Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Questioning The Timing Of The MLS Season

A MLS question was posed to me by Dave Brett Wasser of Historic Soccer Videotapes. I thought it was a good question for the readership at large. There are many issues to consider here.

I'm one of the many people who thinks that MLS would be a lot smarter to shift their season so that it starts 4-6 weeks earlier, and ends 4-6 weeks earlier.

Just look at the sports calendar in America. October is the busiest month of the year! There is pro and college football, and the baseball playoffs. How can MLS compete with that? MLS suffers because people lose interest in soccer in October.

On the other hand, March is perhaps the least busy month on the sports calendar. There is basketball and hockey, but that's it. People don't really pay much attention to pre-season baseball, so that isn't much competition.

MLS should have started their season last week with games in each of the warm-weather cities. MLS Cup could then be in the last week of September at the latest.

I want to know what you all think about this idea.


Anonymous DisplacedCalBear04 said...

I agree 100%. Now believe you me when I say that US Soccer (Nats or MLS) is my top priority as a sports fan in general. But when college football comes from October to early January, the chance to watch my alma mater play is very distracting. I basically tune out all other sports. I'm sure it's the same for many people out there. MLS definitely needs to end before football season (NFL or college) starts.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Demko said...

Agreed. I've never understood the argument that MLS should shift to a european calendar--unless the goal is to reduce already lame attendance figures. Chicago in January? Nobody would show up for those games. But shifting the season just a little backwards on the calendar would definitely help avoid conflicts with other sports.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is college football comes in late August, not October. Pro football not long after that. And once that happens, soccer gets drowned out fast.

Starting soccer in March, even limiting to warm weather cities, youn run into the problem that the old USFL (spring football league) ran into, and that is at many of their games it rained cats and dogs.

Most of the old USFL highlights were actually lowlights of fallen players hydroplaning through huge water puddles. And the stands were almost empty. I'll never forget a Washington Post headline chronicling another failed outing for the old Washington Federals -- "They Came, It Rained, They Lost".

Of course weather was not the only problem the USFL had, but my point is starting the MLS season in March is going to cost the teams big at that gate until the weather is better, and you still have the problem of going head to head with football in the fall.

Perhaps what may be better is ditching the playoffs and just have a championship game so MLS can finish up before football even starts. Or, if playoffs are a must, then limit the regular season to home and aways between all the clubs, and then have a playoff involving just the top two teams in each division.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Franco S said...

The MLS, and US soccer in general, schedule for this year is absolutely crazy. Too many games in a too short amount of time, plus Gold Cup and Copa America, plus the... World Series (!)

Starting on March would give more time for "other games", would mean a better shape for the teams involved in Champions' Cup, a possible reduction of MLS schedule during Gold Cup and Copa America.

Is the weather the problem? Play in the south when you can, play at 2/3pm on sundays if you need to play in DC or Boston. We are talking about a month, so to organize the calendar should not be such a big problem.

I'm really getting worried that the year of the boos could become the year of the flop. But in my heart I hope that 2006 will mean for MLS what 1975 meant for NASL. The 5 years following the arrival of Pele have been great. If we will have the big boost it will be necessary to avoid any fall.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous CLG431 said...

The only way to get MLS on board with this is if Teams like DC, Chicago, Columbus, NE, and NY were able to play most of the early games away in a warmer climate. Most people aren't to keen on watching soccer in 30 degree weather with snow on the ground.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The excuse that it's too cold is a weak one. In England they play in the cold. Wouldn't we rather the final be warm than the beginning of the season? Also the teams in the CCC would have a better conditioning. Also, the teams that play in football stadiums would have less to deal with.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

Also, it would be pretty strange to have the MLS season ending before the USL season ends, and months before the college season ends.

1:21 PM  
Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

Tough call. While I get the "it's cold in England" argument, it is butt-ass cold in New England. Just friggin' miserable. Ditto with Chicago.

The problem also comes on the other end. Personally, I think it's good (feeble attendance excepted) that the league hits its stretch run when the weather is cooling; those August/early September games are ass because the players get over-heated.

So...tough call. While I realize this goes outside the assignment to some extent, I'd shrink MLS's spill-over into deep fall, by reducing the number of regular-season league games and shrinking qualification pool for the playoffs to four teams. Then split the difference on the front end by having the season start in mid-March.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous sasha said...

I agree that MLS should take better advantage of the month of March, but I think scheduling a mid-season break during Intl tournaments should be a bigger priority than ending before football starts. There's always going to be some sports crowding things up, MLS will just have to deal with it. Any decision to alter the schedule should be for soccer reasons (tournaments, synchronization for the transfer windows) and not US sports calendar reasons.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Bryan Rosenbaum said...

How bout we just shorten the season? the MLS regular season is meaningless enough as it is, so who really cares about the April/August/September games anyway. Plus it will give more time and breathing room for int'l tournaments and games.

Seems to make too much sense though

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Soccerik said...

No competition in March! Ever heard of a little tournament called "March Madness"?

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

"March Madness" doesn't compare to (especially) the weekend monopolization of TV sports coverage that occurs after the NFL and college football season starts.

I have actually recently been kicking around in my head if it would be possible to run two seasons per year as is done in some So. American countries. But I have yet to figure out how that would work...

3:12 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

There is never a time when MLS will not have to compete with other interests. Let's face it, the US is the only country in the world (well, maybe Canada) where soccer is not the only interest. There will always be other sports that will capture the attention of the american public. MLS just needs to do what is in their own best interest regardless of the other competing factors.

The interest in soccer is growing and the fan base will continue to grow. This will take years. MLS needs to remain patient and continue to make sound decisions. Patience is the key.

I also believe that the move to compete in more international club competitions is awesome.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

starting earlier would be a great idea... it's around this time every year my friends and i start getting antsy for the MLS, and by the time kick off comes around some of the excitement's already worn off. Plus having it earlier would make the playoffs for cold cities (NE, DC, Chicago) more bearable.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

Yes, and considering that we should never discount an earlier season just because of the possibility of cold rain - because this is what half of the english season must endure and they get by with it.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Chappy said...

What might make the most sense would be starting about the same time, then taking some kind of break in mid-summer to minimize conflicts with international tournaments, etc. This might also lead to more marquee players participating in all MLS games and drawing more fan interest. It's hard to hook the casual fan if you go to an MLS game and all the "good" players are off with USMNT in a tournament.

Then, you end up finishing the MLS season in November. You are still competing with football (seems to be unavoidable), but at least baseball is over. Yes, it'll be cold at times in some cities, but real winter hasn't hit yet. Chicago in November has it moments, but it's usually not a big deal.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Thundergunner said...

Well, here is some data (degrees F based on info):
I chose the 7th of the months because this year's MLS openers are Apr 7.

London Average Highs:
Mar 7: 48, Apr 7: 53, Nov 7: 52

Mar 7: 35, Apr 7: 49, Nov 7: 48

Chicago (Boston is almost =):
Mar 7: 44, Apr 7: 56, Nov 7: 53

NY (Salt Lake and C-bus are almost =):
Mar 7: 47, Apr 7: 57, Nov 7: 57

KC (DC and Denver are nearly =):
Mar 7: 52, Apr 7: 64, Nov 7: 58

So, London in March is like NY, C-bus, or Salt Lake. London in April and November is like Boston or Chicago. Basically March or late in November is getting quite chilly (around 50 for the high) in 9 MLS cities. So, we are talking gametime (7pm) temps in the 40-45 range on average. I will go to a meaningless regular season match at 40 degrees, but will someone on the fence? This isn't England; the highest average high temp for any day in London is 71, compared with 86 for New York. People in England better be willing to go outside when it is 45 or they would never leave the house. Here, they are likely to turn on CBS and watch college basketball. And while there is rugby and cricket in England, football is life for many people and that isn't yet the case here, so we need to pamper people a little more.
Overall, I think that the MLS brass has the schedule about right. The Playoffs aren't during anyone else's playoffs and they have minimized the impact of bad weather.
I think that the bigger issues are 1) the value (or lack thereof) of the regular season and 2) the loss of key players to internationals. But then, it is probably all connected.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like dave, known him for years

but no... mls does great the later the year is... the summer sucks, that's the problem... 4-6 weeks earlier and taking a summer break would be great

it should end where it does at the very least, if not later

the fall is fantastic... the attendance numbers show that to be true too... the summer is hellacious on the fans and the players

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Ken said...

I have no idea who that comment was directed to so I'm going to ignore it and run my mouth off some more:

One thing that I wish they would be considering when building the SPS's is putting roofs over the majority of the stands. This would not only help to alleviate the potential for cold rain in the shoulder months, but also give the fans a bit of a break during the summer months. I can imagine sitting in PHP for 2 straight hours in the Texas summer sun - I'd feel like a cooked pizza by the time I got outta there.

8:04 AM  
Blogger brucio said...

just to remind people, this isn't big soccer, you don't get to come here and berate people and be rude like you can there (unfortunately)

i will delete posts that attack other people

we are all intelligent and fun loving, lets use our brains and post cool, smart ideas


carry on

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like it!

12:39 PM  
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9:52 PM  

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