Recent weather a reminder that MLS winter schedule is a bad idea
Soccer, MLS

MLS winter schedule? No thanks

1/22/14 in Soccer   |   ZacWassink   |   74 respect

Dec 7, 2013; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen (1) celebrates after spray painting the wall after the 2013 MLS Cup against the Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park. Sporting KC won in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY SportsMajor League Soccer going to a winter schedule is a terrible idea. It was a terrible idea yesterday. It's a terrible idea today. It will be a terrible idea forever, world without end, amen.

Nothing, no bright idea agreed upon by a majority of analysts or some suggestion way out of left field, is going to change that. Any winter break longer than six weeks max will lead to American sports fans forgetting about a top-flight league, and teams located in cold climates not having homes games for months at a time will cause a dramatic dip in attendance.

Heck, attendance for MLS games was down in 2013 from the previous year.

MLS toying with the idea of going to a winter schedule, something that is likely to occur at some point every year from now on, is yet another example of the league not understanding just how small its audience is. Catering to the minority, MLS diehards in this instance, will have a negative impact on the league guaranteed.

Casual sports fans are not, minus a one-off, going to watch professional soccer games in freezing cold temperatures. Don't take my word for it. Go back and look at league attendance figures from last March if you want proof.

Assume, for argument's sake, that MLS resumed from a winter break at the start of February 2014. Here are the conditions teams and fans would have to deal with on restart day.

All forecasts are from the Weather Channel and are accurate as of the posting of this piece

New York/Philadelphia: How gloomy is the forecast for this part of the country? There are concerns about transportation to and the playing of the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in all of North America and one of the biggest in the world, which will take place in East Rutherford, New Jersey. There is a chance of snow, and wind chills are scheduled to be in the teens.

Toronto: The good news is that the chance of snow for the evening is currently hovering around 20 percent. The bad news is that temperatures would, at kickoff for any league match, be in the teens. That's not counting wind chill.

D.C.: Cold weather has hit the nation's capital over the past several days, and that trend is not expected to end over the next week and a half. As in the NY/NJ/Philly region, wind chills will be in the teens.

Columbus: It looks like Columbus and Toronto could be sharing weather conditions. There is a low chance of precipitation, but temperatures are expected to be in the teens.

New England Revolution: Surprise, surprise. Snow showers are possible around Gillette Stadium. It could be downright balmy up there, though, with temperatures in the 20s.

Chicago: It's looking like bad times in Bridgeview, Illinois at the start of February. Wind chills could be at or below zero. Ouch.

Kansas City: I have no doubt that one of the more loyal fan bases in all of MLS would turn up to watch a playoff game or cup final even if the temperatures dipped into the low 20s. Would those supporters fill the arena for multiple games in such conditions?

Colorado: Fans filled Dick's Sporting Goods Park last March to watch the United States Men's National Team play a World Cup Qualifier in a blizzard. History suggests that wouldn't be the case for a MLS regular season game, though. The good news regarding this exercise is that conditions shouldn't be too bad if the current forecast holds true; it would be in the mid-30s at a standard kickoff time.

There are, of course, several teams that would happily host MLS games in December through February; Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Chivas USA and FC Dallas aren't even all of them. Such a schedule, even with a winter break included, would make for every team in the league playing a ridiculous and unfair amount of consecutive away contests.

As it pertains to a winter schedule, MLS needs to remember that there is a fine line that separates being able to do something from that something being a good idea.

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2/25/14   |   ML31   |   3672 respect

Actually, I think the weather is a HUGE reason why MLS should not go to a winter schedule.  The fact is unlike American football traditional football in the US just hasn't caught on enough that people will show up in bad weather.  There are places that have trouble drawing for playoff games in moderately cool temps.  That says it all.  Perhaps in 80 years the league and game will be established enough that people will be coming out in all weather for games.  But it certainly isn't there yet.  And the idea of taking a multi-month break in the middle of the season just shouldn't even be considered. 

At this time the summer schedule with the occasional break for international play works best for this league.

1/23/14   |   w_g_walters   |   222 respect

The main reason a winter schedule won't work is none of the above. It's that there are already three leagues in action, plus college football. And you have to schedule around the NFL postseason and bowl games, which means a lot of poorly scheduled games.

i don't think weather is that big of an issue. While the southern teams would still get more home games, there can still be two or three for the other teams. It's not like you have to miss two months of home games, and TV ratings could go up.

In some cities, it won't matter. Seattle and Columbus will always get great turnouts. Big cities will have their population make up for it. The problem will be in smaller cities, where weather and other teams will get in the way, especially Portland. Throw in Chicago when da Bulls are doing well, as the warmer basketball venues will be calling. Summer, it's nice outside, which is why they play baseball, but there's a game almost every day, and it's seen as America's pastime. Add NASCAR and you a still have a problem.

I think soccer has made leaps and bounds since the NASL was "the" league, but there are still huge problems. And while pro soccer has started to find its niche, something has to give before it's there. Personally, I think the NHL is fading, and it will go in the next ten years. When that happens, MLS will probably go to a winter schedule at that time.