Apertura/Clausura Debate: My Thoughts

Last week MLS Rumors broke the story that Major League Soccer had tired off fending off critics like yours truly and was looking at revamping the entire structure of its season. Subsequently, The Original Winger and BBC Five Live’s Sean Wheelock followed up on this story with more thoughts.

My thinking on this subject is that it would be the most exciting development for Major League Soccer since David Beckham’s signing, perhaps since the decision prior to the 2000 season to dump the Americanized clock and tie breaking rules. MLS as it exists now can survive, but is unlikely to thrive in any way.

The Apertura season would run from approximately July through November and the Clausura season would run from February to May. Each tournament would be decided by a playoff and the coldest two months of the eyar, December and January would see no Football nor would June when the Gold Cup, Copa America, Euro Championship and World Cup are played.

Here is why after much thought I think this is a decent solution to MLS scheudling issues:

  • As I have mentioned repeatedly since David Beckham’s signing the continued policy of MLS to play through International breaks means fewer and fewer quality players who aspire to be part of their national team’s setup will choose Major League Soccer.
  • The current MLS Calender does not work: The season which lacks the compelling storylines of a more established football league is too long and quite frankly cannot hold many people’s attention. While MLS apologists continuously argue this point with me, it is no coincidence that with the exception of last season when Beckham and Blanco turned up, every single year MLS attendance has been lower after July 4th than on July 4th or before. In other words the most important matches of the season get the fewest fans. Several factors are responsible for this: The start of College Football season which competes head to head for American sports fans on Thursday’s and Saturday’s beginning in late August as well as the amount of European and Mexican football on television whose seasons begin in early August. The later part of the European season affects MLS less because so many fans seem to have a shortened attention span and if they are not supporters of let’s say Real Madrid or Chelsea, matches come March are pretty meaningless.
  • The continued international perception that MLS is a renegade league. I myself have editorialed the same thing. The NASL eventually became a complete outlaw league by virtue of several factors including its calender but also tie breakers and the point system. However much of this took place due to the NASL’s success and its continued ability to attract top international superstars. MLS is never going to be in the same boat as the NASL in this more global football climate. (For example when the NASL began attracting top European players, most European leagues were purely domestic leagues, so the NASL was the only league that was largely made up of internationals from all over the world)
  • MLS’ need to attract Latin fans with a tournament system which has been wildly successful throughout much of Latin America. I’ve seen data which indicates most Mexican-Americans and many transplanted South Americans look down on MLS as a completely inferior product. Central Americans are more open to MLS according to this data, but they too will be even more cemented to the league with a familiar format.

What are everyone’s thoughts?

0 thoughts on “Apertura/Clausura Debate: My Thoughts”

  1. Outside in DC, Boston, Columbus, Philly, Seattle, Toronto and KC in Febuary…..No thanks. I guess Montreal, Ottawa, and St Louis can forget about expansion teams. There will be a foot of snow on the field turf that every stadium will have to have because of the cold.

    They will be lucky to draw 500 freezing souls.

  2. Frankly, the two season format is beyond my comprehension. I’ve wiki’d it and still don’t get it. I’m not against it, but its yet another thing fans will have to adjust to for a game that’s already hard pressed to draw in fans. I think taking a two month break would kill the seasons momentum but since we pretty much do this during the superliga/all-star break who knows.

    Do we really need to dodge the weather so dramatically? The Euros play all winter and pro football plays in January in DC/Boston/Philly/Seattle/Etc. Houston in August ain’t no picnic either, it’s part of the game.

  3. The big thought for me is that it would break new ground for soccer in the North American sports schedule.

    Right now MLS/USL shadows baseball, starting around the same time with play-offs about the same time. This would at least move soccer onto its own schedule. Probably a good thing.

  4. Like it! I am interested to see how the MLS CCL slots will be divied up. That decision may be taken out of our hands as I would not be surprised if next CCL the MLS was given less than 4 slots.

    I live in Utah and will go to RSL games if it’s snowing. For me the issue is not watching the game in inclement weather (I’d much rather deal with snow than rain at a game) but transportation to the game.

    At least now we’ll see some MLS branded parkas! Sweet!

  5. I think it is a brilliant idea.

    First, the Mickey Soccer League would be honoring the FIFA Calendar a bit more–a good thing.

    Second, assuming you have an 18 team league, and each team plays the others one in each season, you have 17 games over a 16 week period or so. In a 20 team league you have 19 games. MLS already plays midweek games and each team would have to play three midweek games in a 16 week season–not too bad. Plus this gives owners a total of 34-38 games a year–i.e. more games, more tickets sold.

    Second, CCL spots could be figured out, but the above commenter noted, MLS might not get four next time around, or it might get four but three have to go through qualifying rounds.

    Third, I MLS will start to look more like a real league in the eyes of FIFA and the rest of the world.

    This might be the smartest move MLS has made since dumping tie-breakers.

  6. With USL’s recent Champions League success wouldn’t relegation/promotion be in order before gimmicky marketing changes to further make MLS look mickey mouse?

  7. There will never be promotion/relegation here. Tell Beckham and Mr. Anschutz his flagship team is now in the second division? I think not. As for the schedule change, it’s scary, a little confusing but just might work.

  8. Larry, this wouldn’t be a gimmicky marketing change, it would be in keeping with the system used by the major soccer/football leagues in the Americas (Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, etc.).

  9. Sounds like a very wise move to me. The worst that could happen is that after a few years of trying it (if it wasn’t working out) we could go back to our current setup–please no–or a single table. Something has to change with the scheduling on international fixture dates. This cannot continue.

  10. I really like the idea of scheduling things to reduce the ridiculousness in scheduling that has happened this year and previous years. MLS needs to honor FIFA breaks. The clausura/apertura schedule is good, but I don’t know how that works here with the weather. The average high in Chicago in the month of February is 38. The average temp is 31. And those are without wind chill! Here is research from weather.com

    City average high in Feb
    Chicago 38
    Toronto 29
    Columbus 41
    New York 40
    DC 48
    New England 39
    Kansas City 44
    Philadelphia 42
    LA 70
    RSL 44
    Seattle N/A (dome)
    Houston 67
    Dallas 61
    San Jose 63
    Colorado 50

    Basically all the teams in the East don’t have very favorable weather to attract fans. Most teams in the west have nice weather except Salt lake and possibly Colorado. They would have to do a lighter schedule in Feb and play a lot of games involving eastern conference team @ western conference team.

    Cold weather Western conference teams

  11. MLS itself needs an overhaul at the top.

    Anything will be better than the current setup of how bad the league is.

    I actually prefer USL or College Soccer right now to this garbage.

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