English soccer is in the spotlight during the year-end holidays -- just where it likes it, writes Gabriele Marcotti. He examines the year-end traditions across Europe, where leagues break for the holidays for two or three weeks or longer, but leagues in England and Scotland actually play more with games on Dec. 26 -- Boxing Day, a national holiday -- and either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, depending on the calendar.
Seen as a way to get men out of the house and off the booze on the day after Christmas or on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, the British tradition of soccer during the holidays is now driven by something else. Big crowds over the holidays mean big money, and the EPL has the international market all to itself for television viewers around the world.
That explains why the EPL continues to play its crowded schedule with as many as four games in nine days despite concerns that it hurts the national team. England has not won a major tournament since 1966 while Germany with the longest winter break of Europe's major soccer-playing nations continues to overachieve.
Of the 109 players who appeared in the World Cup or European Championship final since 2004, just 15 had spent the season in the Premier League. But as Marcotti suggests, there's a flipside: "The lack of a winter break doesn't seem to harm English clubs in European competitions like the Champions League or Europa League, which continue well into May. In fact, English clubs have been among the most successful in those tournaments. Unless you believe a player is fine in May but succumbs to fatigue a month later, it's hard to blame the winter break."