22 October 2011
Posted in MLS
A couple weeks ago new US National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsman spoke to reporters about some of the problems with MLS. One of his main points was that the MLS season is too short. Currently the MLS season runs from Mid-March to Mid-October. He believes MLS needs to lengthen their current 8-month season to be more competitive with the rest of the world. In a previous article I wrote about expanding the season from the current balanced 34 game schedule to a balanced 36 game schedule, this along with more time off for World Cup qualifiers and off days for more tournaments both continental and national ones, could help lengthen the season without taking away from the value of each game.
Adding more games will automatically lengthen the season so moving on from that I will look at the other ways to lengthen the season without taking away value from any of the regular season games. One of the ways to lengthen the season that has already been discussed is making sure to have breaks scheduled for all World Cup qualifiers. This is something that I think we are guaranteed to see next year. These breaks will mean that not only will players be able to play for their national team, but will also mean that the US national team will not be competing with MLS for viewers and TV spots.
Another way to lengthen the season, add value and not devalue the regular season is expanding both national and continental tournaments. First is the US Open Cup, all US based teams should be entered in the tournament every year. For next year this would mean a 32-team round where all 16 US based MLS teams enter. Along with all teams entering the tournament more emphasis should be placed on it. MLS needs to find a way to avoid the debacle that was the NYRB versus the Chicago Fire. NYRB did not value the tournament enough to send their head coach or even a full squad. Instead they sent a lackluster lineup of reserves and were easily defeated 4-0. One way to do this would be to raise the $100,000 prize money to one that will better entice teams. Second is the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS recently has put a higher emphasis on this tournament and currently has this tournament heading in the right direction. MLS and CONCACAF could improve this with better promotion throughout the US. Currently many casual soccer fans in America might not fully understand this tournament and the competitiveness of it, so more explanation of the tournament and it’s meaning could entice more viewers to watch. Third would be to have a tournament on the level of the Europa league, this would help provide all teams a chance to compete for a continental championship and could provide another avenue of entrance into the Champions League. This would also provide more competition between MLS teams and leagues from Central America.(Superliga) Finally would be a smaller tournament that would include only the top team from each league in both North and South America. This would help better promote the league not only in the US, but worldwide, as South America is seen as being on a completely different level than that of MLS. This tournament might be the hardest one to get started, but could be the best chance at seeing MLS teams compete on a competitive level against some of the top teams on this side of the Atlantic. In this new tournament every top-flight league would be granted one team into the tournament. CONCACAF would enter 9 teams into the tournament; 10 teams from CONMEBOL would join them. To even out this tournament to 20 teams the winner of the Champions League would also receive a bid into the tournament. If that team were also the winner of their league then the runner-up of their league would also be granted a bid into the tournament. The teams would be split into 4 groups of 5 teams with the top two from each group moving on to an 8 team tournament with home and away match-ups until the championship game which would be played at a neutral site picked from all cities submitting bids to host the game, rotating each year from North to South America.
These tournaments could add value to the teams by introducing them to new markets worldwide and generate more interest in the league in both Central America and South America, with the addition of the new competition between North and South America. These tournaments would also be able to lengthen the season as Coach Klinsman believes is necessary for MLS to be competitive on a worldwide stage.
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