07 October 2011
Posted in MLS
When he’s not being harassed about expansion MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, has to answer questions on another big debate going on in MLS right now about scheduling and if MLS should move from a balanced schedule to an unbalanced one. An unbalanced schedule would mean that not every team would be able to host every other team depriving some cities of being able to see teams such as the Galaxy or the Red Bulls. This move would really hurt teams that need those games to get people in the seats. The argument for the unbalanced schedule is that it will better promote local rivalries such as Seattle and Portland. However, an unbalanced schedule would mean that in some years rivalries like the Brimstone Cup contested between the Fire and FC Dallas would only have one regular season match up.
Another is that travel for teams with 36 games would be too much. Travel is something that is a problem in MLS. The distance teams have to travel can make long seasons even more grueling. A way that MLS can combat this would be to start scheduling games in groups, where instead of scheduling teams to play in Seattle on a Wednesday and then Houston on a Saturday or Sunday they could schedule teams to play Seattle on Wednesday, Portland on the weekend, and Vancouver the following week. That way instead of teams flying from Seattle to Houston to L.A. teams would be able to make one flight for all three games. The groups could be set up like this:
|Seattle||L.A. Galaxy||Toronto||New York|
|Vancouver||San Jose||New England||Philadelphia|
These groups would help elevate travel demands on teams and not only save money in flights, but help keep teams rested and playing their best. This would protect non-local rivalries and help ensure that the product on the field is of the highest quality. With a schedule done in groups like these, the league would be able to spread out teams road trips along with keeping all rivalries both local and non-local ones. A schedule where teams would play multiple games in a small region like this would also mean fans would have more of reason to travel further to see their team play if it meant seeing more than one game. An example would be traveling to Toronto and Montreal or Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. What a road trip those would be for groups like Section 8.
One concern is that a 36 game balanced schedule would dilute the value of each game. However, nearly every league in Europe plays a 38 game schedule excluding the Bundesliga(34 games) and the Swiss Super League. La Liga(Spain), Ligue 1(France), Premier League(England), Serie A(Italy), and both the Scottish and Irish Premier Leagues all play 38 game seasons along with the national tournaments and the continental tournaments. For example, Manchester United across all competitive competitions played 60 matches. 36 games if scheduled correctly so teams were not having to travel coast to coast on road trips would be very manageable for teams to be able to still compete competitively.
Another concern is how scheduling will be effected with expansion. Europe shows that 38 game schedules and tournaments both nationally and continentally can work successfully. With MLS imminent expansion to 20 teams happening very soon that would mean that a balanced schedule would be 38 games long. This schedule would be tough, but it would mean more home games for teams and more revenue. More revenue would mean more to spend on talent. It would also mean more minutes to be able to give to younger players while balancing the tough task of remaining competitive and giving regular starters rest. This would add another level of strategy for fans to be able to criticize their coaches and managers.
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