Garber: MLS shift to winter European schedule “almost impossible”

MartinRiveroChivasUSA1-ColoradoRapids (USATodaySports)

By DAN KARELL

MLS fans in northern cities won’t have to worry any time soon about seeing their local team play home games in the cold winter months.

At a press conference announcing the landmark agreement between MLS, U.S. Soccer and ESPN, FOX, and Univision, MLS Commissioner Don Garber poured ice cold water on the idea of MLS shifting its calendar to be in line with those in Europe, saying it would be “almost impossible” to make that change at this point.

Garber even referenced Sunday’s match between Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids, played in the snow at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Denver reportedly got anywhere from 4 to 8 inches across the city over the weekend, and even more snow fell nearby.

“From a weather perspective I think it is almost impossible with the number of teams that we have and the weather that we have in the United States and Canada to make the kind of change that would be a full alignment,” Garber said.

Last October, the New York Daily News reported that MLS was considering the possibility of aligning its calendar with the European schedule, starting the season in July or August and finishing in May or June.

MLS responded by saying that it was just a question asked in a fan survey and that it was far from making any kind of big change. In December, Garber admitted that the league did undergo more serious discussions internally than they ever have in the past about whether a schedule shift would work.

Garber even outlined the parameters of what a potential European-like schedule would look like, with a season starting in July, taking a break from December to February, and then finishing in May. However, Garber then was bullish on the idea of playing winter games in Canada and northern U.S. cities, and now it seems his mind is set on keeping the summer schedule.

Citing comments made last January by Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Garber said that even German soccer heads are talking about making a schedule change to summer to take advantage of better weather.

“I’m not convinced that we’re 100 percent wrong here,” Garber said. “I just think that we’ve got to continue to do everything we’re doing with our local clubs, build our fan base, continue to get local commitments and local connections, and continue to expand that calendar in bits in pieces.

“But the full shift,” Garber added, “I don’t really see happening any time soon.”

Another interesting note from the new TV and media rights deal is that it looks as if the league schedule won’t be changed until at least 2022, when the deal ends.

Last September, Pro Soccer Talk reported that MLS owners began discussions during the All-Star Game in Kansas City about how to reduce the season schedule from 34 games to 28 games. While teams would lose some match-day revenue, the report stated that it would allow the league to take breaks for international matches and make scheduling much easier.

However, the MLS TV deal specifies that ESPN, FOX, and Univision must televise a minimum of 34 regular-season games per season. Looking at that, any talk about reducing the schedule is now at least eight years away.

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What do you think of these comments? Do you support Garber’s stance? Would you rather see MLS play in a European-type schedule? Glad that the schedule isn’t being reduced?

Share your thoughts below.

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88 Responses to Garber: MLS shift to winter European schedule “almost impossible”

  1. NICK says:

    Baseball is the other summer sport and it’s no doubt that summer is the best weather to play soccer.

  2. bb says:

    Good. Apart from having some international dates line up with the MLS schedule, there is no NEED to shift to the Euro schedule. Garber focused on the weather, but another obvious problem is competing against football and basketball on television. MLS will have a much more difficult time succeeding in the ratings war and securing quality TV deals when going up against all the other major sports leagues. What MLS has been doing is working. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. I don’t care what Sepp Blatter thinks about the MLS schedule.

    • EspinDOHla says:

      Say what? Currently, the latter part of the MLS season and playoffs go up against:

      NFL
      NCAA Football
      MLB end of season/post season
      NHL start of season
      NBA start of season

      Call me crazy but competing for viewers in that crowded group doesn’t seem like the best idea.

      Also, WNBA got more TV viewers than MLS so I don’t think what they’ve been doing has been really working in regards to TV viewers (attendance at the games is another thing).

    • Ali Dia says:

      I agree with this generally, although what MLS has been doing with TV leaves a lot to be desired… lagging behind the WNBA is uncomfortable at best. But you’re right that it doesn’t require a wholesale calendar shift.

      Really, MLS is being displaced by nobody but themselves at the moment. They haven’t done nearly enough to create a platform or put games (many more of them) in sensible time slots that show some awwareness of a target audience. I find it odd sometimes that I am actually watching Liga MX games in Spanish simply because there is no MLS game available. NBC was a poor partner in this sense and they did a forgettable job of bridging EPL to MLS. Here’s hoping somebody somewhere is working on a plan to resolve this and better engage the existing (and potential) national audience.

      Obviously, part of the challenge is that all the key TV properties for US-based soccer fans keep getting split up amongst the networks… Everybody owns a chapter but nobody owns the book. The fragmentation and lack of a clear leader is frustrating and there is no resolution in sight. It is pathetic that I sometimes miss FSC simply because it provided some continuity, albeit in a low-budget, often cringeworthy package. I’m pretty sure I heard Mitch Peacock accidentally call Bobby McMahon “Dad” on one or two occasions.

    • slowleftarm says:

      A winter schedule is impossible because of the weather but MLS is competing against basketball right now and MLS Cup was directly up against the SEC championship game last year. There’ll always be other sports, I don’t think it can be avoided.

  3. JayAre says:

    Garbee is right I’m not even sure why this still comes up. A winter schedule is impossible, Colorado, Chicago, NY, Columbus, Toronto, DC, Montreal. All those places are basically out door freezers during the winter. In DC the grass and mud is frozen during that time. That’s basically kicking Colorado out of MLS

  4. SilverRey says:

    Germany isn’t the only league talking about a summer switch. I see UEFA moving to our schedule after the Qatar World Cup. The winter World Cup is going to screw them up anyway, may as well put it to use.

  5. call me for pizza says:

    Nothing is Impossible

    - ADIDAS

    plus we put a man on the moon.

  6. call me for pizza says:

    could start in July and end in May. Take a 2month break from December to Feb.March like many Euro nations do. Germany takes like a 6 week break and is fine every year.

    it’s perfectly doable. it’s just the competition between other big sports but lets be honest MLS is not going away. SOCCER IS HERE TO Stay

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Competition is not going away but there is no reason to compete on your weakest terms against both footballs (college and pro) and then hockey and basketball just to emulate Europe. Baseball is a softer opponent with more games on the schedule. If they watch your soccer game instead of the baseball game, they can DVR the baseball and watch the same teams play two more nights. Or you can compete with the sport that has 8 home games and 16 total, owns Sunday, fills the stadia we think are too big for our sport.

      I also think it makes more sense to play a continuous season with a winter offseason than to split the season and split the breaks up. Get up to speed, play 3 months, shut down, get back up to speed, play a few more. Choppy and not ideal sporting wise.

      • Mason says:

        Seriously. The NFL wins overnight ratings wars with crappy Thursday night games between the Jets and Jaguars. There’s a reason they’re expanding to Friday and Saturday night games as well.

        MLS should stay clear of that behemoth.

        • slowleftarm says:

          NFL is at the start of a long decline. Check out recent NYT articles on tackle football leagues being scrapped even in Texas. Going to take a long time but it benefits soccer and other sports.

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            I’d take New York articles about Texas football trends with a grain of salt.

          • Mason says:

            NYT trend pieces are like headlines that ask a question.

          • Pele says:

            I was going to make the same point, though I haven’t read the NYT articles.

            Gridiron football is where boxing was 50 years ago. Boxing was king until people started getting fed up with the short careers and non-stop injuries. It’s fun to watch other people’s bodies getting destroyed for a while but after enough bad publicity and eye-opening studies the popularity begins to wane.

      • SoccerStar says:

        While I agree that having a break mid season is not ideal, I think many miss the concept of switching the schedule. Calling it a winter schedule is in many ways a misnomer. Starting in mid to late July, playing until Christmas, taking a six week break until after the Super Bowl and playing until the last week of May would be better for TV in many ways.

        Currently, the most exciting time of the MLS season, the playoff races, playoffs and MLS Cup compete against football, the baseball playoffs, and the start of the basketball and hockey seasons. Late fall is the most congested time of the sports calendar. Having the stretch run and playoffs in April and May would be much better from the standpoint of TV ratings. It also makes the weather for the playoffs much better in most of the MLS markets.

        Also, the presence of the World Cup, the Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup, and (hopefully) a once every four years Copa America Pan America style would make the prospect of taking the month of June off every year much more understandable.

        If you think about it, currently MLS games are played from early March through mid December, some weeks in certain years in June are off weeks due to international soccer. Switching to a fall-spring setup would mean starting in mid to late July, playing through mid December, starting again in mid February and playing through May. You are swapping a few February games for early July and June games, sometimes with teams not at full strength. Not much different, but a better time window for the playoffs if the switch is made.

        It’s not feasible at present, but once TV ratings increase and revenues are more driven by TV than gate receipts then the switch makes more sense. Also, when more warm weather markets are in the league, the switch becomes easier. Ask anyone in Orlando, Houston, Dallas, or Miami weather they would rather go to an outdoor soccer game in late February or early July.

        Of course, the spectre of a winter World Cup in 2022 is the great unknown. The schedule of international soccer could change. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the new MLS TV contracts run until 2022…

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I think the fall session would become an irrelevant afterthought — because the spring would decide who made it or missed it — and the fall would be overwhelmed by football worse than ever, since you couldn’t even sell the games being important.

          You’re also neglecting that a split Euro style season would culminate in a hotter part of the year where the current season ends in fan friendly temperatures. This year I watched Houston play Montreal in pleasant playoff weather. Move the playoffs to the heat and now you’re trying to run me off from the most exciting and pivotal games.

          But maybe you’re trying to sell me on no playoffs, which has the potential to be the worst choice of them all, if most teams have nothing to play for and no relegation to keep the bottom interesting.

          The ratings for meaningless MLS during football season are likely to be akin to the 0.0 the Astros got against the Texans.

          What you’d gain in Houston would be lost in Montreal.

          • SoccerStar says:

            Playoffs and stretch run in late April and May makes for not terrible weather in warm climates, especially if they are night games.
            Not trying to sell no playoffs, that’s not hoping to happen, nor do I want it to. Playoffs are great.
            I agree the fall is an issue. The sport needs to gain additional traction and popularity. It will with time. I think Friday nights in fall (or other times of the year) are under utilized by MLS.
            No changes are going to be made until 2022 at the earliest. Gives almost another decade of growth. Changes to the international soccer calendar could come with the Qatar World Cup. It’s not a coincidence that the new MLS TV contracts run through 2022.

        • MB says:

          And having the playoffs in April and May would be conflicting with NBA and NHL playoffs as well as MLB…….

    • beto says:

      +1 playoffs this time of year would be great!

  7. sock her says:

    As far fetched as a European overhaul to accommodate the Qatari World Cup still sounds perhaps it will be the Europeans that will be aligning with MLS in the near future.

  8. Juan from L.A. says:

    I agree with Garber to certain extent, but he should look into having indoor soccer stadiums up north and look into the matter. If anything make a Hybrid schedule so everyone is happy.

    • bb says:

      Who is unhappy? And the stadiums up north are already built. Indoor stadiums also mean turf, and a lot of people don’t like that either. I don’t think a hybrid schedule would make everyone happy, both sides would just complain that the season was half-switched.

      I haven’t heard any compelling arguments as to why the current MLS schedule is a problem that needs to be changed. The strongest against is maybe the disadvantage MLS teams have in the Concacaf Champs League. But is that worth fighting the NFL, NBA, and NCAA teams? I’m not so sure.

      • beto says:

        The most important games of the year and playoffs are during the MLB playoffs, NFL & college footballs seasons. Going up against those isnt exactly ideal.

        Move those games to May, at the same time as everyother league’s finals across the world, and it would be huge improvement

        • Mason says:

          You just put the entire MLS apetura up against the NFL season. Good work, champ, you just killed the league.

          • SoccerStar says:

            Wrong. As it is the playoffs and title chases go up against football. Maybe it’s not too crazy to look at the late April to early June window as the best time for the MLS stretch run.

            • Mason says:

              It’s a question of magnitude. The current schedule has a few weeks of regular season against football followed by a few weeks of playoffs. A split season would have half the year, and it would be the bald of the season that least directly affects playoffs.

              Take whatever the ratings are for those weeks currently and multiply by .25 because that’s what an early regular season game would pull on a Saturday when the SEC is playing.

  9. Peatón says:

    Maybe they could have a schedule like Norway or Russia (but they have less teams), but really what I would like to see is a balanced schedule. With 24 teams they could have a 22 game in conference (2 games versus rivals in Eastern/Western conferences) schedule and 1 game against each team in the other conference. I personally think this is the best way to have a meaningful regular season, unlike so many other American sports.

    • Chris says:

      Screw that its all about the playoffs. If you cant win when it matters you dont deserve the championship

      • beto says:

        Your implying that the regular season is irrelevant? Great, id much rather have an MLS that is more like the NBA than the EPL…

        • chris says:

          The regular season is relevant in determining who is in the playoffs (I’m all for lowering the # of teams allowed in the playoffs). Id much rather see the top teams battle it out against each other in a do or die scenario

          • slowleftarm says:

            I guess if you don’t mind the “champion” being whoever gets hot at a random time rather than the best team then you’re right. Proving it over the long haul means a lot more to me though.

  10. Chris says:

    Its still snowing in denver. There is no way it would work here.

  11. divers suck says:

    Like it or not, aside with synching up with the majority of leagues in the rest of the world, there is absolutely no reason to go to a winter schedule with MLS. Whether any of us like it or not, soccer is still a fringe sport in this country and MLS simply couldn’t stay afloat at a high level (compared to other world leagues) financially, directly competing with the NFL, NCAA (football and basketball), NBA and NHL for the American sports dollar. Competing with MLB in the summer is simply more lucrative for MLS…..

    • beto says:

      Weather your playing March-December or July-May (w/ a winter break) your going up against the fall sports and getting summer games in either case.

      • Mason says:

        Wrong. The current schedule puts a few playoff games up against regular season fall sports. That’s quite different from putting up half of your regular season matches against fall sports.

      • divers suck says:

        With an 8-9 month schedule, it’s impossible to avoid overlap @beto. The key is to mitigate it financially. NFL and NCAA football is the ones that need to be avoided the most. The end 1/3 of MLS coincides with the beginning of NFL and NCAA seasons which is fine. MLS going through the second half of American football, NFL playoffs etc. etc. and having to compete with such would be a HUGE loss. In the summertime, the big name teams Real Madrid, Man United and the likes tour here to compete in friendlies that are huge exposures to, not only their teams in the American market(s) but more importantly fringe soccer fans here that only have baseball…..This would be impossible to do with a winter schedule with the bulk of it in competition directly with football. It’s a losing proposition either way you want to spin it….

        • SoccerStar says:

          I agree that it’s impossible to avoid overlapping with football ( the current TV rating champ), but I think it makes more sense to avoid competing with football during the MLS stretch run and playoffs as happens currently. The MLS playoffs are an absolute afterthought in November and December. Much better exposure could be achieved in late April through the first week of June.

          • divers suck says:

            Catch 22….Lose the revenues of virtually the entire 3/4 of the season competing with NFL and the playoff of MLS competing with NBA and NHL play-offs and championships. All of this with baseball being the only choice of professional sports throughout the summer, along with having MLS games in the north in the dead of winter?….Sorry, I’ll take summer soccer in competition with baseball any/every day……

            • SoccerStar says:

              Much rather compete with NBA and NHL than NFL. Also, it’s half the season that would go up against football, Sep thru Dec. not three fourths.
              Also, one needs to consider international soccer. They are not giving up the June cash cow and that will present an ever present conflict, perhaps more so if Copa Pan America becomes a quadrennial event (watch this happen, money talks).
              Regardless, nothing is happening until 2022 Qatar. There are rumblings of significant changes in the international calendar – maybe moving to two windows in the year one summer (June) and one winter.

  12. beto says:

    The crazist idea here isnt playing June-May its reducing the schedule to 28 games! That 10 less than most other leagues!

    Would international players want to reduce their games to this? They would have to go on loan every offseason

  13. Norman says:

    Real leagues don’t play in the Summer. Just another reason to never watch MLS.

    • Remy says:

      The World cup, the Olympic games and the Euros are played in the summer, genius. Those tournaments are better than any league.

    • Oshi says:

      “real leagues” don’t have to deal with 70″ of snow over the winter.

    • slowleftarm says:

      Sounds like Norman has never been in the northern half of the US in winter. Or maybe the smug sense of superiority he gets from only watching european leagues keeps him warm.

  14. Dustin says:

    Is it possible to do heated field? I think that would be cool.

    • Scott says:

      Yes and KC has one. It was frozen solid last year for the playoffs and final. Also, it doesn’t heat the ball, players or fans. All of which hurts the play of the game and revenue.

  15. Quig whining about soccer in the US says:

    Gets the big TV contract and immediately stands up to the Euro whiners !
    That is why I love the Don.

    Tell em there will never be pro/rel now !
    Come on DG….

    • slowleftarm says:

      We should have pro/rel eventually though. There are probably 40 cities at least that could support an MLS team within the next 15-20 years. We should force some of them to make due with minor league soccer? Seems short-sighted and doesn’t help grow the sport.

  16. Paul says:

    How about this for out of the box. Take away the city names from the teams. Each team has a warm weather and cold weather home. Start the season up north, middle part down south, finish back up north. Each team draws attendance from two metropolitan areas, with less games in each so more incentive to catch one of those games. And it’s just weird enough to give the league a glimmer of media attention during American football and basketball seasons.

    Also, if we could get the NASL to go along with this nonsense, then we could start a promotion/relegation thing, too. That actually would draw some media attention, because while commonplace everywhere else, it would be unique here in the States.

    • Stephen Hawking, Hat Trick Hero says:

      + π, Paul.
      Nonsense is excusable if it is imaginative…This is superb on many levels. For example, this system relieves us of the burden of scouring the list of not-yet-taken Eur-homage names like “Real” and “Sporting” and “Red Bull” and empowers us with a whole new set of delightfully obnoxious hipster names like “Appalachian Wanderers” and “Red State Rovers”. Of course, we’d exhaust these too and in all likelihood this would end up with Los Angeles and Minneapolis sharing a team called “Barcelona”.

      But there is something here, I’m very sure. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • fischy says:

      I proposed the city-share solution years ago. Leave aside the difficulties in creating such a novel arrangement – the big problem is that there won’t be the interest in enough warm (or even cold) weather cities — to double the number of host cities means the cities will be smaller and for many the soccer fanaticism isn’t there.

  17. bryan says:

    good. i’m so sick of reading articles/comments from people saying MLS has to mimic everything from Europe to have a successful soccer league. as if soccer, as a sport, is inherently incapable of existing during a certain time of year and only with pro/rel. or that playoffs “will never work.” it’s completely naive.

    soccer in the US and Canada is best suited to avoid the dead of winter. it’s that simple.

  18. garrett says:

    MLS is not going to surpass the NFL until the quality in the MLS is far greater , comparable to Europe and therefore more exciting.
    the salary cap is preventing big names from moving to the united states until the very end of their careers to collect pay checks and continue playing.

    • Paul says:

      I don’t think that would do it. Quality doesn’t necessarily equate to excitement, especially from the perspective of the casual observer, and from the perspective of people wanting to see goals, quality actually is a detriment. Yesterday in La Liga, the top three (which include two Champions League finalists) played, and the sum total of scoring in all three games was four goals.

      The thing holding soccer down below American football here isn’t quality – it’s just that so few people grew up watching soccer. That’s slowly changing, but I don’t think the NFL has any near-term worries.

    • fischy says:

      The first half of your statement isn’t entirely wrong, though I doubt that MLS isn’t going to surpass the NFL in this country during any of our lifetimes, no matter how good the league becomes. However, the second half of your statement is undeniably wrong. The salary cap isn’t preventing big names from moving to the USA earlier in their careers.

      To the extent money is an issue, it’s because MLS teams aren’t going to lay out the kind of cash you are contemplating. They don’t have the revenues. Even this TV deal is gonna provide MLS teams only a tiny fraction of what EPL teams get. Add a couple of zeros and you’re in the ballpark. Heck — just for the US rights, NBC is paying the EPL multiple times what these other networks will pay MLS — but the real money is in Europe.

      None of that has anything to do with the salary cap. If MLS teams wanted to pay a $50 million transfer fee, that could be arranged without disturbing the cap. That’s what DP’s are for.

      Top foreign stars don’t come here because MLS doesn’t offer the kind of competition they want — and need to stay at the highest levels. Of course MLS, can’t match the salaries, because MLS doesn’t have the same revenues. Finally, playing in MLS would severely cut back on their endorsement potential, as it would seriously reduce their visibiility abroad.

  19. fischy says:

    Honestly, with a 24-team league, the ideal schedule would be 34 games. 22 home-and-away matches within the conference, and 12 games outside the conference. Fixing fixture congestion isn’t going to be easy, but the league could get better odds on the weather by using the warm-weather sites early on and late season, and focusing games up north during the heat of summer.

  20. bottlcaps says:

    I was once a believer in syncing up with Europe, but no more. But the MLS should start its season in March and end no later than Mid-October. The US Open Cup, which fewer MLS teams are taking seriously. should take a different format like a early season tournament. More importantly the CCL should be totally revamped. Some teams will go over 550 days between qualifying and elimination. The Mexican league has too much of a head start advantage with some Lg Mx teams playing 8 games to MLS teams two. The MLS, if it keeps the 34 game cap, should concentrate game around a holiday like the 4th of July or Memorial Day like the EPL’s Boxing Day and give a two week break around the All-Star Game when all MLS/Euro friendlies should be played.

  21. Dutchman says:

    The MLS will eventually beat al the other sports leagues in the US. And it won’t take long. FIFA video games, internet, the many enormous soccer tournaments and leagues al around the world.
    MLS, NASL, US Open cup, CONCACEF Champions League, World club championship, the friendlies against European top teams.
    For the national team you have the FIFA World Cup, Confederations Cup, Gold Cup, Copa America and the friendlies against big teams.
    Soccer is everywhere and the MLS is connected to that big popular international world of soccer. So much exciting domestic competition, regional and world competion at an extremly high level.

    What do MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL fans have to look forward too? Every international competition at club level or national team level sucks so bad. Al these tournaments have no value. MLS has the whole soccer world as its ally.

    • Jay says:

      I’d laugh harder but I think I might hurt myself. There are so many flaws in your in statement that I don’t even know where to start. First Americans could care less about world competitions unless it’s the Olympic sports and the World Cup. MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, are the best leagues on the planet for their sport and played at the highest level. Also the world being soccer’s ally is the main reason its looked down upon in America. We have always done our own thing and hated the thought of being connected to the rest of the world. That’s what drives America society and why our sports will continue to dominate here in the US. Not saying soccer will not become more popular and has not grown in popularity but overtake our other sports not happening, not in your nor your children’s life time.

      • Andy says:

        @Jay. Soccer already has higher TV ratings that MLB among those under 18. In 10 years, that equates to higher ratings among those under 28. In 20 years, tops, soccer will be firmly established as the number 3 sport in the country, behind only football and basketball. MLB is already concerned.

        If college athletes win the case to get paid for appearances in NCAA games, that will be the deathnell for college sports as we know it. It won’t be overnight, but it will be the beginning of the end. Without strong college football, will the NFL remain top? I don’t know, but I can’t imagine there being no impact.

        • Dave says:

          I agree; MLB is definitely looking at MLS. And the NFL’s concussion issues are a long term issue that threatens the game’s existence as its currently structured. In our area the youth football leagues are having problems. I kept my son out of pee wee football 6 years ago in part because of the concussion stuff I was reading on PubMed.

          Though I gotta say its not getting enough attention in soccer.

          One bright spot for baseball: the TV contract ESPN inked with college baseball. I would have thought the fan interest for that to be lower than the WNBA.

        • Jay says:

          I see your points but your living in hypotheticals. Maybe your right but it won’t be in ten years. Also baseball isn’t concerned at all about MLS. One of their teams found some loose change to chip in on a MLS team.

  22. NASL to El Paso tx says:

    Obviously MLS is not ready for the FIFA calendar or aka European calendar.
    MLS needs every team with their own stadium with some exceptions like Seattle and Vancouver.
    Not only their own stadium, but at least have a decent roof cover, a heated field and drainage.
    Besides having ready winter stadiums, MLS needs more teams in warmer cities, for example, if team number 24 is San Antonio, then MLS can look at Sacramento, okc, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, a nc sc city, tampa bay, an indoor stadium in Detroit or Minnesota.
    Therefore, ONCE MLS reaches 26 or 28 with warmer markets, better stadiums, then garber can talk about going for the FIFA calendar.
    Start in late august, break in mid December. Have a Hawaii MLS tournament during winter break and friendlies in non MLS markets. Come back during Super Bowl weekend or after or have the all star game during Super Bowl weekend or after. After the season is over, MLS can have all the MLS vs European friendlies.
    In final thought, MLS is already going against NFL preseason and half of the season, MLB, NCAA football, NCAA basketball with march madness, so what’s the matter.
    I

  23. Andy says:

    The biggest driver for moving to a “Winter” schedule is the international tournaments, which occur in the summer (Qatar 2022 notwithstanding). A LARGE number of the Gold Cup players play in the MLS – that’s every 2 years. Add in the Confederation Cup, and the World Cup, not to mention the Copa America, and you are looking at MLS games occurring at the same time as major international tournaments with the MLS teams forced to play without key starters and fans forced to chose between watching international games or MLS games.

    Call it a winter schedule, call it a summer break, whatever, but taking at least 6-8 weeks off each summer will only be a good thing. It avoids running into those big tournaments and reduces the number of games in high heat and humidity.

  24. BamaMan says:

    “Almost impossible,” “highly” unlikely… and so on. Garber always leaves himself some breathing room. My guess – he knows ESPN/Fox/Unimas are going to have more control over scheduling than ever before. If, halfway through this deal, those partners decide playing the MLS Cup in May makes more sense than putting it up against college and NFL football, I think the change will happen.

    I don’t know if that will happen. I’d put the odds at less than 50%, but the problem for MLS is going to be, as it always is, what happens during and after the World Cup. People follow the league when it kicks off, lose interest during the World Cup, pick up again in July/August, then ignore it altogether when football starts. The question for ESPN and company is going to be – is it better for football to eat up 3 1/2 months of early regular season play or to swamp the playoffs and championship. Either way, there is going to be a ratings hit.

    A sidenote – this should be really good to boost CONCACAF Champions League coverage, since Fox already had those rights. My guess is you will see much more discussion within the league broadcasts about how CONCACAF plays into the regular season.

    My final question is why is US Open Cup coverage not part of the SUM deal? ESPN has turned the Little League World Series into destination viewing. Surely they could do the same for the only competition in the US that pits pro teams against amateurs. At the very least, having ESPN3 as a uniform destination for US Open Cup broadcasts would be a great step up from the current situation.

    • Mason says:

      That is the question: do you bury the first half of the season or a few weeks at the end including the playoffs?

    • Michael D says:

      I put the odds at 0%. Not gonna happen. It would be bad for everyone televising games in empty stadiums because it is too cold. Most of the MLS season is outside of football season anyway.

  25. Chris says:

    Definitely no need to change the schedule, what we have is generally the best we can do. Just need to put some thought and effort into avoiding day games in Dallas in July and stuff like that.

    What would benefit the league is a slight shift in the format of picking a champion. I’d like to see the Supporters Shield winner get an auto birth into the MLS Cup final. That places WAY more emphasis on winning the league, while also still appeasing America’s desire for a playoff tournament.

  26. Brain Guy says:

    Maybe the solution is to call up the people in Qatar who are going to install air-conditioning for entire stadiums and ask them to install heating for entire stadiums here.

    Because, after all, it’s FIFA’s world and we’re just living in it.

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  28. Vic says:

    MLS should definately not shift to a winter schedule. Teams in colder states wouldn’t draw well in December, January and February. So if you don’t play in those months and you don’t play two months in the summer then thats a total of 5 months you don’t play regular games. Thats too much time for training and friendlies. MLS shouldn’t drop the number of games either. Except for the 3 television games on Friday and Sunday, all other games should be on Saturday night. Thats when teams draw the best attendance. Get rid of the AllStar game, don’t stop for any international breaks either because that forces MLS teams to squeeze in more weekday games. Who cares if a team loses 2 players for intl games, that gives MLS a chance to develop younger players and give them a chance to play.

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  30. Scott e Dio93 says:

    MLS has too long break, some players are un-active for 4 months, the long break doesn’t help MLS teams in CONCACAF champions leagues. Maybe start mid Feb and end mid Dec, with 2-3 Summer break because Gold Cup, World Cup, America’s cup or any major International events. Just play friendlies or US Cup during that time.

    • Vic says:

      No one is inactive for 4 months. The regular season ends November 1st, players report for training January 20. At most a player is inactive for 2 months and 3 weeks. Playoffs and MLS Cup go into the beginning of December. Camp cupcake starts around January 5th. Some players also train with a Euro/S. American team in the Winter.

  31. T-Bone says:

    I’ve read this whole thread, and while there are plenty of suggestions on how MLS could shift to winter schedule, there is very little convincing me about why we should do it. It comes down to:

    - some people think MLS suffers from competing against football and baseball
    - it would be better for international competitions if the league wasn’t going at the same time.
    - we should be on the “FIFA schedule”

    I don’t think any one of them is a compelling enough reason to sacrifice ticket sales in the cold winter months. I know I don’t want to sit in 25 degree weather. The players probably don’t want to play in 25 degree weather. The quality of the MLS product would suffer greatly. It’s fun to watch an NFL game in the snow. An MLS game? Not so much I think. For example, the USA-Costa Rica game last year was a mess.

    Going to Euro-schedule would actually increase the number of weeks you’re in competition with football – and you’d still have the baseball playoffs, and you’d still have competition with hockey and basketball – but now their playoffs are competing with MLS’s. Is it better to have MLS playoffs going against hockey playoffs? idk, A lot of soccer fans are also hockey fans. And let’s face it, most American football fans don’t give two hoots about soccer. I think the notion that MLS is “competing” with them is overblown. The best MLS can do is carve out their niche of soccer fans and coexist with football. I think the TV networks recognize this.

    The international competition is perhaps a more valid reason. But having empty seats (and you _will_ get empty seats with winter games – you’ll only get the most rabid fans – you won’t get the soccer families) and snowed-out games just so you don’t lose stud players for 3 weeks is a bad deal. And that problem is mostly solved with a short mid-summer break like they are doing this year. The NHL does it with the Olympics too, but no one is suggesting the NHL switch to summer.

    And just wanting to do it because its the “FIFA schedule” is nonsense, FIFA doesn’t dictate domestic league schedules. That is up to each league. FIFA only dictates international dates. They don’t play in winter in Scandinavia or Japan either. It’s not like MLS is some solitary outlier. Russia recently switched, but now they have a 3 month mid-season break with a one month off-season. I think their midseason break is too long and off season too short.

    I just can’t see MLS ever doing this because there is no compelling reason to do so. Doing just cos it would make the Eurosnobs happy isn’t close to being a good enough reason.

  32. Vin says:

    I see the pros and cons of moving to European schedule, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, if ever. I would be more interested in seeing MLS move to a single table and have the Charity Shield club with the most points be the champion and ditch the playoffs. Since we do not have promotion and relegation which promotes competition at both ends of the table, I do not see us ditching the playoffs.