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Posted at 8:47 PM ET, 11/21/2010

MLS will explore conforming to international calendar; playoff field will expand; balanced schedule to remain in place in 2011

By Steve Goff

MLS will explore the possibility of conforming to international standards and play from late summer until spring with a winter break, Commissioner Don Garber said Sunday before the championship game in Toronto.

"We have to start working on all of this. It would not be dissimilar to what the rest of the league does," Garber said. "We've got to figure out whether we can manage it and when we can manage it."

Garber also announced that each club will once again play every other team in the regular season home and away -- a balanced schedule. However, with the addition of a 19th team in 2012 and a 20th as early as 2013, that structure will have to change because the league is not planning to increase the number of matches per team beyond 34.

Vancouver and Portland are joining the league in 2011, expanding the total number to 18.

MLS will also expand the playoff field to 10 from eight next year. Format details have yet to be decided, Garber said.

For more.....

In addressing a question about the international calendar, Garber offered a broad answer: "We are speaking to our fans. We are basically telling our fans that we have a goal and a vision to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world. In order for us to be able to achieve that, we are going to have to do a wide variety of things in the next X number of years to achieve them. The calendar is one of them. As we are thinking about our playoff format, our competition calendar, it makes sense for us to start really digging into whether or not this makes sense. We have been thinking about it for the last year, and it certainly is a message we want to say to the international soccer community: We are going to get closer to the way the rest of the world plays."

FIFA has been critical of MLS's March-to-November schedule, and with the United States in a heated race to win the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup, Garber's comments seem to be a gesture to bolster the U.S. bid. On Dec. 2, FIFA's executive committee will choose between the United States, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Qatar.

Weather is a big factor in switching to a late-summer-to-spring schedule, however. Garber suggested the likelihood of taking a break in December and January. MLS has not set a timetable for completing the study. The 2011 season will not be affected, with the season openers set for mid-March.

As far the playoff format, there will be an opening round involving the lowest clubs to determine the final eight teams, Garber said. Whether the number of participants will be evenly split between the Eastern and Western conferences has not been determined, Garber said. There is also debate about the number of games in a playoff matchup. At the moment, the first round is two legs and the conference finals and MLS Cup are a single match.

As for the regular season schedule, MLS had considered an unbalanced schedule -- for example, a team would play three games against one team and just a single match against another -- to enhance geographic rivalries. In 2012, when Montreal joins the league, an unbalanced schedule is almost certain.

By Steve Goff  | November 21, 2010; 8:47 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  | Tags:  MLS  
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Next: MLS Cup: Colorado Rapids 2, FC Dallas 1

Comments

Prediction time!!
Falls 3-2, in extra time.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | November 21, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

A Spring-Fall schedule would allow an MLS-World Cup double header in 2022, so FC Dallas can claim attendance of 80K in Cowboys stadium.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 21, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

The Colorado state flag is one of the ugliest I've seen. Just sayin'.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 21, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

If this ref doesn't start calling a foul or two, he's gonna lose control of this game. It looks like a bush-league game as it is--incredibly chippy.

Posted by: glfrazier | November 21, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

What a great ball from Chavez, and a strong finish from Ferriera. Wonderful goal.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | November 21, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone mention to Garber that there are a number of leagues that do not have seasons that conform to the way most other countries do? Too many cold weather cities in MLS. Unless they don't care about how many tickets they sell to those bitter winter matches.

Posted by: fedssocr | November 21, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Garber is just saying what he has to say to appease those voting for the WC22 venue.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 21, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

If they are listening to the fans--they will hear we do not want more playoff teams. The playoff chase finally generated excitment this year!! Please do not water it back down...

Posted by: dargumedo | November 21, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Game on.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | November 21, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Heh, lay off our flag! Just because we do not have a naked lady on it, does not mean it is ugly.

Posted by: jojosbo | November 21, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Garber said "We will do everything in our power to ensure a New York-LA final, even if it means 20 teams in the playoffs."

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 21, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Congrats to 'Casey Conor' for winning Cup MVP

Posted by: carmines757 | November 21, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

"Congrats to 'Casey Conor' for winning Cup MVP"

That was hilarious. What a goof!

Posted by: mbyrd28 | November 21, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

hey, if they switch to 10 teams that could mean that instead of having home and away for the first round, they would just schedule the 4th and 5th playoff one week and then the winner Vs 1st place and 2nd VS 3rd the next week, which I think would be great

Posted by: TassieTiger | November 22, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Denver Post headline:

"Rapids beat FC Dallas 2-1 in thrilling OT match for MLS Cup"

with text

"After some frantic play in the opening minutes, the game settled down and both teams treated fans to entertaining, end-to-end soccer."


Really? Looked more like a WWF match with occasional soccer. An own goal to win it, and a tying goal scored while Casey was on his back . . .

Simply not the beautiful game . .

Posted by: delantero | November 22, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Then the whole issue of whether "home field advantage" in the playoffs actually matters would be solved, since the lower seed wouldn't get a game

Posted by: TassieTiger | November 22, 2010 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Don,

Your fans don't want the international calender. As much as I love United, and as much as I love travelling, there's no way I go to Toronto in February or November to watch a game. Ditto New England, Chicago, Denver, etc. It's too damn cold, especially if the games are at 730 at night. It's bad enough that the playoffs are held in conditions that are different than the majority of the season. Unless you are willing to adopt a South American opening/closing season with two distinct champions who then meet in a playoff, there's not much you can do to make me a believer in winter soccer in the USA.

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: jayrockers | November 22, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

So at some point, there would be the usual Mar-Nov schedule and then no MLS until the following Aug/Sept?

Posted by: cwste1 | November 22, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I went to a game in Salzburg, Austria in February a couple years ago....it was freezing as hell, but that just encourages fans to be in the fan section jumping around!

Posted by: TassieTiger | November 22, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

quick thoughts:

1) very poorly-officiated game tonight

2) we saw the good and the bad with having a neutral site game: including the tix in the host's season ticket package made for a big crowd, but with no stake in the game, way too many fans left before the overtime due to the cold. It didn't look good on tv.

3) MLS in the winter just won't work.

Posted by: foul_throw | November 22, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm far from a Eurosnob, but as a new league in the era of air travel, MLS has the opportunity to have a balanced schedule and placate purists while not alienating whatever the opposite of purists are. The only thing I can imagine is that he's laying the groundwork for the future when there are >20 teams in the league.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 21, 2010 8:24 PM |
-----------------------------------------------------

This has to be in the offing. It's really dicey at 20 teams, but there's no way the league could do a balanced schedule with more than 20 teams. Just too many games.

I've been saying this for a long time.

At 24 teams, there would be terrific balance in an unbalanced schedule. Teams could play home-and-home against the teams in their conference, and one game against the teams in the other conference. That's 34 games. That's a pretty decent schedule. At 20 teams, it does get weird. It probably means four divisions, with 3 or 4 games against division rivals, 2 against the other division and one against the other conference's teams. 32 or 36 game schedule.

As for playing deep into November, with Global warming that isn't as big an issue. Oh wait, I forgot. The geniuses who control our Congress don't believe in it. Since, they won the last election, I guess we need to listen to the GOP and stick with the current calendar.

Posted by: fischy | November 22, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

One other thought -- if the league considers going to an Apertura/Clausura format, they could probably find a way to satisfy the purists and enhance rivalries. One half could be used to play some form of balanced schedule, with each team playing the others. A 19-game season. Single table -- best record wins the title.

In the other (shorter) season (say, late August thru October) the teams could focus on their division rivals, playing them twice, and the other division in the conference once. Then, playoffs could determine conference camps and then a league champion for that season.

I think American fans could get used to this format. I'm pretty sure there are other leagues that do something similar.

Posted by: fischy | November 22, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Vicious slap in the face to the STHs who are keeping the league alive.

Please, how much shall I pay, in advance, to watch ever more meaningless regular season games in sub-freezing temperatures? Oh, and make sure my team faces the same teams over and over again, to really suck ALL of the life out of these fake-@ss "rivalries". I can always watch the actual good teams play on TV, I guess.

Pick some more benign way to pander to FIFA, if you please, because it won't have any effect anyway.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | November 22, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

The Qatari engineers will build outdoor, heated stadiums and ship them to the USA.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 22, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

One more thought: isn't playing during the summer--when every soccer mad nation on Earth is going through deep deprivation--*something* of a marketing opportunity? Hmmmm? All those lonely eyes, ears, and Euros with nowhere to go? Ah, well, f*** em anyway, right, Don?

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | November 22, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Garber don't be the second "Don" to make this scheduling mistake.

"The spring advocates had lost and the fall advocates would accept nothing less than victory..."

Posted by: csd1 | November 22, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

This is nothing but posturing. The league will never go to an apertura/clausura format. Ever. The spring season would be a freezeout/washout, no one would go to the games, and everyone knows that.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 22, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

@GoG -- Not really. Even if the MLS gained enough quality to be interesting to fans in Europe, Africa and Asia., our games would be at the wrong time for them to see them live....Unless you want MLS to play in the middle of the summer in the middle of the afternoon.

Posted by: fischy | November 22, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I do think there's a way for the league to make a calendar switch work, when the league goes to 24 teams...but it might really raise the ire of affected fans.

First assumption: Teams 21-24 will all be Sun Belt teams. I see 5 candidates for these 4 slots: San Diego, Phoenix (possibly in a climate-controlled SSS, but, if you read on, that might not be necessary), Atlanta and two Florida locations, probably Orlando and Miami. If Chivas stays in LA, then San Diego will get a team. The league wants to be in Florida and probably Atlanta, but Phoenix could be a choice. I suppose Birmingham or a city in Tennessee or North Carolina could be options, maybe even Charleston. Anyway -- 4 teams, where winter weather isn't too bad, especially in November and late February.

Add those 4 teams to the two LA teams, Houston, Dallas, San Jose, Seattle, Portland, and, I guess, DC. Those 12 teams could host the other 12 teams during the coldest periods. Essentially, this would mean an extended home stand of a month in the late Fall and late Winter, and an extended road trip for the other teams (who would probably need to build indoor practice facilities, or maintain a warm-weather training home for those periods). Yeah, DC and Portland are a little tricky, but they could do until the league adds even more warm-weather locations, down the road.

Posted by: fischy | November 22, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"Weather is a big factor in switching to a late-summer-to-spring schedule, however. Garber suggested the likelihood of taking a break in December and January."

Make Sepp go sit at BMO Field or Toyota Park for 2 hours on a February night and then see how much he complains about the MLS schedule.

Posted by: Kenobi | November 22, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Do not switch the MLS calender. It would be an attendance nightmare for the league. In addition, can you imagine the TV situation for MLS in the Fall and Spring? It already gets bleak come September and October now. Start the season in August with no postseason aroung the corner and watch the bad ratings turn to putrid ratings, not to mention the interst the networks have in televising it. In the Spring there woudl be a direct competition with the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Plyoffs. Guess who wins that battle? Switching this around is just very bad business for MLS.

Posted by: Gambrills4 | November 22, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Pardon my typing everybody. Talk about putrid. :)

Posted by: Gambrills4 | November 22, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

@Gambrills -- I assume you're arguing that a late Spring playoffs would run up against the NBA and NHL playoffs. True, but I doubt there''s a big overlap with fans. There's probably a bigger problem now, in that the MLS playoffs start during the baseball playoffs and/or World Series. Plus, pro and college football are going full bore, Right now, MLS has to schedule their playoffs games around the football TV schedule. They might get better crowds, if they played during the daytime, when its warmer...but they can't. MLS playoffs in May/June would probably be a big improvement.

That said, I'm not endorsing the idea, because I think regular season games in November and February aren't the best idea. I know American football can do it in November, but even they wouldn't want to play in February (except maybe a Super Bowl in some Sun Belt city).

Posted by: fischy | November 22, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Any issues with playoff scheduling could be eliminated with a single table format. Discuss :-)

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 22, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Please, for the love of all that is good in sports, do not expand the playoffs. The race was finally, finally, good this year. Let's go ahead and not have a one-season golden era, eh?

Posted by: j_doe | November 22, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The problem in competing with the NBA and NHL playoffs vs the MLB playoffs is the number of games played and the number of networks involved in the coverage. In addition, the Spring has the MLB regular season to deal with. There is just more commitment of the networks time in the Spring.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | November 22, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

3 games against one team will not expand a geographic rivalry. If anything, the repetition will make it mundane. A geographic rivalry is something to be savored. Furthermore, I don't see why MLS cannot have more than 34 regular season games per year. Many leagues in Europe play 38 regular season games per year + tournaments w/o any issues. In regards to the U.S. Open Cup, this is for reserve squads. Aside from the regular season, the first team should only play in the playoffs or Champions League.

Posted by: bigwave | November 22, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

3 games against one team will not expand a geographic rivalry. If anything, the repetition will make it mundane. A geographic rivalry is something to be savored. Furthermore, I don't see why MLS cannot have more than 34 regular season games per year. Many leagues in Europe play 38 regular season games per year + tournaments w/o any issues. In regards to the U.S. Open Cup, this is for reserve squads. Aside from the regular season, the first team should only play in the playoffs or Champions League.

Posted by: bigwave | November 22, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

3 games against one team will not expand a geographic rivalry. If anything, the repetition will make it mundane. A geographic rivalry is something to be savored. Furthermore, I don't see why MLS cannot have more than 34 regular season games per year. Many leagues in Europe play 38 regular season games per year + tournaments w/o any issues. In regards to the U.S. Open Cup, this is for reserve squads. Aside from the regular season, the first team should only play in the playoffs or Champions League.

Posted by: bigwave | November 22, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

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