Friday, October 30, 2009

Message to the MLS: Join the International Bandwagon and More Fans Will Join Your Bandwagon

The summer of 2009 and recent World Cup Qualifying was a great stage for MLS to showcase its talent Internationally. More and more MLS players are getting call-ups and making solid contributions to their national teams at tournaments like the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup, and even World Cup Qualification. Such exposure is invaluable for the MLS' reputation as a serious league. At the same time, to many, those same tournaments have highlighted that the league is still more of a joke than an established league, known more for the past-their-prime retiring stars it attracts, than for the young talent it develops. One of the biggest reasons for the poor perception is that the MLS does not modify its schedule to accommodate international breaks.

Unlike the majority of "big" soccer leagues in the world, the MLS continues to schedule and play games while its brightest stars are called off to international duty. As a result, the quality of play in the MLS declines and the teams with the best players are punished. One has to wonder, for example, what the Colorado Rapids' playoff fate would have been had Connor Casey not been on extended internationlal duty with the U.S. National team?

The bottom line is that such scheduling, and the legitimacy problems it creates, is unacceptable and easily fixable by MLS executive. All that would be required to solve this problem would be to insert a few, two or three week long, breaks in the MLS schedule during the periods when international games are being played. It is really a question of will and logistics rather than ability; leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and Serie A all accomadate the international schedule. If MLS wants to be taken seriously by the world, then they must start adjusting to the international schedule like the rest of the world does. Until they do so, the league will continue to struggle to consistently produce quality play and players, and average American fans will continue to look elsewhere for entertainment.

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