By Paul Kennedy
ESPN FC's MLS player poll, compiled by our colleagues Jeffrey Carlisle
and Doug McIntyre
, is a must-read if
you are an MLS fan.
Players were asked their views on a ton of topics (examples: Jurgen Klinsmann
's selections, their European options and MLS in the Concacaf Champions League) and
about the most overrated player (Mix Diskerud
player (Dax McCarty
and Darlington Nagbe
) and favored coach (Bruce Arena
) in MLS.
Players were split on promotion/relegation -- 51-49 percent against vs. 64-34
percent in favor a year ago -- and almost unanimous -- 99-1 percent -- that the standard of play in MLS is getting better.
Next in terms of agreement was the players' position on playing
during FIFA breaks. Even more than whether they were paid fairly -- no by 84-8 percent -- players agreed by 92-8 percent that MLS should not continue during international breaks.
are three FIFA windows during the 2016 MLS regular season -- this weekend and weekends in September and October -- and one during the playoffs in November -- which it takes off. MLS will take off the
first two weekends of June's Copa Centenario -- one a FIFA window -- though it will resume play for the last two weekends.
While most major leagues stop during FIFA windows, MLS gives
clubs the option of playing during them, MLS’s vice president of club services and scheduling, Brad Pursel
, said in a Q&A on MLS's schedule
Six teams will be play
this weekend even though will be missing an average of almost four players because of international commitments. MLS Week 4
New York City (3) vs. New England (2)
D.C. United (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Vancouver (6) vs. Houston (2) Note:
International callups in parentheses.
Carlisle and McIntyre quoted a couple of players opposed to playing through the FIFA windows:
"The quality of games is what we're after -- not depleting our teams during
international breaks. It's not beneficial to the league." "All the best leagues in the world take them off. If we're trying to get to their level, why would we play on those
The problem MLS clubs have is their heavy component of midweek games. Compared to the Bundesliga, the only big five European league that also plays a 34-game schedule, MLS
plays more than twice as many midweek dates: MLS Regular Season (34 games over 34 weeks) 28.3
Midweek Dates 1.3
FIFA Weekend Dates
(3 FIFA Weekends) Bundesliga (34 games over 36 weeks) 32.0
Weekend Dates 2.0
(4 FIFA Weekends)
Midweek dates are frowned on because teams generally
draw fewer fans and schedule congestion (complicated by travel within North America), requires coaches to rotate their lineups and reduces the quality of play.
MLS will play 13 games
during the three FIFA windows in 2016. That's an average of just 1.3 games per team that would need to cleared to eliminate conflicts with FIFA windows. But beyond moving more games into the midweek,
MLS has little room to maneuver, absent extending the regular season at the expense of the playoffs (something Arena, for one, is all for
That doesn't address MLS's summer problem.
Besides the eight MLS games played on eve of the Copa Centenario, 22 games will be played in the last two weeks of the tournament after league play resumes.
scheduling problems will get worse in 2017 when it has to deal with four FIFA weekends -- March, June, September and October -- plus the Gold Cup, which will be played over four weekends in July.
MLS would solve those problems the Bundesliga and other leagues avoid by switching to a summer-spring schedule and not playing in the late May-early August summer period.
Flipping the schedule makes sense for a bunch of reasons, but MLS would have to give up its popular summer dates and all or most of its playoff windows to make it work -- something it will never do.