Why an MLS move to the international calendar wouldn’t just be bad, it’d be destructive.

First of all, I am getting to this dreadfully late. I’ve been just hammered at work and with travel and thus have been terribly behind on writing here on the site. I am reminded by the saying my old Ohio State journalism professor Rose Hume used to bat dated story ideas down.

“This is a newspaper, not and oldspaper.”

Well, this is an oldpaper, my apologies.

Okay, so a week or two back there was brief blip of non-news after the Russian league decided to move itself to the standard FIFA/UEFA calendar. My good friend Brian Straus (Fanhouse) and I tweeted a bit about it and I said that beyond all the very difficult logistics of deciding to shift the entire calendar of your league’s matches (though not impossible, after over 100 yearsBritish Rugby League went to a summer calendar in 1996), the biggest problem with an MLS move to a European calendar is that it would completely undercut clubs’ abilities to promote themselves both in advertising and the media. Here’s why.

Let’s start with the media issue. Quite simply, it’s already really hard for most MLS teams to get themselves media coverage in the printed versions and even online versions of their locality’s newspapers. While it’s definitely better than in the league’s early years, it seems self-evident to me that moving the calendar into the meat of football/basketball seasons would immediately shove coverage of MLS to notes pages and agate columns, if not out of the section all together. You don’t have to have worked in journalism to see how the industry is hurting, all you have do is look at the reduced page and ad counts of major dailies like the Washington Post, USA Today, and Boston Globe, to name only a few. MLS would have to be suicidally dumb to think that its stature is such that its exposure wouldn’t take a major hit by forcing it to compete for space with coverage of the professional/college football and basketball.

Beyond print media, a winter move would almost certainly punt MLS out of any local news sports reports, an anachronism yes, but one still viewed by many people that I would perceive as casual fans. Additionally, you would waive goodbye to what few seconds MLS already receives on Sportscenter and other mainstream ESPN programming like SportsNation, PTI, etc. There’s also the issue of finding time around ESPN’s near-constant broadcasts of NBA, college football and college basketball to get MLS’ live broadcasts on the air. That already difficult task would be made nearly impossible if the calendar changed.

Finally, a move to football/basketball seasons would make it far more difficult for MLS clubs to buy advertising time in local print/TV/radio. The NFL is one of the few things that virtually guarantees large numbers of eyeballs/ears and as a result, TV/radio stations and newspapers raise their ad rates knowing that companies want to get their logos in front of one of the last large male audiences left in the media landscape. Will MLS clubs be able to advertise as much, if at all, if forced to pay the NFL-inflated rates?

Finally, I know there are some of you saying to yourselves that MLS doesn’t need any of this because online media is going to replace it all anyway. You’re wrong. The internet (especially in sports) is a narrowcasting medium, to people already interested in the subject of the websites/social media they’ve already surfed to, whether it’s pro soccer (Bigsoccer), snarkiness (Deadspin), or undignified sucking up to B-list celebrities (Kyle Martino’s Twitter feed). Coverage and advertising in seemingly anachronistic places like newspapers, local television and even radio are opportunities (especially in the advertising deadzone of Summer) to expose MLS to potential new fans. MLS, as an “emerging” league, simply can’t afford to turn those opportunities down.

Seriously though, I don’t think we’ll ever see promotion and relegation in MLS and I view it and its proponents as annoyances. This is different. I actually worry that the league could, in a fit of arrogance, actually try this and that it would be really, really destructive on the league and sport’s ability to promote itself in this country.

See, I managed to get through an entire column about MLS possibly aping Europe without calling anyone any names… except for Kyle Martino – soccer’s less funny, more feminine version of Chelsea Handler.


19 thoughts on “Why an MLS move to the international calendar wouldn’t just be bad, it’d be destructive.

  1. I agree. I cannot wrap my mind around people that think this would work. Aside from the NFL, NCAA bb &fb, and NBA, you have high school versions of both sports (high school football is huge nearly everywhere) and hockey. sure the NHL may be down from its heyday, but it’s still big. In the spring you could add an increasingly popular NCAA lax schedule (the championships are second only to basketball).
    As it stands right now, MLS competes with three leagues for fans & air time – Major League Baseball, Arena Football League, and Major League Lacrosse (and the last two aren’t much of a competition). Sure you could throw the WNBA in there too, but…

  2. If they went to an international calendar, then maybe we could begin thinking of SuperLiga as being something besides a nuisance.

  3. Glad to see you’re back!

    I honestly can’t see MLS being that foolish to move their calendar. Even in their most cocky and brash of moments, they have to have more sense than to go against the almighty football triumvirate (NFL/College/HS). It sucks having to go to games in 15,000° heat with 1,000% humidity, but it’s better than not being able to go at all.

    I also read the ESPN piece you put on twitter. Very good read.

  4. As much as that sucks, could you imagine going to a game in Boston, New York, Toronto, Montreal, or really any northern city in January?

  5. Exactly
    The heat sucks, but baseball fans have been doing it for over a century… But not having soccer in the US would be infinitely worse.
    And that would be far worse than the heat we deal with now. Chicago pretty much blows in January. Kansas City is an icy death trap. I can only imagine how bad Toronto & Montreal suck in the winter…
    I’m thinking so too. I’m thinking that the teams at the top are looking at our various sports leagues and the KHL with envy. I would not be surprised if a serious attempt is made for a permanant continental super league.
    I have to think that UEFA and/or FIFA money grubbers are the only thing stopping such a beast. They’re afraid that their hands will be forcibly removed from the cookie jar that is the Champions League should such a powerhouse league arise with no rotating teams.
    Even without that scenario, the big money teams have probably contemplated stopping pro/rel. I’m certain discussions have been held in Germany, Italy, and Englad at the very least. What the American system lacks in community tradition, it more than makes up for in cold hard cash. Money rules Europe too.

  6. And you didn’t even bring up the worst bit about it: your non-diehards are not going to attend a game to see the Revolution play in 20-degree weather in Foxboro.

  7. MLS is a third-tier US sports league that will be comprised of a mixture of veteran international players, some elite US players and a mix of “developmental/journeyman” players from all parts of the globe. Attendance will range from 12K-25K, with modest media coverage.

    That’s what it is is boys and girls. Deal with it. No need to change the calendar, no need to talk about pro/rel, and the playoff format will remain, “open for discussion” until they find the sweet spot that maximizes the profile of the league (you don’t think they really care about the “integrity” of the championship, do you?).

    But…there will always be another generation to come along and try to convince us otherwise. Good night and good luck.

  8. a schedule that limits the tv comp.

    Right now we compete with opening day of base ball and then the nfl.

    The reason the summer tournaments, and tours do so well is there is no competition on TV.

    Its to cold in Jan and Feb. so start in March.

    and its too hot in august so need to finish by then.

    the real advantace is the transfer market.

    Player A gets no playing time in Europe the first half of season, so transfers to MLS in Jan. in time for preseason, then plays awsome and goes right back to club at the begining of august.

    Player B lights up MLS, leaves or transfers in August to Euro club, only to sit the bench the entire first half, then he just come back in Jan.
    via transfer or etc.

    Everyone wins.

  9. I’m I missing something? MLS is currently competing with opening weeks of NFL and a pennant race in MLB! Oh, and don’t forget for the last two years MLS opening week has been on opening tip-off with March Madness. This is the common problem that most of you guys who follow MLS. MLS and soccer for that matte will never, ever compete with the American Money Leagues. MLS has to cater to a nitche market and they are refusing to do so because they are trying to convert the American sports fan. Thats why we see Conference System, MLS Cup Playoffs (which I enjoy), All Star Games, etc. So, to say they should not rotate its schedule because of too much competition is complete crap. MLS is in the final weeks of the season and they are competiting with NFL, MLB Playoff Push than World Series etc.

  10. I was waiting for someone to mention this. Plus MLS players will be free in the summer time for the WC, Gold Cup, transfer market, & Confederations Cup.

    Going to sporting events in the snow is a great reason to tailgate and get plenty of fuel in your system.

    Playoffs in May will get better coverage than in October.

  11. No they won’t. If the MLS playoffs are in May, they have to go up against both the NBA and NHL playoffs, as well as MLB, and that’s not something the MLS in interested in. In October, they go up against early season NHL and NBA whose numbers aren’t as dominant as April-June. They only go up against the middle of the NFL season and the MLB playoffs. Also, the season would run directly against the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA football and basketball. It’s not worth the risk when your regular season only runs against MLB.

    I don’t know where you live, but it’s not the snow that they’re worried about. It’s not pleasant to be outside standing, chanting, and screaming when it’s 33° with 15 MPH winds, and that’s just a typical Philadelphia winter. It gets much worse in places like Columbus, Toronto, and Boston. It’s not exactly Palm Springs out there.

  12. I don’t think cold temperature is a good argument to why they shouldn’t move to the international calendar. Look at the rapidly growing Danish Superliga and other Scandinavian leagues. They get through the cold and snowy winter months with ease. To be honest I don’t think it would make a difference competition wise, because at different points of the season as it is now, it competes with alot.

    Since its a small-time league it should remain as is, its not like they’re competing with top-flight Euro clubs for superstar players.

  13. The best part about having MLS on a summer schedule? For American soccer fans, it means year-round club soccer! MLS from March-November, and then you can follow Euro or other leagues during the winter months. It’s the best of both worlds.

    Here’s hoping we never change.

    You meant the former…

  14. weather bad, too much competition bad, no more landon to everton loan type deals anymore bad. i actually agree. toronto fc hosting a game in early february? urine extraction?

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