Major League Soccer

Report: MLS considering a switch to European schedule

SnowyRedBullArena (Getty)


After 18 seasons of going against the grain of what FIFA desired, Major League Soccer is reportedly considering a move that would put the league in line with the biggest leagues in Europe.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, MLS is contemplating changing their schedule from a summer season to one that begins in either late-July or early August and ends in late-May or early June of the following year, with a six to eight week break in the middle.

(UPDATE: MLS Vice President of Communications, Dan Courtemanche, has responded to the report on his Twitter account, saying “We recently conducted a survey and it had some questions about possibly moving the schedule. 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.

“‘Rumors’ is an appropriate way to classify (the report). 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.”)

Based on the response from MLS, it doesn’t sound like there is much validity in the report.

FIFA has long desired for MLS to move their calendar towards the kind that is seen in the big leagues in Europe, with seasons taking place through the winter, though certain countries like Germany and France do have winter breaks as well.

If the report is accurate, it would see northern MLS teams like the three Canadian franchises as well as the likes of the Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls, and New England Revolution all playing parts of their season in bitterly cold temperatures, potentially on frozen fields as well. Both Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact began the 2013 seasons playing in domed stadiums in March, before moving into the regular stadiums in April.

Just last year on November 7, the New York Red Bulls home playoff game against D.C. United had to be postponed one day due to inclement weather, which included gusting winds and several inches of snow.

The report claims that MLS Commissioner Don Garber has wanted to move the MLS schedule in line with Europe for “a number of years” but talks have “intensified” recently into actually doing so. Since it’s inception in 1996, MLS has played their schedule through the summer. The 2013 league schedule began on March 2 and is set to conclude on December 7 in the MLS Cup final.


What do you think of this report? Do you believe this is a good idea for the growth of the league? Would you attend matches in winter temperatures? Do you believe the clubs themselves are behind this potential schedule change.

Share your thoughts below.

  • Bob

    they should move the schedule. But its going to take more than that to get American soccer fans to tune in to MLS. There a handful of things MLS does that turn off a lot of soccer fans in this country.


    • Felix

      I’m not saying your wrong – however; I honestly believe even if they went to a winter schedule, introduced pro/rel, and abolished the playoffs, salary cap and current ownership structure a lot of the Euro/Liga MX fans still wouldn’t watch.
      The soccer fans that won’t watch MLS made up their minds a long time ago, and rationalize their disinterest with MLS’ unique rules.


      • Bob

        i think the majority of them would watch. Of course, you’d still have those that wouldn’t watch. But when you talk to people who refuse to watch MLS it always comes down to MLS being a rogue league that refuses to get in line with the rest of the world.


  • beto

    the real issue behind this decision is when to host the playoffs. personally i think that putting the MLS Cup playoffs in the heat of the football seasons and MLB playoffs (also during the cold weather) isn’t the best time of year. The best time of the year for the playoffs would be May . Champions League and every other league finals, nice weather everywhere, early MLB season and NHL playoffs are the only other thing on.. plus it would be a nice lead into the summer FIFA/Concacaf tournaments.

    if you keep the schedule in tact we will continue to run the most important MLS games, end of the season + playoffs, during the fall when we all agree is less than optimal time. if we must play games in June & July, during the biggest international games, at least they will only be the first 8 or so games..

    outside of the playoffs and the “end of the year”; there would still be games in the same months just a 8 week break between the 26th game and the 27th game


    • Ted in MN

      They may be the most important games but there’s only 15 total played by at most 10 teams. You’d be saving that and destroying the 296 played by 19 teams. Which hurts business more? At least with the MLS playoffs competing against other sports, they’re putting their best product forward which can try to compete on its own. By comparison, the regular season games which make up the overwhelmingly more important section of tv and attendance would get destroyed.


  • David M

    All those who give Russia as an example of playing in the winter, I suggest go to Russian soccer sites and see the Russian fans think about that. You’ll find very few, if any, opinions supporting the switch (which happened just two years ago) to the “fall-spring” season. Moreover, they don’t actually play in the winter. There is a 3-month winter break — the last games this year will be played on December 6th. The next game day is March 8th.

    Ukraine takes a very similar extended break in the winter as well.


  • divers suck

    Who cares about the European league schedules?!….MLS only needs to worry about steering as far clear from the NFL and NCAA football schedules as much as possible. That is the biggest threat to revenue. Not basketball, baseball or hockey. In doing this they also must do everything possible to NOT have matches on International breaks (especially WC qualifying dates).


    • Bob

      would really have to look at survey data to see if American soccer fans and American football fans are the same people.

      I don’t think they are. But only the data will give definitive answers on that.


      • Smith

        Most of my friends support both soccer & fotball teams. I think it’s the norm. I also watchg baseball on occassion. I’m an American sports fan.


      • slowleftarm

        There’s definite overlap. I’m not a huge football fan but I watch a decent amount. There are some people who are just sports fans and like lots of sports, including soccer.


      • NRB

        I’m a huge college football fan, born and raised in the Southeast. I live in Kansas City and love SKC and also follow the Chiefs. I’m not the only one here in KC either.


      • Bob

        well, right now the most important part of the MLS season occurs during the NFL season. So what’s the big deal?


  • Paco

    Make. The. Switch.
    Folks, this is about the timing of the end of the season, the playoffs, and the championship. These should be happening in April/May when the competition on the sports landscape is early season MLB (yawn), NHL playoffs (regional sport), and the NBA playoffs. The big king in this North America at present is football. Football ratings dwarf other sports. It captures the attention and culture in a huge way. No other sport comes close. At present, the best and most exciting time in MLS competes directly with the NFL and college football, not to mention MLB playoffs, early season NBA and NHL.
    Start the MLS season in late July, much like many European leagues. There will be a good push and good attention paid to MLS at this time, a relatively quiet and non-congested time in sports. Play games through mid-December. It would be good to have games the second and third weekends in December as college football is in a relative down time between conference championships and the bowl season. The league would then break until early February, just after the Super Bowl (alternatively, MLS could schedule an afternoon game or two on Super Bowl Sunday as a lead in to the game). MLS starts back up in February and plays through May. Cold weather sites have the option of moving to an indoor stadium for a couple of home dates like Toronto and Montreal have done, or they will have a few weeks on the road. By March, most places should be very hospitable for home games. The playoffs and championship would stand a much greater chance of capturing the attention of the North American sports fan in April/May. TV ratings would grow. Let’s face it, growing TV ratings would be a league-altering sea change.
    What do we miss by switching to this calendar? June and early July games. In the south, this is an absolute plus. People in Houston and Dallas avoid going to games at this time. It’s too hot. Plus, the quality of play is poorer. Add Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta to this argument if expansion goes as expected. Furthermore, what is happening in June and early July? Major international tournaments. Every year. The World Cup. World Cup qualifiers. The European championships. The Confederations Cup. The Gold Cup. Any possible future Copa America that includes CONCACAF. The best players will be gone in June/early July most years anyway. Soccer will be at the forefront of the sports landscape at this time anyway.
    The time frame that games played in is not much different. MLS misses a few weeks in June/July when they shouldn’t be playing anyway. The season starts about three or four weeks earlier and with smart scheduling it will be more pleasant for everyone. Home games in Houston, LA, Orlando, and Miami in February – yes, please! Northern tier sites still have plenty of home games during good weather in late July, August, September, October, April, May.
    Ultimately, we want to raise the awareness of the league and grow TV ratings. This will change everything. The US Men’s National Team is now mainstream. The real transformation of soccer into a mainstream sport is already happening. Switching the calendar is one more step along the way. It’s growth. No more playing during FIFA international windows. No more burying the playoffs in the football fog of late autumn.
    Soccer is happening. It’s time.


    • beto

      i am sold. once the switch is made the MLS Cup final on Memorial Day Weekend (after the UEFA CL Final) will be a legit big time game. Our midsummer friendlies will be pre-season games and our rosters will full of international (mostly USMNT) stars.


    • BamaMan

      Absolute total agreement. Kick off the same time as the Mexican league in July. Leverage the interest in the World Cup to get folks to follow MLS First Kick a week after the final.


    • Joe Soccer

      Just out of curiosity, what indoor stadium will New England move to for those cold weather month games? Or Columbus? Or Chicago? Or Salt Lake? Or Kansas City? Or Denver? Or Philadelphia? Or New York?

      Everyone who thinks this is a good idea should sign up to make the grand tour of cold weather cities in the first February they switch. And then when they thaw out they can tell us if they still think it’s a good idea or not.


  • Quit whining about soccer in the US


    I am supposed to trade inmy mid July games for January games ? Why because some whiner who does follow MLS wants it that way.

    NO JUST NO !


      • Quit whining about soccer in the US

        FINE December, February…I dont care, almost no one going to games is in favor of this…and breaking up the season is stupid an solves nothing.


      • Chupacabra

        Right. Because winter only happens in January (never mind that the biggest snowstorms in the US usually have occurred in February and early March).


  • Quit whining about soccer in the US

    One more thought…anyone that is in favor of this and wants to post so, needs to post that they have season tickets to a northern team and MLS is you favorite league…otherwise go to some where that it never gets cold….and take your opinion with you.


    • Beto

      Colorado STH and in favor.

      I would hope that our stadium gets a few upgrades buts its only about 4-5 games that would be moved to cooler times. As you all knnow Colorado can snow a lot in February but it can also be really nice.


  • Masshole

    If this forces Bob Kraft to change his ways or sell the team, I’m all in.

    (sox over dodgers. 3-2)


  • Mueller

    They should go wherever the money is. If they think there will be more by switching the schedule, then switch. If not, then don’t.

    Even if they do decide to switch, I think they should wait until 2018 so they can switch in a World Cup year and there will also be 4 more warm weather cities.


  • Scott A

    “Our fans’ preferences are important to us and we’ve proven to be good listeners.”

    Yes, admitting Man City USA to the league–greeted with a snore by NYC–after the Chivas USA debacle proves that.


  • Neruda

    If switching makes sense for MLS fans it’s fine but MLS won’t do it just because FIFA wants it. FIFA wants the winter schedule without thinking about what makes sense for MLS. I’m sure a list of pros and cons have been but the winter league has to many cons at this point. Starting the league earlier so MLS cup is in November would be good.


  • PD

    Make the switch but do so within reason, This is a big enough country that northern teams can play away during the dead of winter and southern teams can head north during their… what monsoon season? It’s gonna be a long time before MLS has a season that runs as many weeks at the big leagues, so there’s still room for wiggling. At the very least please move toward a schedule that doesn’t directly conflict with FIFA dates. It would solve a lot of problems (like Arena b*tching every time his players get called up to national sides). Love the use of the picture for the article though… SBI not so subtley telling us how he really thinks?

    At any rate, I don’t know a single MLS fan that has season tickets that would blow off and MLS match to watch college football or baseball.


  • Shaggie96

    Those who seem to be in favor of changing to the European schedule are using the elimination of the conflict with FIFA dates as one of their primary arguments. The schedule isn’t the issue. It doesn’t matter if MLS keeps it’s current schedule or goes to the European schedule, avoiding the FIFA dates and keeping the playoffs are mutually exclusive without playing a significantly higher number of midweek games which is going to hurt attendance. The Euros and other leagues don’t have this issue because cups are played during the season. MLS sacrifices six weeks of game time that could be used to avoid FIFA dates to have the playoffs. So even if MLS changes the schedule, it’s still going to require playing over FIFA dates, eliminating the playoffs or playing 7 or 8 more midweek games. There are only 52 weeks in the year. What happens when the league moves to 24? It’s only going to make the problem worse.

    I’m not sure whether switching to the Euro calendar makes sense or not, but that by itself is not going to solve the FIFA date issue.


  • Brew

    Something that no one has brought up is it’s not necessarily about the ‘common fan’ but about corporate sponsorship. If MLS moved its schedule to fall-spring they would be competing for the same corporate dollars as NHL, NBA and NFL teams. Anyone will tell you that teams don’t make money by selling a $ 20 ticket to the common fan but they make their money by sell luxury boxes and field level seats to the big wigs. Also by advertisements at the game and on tv and radio.

    For example I don’t live in Chicago but let’s use it as an example. If you went to 100 presidents of different companies in the Chicago area (law firms, marketing, accounting) and said look I can get you 4 season tickets to either: Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls or Fire so that you can pass along to your clients would you be interested and which one would you want?

    You could argue what the order might look like but I can pretty much assure you that the Fire would be dead last with maybe and I mean maybe 3 or 4 takers out of the 100. The rest would put their money toward buying Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks tickets.

    This example works with any market: Bay Area ( 49ers, Warriors, Sharks) Philly (Eagles, 76ers, Flyers)

    This is what you have to look at before making this switch. It’s not about competing for the common fan these days it’s about competing for the corp dollar. Feel free to disagree with me.


    • BamaMan

      Corporate sponsors would be a lot more interested in an MLS Cup Final on Memorial Day than they are in one that takes place against a bunch of college football and/or NFL games drawing 20x the ratings.


    • byob el paso tx

      But what if fire had a beckham or donovan and a real soccer stadium like red bull or skc. Why? Because chicago fire deserves better in dps and stadium. But in reality, every MLS team deserves a real stadium with drainage, heated field and roof cover, no matter what and if course, real owners.


  • Chicago Josh

    I would love to see a neutral, warm-weather city such as Orlando or Phoenix host February MLS double-headers.


  • Myke

    Let’s assume they decide to switch; how would they even pull off the transition? Would there be one REALLY long off-season from December (last year of old schedule) to August (first year of new schedule)?


  • Josh D

    Snow wouldn’t be as much of an issue if they had a major winter break like the German league and if the league set aside money to put those burners under the field to melt the snow. Premier League stadiums have to have that feature so it’s nothing new.

    My opinion: anything to get away from these stupid games during the international games.


    • Josh T

      Yea, sure it is never cold in December, January, February or March. If you want to destroy the league, move to the winter format. MLS has created a small niche and it should be happy.


  • Nick

    I’m all for a winter schedule. It will align with the international breaks and schedules.

    On a personal note. I’m a season ticket holder and in the summer I want options to have fun outdoors (camping, fishing, hiking, vacations). Many times these personal obligations conflict with MLS schedule (at the stadium and on TV) and can be a drag. I have nothing going on outside of summer. I enjoy spring and fall games more because I’m free to enjoy the time with my friends and look forward to pre and post game activities. In the summer I tend to only show for the game.

    Warm summer nights are great at the game. However, I would prefer the normal season with a long break in the dead of winter.

    Lets put our scarves to use, instead of just for show.



  • Mat

    A dumb idea totally disconnected with the realities of North American climates. How about this crazy idea: just don’t play during Fifa dates. You know well enough when they occur. Slightly modify the schedules to accomadate but don’t make mls play in good awful winter weather. Frozen fields, sub zero temps, blizzards. Why when the totally reasonable jusy cited works well?


    • gmonsoon43

      I agree, that the climate in the northern cities would make it difficult. The main argument against a change to the “European schedule” is the 2022 World Cup though. The European leagues are talking about changing their schedule. So it makes no sense to change the MLS to the European schedule in a year or two just to change it back around the time of the 2022 world cup.


  • bottlcaps

    The whole idea of moving the MLS season came from Sepp Blatter and UEFA’s (not FIFA’s)
    The MLS said, “OK, we wiil study the idea” and that was the announcement, that the MLS is “studying” the idea. But there are too many good reasons NOT to move it that will be conveyed back to FIFA (and UEFA) in a well-reasoned and factual finding that will put this idea to bed for good. (If anybody in the MLS is reading this, look no further than the reasoning many of the pundits put forth, both pro and con, to show that it’s mostly a bad idea, and has some very good reasoning behind it.) Then tell Blatter to blow it out his ____)


  • Northzax

    Ok, so MLS cup is December 7 this year. Preseason starts in February (the Carolina Challenge Cup is Feb 22, so teams are practicing what, two weeks before that? Maybe As early as February 1? So exactly what would be the difference in switching to the euro schedule? More games in December and February, when the weather north of the Mason-Dixon Line is super-iffy? Right now the season starts in march and goes to December (not counting preseason) and people want to switch to starting in August and ending in May? So we trade games in June for games in December? Right now there is a roughly ten week break between MLS cup and the start of preseason.figure a winter break lasts roughly that long, add a ten week off season in June/July and you now have a 32 week season, figure two more weekends for fifa dates, and you have 30 weeks. Once we’re at 20 teams, a balanced schedule means 38 games. Everyone has at least one open cup game. CCL teams have a minimum of four group stage matches. That’s 43 matches for at least four teams. Most teams will have nine two match weeks as many as six will have 13 two match weeks, and none have a bye. So at least nine times, a team will play a weekend game, a midweek game then a weekend game. With several hour flights in between. That’s insane.


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  • BamaMan

    I think the problems here are all surmountable (8 week winter break; start the season mid-July; play late December, February, and early March games all in warm climates or indoors). The upside of an MLS Cup Final on Memorial Day in primetime is huge. The upside of an MLS First Kick a week or two after the FIFA World Cup Final is huge. The upside of MLS Playoffs in May rather than getting swallowed up by king football in November is huge. The upside of getting aligned with international transfer windows is huge.

    Everyone who supports this understands there will still be problems. But there are huge problems now
    1) Playoffs garner less interest from the general public than midseason games due to competition with the most popular sport in the US;
    2) The season begins and ends in terrible weather;
    3) The season overlaps with international soccer tournaments like the Gold Cup and the World Cup. Accordingly, 3 out of every 4 years, the MLS has to choose between breaking for a month for these tournaments or going head-to-head with them (which hurts attendance);
    4) We’re not aligned with international transfer windows, which costs the league money in transfer fees (I think we’re still a selling league).

    I think #3 is the number one reason MLS is considering this switch. MLS wants to piggyback on, rather than compete with, the Gold Cup and the World Cup. To do that they’re going to need to take a one-month break 3 out of every 4 years anyway.


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