Monday, October 14, 2013

Daily News: MLS to Winter Schedule? (Now Updated)

The New York Daily News is reporting some surprising news about Major League Soccer:
Major League Soccer is inching closer to adopting a European-like schedule that could be implemented by the start of the 2014 season.

The plan, which has the full support of FIFA, the sport’s governing body, would have the MLS season begin play in either late July or early August and include a six- to eight-week winter break. The championship would either be played in late May or early June. The MLS season currently begins in March and runs until the championship match in the first week of December.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has been considering adopting the calendar used in Europe for several years but talks have intensified in recent weeks, according to a league source. The move would also placate FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has been an outspoken — and often unfair — critic of the country’s fastest growing professional league.

“It would be better for U.S. soccer, and specifically also for the (United States)national team,” Blatter once said. “And the popularity inside the country.”

Most European domestic leagues begin in late August and end in early May. A winter break is necessary for the MLS since it has franchises in several cites — including Chicago and Toronto — where playing matches in December and March is a risky proposition.
Weather is, I think, the least of the problems with a move to the winter. If MLS is seriously thinking about doing this, then they're ready to go up against college football on television. That they're even considering it is a positive sign.

UPDATE: MLS has responded:
A spokesman for Major League Soccer said on Monday that while the league is weighing the possibility of potential changes to its schedule in the future, a shift to a more European-like schedule in 2014 is not a possibility.

A report published Monday in the New York Daily News citing league sources indicated that the league is considering a schedule that would begin in late July or early August and include a six- to eight-week winter break before wrapping up with MLS cup in May or June, beginning as early as next year.

The MLS spokesman, however, denied that any major changes are on hand for next season.

“We recently conducted a survey and it had some questions about possibly moving the schedule, the MLS spokesman told via e-mail on Monday. “We regularly conduct market research on a variety of topics. Our fans’ preferences are important to us and we’ve proven to be good listeners.

“We will announce plans for the 2014 season before MLS Cup. The timing of the 2014 schedule will be very similar to the current season.”

MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche took to Twitter on Monday to respond to rumors about a scheduling change following the report in the Daily News.

“'Rumors’ is an appropriate way to classify it,” Courtemanche responded via Twitter. “MLS has reviewed many possible schedule formats throughout the years.

“We hope to announce soon, but the timing will be very similar to the current season. Many options have been considered, and the fans will have a voice IF the schedule format ever changes.”
So not 2014. But doesn't sound like the move is entirely off the table, either.

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