Monday, August 02, 2010 |
Steve Davis (no relation) related tentative MLS plans to pump the league schedules up to 34 games last week; with Vancouver and Portland coming in, that number would represent a balanced competition where every team plays home and away with everyone else. As I'm a huge fan of the balanced schedule, the idea sounds good on the surface. It's just the practical issues that get in the way of my being enthralled.
Fixture congestion is even now taking a toll on MLS team; while it wouldn't be right to say that the Galaxy's poor run is coming as a result of too many games, it's clear that packing in the matches is stretching a team that previously dominated the league. The dog days of summer are here in force, slowing down play and creating the sloppy, overly-physical matches that give MLS so much of its negative reputation. Adding games but not extending the window for those matches to happen will only give us more of the same.
And if clubs are going to continue with the summer friendlies to bring in cash, the reality of more midweek games is going to hit hard. As Davis mentions, travel and weather make a the number of games here just a little different than a comparable number in Europe. When it's 100 degrees and injuries have hit as they always do, teams will find it difficult to maintain a reasonable level of consistency. For those teams competing in the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition most of us believe is important, more league games midweek will make it more difficult to perform well. If MLS is serious about winning the CCL, there needs to be some concessions made to the stress more games will put teams already struggling to make waves in it.
The easy answer is to expand rosters, but that only helps if teams are able to spend more on quality players. More league matches will make the US Open Cup even more of an afterthought than it already is, if that's possible; even fans of the tournament might have trouble justifying a serious effort on the part of their teams.
More soccer is usually a good thing. Balanced schedules are a good thing, especially when paired with a single table (which we're still not getting, apparently), and more teams naturally means more games if everyone is to play everyone twice. But MLS has some practical concerns to weigh, and there are no easy answers; if the window is not extended, than four more MLS teams equals more of what makes the league unpalatable to many soccer fans.
More money is all well and good, and balance is a great thing. The league just needs to be careful how it handles these changes. With Montreal coming in and team 20 not that far off, these issues will need to be dealt with in short order.
Although, I wouldn't mind more soccer to watch during the week when next year rolls around.