MLS Should Adopt a European Calendar To Progress and Promote Its Soccer?

Craig FarrellCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: David Beckham of AC Milan sits on the bench before the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round, second leg match between Manchester United and AC Milan at Old Trafford on March 10, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In recent years, football has taken giant leaps in America. Look no further than what the USA national football team was able to accomplish in last year's Confederations Cup.

An unprecedented 2-0 victory over European champions Spain and a narrow defeat in the final to Brazil opened footballing eyes to the talent and commitment that the USA team possesses.

Football in America has become more popular than ever. The arrival of David Beckham has brought the Major League Soccer brand over to Europe and, for the first time ever, MLS merchandise is on sale in European stores.

David Beckham has done the majority of his work off the pitch for Major League Soccer. Beckham's role in the MLS has brought the league across the Atlantic and into home and store in Ireland, England, and further on throughout Europe.

Major League Soccer needs to grab hold of this momentum and build on it. They need to use this as a foundation for progressing their product in other countries as well as developing further interest at home in the league as well as in the sport as a whole.

How do they do this? Adopt the European football calendar!

As it stands, the Major League Soccer calendar runs from late March through late October. The season is then prolonged into late November for the teams that qualify for the MLS Cup.

The European calendar varies slightly from country to country. The difference is usually a two-week gap at the most.

The European calendar would start in either mid or late August and finish in mid or late May.

If a team is unfortunate enough to have to go through the Europa League qualifying stages then their calendar starts in late July.

Basically, the MLS calendar begins in the closing months of the European calendar and then finishes in the opening months of the following European calendar.

The problem this causes for the MLS is it inhibits them, to a large degree, from bringing in top quality, high profile players from other leagues, be it on loan or permanent deal.

The two major windows for signing players in Europe is the preseason transfer window (June to August) and the midseason transfer window (January to February).

For the preseason window, the MLS is already three months into their season and one would hope they have completed all their teams' needs.

For the midseason window, the MLS season is finished.

Another problem this causes is if a player wants to stop playing his football in Europe and move to America to join the MLS he must do so during the MLS offseason, which would be more than halfway through a European season. Or else he can do it when the European league he is taking part in is over, which is three months into an MLS season.

Another issue that arises from the crossing of calendars is players who still wish to perform for their country.

This was a major issue in regards to David Beckham.

If a European player begins to play football in America but still wishes to play for his country, there is a long spell, when the MLS season has concluded, where the player would need to be fully fit for international duty.

This was the reason for Beckham joining AC Milan and is arguably the reason why he got injured.

At the end of the day, David Beckham will miss his chance to go to the World Cup with England and the L.A Galaxy are left without one of their star players.

Also, if David Beckham had remained fit and was chosen in the English side, the Galaxy would have missed Beckham for up to seven weeks depending on how far England went in the World Cup.

Every team in the MLS will lose any international player they have on their side that is called up for the World Cup 2010 for a minimum of three weeks, and depending on how far their country went they could lose them for up to seven weeks.

If the MLS changed to a calendar more in line with the European calendar, they would not lose any of their players because the World Cup would be taking place during their offseason.

The MLS calendar is a month shorter than the European calendar so they would have wiggle room to maneuver their season around major events such as the Super Bowl, etc., by simply playing midweek games or by adding a bye week that week.

Up until the 2000-01 season the Scottish league used to have a winter break. This break was usually the entire month of January. So it is more than plausible for the MLS to run bye weeks around major events to ensure they do not clash with them.

If the MLS was to align their calendar to a European-formatted calendar it would make signing high profile players much easier, with less of a financial burden.

If the MLS was able to bring in more high profile players they would be able to help the league as a whole progress and mature. The high profile players would also benefit the younger players coming up through the ranks, and would help improve the quality of play in America.

The bigger the names in the league the bigger the crowds, and the more attention the MLS receives in Europe.

There is talk of Real Madrid legend Raul and Chelsea's German midfielder Michael Ballack among others thinking of a move to the MLS.

If a calendar change was implemented it would be easier for big-name stars to move to the MLS, and it would also open up the possibility of MLS teams loaning big-name stars for a season or half a season.

If Major League Soccer was to adopt the European calendar, they would reap a thousand rewards.

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