from the first part carry over into the second part (with 1.5 points per “missing” game awarded to clubs from smaller divisions; since a 10 team premier division would play 18 games while a 6 team lower division would play 10 games, that would mean a 12 point bonus for a team from 6 team division and a 6 point bonus for a team from an 8 team division). A coefficient system similar to UEFA’s would be used to award MLS Cup berths to the conferences (the berths would be known prior to the start of the second part; they could even take premier division results into account).

        After the second part, the top teams from the various conferences enter into the MLS Cup.

        I’d have the hierarchy of honors for determining qualification for CONCACAF Champions League be (n is the number of conferences)

        1. MLS Cup winner (I think it’s important to have the biggest prize be the last awarded)
        2. Supporters Shield winner
        3. US Open Cup winner
        4-(n+3). Conference winners, ordered by coefficient
        n+4. MLS Cup runner-up
        n+5. Supporters Shield runner-up
        n+6. US Open Cup runner-up
        and so forth…

        (draft order would be without the Open Cup being taken into account)

        There’s a certain similarity to college football and basketball. The first part of the season is mostly non-conference games, then you have your conference regional rivalry games, then you have a tournament which pits the best teams from the conferences against each other.

        Conferences could be unbalanced, because there’d be no wild-card system; a strong conference gets extra berths. Nearly every game in the season would be meaningful. Maybe you also have the draft, instead of being based on reverse order of finish, start from halfway between the number of MLS Cup playoff spots and the number of teams (so once you constructed a single MLS table, if there were 10 MLS Cup teams and 24 clubs, the draft order would be 18-19-20-21-22-23-24-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1), which would make tanking exceptionally difficult (simply trying to lose would not help you).

        The question then becomes what to make of the timing. MLS should avoid playing in June (playing during the World Cup looks small time) and either July or December, depending on the rest of the calendar. Basically the idea is that even in the playoffs, there would be no games in July or August in Houston/Dallas/Miami/Phoenix/Vegas/Atlanta, and no games in December or January in Boston/Montreal/Toronto/Rochester/Chicago/Cleveland/Minnesota/Colorado/Salt Lake, including MLS Cup games.

        So if the season corresponded to a calendar year, the MLS Cup Final would be around Thanksgiving or the first weekend in December. The first (“division-based”) part would be from January to May, which is about 21-22 weeks for 10, 14, or 18 games, which would allow for enough bye weeks for the northern teams to basically have “Winter Training” camps in Florida in January. For the second part, the northern conferences would start play right away in July, while conferences with southern teams would either adjust the schedule or, if all southern, be smaller (maybe 6 or 8 (with a lot of midweek games)) and not start till September, with both finishing up around Halloween. MLS Cup playoffs would be in November.

        On a more European calendar, the MLS Cup Final would be Memorial Day weekend. The first part would run from August to December. The second part could run from January to April, and it would be the northern conferences that would be compressed.

        With 24 teams, MLS would be
        10 team Premier Division
        8 team Second Division
        6 team Third Division

        For a calendar-year schedule
        Northern Conference (18 games from July-October)
        New England
        Kansas City

        Southern Conference (10 games from September-1st weekend in November)

        Western Conference (14 games from July-1st weekend in November)
        Salt Lake
        San Jose
        Sacramento/Las Vegas/Phoenix/???

        (if on an August-May schedule, then I guess you move DC, Philadelphia to the Southern Conference)

      • leviramsey - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        How did I forget Vancouver? Substitute Vancouver for Sacramento/Las Vegas/Phoenix/???.

  5. jhnyr45 - Aug 6, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Would totally love to sit outside in Vancouver during the winter to watch a MLS game….. Just kidding… you would have to pay me

    • mikeevergreen - Aug 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      They play indoors. Go have a moose burger.

  6. gthou - Aug 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Couldn’t you run a season from August – December in the first half, then February (post-Superbowl) through April for the second half?

    Have southern teams play road games in the north in August, and northern teams play road games in the south in February.

    Season would still be 8 months. You would still get a few bad weather condition games, but geographic scheduling would mitigate it. MLS doesn’t play in January now anyway. The break would mean you don’t compete with college football bowl games and NFL playoffs, and would provide a good rest/transfer period that would raise the quality of the second half.

    What am I missing here? I mean, MLS already plays in the spring, and also competes with college football and the NFL,Sept-Nov (including MLS playoffs). Is having a split season w/ a break, or playing the month of December, what’s killing this?

  7. rjbailey - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Reblogged this on Locating Frankenstein's Brain.

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