It’s been going on so long now, we should all be immune to it. But somehow it still evokes anger. For the record while I do not believe MLS should play during international breaks for a variety of reasons, if MLS must play through the breaks why must they schedule games on national TV at the very same time our national team is playing? This situation hardly occurs any place else on the globe.

While the anglicized elements of the US Football media may not realize it, other leagues worldwide do play right through the breaks. But those league re-schedule games to ensure that when the national team plays they are in an exclusive television window. They will play matches earlier in the day or the next day to ensure proper focus on their national teams.

MLS on the other hand is highly inflexible. This pattern began in the days when Doug Logan ran the league. I will not though that Logan spread out games in the 1998 season to the point where many teams did not play for two weeks at a time during the World Cup. MLS failed to do this in 2002 and 2006.

The first time I noticed head to head competition was during the 1998 World Cup when the US-Iran game on ABC went up against regional MLS games on various channels. Then a year later ABC showed a Miami Fusion-Metrostars game at the very same time the US was playing Brazil in the Confederations Cup. In 2000, Telemundo showed an MLS game at the very same time the US was playing a critical qualifier, actually a life or death qualifier against Guatemala. Had the US lost that game, we would have been eliminated at the semi-final stage of World Cup 2002 qualifying.

The trend has only intensified in recent years. ESPN 2 showed an MLS game right against the a US game in the 2007 Gold Cup on FSC. During the US-Argentina game in Copa America 2007, ESPN2 broadcast an MLS match. During the US-Brazil match in Chicago that September, Telemundo showed DC United vs New England.

Last season, Telemundo showed a DC United-San Jose game at the very same time the US qualifier in Barbados was on ESPN Classic. Tonight, the song repeats itself again with five of six MLS games scheduled alongside the US National Team game, including a nationally televised game on FSC.

It may come as a shock to many MLS proponents but the US National Team receives much higher viewership on both ESPN and FSC than the average MLS match. But when the two compete, the football community in the US is balkanized. Simply put, to post an impressive rating to grow the game, the USMNT does not need a decent chunk of its core audience watching other matches or at stadiums unable to watch our boys represent the flag, particularly in World Cup qualifying.

Supporting MLS (and USL) is mandatory to grow the game in the US. But when the national team plays, we must all come together and focus on the critical match of the day. Additionally, TV ratings are important to establishing the legitimacy of the sport in this country and when MLS conflicts with the USMNT, we all lose.

Don Garber had pledged to take a look at international breaks, but has never acted on it. Even if MLS must play through international breaks, why cannot the league schedule all seven games this weekend on Sunday or early Saturday to not conflict with the national teams match? We’d all be better for it.

14 thoughts on “MLS vs USSF”

  1. Reason # 1,567 why MLS isn’t a proper soccer league.

    Kartik, I assume you stand with the USSF on this but this article is too balanced. Why not just come out and say what we all should be saying: Garber is an arrogant liar who cares about nothing beyond lining his investors pockets?

  2. Sing on brother Kartik!

    MLS is a joke. Just a joke. Everytime I want to give the league another chance something like this happens.

    How can they justify this?

  3. “Don Garber had pledged to take a look at international breaks, but has never acted on it.”

    Patently untrue. Two WCQ dates this cycle have no MLS games on them. A third, the final one, has an MLS game as part of a doubleheader after the US match.

    The thing about making a point is that if you ignore the facts and let your personal biases get in the way, you ultimately fail at your goal. You could have at least looked at the schedule first because this is an important issue and more work needs to be done, but vilifying the league with such a broad brush to further your personal acrimony is a poor strategy when it only took me 90 seconds to undo part of your argument.

    MLS is finally making strides in clearing the deck for these matches. A holistic view that acknowledges the changes as well as pointing out the need to continue to work toward a solution would have been a better piece.

  4. Great piece.

    I actually disagree with you Kartik: MLS should NEVER play through breaks.

    You seem to claim it is okay if they don’t conflict head to head with a US game.

    I think MLS should NEVER play in a blackout window. Period.

  5. Actually Brian, MLS is playing through those breaks, simply not on the date the US plays. I’m okay with that personally, but it still is playing in the sanctioned blackout period. Compare the FIFA blackout dates to the MLS schedule and you’ll realize that.

    But my point is time and time again MLS has undermined the ability of the USSF to get the entire soccer nation to focus on what our national team is doing in big games. Having an ESPN 2 game against the Copa America opener a few years ago was unacceptable. The same for that Brazil game which even though a friendly was a big game. Even USL needs to be careful with international dates. I don’t think Marcos realized he’d have so many regular national team players in that league eventually and last year during qualifying USL teams were in similar positions to MLS ones playing during the break. It was less reported in football media here which tends to ignore USL to a large extent but several teams, the now famous PR Islanders included had critical late season matches missing several key players.

    So while MLS won’t conflict with two US games later in the year, teams with national team members will still be playing games hamstrung.

    A loyal reader of this site and friend of the game in this country reminded me on twitter that the Championship in England allows a team to move a game if it losses more than 3 guys to international call ups. I think that is pretty reasonable.

  6. Kartik, are you aware that the Brazil game you reference was scheduled late by the USSF?

    MLS had already set the schedule at the time.

    The Argentina game though was unforgivable. What was worse is that they didn’t even update the US score during that game and I didn’t get GOLTV at the time.

    When I found out we were 1-1 with them at minute 65, I was like “screw ESPN and MLS.”

    Tonight I will not be watching FSC.

  7. C’mon Kartik.

    You are not one to compromise normally.

    MLS has zero leg to stand on in this matter.


    Brian, Garber is full of ego and crap on everything. Did you read that press conference transcript the other day? What an arrogant p#%ck!

    A few breaks is not good enough. For example for one of those breaks you refer to, the Fire play one night, the US in the same town the NEXT DAY! So while Kartik may say “that is okay” in these tough economic times when some of our fans may choose to go to a largely meaningless MLS match over a critical qualifier it’s not acceptable.

  8. Max,

    As you know I usually do not give Garber the benefit of the doubt,but understand that NY, NE and SEA have serious stadium issues sharing with NFL teams.

    But these games should be afternoon games, or Sunday games. Period.

    I have concerns about that Chicago scheduling also, but MLS cannot control the economy.

    I’ve also said I have issues with USL which is getting more recognition, more investment and also more internationals. They need to be cognizant also of scheduling.

    BTW, tomorrow we should all be watching WPS whether you are pro MLS, or pro USSF in this matter. 6pm EST.

  9. For those who say Bradley is a eurosnob how about this?

    He doesn’t want to fight with clubs for players taking them away for a week before the matches and then a few days after. So he simply only takes essential MLS guys like Landon and Pablo and picks the rest of the team from Europe.

    So MLS is in fact HURTING the USSF big time by tying the coaches hands on selecting his best 22 for QUALIFIERS .

  10. There are almost no mid-week games scheduled this year, so there would be plenty of summer weeks in which to make up games that may be missed correctly pausing during obviously significant USSF games.

    This would be an easy change for MLS to make.

  11. Well people are excited on this one and rightly so. It would seem to me that MLS should not play during qualification weeks. A friendly is another story and I see no reason to stop during those glorified exhibition games.

    Under no circumstances should MLS be playing when the USMNT takes the field. Before or after is acceptable but not during. I think in other posts someone has mentioned that the USSF already knew the MLS schedule when it set tonight’s game. Lets not talk about fault but clearly both organizations need to work together to avoid these conflicts in the future. Hey how about an e-mail campaign to MLS asking then not to schedule! Let the fans take action now.

  12. Kartik, you’re asking Garber’s investors to lose millions of dollars. What’s your problem, man? How about you take an unpaid week off next week at wherever you work? Just because I said so. What you post is rude and ignorant. The man in running a BUSINESS. It’s his and his investors’ livelihood. Stop telling people to not make their ends meet. You’re an irresponsible journalist.

    If I hear you say one more time “growing this game in this country”, I’ll have to punch you in the face. You say that over and over and over again. “The game needs to grow”. “This is what needs to happen for the game to grow.” Do you know how long football fans have been saying that in America? Since the 70s. Stop your pipedreams and your whining. You act like a girl.

    Because of whiners like you, I hope MLB has another spectacular year this year. And that the NBA and NHL playoffs are spellbinding. And of course, another phenomenal Gridiron season in the fall. I hope Americans continue to see football as girly and a wimp’s sport. I hope all this because of the constant whining about “growing the game”. Enough already.

  13. For the record MLS should play through international breaks. In those countries they don’t have more than one sport and the grounds are always available. If tickets are printed with a date and time you cannot change it. Besides it is the club that pays a player and not the national team. You seem to not realize that. His commitment should always be club first. These national team games are glorified exhibitions where guys could get hurt and owners could lose huge investments in players.

  14. “So MLS is in fact HURTING the USSF big time by tying the coaches hands on selecting his best 22 for QUALIFIERS .”

    Perhaps, except all the good American players ARE in Europe, with the exception of Landon Donovan.

    The MLS is only hurting itself by attempting to compete head-on with soccer of actual quality.

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