By DAN KARELL
MLS fans in northern cities won’t have to worry any time soon about seeing their local team play home games in the cold winter months.
At a press conference announcing the landmark agreement between MLS, U.S. Soccer and ESPN, FOX, and Univision, MLS Commissioner Don Garber poured ice cold water on the idea of MLS shifting its calendar to be in line with those in Europe, saying it would be “almost impossible” to make that change at this point.
Garber even referenced Sunday’s match between Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids, played in the snow at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Denver reportedly got anywhere from 4 to 8 inches across the city over the weekend, and even more snow fell nearby.
“From a weather perspective I think it is almost impossible with the number of teams that we have and the weather that we have in the United States and Canada to make the kind of change that would be a full alignment,” Garber said.
Last October, the New York Daily News reported that MLS was considering the possibility of aligning its calendar with the European schedule, starting the season in July or August and finishing in May or June.
MLS responded by saying that it was just a question asked in a fan survey and that it was far from making any kind of big change. In December, Garber admitted that the league did undergo more serious discussions internally than they ever have in the past about whether a schedule shift would work.
Garber even outlined the parameters of what a potential European-like schedule would look like, with a season starting in July, taking a break from December to February, and then finishing in May. However, Garber then was bullish on the idea of playing winter games in Canada and northern U.S. cities, and now it seems his mind is set on keeping the summer schedule.
Citing comments made last January by Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Garber said that even German soccer heads are talking about making a schedule change to summer to take advantage of better weather.
“I’m not convinced that we’re 100 percent wrong here,” Garber said. “I just think that we’ve got to continue to do everything we’re doing with our local clubs, build our fan base, continue to get local commitments and local connections, and continue to expand that calendar in bits in pieces.
“But the full shift,” Garber added, “I don’t really see happening any time soon.”
Another interesting note from the new TV and media rights deal is that it looks as if the league schedule won’t be changed until at least 2022, when the deal ends.
Last September, Pro Soccer Talk reported that MLS owners began discussions during the All-Star Game in Kansas City about how to reduce the season schedule from 34 games to 28 games. While teams would lose some match-day revenue, the report stated that it would allow the league to take breaks for international matches and make scheduling much easier.
However, the MLS TV deal specifies that ESPN, FOX, and Univision must televise a minimum of 34 regular-season games per season. Looking at that, any talk about reducing the schedule is now at least eight years away.
What do you think of these comments? Do you support Garber’s stance? Would you rather see MLS play in a European-type schedule? Glad that the schedule isn’t being reduced?
Share your thoughts below.