One of the criticisms levied by US national coach Jurgen Klinsmann on the MLS was its resistance to adopt the FIFA calendar and get in line with just about the rest of the soccer-playing world. The American league plays the bulk of its season in the summer while European clubs and those in the Southern hemisphere mostly play in the winter.
The MLS has been reluctant to go away from its summer window for a variety of reasons but FIFA President Sepp Blatter hinted that could be changing soon.
Speaking on Monday in Toronto ahead of the U-20 Women's World Cup (to be hosted by Canada), Blatter said the MLS will make the move to get in line with the rest of the leagues around the world, he's just not sure when.
"(MLS) has taken the decision -- I don't know when they will start -- to adopt the FIFA calendar." = Blatter's exact words today in Toronto.— Duane Rollins (@24thminute) August 4, 2014
This would be a shift and would have a few big ramifications for the league.
For what it's worth, even the FIFA president can not be a completely trustworthy source on this.
When MLS prez Abbott was asked about Blatter saying MLS would join FIFA calendar, he got the look of someone asked about their crazy uncle.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 5, 2014
Without a doubt, the MLS has found its stock rising on the American sports landscape but it's still behind the major sports in this country in terms of attention. But what they have carved out in the summertime where the principal competition in the US (and Canada) is baseball and then things like golf and tennis majors, shouldn't be dismissed.
The league has found success in a season that doesn't have a ton of competition. The same can't be said for the FIFA calendar schedule which would coincide with football (both college and pro), the NBA, the NHL and yes, even the rest of the soccer world.
There's also the issues of stadium availability as some teams share stadiums (though not many at this point) and of course weather. It's pretty easy and comfortable to play games in Montreal, Toronto, New England, etc., during the summer. Move those games to times January or February? Well that could change the fan dynamic a bit. Certainly they could adopt some modifications we see in Russia and Scandanavia to bypass the truly awful winter time but it's still a drastic move from playing in July.
For a plethora of reasons the MLS has kept its schedule and you can hardly blame the league with the slow but steady growth following. It works and the summer has provided the MLS its best opportunity to gain a foothold.
However getting on par with the rest of the world as to when games are played makes a lot of sense too, especially when it comes time for international events. For example, the MLS season continued during the recent World Cup in Brazil as players were loaned to their national teams. It happens with other tournaments like the Copa America, the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup. That's not as much of an issue for the European and South American clubs.
Not to mention the other leagues around the world run almost non-stop and the MLS goes a good chunk of the year too, so really there is a lot of overlap as it is. But this would still present an adjustment and move the start/finish of the season to much different times than they are now in the MLS. Whereas the MLS Cup has been decided in December the past few years, the EPL will finish at the end of May and the Champions League Final will be the first week in June.
Who knows when this shift might take place -- or if Blatter is simply wrong, though you wouldn't expect that to be the case from the man that runs FIFA -- but it's going to be an interesting development to keep your eyes on now that it's gaining a lot more steam.
H/t Pro Soccer Talk