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Klinsmann Reveals Concerns About Short MLS Seasons

2012 calendar february grid sunday mls 600x450 Klinsmann Reveals Concerns About Short MLS Seasons

While I realize that the above graphic may be a bit misleading (MLS has already stated their 2012 season will begin in early March), February start dates for the league may not be far off. In a surprisingly candid statement to the media today at a training session for tomorrow’s match vs. Ecuador, Jurgen Klinsmann aired his personal concerns about the way our pro leagues stack up with the rest of the world.

From AP/Fox Soccer:

Klinsmann had already made big changes since replacing Bradley on July 29, and more are ahead. For instance, he wants to eliminate the two-to-three months off that Major League Soccer players get each year.

”The big challenge is for MLS overall, how can they stretch that season into a format that is kind of competitive with the rest of the world?” he said. ”Right now it’s not competitive. If you have a seven-, eight-month season, that’s not competitive with the rest of the world.”

First off, this is very interesting to hear Klinsmann open up about these beliefs. His predecessor, Bob Bradley, rarely spoke out of turn about any qualms he had with our domestic league. When Klinsmann was hired, there was speculation that USSF President Sunil Gulati may have given Klinsmann the promise of more latitude to assert influence when Gulati offered him the coaching job. This type of statement, in a relatively stunning fashion, appears to put pressure Commissioner Don Garber to at least consider this feedback and what MLS could do to accommodate.

The timing of this statement is also very interesting. The US just defeated Honduras 1-0, earning Klinsmann his first victory as Coach. If there’s ever a time where US Soccer fans were ready to give Klinsmann their full support, it is now. It’s not just the result, either; the style of play in the recent friendlies has been a more creative, attacking style than we’ve seen for awhile under Bradley. This may have been the perfect time to throw an opinion out in the open, to gauge the response across the board. Klinsmann does have his detractors, pointing to his troubles managing Bayern Munich; supporters, however, seem optimistic thus far with the German coach’s progress in the National Team.

Add to this the logic of Klinsmann’s statements, and the way he’s applying this to his selections for the National Team. For a player in the Barclays Premier League, barring any bans or injuries, a player competing in every match would see 38 league matches in a season. For the top teams, you get UEFA Champions (or Europa) League, which adds 6-10 matches. The domestic Cups also allow teams another 2-4 matches, and that’s not counting return legs in the case of a draw in an FA Cup match. So for a team like Arsenal, a player could see 45 or more matches counting all competitions.

Compare that to MLS. This season, MLS clubs played 34 league matches, 4 fewer than in England. CONCACAF Champions League only allows 4 American teams per season (and one Canadian team) to get those extra half-dozen matches. There is only one “traditional” domestic Cup competition, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. There are no return legs in the USOC, and the recent setup dictated that the lowest 12 teams in MLS face each other, effectively cutting out 6 teams with only one match played. Now, 10 teams make the MLS Cup playoffs, which does add matches, but it adds only a match for most teams in the playoffs. Perhaps this is one explanation for why Klinsmann has seemed to prefer players in European leagues in his recent lineups.

Is an extended schedule feasible going forward in a Spring-to-Fall league setup? By my estimation, MLS would have to start the season about 2 weeks early and maybe sprinkle in two extra midweek matches. That would put the start of the season in mid-to-late February. I don’t see this as a problem. The main argument is that bad weather would hurt attendance. From what I’ve seen, most MLS crowds are resilient, and even if the stadium is 60-75% full for those few matches early on, it serves the purpose of getting these pros more opportunities to play. Additionally, for World Cup years, this eases any desire to accommodate a midsummer break. But at some point, one would have to consider a synchronization with the Fall-to-Late Spring FIFA calendar, something the world governing body has requested in the past.

Regardless of what the impact might be, I think Klinsmann’s candor is refreshing, and may be the perfect contrapuntal voice for US Soccer at the moment. He is a guy who has played and coached on some excellent European squads. He garners respect, and it’s easy to believe he possesses a good barometer for advancing the sport in our country. It doesn’t mean throwing out everything that has been instituted by Major League Soccer. Garber has recently indicated he would like to unbalance the schedule. You could have an unbalanced schedule while still extending the season. Klinsmann made no assertions about other hot-button issues like finances, the fall-to-summer schedule, or the US soccer pyramid. What he has done is show that we have a National Team Coach who will speak his mind if he feels it may improve our chances on the world stage; for my taste, I think that’s a great quality for a coach to hold.

26 Responses to Klinsmann Reveals Concerns About Short MLS Seasons

  1. CTBlues says:

    Those games in New England, New Jersey, Chicago, Kansas City, and
    Philly in mid Februray would be just awesome to attend. /s

    • CTBlues says:

      Oh, I forgot to add Colorado, Utah, Toranto, and Montreal.

      • Alex says:

        Ct blues Who the I for one don’t care about attendance figures, how
        fans look like on tv or butts in seats whatever. What I care about
        is the improvement of the sport . Mls is waay too conservative to
        make any changes. All they care about is $$$ . Ergo the mentality
        on who is attending which games. And frankly its not their job. I
        like jurgen cuz he’s shaking things up, as he should. It’s ussf job
        to put some big boy pants on and regulate the game instead of mls
        calling the shots just because they worry about attendance figures,
        and insecurity to go up against NFL, NBA MLB whatever. And frankly
        starting one month early isn’t going to kill anybody. We have no
        excuse whatsoever. South American leagues play their leagues during
        their winter, our summer. Euro leagues especially Russia play in
        winter. Does that mean we should ? No, I mean our winters are
        pretty rough but one month early and maybe one month late like
        November would be beneficial. If that means casual fans would get
        left behind for other sports then so be it. We shouldn’t care about
        them anyways. Whatever we do should be to improve our team and
        league not care about butts in seats

        • CTBlues says:

          Russia is just switching to the summer/spring schedule. I would
          love for soccer to grow up in the country but this country is all
          about $$$ and if you aren’t putting butts in seats and getting the
          TV contracts you aren’t going to be making $$$. If we switched to
          the summer/spring schedule who is going to air the games? In the
          fall/winter the regional sports stations show college
          football/basketball, NHL, and NBA. I live in Connecticut and the
          Redbulls are on MSG or MSG+ and in the fall MSG covers college
          football and basketball, the Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Sabers,
          and Knicks. NBC and VS cover hockey and Notre Dame and other
          college football games, ESPN/ABC have college football and
          basketball, Monday Night Football, and NBA. CBS has college
          football and basketball, and NFL. Fox has NFL and baseball post
          season. TNT has NBA. So you are left with Fox Soccer and GolTV not
          exactly the best options being that MLS just left Fox Soccer for
          NBC for more money and to be on a channel in more homes.

    • ToonToon says:

      northern teams can start the season on a road trip to the south
      (not that there are even that many south teams), but still, have
      teams like toronto start on the road

  2. Robert says:

    Finally glad to see someone of importance agree with what a lot of
    soccer fans have been saying. Weather aside, which is no excuse
    since RUSSIA switched its calendar, MLS needs to focus on
    understanding it competes in a global market. This is great news to
    hear someone be critical of MLS.

    • Scott says:

      Disagree. The MLS needs to focus on what makes it successful in
      this country. A fall to late spring schedule is a league killer,
      putting soccer up against the NFL and NBA? Disastrous. Remember,
      not all American soccer fans are just fans of soccer. It’s okay to
      be a passionate soccer fan as well as a passionate football,
      basketball and baseball fan in the his country. Many of the soccer
      pundits need to realize this and not alienate the multi-sport
      American fanbase.

      • Robert says:

        Ummm, MLS is going against NFL and MLB playoffs right now. In march
        MLS goes head on with March Madness? What other MLS excuses can you
        regurgitate?

        • Scott says:

          Not excuses, just my opinion. If it were up to me, i’d start the
          season earlier and have it done before or close to the beginning of
          football season so the MLS Cup playoffs could get a little more
          national attention. I realize the MLS will have to go up against
          one of the big three at some point I’m just saying that to have it
          run concurrently with football and basketball in the dead of winter
          would be a mistake. IN MY OPINION (that means relax, sheesh)

          • Harry says:

            I understand where you are coming from and that is the single
            biggest hurdle for soccer to catch on in the US is the other sports
            that dominate the scene. My opinion is that if other major sports
            keep having these little lock outs and players whining over money
            issues, then it may allow MLS to take some of that share. Not like
            it can’t be done but I also think it’s advertising. I mean look at
            how MMA has caught on and almost pushed traditional boxing off the
            map. It can be done, you just need the right backers for it.

        • Tim says:

          MLB play-offs ratings are weak without LA, NY, CHI, or BOS
          involved. Secondly, MLS doesn’t schedule many Sunday games in order
          to avoid the NFL competition, however, NHL and NBA schedule many
          Saturday games.

  3. The original Tom says:

    I love summer evening games. I also like not going head to head
    with the European leagues (that I also watch)- I like the contrast-
    we’re late season, and they are in early season. Colorado could
    play Feb and early March, but they should be day games. I wish this
    weekend’s game was a day game, we have glorious days but cold
    nights this time of year. The play-offs add two matches for most
    teams. Also, the big EPL teams have big squads- you can’t say
    Berbatov for ManU is playing a lot of minutes this year.

    • Scott says:

      I also loved the summer evening games in Portland even the few
      afternoon games we played on a sunny day in downtown Porltand. I’d
      hate to lose that.

  4. Josh says:

    If weather is the only concern with starting the season earlier
    then why couldn’t MLS schedule at least the majority of early games
    in some of the warmer cities. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever
    will be.

  5. Rex says:

    The schedule is fine how it is. The bulk of Open Cup plus another
    semi legit tournament needs to moved to the preseason then I will
    be happy. Also more games means bigger rosters which means more
    money.

  6. CTBlues says:

    If you move the schedule to summer to spring like the rest of the
    football world when are you going to air the games and still get
    viewers? Thursday and Saturday is a no go until college regular
    season is over, but then you have the NFL adding games to Thursday
    and Saturday once college ends. Sundays are a no go until after the
    Super Bowl. So you are left with Monday-Wednesday and Friday and
    Tuesday and Wednesday are Champions League and US Open Cup days so
    you have Mondays and Fridays which wouldn’t work for teams in
    Champions League. The only days I could see working would be Monday
    nights, Thursday nights, Friday nights, and Sunday nights, but in
    most of the places you are going to want to play during the day
    when the temperatures are warmer.

  7. GI Joe says:

    Flase point! Netherlands, Portugal have fewer games and they
    perform much better than the US. I reject the idea that it’s
    related to the quantity of games. Despite that I agree that the
    pre-season in MLS is too too long and I actually beleive that you
    can change the schedule in order for Northern teams to skip games
    in February and March, and Southern teams to skip games in July and
    August! Other point, I hate mid-week games, because they draw bad
    attendances and it’s not in the soccer tradition… In Europe, mid
    week games are mainly for UEFA and cup competitions, and that only
    happens because there isn’t more weekends to play!

    • CTBlues says:

      By July and August comes around all of North America is hot not
      just the south and there are only what 2 teams in the south Houston
      and Dallas. I listed all the cold weather cities in my first 2
      posts there are more than 2.

  8. S04th says:

    Why not take a page from MLB’s book and have a set of two or three
    “winter training” mini-leagues that play Jan/Feb in the
    unrepresented southeast and southwest? The West Div teams can play
    in Arizona/New Mexico/Nevada and the East Div teams can play in
    Florida/Georgia/Carolina. Have the winners of the mini-leagues play
    a Super Cup type of game immediately before the regular season
    opens. This would give MLS more games and, possibly, a hook into
    regional fans.

  9. Jose says:

    Uh, Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi play on average 31 games a year
    with their clubs. Between them they have scored 1 goal in the WC.
    If anything all these games just add more injury problems (i.e.
    Beckham, Rooney, etc.). MLS will probably go up to 38 games per
    year with the additions of NY Cosmos and Montreal, add in 4-6 games
    for the CONCACAF CL, MLS Cup, and US Cup’s and this is more than
    enough. Appearances ain’t the problem, quality and TV $$$ are. If
    anything MLS should just follow the MLB schedule so it does not
    have to contend against NFL or NCAAF…

    • S04th says:

      Of the players who bagged 5 at the 2010 WC, Mueller played 52
      matches (46 starts) for Bayern the season before. Sneijeder played
      42 (39 starts) for Inter in 09/10. David Villa 41 (36) for Valencia
      and Forlan 48 (43) for Atletico. Our top scorer (Donovan with 3)
      played 42 and started 37, but only 29 (27) of those were with LA.
      He had to play a half season at Everton to get his numbers up. And
      it seemed to pay off. Wayne Rooney, btw, averages 41 *starts* per
      season in his 7 years at MU. Messi’s average is lower at Barca
      since he played part-time for a couple of seasons when he was like
      9 years old (well, he looked 9) but he currently plays around the
      same number as, if not a few more than, most other top-level
      European players (in 09/10 his numbers were identical to Mueller’s
      impressive stats, although Barca played more games than Bayern).

    • The Gaffer says:

      Jose, Wayne Rooney made 41 appearances during the 2010-11 season (see http://www.soccerbase.com/players/player.sd?player_id=30921&season_id=140).

      Cheers,

      The Gaffer

  10. Derek says:

    I still think the most important thing is to keep a balanced
    schedule, which is going out the window next season. It’s almost
    unanimous across supporters I talk to on games or twitter. We want
    a balanced schedule.

  11. F19 says:

    One easy way to add more games is the expand the league. MLS could
    go to 24 teams and play a balanced schedule and bam, 46 game
    season. That’s what League 1, 2 and the Championship play in
    England, plus FA Cup and Carling Cup and also Promotion Playoffs
    for some teams. With most teams in their own stadiums by now, it’s
    not as big of an issue with securing/renting venues for those extra
    dates. I see no reason why it cannot be done. Start the season a
    little earlier and end a little later. As much as I’d love to see a
    Fall-Spring schedule, the conflict with the NFL/NHL/NBA/CFB/CBB
    will likely never allow that to happen. So start a little earlier,
    and end a little later. Lower the number of playoff teams. 8 MAX.

  12. dan says:

    He is dead on. MLS needs to be longer period. Most importantly they
    need to start respecting FIFA international dates. It’s bs that
    teams are gutted of their players since they are good enough to
    play for their national teams.

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