Though this space is well aware that as long as Don Garber and the NFL crew are heading Major League Soccer, these changes will never been considered, let alone made, here is an argument for the shifting of the MLS season from a spring-fall schedule to a fall-spring version:
There are usually two reasons given for Major League Soccer’s spring-fall schedule: first, they don’t want to compete against the NFL for television ratings; second, it’s too cold in the United States to play all winter. Let’s take these each head on:
1. Major League Soccer does not compete against the NFL is any meaningful way. The television viewers tuned in to an MLS game are fractions, at best, of a normal NFL telecast. The idea that viewers are choosing only staying away from MLS when NFL is also on at the same time is laughable. Viewers almost never choose MLS over anything, even WNBA or professional rodeo. The second point here is that MLS is already ‘competing’ with the NFL. The most high-profile MLS games of the season, those final regular season games and playoff games, are all after the NFL has begun its season. Likewise, MLS is competing against college football from late-August through mid-November. How this is forgotten is beyond this space’s comprehension.
2. The weather. With MLS playoffs and cup final reaching into mid-late November each season and having championship games hosted in cities like Boston, Seattle and Toronto, MLS is already playing in very cold weather. This argument also ignores the fact that it is far worse (and more dangerous) to play in the 90+ degree weather that often comes in Houston, Dallas, DC, New York, Los Angeles and Kansas City. If anything, players would prefer playing in cold weather to hot weather. And as more soccer-specific stadiums are built with covered seating, the elements are less of an issue than they have been in MLS in the past with teams playing in completely open-air, American-style stadia.
Here is the argument this space believes in: Change the schedule of MLS to start in September and end in May. If the weather truly is too cold, take the month of January off. That would help avoid the worst of the cold and keep MLS from going up against the highest profile college and professional football games. Or focus the January schedule on weekdays and warmer-weather cities. By the time the highest profile MLS games take place, in this argument April and May, football of all kinds will be long past, baseball will barely be started, college basketball will be over and pro basketball will only be reaching the playoffs. Compared to NFL competition, even NBA playoff games are a much better match for MLS viewership numbers.
While the cold will certainly be an issue, it won’t be any colder than it is in Germany or England. Surely MLS clubs can afford a snow plow to clear their fields, if necessary. It happens in football all the time, so why couldn’t MLS make that work? Stadia like Red Bull Arena even have under-field heating systems.
Again, this argument is moot as long as NFL-based owners and executives run Major League Soccer. But this space believes there is at least a logical argument against the current system.