New England Soccer Today

Friday Crossfire: Is the expanded 34-game schedule for next season a good idea?

Every Friday, New England Soccer Today will tackle a pressing issue in the world of soccer. Each topic will be argued by a different writer each week,  with guest writers periodically appearing to add some flavor to the mix.

This week, our writers debate the following question: “Is the expanded 34-game schedule for the 2011 MLS season a good idea?” Arguing in the affirmative is Julian Cardillo, while Brian O’Connell presents the dissenting view.

YES. With the league expanding to 18 teams, the Revolution will have a longer season- the longest in fact in league history.  For the Revolution, this is a particularly good thing.  From a fan perspective, this change is exciting because it means more Revolution soccer throughout the year.  The change sees the season start March 19 and end October 22.

Secondly, the Revolution will have to find a quicker and more efficient way to prepare for the season with less time in between the start and finish of campaigns.  Finding a new system of prepping for the season could result in the Revs playing higher profile friendlies during the off-season to keep bodies and tactics fresh and ready throughout the year. Or maybe, Nicol will have to devise a specialized scouting crew as he wont have as much time as before- meaning we get a new perspective on signing talented players from around the world.

Finally, the Revolution have a longer time to get the message out and bring fans to the game.  Change can be good.

NO. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love soccer. The more, the better, at least in my book.

But in this case, I don’t believe it’s wise for MLS, as a business, to employ an additional four matches – yet. The league is expanding faster than the universe, which is all daisies and lilacs right now. However, let’s not forget the larger picture: we’re in a global recession. Does this really make sense? Unless Warren Buffett handed the league a blank check and I don’t know about it, the added games could come back to bite MLS in the butt down the road.

Moreover, the general consensus is that of the byproducts of MLS’s rapid expansion is the dilution of talent. And I suspect the same argument can be made in terms of additional games. A 30-game season is tough enough as it is, especially for many rookies who are used to the three-to-four month season in NCAA soccer. So I think you’ll see alot of players – not just rookies -hit a wall in August and September, which happens to be a time when playoff races start to simmer and the action should be at its sharpest.

Lastly, with more games, each one becomes less critical. Dilution of talent is one thing; the dilution of the regular season matches is another. It’s fair to say that most games from March to June are fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of the season (see: New England in 2006 New York in 2008 and Real Salt Lake in 2009) because of the wide-open, eight-team playoff format. And now the league’s adding four more?

If MLS wants a 34-match schedule, then fine. But make it tougher to attain a playoff spot. Oh, and let’s cool the jets on expansion in general so that the talent level we saw a few years ago can finally start to catch up.

Leave a Reply