Monday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter made waves saying that MLS would be switching to the international calendar in step with leagues like the EPL. Back in December MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that MLS would not be changing its schedule, but that it would be something they would look at in the future causing many to doubt the comment on Monday from Blatter. Tuesday, MLS president Mark Abbott refuted Monday's statements from Blatter.
"I saw the comments, we didn't have a chance to talk to [Blatter] about those," Abbott said, "What I'll say today is what Don said last year, which is we looked at it last fall. We concluded that, at this point in time, it is not a change that we could make."
So much for the calendar change.
The EPL season runs from the middle of August 2013 until the end of May 2014 this upcoming season while the current MLS season kicked off in March and runs until MLS Cup which usually lands at the start of December. Part of the reason the MLS schedule runs the way it does is to avoid that harsh winter months that are found in the Northern parts of the country. Just ask fans and players about last year's playoff game between DC United and the New York Red Bulls and had to be postponed due to a bad snowstorm. Or ask international fans who went to the Costa Rica USMNT game in Colorado lovingly called the snow game. It gets a bit cold and snowy in the winter in parts of the country. While it gets pretty scorching in the southern parts of the country in the summer (hello Houston) the schedule often works around this. This time of year games played in Houston are often played in the later parts of the day, but the team also finds itself on the road a lot this time of year.
Could the number of southern teams that are being introduced as expansion teams factor in to this down the road? Absolutely, Tuesday in Houston high was 91 while in Miami the high hit 93 while Atlanta and Orlando hit 89. This means we will have four and possibly five, depending on where the four expansion team goes, teams that will need to have evening games depending on the construction of their stadiums and the cooling systems they have in place. Of course they can always enact water breaks like the NWSL did a few weeks ago.
Not changing the calendar wasn't the only piece of news that Abbott put out during his talk with media on Tuesday. When asked about promotion and relegation coming to MLS he said that it would 'never' happen. While never is a long time it is hard to see a change anytime in the foreseeable future.
For owners to be willing to sign up for relegation they would be taking a huge financial risk in the event that their club got relegated. It would seriously affect their ability to sign long term TV deals and it creates larger problems signing long term jersey sponsors. MLS teams already have big enough problems with these issues without an added monkey wrench thrown in. Most of the stadiums being built for MLS are being built using city/public funds. Teams opening themselves up to relegation may cause cities to be less inclined to build stadiums and if you want in MLS you better have a shiny new stadium.
Teams have to find success under the American model not the English one. Casual fans in American aren't going to gravitate towards pro/rel when playoffs are what they understand and what they want. When their team is terrible they want the first pick in the Super Draft in hopes of finding a rookie who may turn their club around. While a rookie to an MLS isn't always what a rookie can be for an NFL or NBA team fans looking to get into the sport will most likely come with that mindset. Current 'fans' who want to see a change often times aren't even fans of MLS at all, but fans of European league's who think that the European way is the only way. Few offer ways to make it a viable system in the US only that pro/rel is the way to go. The lower leagues in England were far stronger than the lower leagues in the US when the pro/rel system was created. While the MLS partnership with USL-Pro will help to strengthen it they are the third tier in the pyramid of US Soccer.
Is there a way to make pro/rel work across MLS, NASL and USL-Pro perhaps, but under the current lay out it is hard to see one. But hey we don't need to worry about that right? Because Abbott said it would never happen and never always means never right?