News, The Angle

Fixing The Weather: A Way to Deal With the Disparate Climates Facing North American Soccer Clubs

by on 28 August 2018

Last week, there was a thread going around about how MLS should adopt a fall-spring schedule, using average temperatures as a data point to support this idea.

While many of my fellow Minnesotans were very critical of Brian Costin’s work, and it does have some faults, he’s not wrong in one of his initial assumptions: it’s too hot in the summer to play soccer down south, and winter, the best time to play soccer in the region, is not utilized at all by teams.

Summer in the south is terrible. It’s either hot, stormy, or hot and stormy. It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit at the scheduled kickoff for of Minnesota United FC ‘s game in Dallas last week, but the match was delayed for two hours because of a thunderstorm in the area.

I’m actually on board with this line of thinking. Southern teams should be playing home matches in January and February when the temperatures and weather are perfect for playing soccer outdoors.

Costin’s reasoning slips when he suggests northern teams, specifically Minnesota, Toronto, Chicago, and Montreal, could find ways to schedule matches in the winter during this time. Obviously, here in Minnesota, outdoors is out of the question, but then he throws out the idea that a team that just spent north of 200 million dollars to build a stadium would play at US Bank Stadium.

Plus, summer is a fine time for teams to play in the north.

So, how do we reconcile these two contradictory issues? Have teams play on the road for two months out of the year?

Well, my suggestion is, kinda.

My proposal is based on several basic ideas:

  1. League play should be important
  2. Knockout tournaments are fun
  3. Teams want to be able to plan ahead to better sell home matches
  4. MLS teams need more competitive matches in which they can play their youngsters

A big inspiration for this schedule is Brazil, where teams play in a national competition while also competing in state level competitions, as well as Europe where the de jure playoffs (Champions League) run concurrent to the following season.

The solution is to create two knockout tournaments, one in January/February, and one in July, with the league taking a break during these tournaments.

The tournaments would be mirror images of each other. In January/February, teams would contest the Presidents Cup, a 32 team tournament modeled after the World Cup. Out of the twelve southern most teams, the top eight teams is MLS the previous season would be placed in the first pot. The clubs would host all pool play matches, thereby rewarding them for their league play.

In July, the top seeds would be the best eight northern sides, but the tournament would otherwise run exactly like the Presidents Cup.

The league could fill the remaining eight spots with international clubs or lower tier clubs from the United States or Canada. The winners of each pod would move on the knockout rounds, with the final played over Presidents’ Day Weekend or the last Saturday in July.

The winners of the two cups would qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, giving the tournaments more weight and value for players and clubs.

Host teams would have plenty of time to sell tickets to the pool play, and they would be able to host matches when the weather is best in their locale.

Having teams stay in one location for pool play would reduce travel costs and the pool play can be condensed to about 10 days or so.

There is more that needs to be done to make this work, but I for one would love more competitive club matches and more knockout tournaments built into U.S. and Canadian club soccer.

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