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Don Garber stresses need to “figure out” solution for long MLS offseason

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos recently had some pointed words about how long the MLS offseason is, but the league says it is currently working to try to find a solution to that dilemma.

MLS held its Board of Governors meeting in New York City on Thursday afternoon, and afterwords league commissioner Don Garber spoke to a collection of media members about a number of topics. Expansion was the focal point, but Major League Soccer’s abbreviated 2019 campaign and prolonged offseason was also discussed.

Garber acknowledged that MLS needed to find a way to keep players, particularly those that miss the playoffs, active longer. He added, however, that the challenge is a difficult one.

“It speaks to the imperfectness of the dynamic that we have here in North America,” said Garber. “We’d like to be able to think that we are able to have the same number of weeks and months in our competitive calendar than they do in the rest of the world, but it’s just not possible to achieve everything that we want to achieve.

“We’ve got to figure that out. We’ve got to find out a way that our players can be participating in the offseason and doing all the things that they need to do to stay fit and in shape so that we could have a competitive environment.

“There are other competitions that we’re contemplating and trying to work out. Are there things that we could do with those teams that don’t make the playoffs? There’s just so many different aspects to the schedule that are very complicated.”

Garber also specifically discussed the schedule for the upcoming season. The 2020 campaign will begin in late February instead of early March for the first time, and consist of 26 teams because of the introductions of expansion sides Inter Miami and Nashville SC.

There is excitement behind the arrivals of those two clubs, but their participation will end the long-standing MLS tradition of having every team play one another at least once over the course of the year. MLS sides will now meet each conference foe twice (home and away) and 10 of the 13 out-of-conference outfits once for a total of 34 regular season matches.

Not playing everyone else in the campaign may not be the most ideal scenario and brings into question how much the Supporters’ Shield means now, but it is all in part a result of MLS’s continued growth.

“It’s not going to get easier,” said Garber. “That’s the reality of having a league of our size in the market in the U.S. and Canada that we are in and crossing timezones and crossing climate differences. The schedule, as I have said many times, is one of the most difficult aspects of how we operate our league and I think it’s going to get even more difficult with so many other activities going on.”

As for whether MLS will continue to play through international windows in 2020, Garber stated teams will continue to have the option to do so or not. He added that “the ultimate objective is to not have that happen” and that “it would be great if we could achieve that.”

Garber also very briefly touched on Dos Santos’ November remarks to the Athletic. The Vancouver Whitecaps head coach was extremely critical of Major League Soccer’s extended offseason, saying it was “Mickey Mouse” and “amateur” for the league to have such a long spell of inactivity.

MLS fined Dos Santos for those statements earlier this week.

“That was an expensive comment that he made,” said Garber on the subject.


  1. Why not move the US Open cup to the winterish months?

    Have rounds 4, Sweet 16 and QF in November after MLS cup and then the semis and finals worked into preseason in February/early March.

  2. There are solutions to the problem. The issue is that they would be so foreign to American sporting sensibilities that MLS is too scared to pull it off. Single table would solve a lot of the issue. So would switching to an Apertura/Clausura type format. Another one would be to have regional tournaments like they do in Brazil. Solutions exist, it’s the American mindset that would have to change.

  3. And yes, there is a certain point where ‘attack’ is warranted: “Imperative” is “found out” because of the way his matter-of-fact tone clashes with his nonsensical analyses – it’s like nails on a chalkboard and he realizes it. In conclusion, remember: calls himself imperative

  4. What do the players think? That is most important
    We already know what coaches and money people want…

  5. From a competitive standpoint, it is lame that MLS couldn’t figure out how to add three games to the schedule, enabling all teams to play each other at least once. Plus, a 37-game schedule would have addressed criticism that the season is too short. The inability or unwillingness to find a solution smacks of lazy complacency and/or incompetence on the part of league management. Figure it out. That’s what you get paid to do.

  6. I am curious how someone the vast majority of whose coaching career is US/Canada has any other idea how long teams play in other leagues, or which one is wiser. FWIW this year in the B.1 runs from 8/16 to 5/16. 9 months. The MLS season is the same amount of games, between 3/2 to 10/6, 7 months and a week, however teams that advance in our postseason played as long as 11/10, at which point we’re talking 2 weeks’ difference. Maybe Mr. Eliminated was speaking from a loser’s perspective and failing to factor in his own team’s pitiful finish vis a vis how long the season is for the others.

    • you’d also think that a Canadian might have a clue what their winter would be like to play in. on a calendar year schedule like now we would have to back into february or forwards into december. switching to school year scheduling to mimic europe would leave a huge chunk of the schedule in the north american winter, and would pose scheduling difficulties with MLB and NFL teams.

    • also neglects leagues like B.1 include a winter break in january, to deal with the weather, and are thus also not constantly playing from point A to point B.

    • Not sure why dos Santos has you so upset, he’s not the only one whose brought this up but apparently the only one paid by the league. I’m not paying to read the article the comment was made in but I believe it’s in reference to the entire calendar. European teams are still training during their winter break and if you recall Josh Sargent was already playing in friendlies before the GC ended. In the end the Euro schedule is August to May, June vacation, and then back in friendlies in July. Whereas most MLS teams are completely off from mid October to late January, almost 3 months to 1 month.

      • I’m not sure what’s more difficult to digest; the fact that an egregiously vociferous moron refers to himself as the imperative voice, or that the seemingly singular logical person who regularly comments on this site, has indulged him with discourse. Johnny, hat is off to you. On the other hand, you’re not doing anyone any favors by engaging imperative. Guy’s a full-fledged moron and a proud pontifcator of his opinions, which are frankly an aberration no matter how you slice it. “Imperative voice” … you represent the very, very worst part of our pathetic fan base. You’re imperatively stupid. Bottom line.

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