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Why Does MLS Play During the International Break?

SPOILER ALERT: A Simple Solution From The Rocky Mountains

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one thing I have discovered since I started following Major League Soccer over a decade ago is that the league is going to do what it wants, when it wants, and does not care what you think.

A Single Table: Nope

Soccer Specific Stadium:  Required, except if you are from New York and you have a boatload of cash.

Promotion/Relegation:  Nope

I have written about this know how stupid it is that teams have games during the break.  Take for example our beloved Burgundy Boys dropping a 2-0 road decision to Vancouver Whitecaps.  Now, you can argue that maybe the Colorado Rapids were not going to win regardless, but it would have been nice to have Dillon Serna and Maynor Figueroa there, both of whom were on International Duty.  And Kevin Doyle had just gotten back from Europe after spending time with the Republic of Ireland team for their Euro 2016 qualifiers.  Sure Doyle played in the second half, but after traveling from Europe to Vancouver, I can't imagine he was too fresh.

And if you support the USMNT, you know that clubs are forced to choose between sending players for International Matches or keeping them for playoff runs.  Toronto FC and Sporting Kansas City come to mind when decisions for Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Matt Besler.  Missing players changes games and in a season where every point is crucial, I hate the idea that one of these breaks will, pardon me here, make or break a season for an MLS club.

(And lest any Rapids fan forget--Serna will probably be called up for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in October and will miss the Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact matches--at a minimum)

So can this be fixed?  Can MLS 'shut down' during the International Breaks?

In a word: yep.

So I broke out the ole Commodore 64 and fired it up and started to do some research on this and I first pulled up the FIFA International Calendar for 2016.  I found the following "International Breaks" for 2016 (Each Match Date has up to two matches that can be scheduled with the exception of Euro 2016):

March 21-29

May 30-June 7

June 10-July 10 (European Championships)

August 29-September 6

October 3-11

November 7-18

If you eliminate the Euro 2016 Championships from the MLS calendar, there are a total of five International Breaks that hit during the 2016 season (including playoffs).  Five.  Total.

Some disclaimers here:  I do not know the 2016 season for MLS (when it starts and when it ends).  I know that there are financial considerations when it comes to scheduling a season.  There are stadium scheduling issues.  And we all know that the Rapids do not draw well at all during mid-week games.  I get all of this.  But my proposed solution is just that: a proposed solution.  I am not saying it is the way to go, just a possibility.  And remember this is a Soccer Dreaming article, so I can dream if I want to.

For the sake of making things easier, I am going to go with the generic "Match" rather than road games or home games:

Week International Break/Match Games Played On
February 29-March 6 Match Sat or Sun
March 7-March 13 Match Sat or Sun
March 14-March 20 Match Sat or Sun
March 21-28 International Break N/A
March 29-April 3 Match Sat or Sun
April 4-April 10 Match Sat or Sun
April 11-April 17 Match Sat or Sun
April 18-April 24 Match Sat or Sun
April 25-May 1 Match Sat or Sun
May 2-May 8 Match Sat or Sun
May 9-May 15 Match Sat or Sun
May 16-May 22 Match Wed and Sat or Sun
May 23-May 29 Match Sat or Sun
May 30-June 5 International Break N/A
June 6-June 12 Match Sat or Sun
June 13-June 19 Match Sat or Sun
June 20-June 26 Match Wed and Sat or Sun
June 27-July 3 Match Sat or Sun
July 4-July 10 Match Sat or Sun
July 11-July 17 Match Wed and Sat or Sun
July 18-July 24 Match Sat or Sun
July 25-July 31 Match Sat or Sun
August 1-August 7 Match Sat or Sun
August 8-August 14 Match Sat or Sun
August 15-August 21 Match Sat or Sun
August 22-August 28 Match Sat or Sun
August 29-September 4 International Break N/A
September 5-September 11 Match Sat or Sun
September 12-September 18 Match Sat or Sun
September 19-September 25 Match Sat or Sun
September 26-October 2 Match Sat or Sun
October 3-October 9 International Break N/A
October 10-October 16 Match Sat or Sun
October 17-October 23 Match Sat or Sun
October 24-October 30 Match Sat or Sun

So there are just four International Breaks in the 2016 season that would impact the regular season which leaves 31 weekends that teams can play.  That means a mere 3 mid-week games (and for simplicity, we will say Wednesday).

To recap:  Each MLS team would play on the weekends 31 times and mid-week 3 times.

And because of CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) play, I would propose all of those midweek games late in the Spring or early in the Summer.  And by doing it this way, kids are generally out of school (in the summer) so they would be able to attend matches.

Simple, right?

Well, in Major League Soccer, nothing is simple, but this is just one proposal.  One option, I guess.   Is it perfect?  Meh, I will leave that up for others to decide, but the idea of not playing during the break and hopefully not impacting playoff races is too much to pass up.  I want the playoff places to be fairly decided by full strength squads.  Not a mish-mash of players tho are filling in.  Yes, depth is critical, and teams should have this.  But you also want your best out there as much as possible, and if a simple scheduling change can make this happen: let's do it.