Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Scheduling vitriol is heating up
by Ridge Mahoney, October 3rd, 2008 10:30AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

The 2008 MLS season is far from over, yet Commissioner Don Garberhas already begun lobbying for 2009 to be the Year of the Conflict.

Next weekend numerous MLS teams will be again be deprived of players called up to play for their national teams in World Cup qualifiers, and league executives will again jab, duck and parry the inevitable criticisms of teams stripped of important players as the playoff chase intensifies. That's just a warmup for next year.

MLS has yet to determine how it will distribute games in a 15-team alignment, with expansion Seattle set to join. It could re-align into a single table and reduce the number of games to 28, with each team playing each of its rivals home and away. (That would leave the total number of games at 210, as it was this year.) Or MLS could juggle the matchups and retain a 30-game schedule whether or not it re-aligns, but that would require the playing of an additional 15 games.

Garber has all but dismissed notions that MLS will forego play during the five 2009 competitive FIFA windows, which begin in late March and conclude in November. (There are also several midweek dates set aside for friendlies.)

Yet by starting in early April, MLS could play a 28- or even a 30-game schedule, accommodate the U.S. Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League, and still sit out most of the international dates. It would have to play through the Confederations Cup (June 14-29) and Gold Cup (July 3-26), as it has done in the past.

Squeezing SuperLiga into the mix would be difficult, yet the league will encounter far greater criticism for ignoring FIFA dates next year, when 10 qualifiers must be played in less than eight months, than it did this season.

But there are sufficient weekends from April 4 to Oct. 25 -- 27 to be exact -- to play the regular season (given some midweek dates in May and August perhaps), complete four subsequent weekends of playoffs and MLS Cup, and still finish before Thanksgiving, even if it respects the FIFA dates. Starting earlier, maybe in mid-March, would free up more dates, but there really aren't enough teams in temperate cities to make that work.

MLS used a 31-weekend schedule (March 29-Oct. 26) for its  regular season this year, so tweaking a bye team into fewer weekends next year won't be easy. But it's not impossible, either.

A tough conflict is the Nov. 14-18, 2009 window, which falls right in the middle of the playoffs, and while the U.S. could well be qualified after eight Hexagonal matches, there's no guarantee that it would be. The league will also have difficulty dealing with an odd number of teams but some clever scheduling can minimize the burden of teams playing twice in the same week and/or a rested team playing one coming off a midweek game. That, too, will be burdensome, yet coaches would much prefer that scenario to missing top players for several qualifiers as well as two official competitions. The fans and broadcast partners would like, it, too. So would the players.

Anything is better than plunging blindly ahead, downgrading league matches for the sake of convenience or, of all things, SuperLiga. MLS can make it work if it wants to, perhaps by steering clear of at least a few FIFA dates, perhaps those in June (6-10) that precede the Confederations Cup, for which head coach Bob Bradley may choose to use most of his European-based players.
On the other hand, Bradley might have to prepare one team for the Confederations Cup and use a different squad for the qualifiers if the turnaround time is too tight.

MLS turned its schedule inside out this year to accommodate SuperLiga games at the expense of the FIFA dates. That backward thinking has to stop; a few MLS teams were sacrificing precious weekend dates to play SuperLiga matches and that can't continue, either. Like the Champions League, be it Concacaf or UEFA, international club games are played midweek. Period.

The 2009 competitive fixture dates are: March 28-April 1; June 6-10; Sept. 5-9; Oct. 10-14; and Nov. 14-18. Let the lobbying begin.



0 comments
  1. Alvaro Bettucchi
    commented on: October 3, 2008 at 10:57 a.m.
    1. AS A QUAKES SEASON TICKET HOLDER, I STAY HOME FROM A LOCAL GAME, TO WATCH THE NATIONAL TEAM PLAY. IT'S ABOUT TIME THAT NO MLS TEAM PLAYS, WHILE THE NATIONAL TEAM IS INVOLVED. 2..WHY HAVE THE WOMEN'S PRO. LEAGUE PERFORM AT THE SAME TIME AS THE MLS? CAN'T THOSE IN CHARGE SEE THAT THE FAN BASE IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO SUPPORT BOTH GROUPS AT THE SAME TIME???? 3. UNTIL WE GET ADDITIONAL TEAMS IN MLS, HAVE ALL TEAMS PLAY HOME AND AWAY, LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD, AND ADD THE USL 1 AS A SECOND DIVISION TO MOVE UP (OR DOWN FROM THE FIRST).

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
So far, Jordan Morris' decisions have been the right ones    
U.S. forward Jordan Morris turned down a move to German club Werder Bremen, which is rooted ...
MLS Playoff Watch: Breaking down the Eastern Conference's battle of bubble teams    
With a month of the regular season to be played, no Eastern Conference team has clinched ...
Strenghtened Sounders set aside distractions to focus on postseason quest    
The midseason arrival of Nicolas Lodeiro and the return to fitness of Roman Torres has bolstered ...
Talk of treble not heard at FCD    
Tuesday night the U.S. Open Cup final sold out, and most of the 16,612 in attendance ...
Rested Revs will be tested by defining run of games    
A formation changed and renewed commitment to defense has tightened up a porous Revs' back line, ...
Pulisic helps USA play low and win high    
I had high expectations of Christian Pulisic. He delivered -- and then some.
Christian Pulisic must start on Tuesday    
Coaches like to be secretive about their starting lineups, which is the only way to explain ...
More than a Hexagonal berth is on the line for USA in Caribbean tests    
Does U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann take dramatic steps to revamp his team In qualifiers this ...
Doyle departure starts crucial new era in San Jose    
With only two playoff appearances since it rejoined MLS in 2008, San Jose hasn't been able ...
Farewell, Hope Solo    
I have admired Hope Solo for many reasons. I've sent YouTube clips of Solo's highlights to ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives