MLS ’13: The Unbalanced Schedule: A Year In

As most of us know the new Major League Soccer Schedule announcement is always an exciting day for an MLS supporter. When to plan road trips, those big rivalry games against those sides that you want to beat so badly and so on.

But for the second season in a row the uneven Schedule has returned. Once again, the main question has always popped up, who or which conference has the advantage when it comes to this type of scheduling. Well right off the bat I would say it’s the East and here is my reason why.

mlsseasprev2013take3 150x133 MLS 13: The Unbalanced Schedule: A Year InMost of the cities in the East have the advantage of easy travel when it comes to those sides from Washington DC all the way to both Montreal & Toronto when it comes by train. From between a few hours up to half a day, teams like the Red Bulls, Union, DC United and the Revolution are usually within a reasonable travel day from their most common opponents.

Some of these stadiums are either a few blocks away or a transfer to local transit like the Metro in DC, SEPTA in Philadelphia, the PATH Train at Newark Penn Station, and so on. Trips to Columbus, Chicago, Houston & Kansas City are obviously plane trips. Don’t forget it would be via Rail in Canada between Montreal and Toronto.

But when it comes to the Western Conference you could see some form of train travel when it comes to Los Angeles, San Jose and possibly a long road trip to the Cascadian Northwest. But once again the plane rides to most of these cities or towns outside of Los Angeles and San Jose are considered to be the favorite.

But if you really believe that the traditional Schedule should be returned, then that will probably happen once that twentieth side comes around sometime down the road. Whether it be this supposed second New York City side, or down in the Southeast in Orlando, Atlanta or elsewhere is anyone’s guess.

But the one thing I felt that Major League Soccer did with the tradition schedule back in the 2011 season was absolutely absurd. Forcing a team in the east within two weeks to play away matches starting off in the Pacific Northwest for two games, then a cross country trip to the Central time zone, back east for a US Open Cup match and then back to the west coast in Silicon Valley.

That was a grand total of five games, four on the road with changing time zones within a two week period. This type of scheduling can work in the NBA or the NHL, but sadly this doesn’t work nor should it be considered ever again for an MLS side.

I understand from those who support a proper schedule from start to finish that we should get back to that, but at the moment this version will be more regional focused and I don’t mind it. But when it comes to those special match days that should be used for World Cup Qualifying and no league interference, sadly that annoyance has returned.

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30 Responses to MLS ’13: The Unbalanced Schedule: A Year In

  1. K says:

    MLS is always going to have credibility problems with American fans who watch European leagues if they continue with the conferences and unbalanced schedule.

    Once the league has 20 teams they need to go to a single table and a balanced schedule. There are a lot of American soccer fans who want a league to follow and want to look at the table and see whose winning the league at any given moment.

    Soccer is not American football. We don’t need divisions and conferences.

    • Charles says:

      That is true, however many of us don’t want the casual fans like the ones who follow the Euro joke leagues to watch MLS.
      First thing out of there mouths is sign Lampard. Not really the league I would like to see. Not really the fan I want to sit next to.

      MLS has decisions to make and most are going to be driven by money. Luckily this idea of an unbalanced schedule was ruled to save more money and attract less of the casual Euro fans (who think they AREN’T the casual fans).

      Are we six days away ? Sweet !

      • Earl Reed says:

        Charles - I think having all types of fans for MLS would be fine. I think if it went single table and balanced schedule, I think the current fanbase would embrace it, and those who have been loathe to some of the pandering towards the established American sports culture (conferences, concentrated multiple fixtures with “rivals,” drafts). I think MLS has the chance to write its own history from both a soccer/futbol perspective, and an American sports perspective. Heck maybe embracing what the Latin community has done (which NASL is also implementing) is the way to go. It’s evolving, and we have to acknowledge that we should take the best path forward regardless of whether it’s a Euro idea or an American idea. We just want the best, most exciting domestic league we can have while winning more and more fans to the game.

        • The original Tom says:

          Earl- Totally agree. I’d also add that we are here and not on a NHL forum in part becase we like soccer more, but also in part because of disatisfaction with North American leagues.

        • The original Tom says:

          Oh, except I do hate the split season idea. But I am comfortable/resigned to an unbalanced schedule, the distances are huge here.

        • Charles says:

          Well you are not speaking for me. I love all the American sports in addition to soccer. Soccer is just my co-favorite with basketball.

          And for other fans. I really like sitting next to a lady whose favorite player is/was Roger Levesque. We have something in common. The casual Euro league fans end up being tools, to put it blunt.

          Sitting next to guys like K, who just whine all the time about the league ? I would rather the league be small. I am happy if it stays right here. It won’t, but I would be fine.

          Moving more towards the joke leagues in Europe ? No question I would chose smaller. At this point, I don’t know how anyone can argue with that, it would be beyond comprehension.
          I had a free trial to Fox Soccer, so I watched a team that is in second, but 15 points back, cruise to victory against the 3rd place team, who is 19 points back.
          Exciting stuff, but I will pull myself away for MLS on Saturday. Thank God my trial ran out and MLS is starting !!!

          • gbewing says:

            Charles explain please why European Leagues are jokes- are you saying they aren’t good? I think there’s room to support MSL but also appreciate most of the best players in the world are somewhere else. In basketball isn’t it the opposite -European fans follow the NBA and still support their local teams but realize the best in the world are in USA. I don’t think that makes anyone a bad fan. I watch EPL every week, I am a season ticket holder for my MSL team and enjoy both experiences (I don’t spend the MSL game whining about the league and never have heard anyone else either) but I can appreciate the differences-

            I do agree we are our own culture and sometimes we try to much to duplicate other’s culture which is silly since we are a melting pot to begin with- everyone’s culture mixing in here. I see us far more aligned with Central and South America in regard to MSL than Europe- but don’t get so rigid you become intolerant-every other sport has casual fans -what’s the issue?

          • Charles says:

            Too late on the rigid thing, where were you in 1980 ?

            Correct, I think the Euro leagues are terrible. They do every thing to get all the good players on the select teams, so that only the Euro playoffs are exciting to watch.

            You sure you are a season ticket holder ? MSL ? You talking the indoor league ?

            You can say every sport has its casual fans, but you admit they are not the tools wearing their Chelsea jerseys on casual Fridays, correct ? They are more of the Mariners are hot, we should go catch a game and cheer for our local team type.

          • The original Tom says:

            I don’t watch the NBA very often, but maybe I would if they played 40 games instead of 80, they didn’t have TV timeouts, they had 20 teams, and relegation! I like hockey, but the NHL season is way too long and meaningless to be bothered.

      • K says:

        Euro jokes leagues?

        Not sure what you mean by that.

    • Lysander says:

      Soccer is not an american football… but north America is a contenent with far more than 20 cities.

  2. Lysander says:

    Cascadia travel… all three cascadian cities have rail travel with easy access to the stadium. Ignoring border issues you are looking at about 3 hours to either city on rail from Seattle.

  3. Cavan says:

    For those who wish to return to the 2011 schedule, remember why MLS adopted the current unbalanced schedule. The travel was killing the players. Vancouver had the most miles on them of any pro team in the world. The other U.S. pro leagues also have unbalanced schedules for the same reason: reduce travel costs. Fans also want to see the rival teams more.

    This isn’t a matter of what the other leagues do or don’t do or who’s pandering to who. It’s a simple fact that MLS teams are the most geographically spread out of any league in the world. What works for England, France, Argentina or anyone else doesn’t work here. We have to figure out what works for us. Remember that England (not the whole UK just England) has a similar land area to Pennsylvania. France has a similar land area to Texas. Most of Russia’s population is in an area between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River.

    Different schedules for different scheduling realities.

    • K says:

      what’s killing the players is MLS LLC controlling how often teams can use charter flights. MLS LLC prohibits teams from using more than 4 charter flights per season all in the name of fairness.

      This is another problem with single entity and lack of club autonomy.

      I think the travel issue is overblown when you consider there isn’t much difference in travel with a balanced schedule vs an unbalanced one.

      With 20 teams and a balanced schedule you would have 19 road games.

      If you look at Vancouver’s 2013 schedule they already have 19 road games.

      • K says:

        i meant to mention that the difference is when you factor mileage between clubs they play 3 times vs clubs they play once it adds up to the difference in mileage between those 3 flights. It’s not much of a difference and its certainly not worth it in my opinion to scrap the proper league structure over.

      • Charles says:

        That is just wrong and dumb. The Sounders dropped thousands of miles. I think it might be 10s of thousands of miles.

        • K says:

          do the math. Show your work

          • Charles says:

            No thanks there are plenty of articles out there showing it already. Type in then search from there ;-)

          • Coconutmonkey says:

            Seriously dude? Specific numbers aside aside, if you can’t imagine that Seattle taking half as many trips to the East coast substantially cut down their mileage then we can’t help you.

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      Woa woa woa.

      Dealing with geographical realities in a growing league is one thing, but if you think it’s because the fans WANTED it, you haven’t been paying attention for the last several years.

      • Cavan says:

        I dunno. None of us are in D.C. are complaining about seeing rival Red Bulls and Union more than Real Salt Lake and Vancouver. We don’t like the Red Bulls and the Union. The players on United and the Union seem to dislike each other even. Playing Chivas or Dallas or the Rapids is about the three points, nothing more. Playing the Red Bulls and the Union is about Mid-Atlantic regional pride.

        We weren’t clamoring for it but we’re not opposed to the unbalanced schedule either.

      • Charles says:

        I wanted it.

  4. The original Tom says:

    I like a balanced schedule, but i understand the need for regional scheduling at this time. If I had my preference we would schedule in Pods. That means Colorado would play Kansas City and Real Salt Lake (and maybe Dallas?) an extra time and some far flung teams less. Regardless of division/conference.

    Then the cross regional rivalries could still play twice- like LA/New York and Vancouver/Toronto.

    • Cavan says:

      How are your pods any different than divisions? You’re saying something like the NFL has with it two conferences and four divisions in each conference. It’s not a bad idea.

      I don’t know where you’re getting the LA/New York rivalry from. New York’s rivals are DC United and the Philadelphia Union. LA’s rivals are the Earthquakes and Chivas. The only rivals I can think of that are split up by the current east/west configuration are that Canadian teams and the Texan teams.

      • The original Tom says:

        No, still just two divisions, ideally with one bracket play-offs.

        KC and Colorado also are not in the same division, but quite close. The rilvals don’t have to be permanent- LA and NYB are current rivals because they have high profile players and get good TV ratings. Doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

        PS- I still don’t understand why Houston are in the east.

        • Coconutmonkey says:

          Count me in the single bracket camp. I wanna see a Seattle LA MLS Cup!

          As for Houston, It was either them or KC to the west. I’m just going to assume that it made more sense logistically. Plus, they’d only have to go one time zone over as opposed to two.

          • The original Tom says:

            But they are both in the East! Why couldn’t Houston be in the West, and then the west would have 10 teams? I just don’t get it.

  5. Charles says:

    Did you hear Garber yesterday ? Did he say NY is 20 and we are done. No, he mentioned the next 4 after that.

    MLS is on the verge of having 24 teams and will have more after that. They are not going to keep a balanced schedule. Period. It has almost never been balanced and it never will be again. Period.

    Are people still going to be begging for balanced when MLS hits 30 teams. Lord, I hope not. Although the same guys will still think Pro/Rel is going to happen, so I guess it will still be there.

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