The World's Game, The Wrong Way?
Sepp Blatter is a fool.
Yeah, breaking news, right?
A few years back, Blatter made himself loads of friends in the feminist community when he suggested that female footballers would be better off wearing kits with more sex appeal. If Blatter had his way, something like this would become standard issue. Hey, it's already got some serious crossover appeal, right?
Well, good ol' Sepp is back to his ridiculous shenanigans.
He recently said if MLS wishes to compete with its European counterparts and attract world-class superstars, the league needs to adopt a standard August-to-May schedule.
This idea seems harmless enough on the surface, but anybody who is even remotely familiar with winter weather patterns in MLS cities can tell you that this is a terrible idea.
Sure, players in Houston, Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles would be able to take the pitch without missing a beat. Those cities enjoy December temperatures that are usually hovering around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
There's a reason we send our elderly down South in the winter.
But take a look at a city like Chicago or Toronto. This is where Blatter's plan runs into serious problems.
In Chicago, the average high during the month of December is 35 degrees Fahrenheit. That's usually coupled with roughly nine inches of snow and strong winds, a fun mixture for every football match.
Compare Chicago to the English city of Newcastle. Even though Newcastle is located fairly far to the north, it enjoys temperatures during December that are downright balmy compared to the northern portion of American. Newcastle's average low temperature in December is still three degrees higher than the average high for Chicago.
Things get even worse in Toronto. Toronto's average December temperature hovers around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, below freezing. How well do you think any footballer would perform if they were forced to play on a pitch that's covered in ice?
The teams in New York and New England wouldn't fare much better. If you're a fan of the New England Revolution, are you going to want to go to a match when the streets look like this?
Holding such a large portion of the season during the winter months would cripple MLS attendance figures, rendering any potential superstar signings completely irrelevant, if they were to happen at all.
If I'm a European football star, the threat of playing matches in over a foot of snow is going to outweigh the allure of playing in a league that schedules matches around summer international fixtures.
Every major European league already plays an August-to-May schedule, so why leave that for the same schedule coupled with noticeably crappier weather?
It's beyond me.
Most cities in the northern regions of America don't dig themselves out from winter until late March or early April. That's why early-season MLS matches tend to have fairly low attendance. Naturally, it would be a great idea to take those low attendance numbers and replicate them for three or four months during the season.
Yeah! Having terrible attendance figures for half a season each year would be a great thing for a league that's still trying to grow! (Can you tell that I'm really excited by this idea?)
Putting MLS matches during the fall and winter months would have another unfortunate effect: It would put MLS in direct competition with the favorite league of blue-collared Americans everywhere, the NFL.
You can go ahead and ask the USFL how well that works out.
Thankfully, Don Garber and the powers that be in MLS are ignoring Blatter's pleas...for now. Garber is smart enough to realize that making such a major change in this stage of the MLS' development would cripple the league. He recognizes that a few international conflicts is a small price to pay to ensure the survival of a still-growing league.
Blatter seems incapable of such lucidity.
You may notice that there are a few other leagues around the world that operate during the summer, and Blatter says nothing. The Russian season runs from March to November to avoid the same cold that halted Napoleon in his tracks. The FAI League of Ireland follows roughly the same schedule.
Ditto for the Tippeligaen and the Allsvenskan.
Seems a little hypocritical that Blatter would only pick on MLS.
If he's serious about wanting the MLS to attract a better class of player, then he should be suggesting loan deals for players in the youth ranks at European clubs, or abolishing the salary cap.
Sepp needs to realize that a schedule that works in Spain, England or Italy just isn't going to work in a massive country like the US. There's too much variation in the climate to allow for winter success.
And Garber needs to realize that Blatter is a fool, and continue taking his suggestions with a grain of salt.
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