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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?


About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →