Over the All-Star weekend, many things were discussed regarding the MLS including already announced expansion teams, speculated future expansion teams, promotion/relegation never happening, as well as a claim from FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, that the MLS will change over to a traditional FIFA calendar in the future. Now, with all due respect to President Blatter, I do try to take things coming from him with a grain of salt, but that didn’t stop the discussion from starting and that’s why I am here to tell you why a calendar change won’t work in the MLS. Where shall I start?
Competition from Other Popular Sports during the Fall/Winter Months:
This is obviously one of the first concerns that comes up whenever this discussion rears its ugly head. It’s a very legitimate one too. Those for a traditional FIFA calendar argue that the MLS could hold matches on Fridays and Saturdays, but even then the MLS will still be competing with the NHL, NBA and NCAA football. I don’t care about the level of popularity that the NBA and NHL have either, the truth is, the NHL has been fighting to be noticed over the past few years as well and they’ve gone out and made it happen. The fan demographic may be a tad bit different, but with networks like NBC Sports being both soccer and hockey heavy, many of us have become fans of both sports (or you were just born that way like me) and you can make a good argument for the NBA taking away viewers as well. Take that all away and Fridays are still not great nights for TV anyways and Saturdays with NCAA football games would end up being deadly for the MLS.
As much as we’re trying to fit in with the rest of the world, we are also trying to keep our own identity as well, so even though European League matches would be on earlier in the day, a ton of the American soccer fans here who still find it hard to transition from European leagues to the MLS would find it even harder when they already got their fill for the week. The fact starving soccer fans have little to turn to in the summer besides MLS does work in the favor of the domestic league.
All in all, this argument should be enough to keep things the way they are, but let’s move on….
I should have started with this, because it’s the obvious. England, Spain, Germany and Italy are all relatively moderate climates with parts of Germany arguably being an exception of sorts. Not to mention the size of the countries are drastically smaller than the USA, so it’s a little easier to know what to expect.
Sure if we were just talking about the West Coast, all would be fine. Seattle down the coast to Los Angeles is the perfect climate for a traditional FIFA Calendar, but let’s just move a little bit west…..does anyone remember USA vs. Costa Rica in Colorado? That match was played near the spring! Colorado and Utah both see weather like that frequently throughout the fall and winter and we haven’t even gotten to Chicago, New York, New England, Philadelphia, and D.C. yet. There is a good chance that at least two weeks out of every winter month, at least two teams would be playing in significant snowfall and that might be a conservative prediction. Of course if the weather was to get really bad, multiple games would be postponed and the calendar would get completely thrown off.
USA is a big country my friends, our varying climates make it nearly impossible to hold outdoor sporting events in the fall and winter. This is why the NFL has so many indoor stadiums and please don’t say that’s a possibility for MLS soccer. New stadiums in Kansas City, New York, Colorado and Utah have all been built recently for the soul purpose of soccer and those would all likely be subjected to inclement weather in the winter months.
I realize there have been games in Europe played in the snow and I realize the players and fans survived and I do believe that the MLS would survive through a couple of those as well, but with a traditional FIFA calendar we wouldn’t face a couple of those a season and they wouldn’t be just fluke snow storms, we would face a couple or more a month and they would likely be blizzards.
Once again, this argument should be enough.
Attendance at Games:
This one can go with both of the above arguments. The MLS is still a growing league and will continue to be one for years to come. The truth is that the MLS is gaining new followers in the summer, because it doesn’t have much competition from other sports and spending a sunny day at a sporting event is a good pull. Once people take the bait, they finally see how awesome the sport can be and although that may not be the lone reason the MLS is growing, it is a part of it.
Due to both weather and other sporting events in the winter, the attendance that the MLS has worked so hard on building since 2009 would likely plummet in places like Chicago and New England. Even in Seattle where there are numerous rabid soccer fans, you’d be crazy to think that competing with the Seahawks wouldn’t harm Sounders ticket sales, regardless of what days the games are being played.
The MLS is an American league and it’s American Soccer, sure we all love what we see in Europe, but we love it because it’s Europe and it’s different. When it comes to the MLS though, we have to do what’s best for us. To me it’s not about establishing a league that fights to get noticed with the European leagues, it’s about establishing a league here in the United States where we can help grow the sport on American soil, however that may be. We’re not England, we’re not Italy, we’re not Spain and we never will be, but that’s not a bad thing! Those places and those leagues will always be there for us to enjoy, but the MLS is ours and we need to make it work here our way. Summer soccer for life.