Photo: Flickr/Jarrett Campbell
Prior to Sunday’s MLS Cup Finals, league commissioner Don Garber said he wants to shift from a summer schedule to the fall-to-spring schedule typical of international soccer.This is an obvious appeal to FIFA president Sepp Blatter who has criticised the MLS’s unusual schedule. The US is a lead contender to host the 2022 World Cup, which FIFA will award next week. Blatter has indicated that America’s March-to-November calendar could hurt the bid, according to the New York Times
Altering the schedule would also benefit the league’s ability to field top-tier talent. Because most international exhibitions and qualifiers are held in the summer, the league’s best players are often forced to abandon their MLS teams for international duty.
Keeping consistent with the world’s soccer schedule could also catapult the MLS into the international conscience, and attract even more international talent.
But there are severe drawbacks, too. Domestically, this weakens MLS’s prospect for gaining traction.
The revised schedule would force MLS to compete with a far more popular version of football during the first half of the season. And the playoffs must find a niche tucked between March Madness, baseball’s opening weeks, and the stretch run of the NBA and NHL seasons.
That’s a far cry from the current arrangement, where the MLS solely competes with baseball for the majority of its season. The summer weather also benefits attendance figures.
But the MLS figures those concerns would disappear if America hosts a World Cup and solidifies the sport’s place in the nation’s athletic landscape.
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