Tuesday, September 14, 2010 |
With news that the Russian Premier League is moving to the same schedule as non-Scandinavian Europe, those pushing for MLS to adopt the same calendar have yet another opportunity to voice their opinions. And for the first time, they may actually have a leg to stand on. With this switch, which will occur by extending the 2011 season to likely play each opponent club three times, Russia will become the coldest country to play a fall-winter-spring season.
To date, the standard for playing in Europe appeared to be an average high of 40 degrees. Very few matches in Europe occur in cities when the average high is below 40 degrees. This average temperature is never even approached in Mediterranean climates like Spain and Italy. The averages in France, England and most of Scotland never reach this temperature. Germany and the Netherlands keep their leagues at 18 teams allowing them take a brief break during their coldest days. The more extended breaks in Denmark and Ukraine are accomplished by the same means for the same purpose.
Because Russia has only a 16 club top flight, their premier league can, and likely will, take a two month winter break. However, nearly every city housing a Russian Premier League club has average highs in both December and February that are below freezing. As such, it will become the first league to regularly host games at temperatures below freezing. This move has implications on the possibility of moving the US to a fall-winter-spring schedule.
A lot more went into the decision to have a spring-summer-fall league in MLS than just the weather, but the ramifications of the Russian move should be monitored. With a 20 team league on the horizon, MLS would not be able to schedule a winter break and continue to have a balanced schedule. Therefore, matches would need to be played throughout the winter. Currently, half of the teams in MLS play in cities with average highs in January of below the old standard of 40 degrees. New England, Chicago, and Toronto, all have addition months under 40 degrees. The addition of Montreal will increase these numbers and place a team in the league that has three months (December, January, and February) of average highs below freezing. Additionally, Toronto average high in January and February is below freezing.
There is a lot of talent in the Russian Premier League and, like MLS, it has the capacity to grow as a league. If the added demands and increased injury risk of playing so many cold weather matches drives talent out of the league, it may serve as a warning if MLS were ever to attempt the move. However, if the Russian league continues to attract top talent and grow, the weather may no longer be an excuse to not move to a fall-winter-spring schedule for MLS.