The day has finally come for all of us who support our clubs in Major League Soccer. The announcement of the 2011 regular season schedule was finally released on Thursday, February 10. Finally all of us can now plan our road trips and use our vacation times to travel and see our teams play against each other.
But while we are awaiting the dates to be announced by US Soccer for rounds proper of the US Open Cup, I found a fantastic bit of news that will satisfy everyone that has yelled, screamed, begged and disgusted us for disrespecting the International Calendar of FIFA. For the first time in the history of MLS during World Cup Qualifying, those International dates will be respected.
After writing down the dates of matches featuring my New York Red Bulls, I noticed that the two Saturdays of September 3 and October 8 were not filled for a home or a road match. I took a look at the full MLS Schedule and compared the International Calendar with a fantastic surprise: Both of those dates have been untouched for 2014 World Cup qualifying! Yes I understand that Saturday, November 12 is during the playoffs, but let’s be fair here. If that third Saturday is a bit unavoidable, we got a miracle that wasn’t expected.
As most of you know, the rumors have been told of CONCACAF starting World Cup qualifying a year earlier and changing the format which will start eight groups of four then four groups of four in 2012, then two groups of four in 2013 to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil and none of the matches will involve the USA and Mexico facing each other. Well it looks like that this clinches the rumor into fact.
This is another positive moment for Major League Soccer as they finally have understood how to create a regular season schedule and make room for those important International competition matches that are not the Gold Cup or a friendly. But give the guys in the front office a chance and they will listen to your pleas. If taking two weeks off during the group stages of this past World Cup was a fantastic start to respect the International Calendar, World Cup qualifiers are the next step towards the proper way.
I understand everyone wanted these changes to happen quickly and I agree that it got a bit tiresome forcing myself to choose between my club and the National Team. Thank goodness there is a DVR to do this, but honestly it shouldn’t have to come down to that. But as I have said many times and will say it again, these changes will happen by a snail or a turtle’s pace. Rushing to fix the problems will only make it worse.
But right now this is a happy day for all of us who follow MLS and the USA Men’s National Team. For the first time in a long time within the heart of the regular season schedule, we don’t have to worry about a conflict of interest and being annoyed about DVR’ing a league and national team match at the same time. Our voices have been heard again and MLS has listened. Well done Don Garber, a job well done.