Klinsmann lashes out at MLS scheduling games on FIFA dates

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Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

By FRANCO PANIZO

Never one to shy away from letting his opinions be heard, Jurgen Klinsmann has a bone to pick with MLS regarding its scheduling.

Namely, he does not like that the league has games during FIFA international fixture dates.

Klinsmann touched on a topic on Tuesday that has been discussed at length in recent years by saying that MLS needs to find a way to avoid playing league fixtures on dates designated for international matches. The U.S. head coach said those dates are made to help build national teams and that there should not be the tug-of-war that often comes from MLS clubs looking to keep their players.

That is especially true during the fall months when the battle for playoff spots ramps up, and is affecting Klinsmann now more than ever as a growing number of his regulars ply their trades in MLS.

For Klinsmann, the current setup simply “is not working anymore” and is a “lose-lose” situation.

“Canada, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico, whoever plays in MLS, the foreign guys, they all go,” Klinsmann told reporters in Prague. “But I compromise my own players? It’s because the coaches say, ‘We need them now badly to go towards the playoffs. Now it’s really going to get hectic. ‘There’s something wrong, then, because the other nations, they benefit from the professional league in MLS. They call them because it’s a FIFA fixture date.

“Therefore our wish is (that MLS) extend the season,” Klinsmann added. “Obviously you get 21 teams next year. Start earlier, finish later, but open these slots for the national team program.”

Klinsmann used a recent conversation he had with now-former Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen to highlight his point. Klinsmann said that he wanted to summon midfield ace Michael Bradley, but Nelsen was reluctant to let the veteran player go despite technically being required to release Bradley, per FIFA rules, because of the club’s current position in the Eastern Conference.

It is not just the full national team, however, that Klinsmann feels is being limited by MLS having games on international fixtures.

“You want to not only build your senior national team to the highest level, but also at the same time — this is what all other teams do — you have your U-23 camp, they have U-20 camps, they have U-18 camps with games, meaningful games,” said Klinsmann. “Those slots are made to develop your national team program, globally. In the past we compromise that because we want MLS to do well, and we want to do well as well.”

Klinsmann clearly wants some change, because as things stand now, the U.S. is not optimally benefiting from the international dates like other nations.

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What do you make of Klinsmann’s stance? Agree that the MLS season should start earlier and finish later so that league games are not played on international dates? How feasible would a break during the MLS playoffs be in November, when there are international dates scheduled?

Share your thoughts below.

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55 Responses to Klinsmann lashes out at MLS scheduling games on FIFA dates

  1. PD in Philly says:

    cue JK hate and LD love in 3…. 2…..

  2. Vic says:

    Get over it Klinnsmann, you like to complain over everything. When friendlies are played in US many of the Europeans don’t go. When friendlies are played in Europe, it gives some of the young Euro players a chance. It all works out.

    • DCGooner says:

      this

    • Ian says:

      Except that he’s 100% and his suggestion to extend the season is a perfect solution to an MLS-made problem. Start earlier, end later, and don’t schedule games on FIFA dates. It’s so simple.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        FIFA is on both sides of the issue. They have established international dates and rules regarding player release. But the implication of the player release rules is actually, if you think about it, that the show can go on.

        JK also doesn’t have to run out a team in February or December in snow in Quebec just so MLS can dodge a conflict that affects a couple players per team, max, and often certain teams not at all.

        FWIW, part of the European solution is two games some weeks, or teams running out reserves for cup and UEFA contests. It’s not like the game evaporates out of fear of the international date. It goes someplace and if the fixture list gets too cramped they run out kids for the paying customers.

      • JayAre says:

        +1 I just debated this same article on reddit I can’t do it anymore but just know I agree with you word for word.

      • LarryB says:

        It’s really not as simple as it sounds. For teams on the upper east coast to midwest, like DC, NY, Columbus, NE; we have horrible attendance during the beginning months because the weather is so horrible. Extending the season has the same effect, except at a time where the teams need all the support they can get. It’s just not as simple as it sounds.

        • DCLee says:

          Agree.

        • Ian says:

          That actually is simple. Schedule early and late-season games in temperate-weather cities: LA, San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Antonio/Sacramento/Miami. Montreal can play inside Olympic Stadium.

  3. Norn Iron says:

    I think Klinsmann is absolutely correct. MLS needs to allow our best domestic talent to also develop with the national team. International fixture dates don’t come that often, and MLS could shift games around to accommodate. It’s one of the things that hurts our national team.

    • Colonel Angus says:

      No, I don’t think that this hurt our national team.

      This early Sept international break has always been one of the dumber ones. The domestic leagues are just getting started in Europe and now club managers lose players for the next two weeks. That makes no sense. Aside from Africa, there really aren’t any important games during this window that couldn’t be played at another time.

      I do agree with Klinsmann that MLS needs to figure out how to accommodate the other international dates as it’s hurting certain MLS teams more than others and that isn’t fair.

    • BostonRed says:

      Ultimately, it’s a compromise. It means more cold weather and mid-week games for MLS (and lessened revenue) and a tighter schedule. But as long as MLS bulks up on internationals with NT aspirations, they are going to have to deal with the issues. It was one thing in the early days, but it is part of the price of admission for getting better players.

      And also deal with “outside the FIFA calendar” events like the Copa Centroamericano & the African Cup of Nations. No schedule can accommodate everyone and every country’s needs.

  4. mike says:

    actually, a common sense response. i agree with him.

  5. John says:

    I’m fine with it for this match because it’s the start of a new cycle and a chance to see some new players. However that’s not always the case and we’ll need to focus more on building chemistry moving forward. Klinsmann is right and having 2 different teams in the long run isn’t going to work.

  6. Dirk says:

    This could be the beginning of the end for Klinsmann.

  7. Clyde Frog says:

    First, to all the Klinsmann haters, the big picture issue here is not “Klinsmann vs. MLS.” This is going to increasingly be an issue in the years to come, regardless of who the coach is. And it’s actually a very interesting issue.

    In past years, the national team powers that be understood that MLS’ existence was vital to the national team, and that this existence was very fragile. MLS had to play on FIFA dates to avoid revenue killing mid-week games and bad weather early and late season games. Though its existence is equally vital to the national team now, MLS is in a much much better position financially. To many around the national team it’s probably starting to seem like, rather than a necessary evil to keep MLS alive, playing on FIFA dates is now about increasing the owners’ profits. There are likely those who think that, unlike in 2001, MLS’ survival would in no way be put at any level of risk by taking all FIFA dates off.

    Is it too soon to make that rosy prognosis on MLS’ teams’ financial status? Maybe. But of course we don’t know. MLS is not exactly super transparent with its finances. But you have to feel moving forward this is going to become a bigger issue, not a smaller one. And again, it won’t matter who the coach is.

    • wiger toods says:

      Why not just cut back on the stupid exhibition games with foreign teams while MLS is in mid-season. I get it’s a money grab, but it’s contributing to this problem.

      • BostonRed says:

        But those profits pay for the games in March with low attendance…

      • Clyde Frog says:

        But what’s the owners’ incentive to eliminate a “money grab?”

        • BostonRed says:

          One thing they can do is schedule those as matches between other touring teams and, assuming they control the stadium revenues, take the money and run.

          Mexican teams also play these in-season (though usually early season) friendlies… mostly in the US. Everybody sure likes money.

  8. Alex H says:

    Typical overblown headline. Nothing in JK’s comments indicates he is “lashing out”. I’m pretty sure that every national team coach had the same opinion. Nothing new here.

  9. Brain Guy says:

    Do away with silly in-season friendlies and the ASG. That will leave room for MLS breaks during FIFA windows.

    • Ian says:

      In-season friendlies are a farce and really an insult to the league in general. With that we agree. But the ASG? I personally don’t care for the game at all, but it does drum up media attention, and the events surrounding the game (concerts, parties, general fan involvement) are pretty damn cool. I think we can make room for one big non-competitive mid-season match – the ASG – but I’d love to see MLS teams say “Nah” next time Man United or Real Madrid come calling.

      … I won’t hold me breath.

  10. beto says:

    Preach! MLS’ schedule is a joke. The bare minimum they could do is avoid conflict between the FIFA Mandated schedule.

    MLS teams should be thanking Jurgen for not calling players this round even tho he could.

    the first 17-x amount of years of MLS were all about providing stability to the top of the US Soccer pyramid. Now that we are there, or at least close to, and the league has decided to play a major role in our national team’s roster they should turn their focus into becoming a better soccer league.

    • BostonRed says:

      Just to give you an idea, here’s the 2015 dates that primarily affect MLS:

      23-31 March Official or Friendly Matches

      08-16 June Official or Friendly Matches

      07-26 July CONCACAF Gold Cup 2015

      31 August – 08 September Official or Friendly Matches

      05-13 October Official or Friendly Matches

      09-17 November Official or Friendly Matches

      That’s 5 weekends lost plus the month of July. It’s getting harder and harder for teams to function during the Gold Cup unless the US leaves their stars in MLS.

      No easy answers. At least now JK has over half the team available for the January camp. Not many NTs have that luxury.

      • Lost in Space says:

        If you disregard the summer tournaments in this debate (Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, Copa America, World Cup) than MLS taking the other FIFA dates off isn’t too difficult to Accommodate. 5 weeks is basically moving 2 games earlier in the year and 2 games to the end of the year. The November matches would likely only affect 2-4 teams which would limit the number of players the Coach would have to pass over for selection.
        This seems to be a smart Compromise. As more nations have players in MLS (US, CR, Hon, Canada, El Sal, Jam, etc….) the more MLS will have to bend to the FIFA dates in order to avoid putting a bad/worse product on the field during the league matches.

  11. beto says:

    just an idea, not sure if I would be 100% for it but i thought I would throw it out there:

    Typical calendar year has 12-18 national team fixtures, i believe this to be true for all nations.

    Instead of having them scattered across the 12 months in 1 week increments, have a December-January and a June-July FIFA break with 6-9 or so games a piece…

    i would imagine that distances traveled between clubs and countries would decrease and both club and national team managers would have more uninterrupted periods with their players.

    thoughts?..

    • GW says:

      So you are proposing a summer and winter break just for international games? Is this just for friendlies? What do you propose to do about qualifying matches? Have them all at once in a qualifiying tournament?

      I’m not sure that would be any less of a scheduling headache and it might mean some players, who time their injuries poorly, will go long stretches without playing for the national team.

      • beto says:

        Yes consolidating the international fixtures to 2 eight week periods. I think it could work and get every friendly, qualifier, continental cup, world cup, etc in.

        That last point is true…

  12. Wrighteous says:

    JK is right to sound the alarm. The MLS season is already too long (March to November for the best teams). A couple of games should be cut to accommodate FIFA dates. As a DCU fan, it would have been terrible not to have had Bill Hamid (for example) available for the Red Bull fixture this past weekend. We might very well have lost.

    • Ian says:

      Too long? He’s saying it’s too short. It should be extended to accommodate more FIFA breaks. And it is too short. Right now, even the best teams get a three month off-season. That’s a month longer than Europe.

      • BostonRed says:

        But don’t forget, most leagues take a month or 6 weeks around the New Year.

        • Ian says:

          This is true for Germany, Eredivisie, and perhaps others (I don’t follow Spain or Italy), but it is not the case for the EPL. The Prem marches straight through December and January.

          • bostonredsoccer says:

            The EPL prides itself on never breaking. But a little research shows Turkey, 1 month; Austria, 6 weeks; France, 1 month; Russia, 3 months; Spain, 2 weeks; Italy, 2 weeks.

  13. Willie says:

    When was he trying to get Bradley? the Donovan send off game? but even more then that, why would he even want him? Apparently he hasnt watched MB in MLS play. If you thought that Donovan was behind, you should catch Bradley’s act.

  14. beachbum says:

    I’d like to see the MLS schedule start a little sooner to prepare CCL teams for those home and away knockout matchups, even just a couple of weeks, altho it means taking more chances with weather…can always reschedule games IF needed, right? not the easiest fix but one that would help those MLS teams to be better prepared

    whatever happens, hope this situation evolves and does not remain static but it (MLS scheduling) has got some intricacies to sort out

  15. ilikefreddyyesadu says:

    Why should MLS bother? You left their greatest player at home during FIFA’s biggest fixture dates this summer!

  16. FRANK says:

    JUERGUNN IS ALWAYS RIGHT
    HE CAN BE SUPREME LEDER AND HAVE ALL THE HELICOPTER RIDES HE WANT

  17. McQ says:

    The only place our National Team players can get world class games and competition are in internationals – MLS is just not up to snuff yet. Until the level of play gets there, they should not schedule games.

  18. william says:

    I agree with Klinsmann. He won the world cup. He revamped German football. The fact that this is a discussion is ridiculous.