MLS Schedule Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | View Comments

- Jason Davis

It's MLS schedule day. After what seems like an interminable wait, we'll finally know when everybody plays everybody else. While being careful to point out that it will likely have some give to it for TV concerns, the announcement of the schedule is the last piece of the 2011 puzzle. Slot it in, and we're just about ready to go with Year 16 of this wacky experiment.

The complaining surrounding the "delay" (the use of the word "delay" implies that there's an accepted standard which the League failed to meet - does such a thing exist? Does releasing the schedule a week later than they have in the past constitute a "delay"?) will end soon, thankfully. In its place we'll get a low-level moaning about midweek matches, particularly if those (necessary, but we'll get to that in a moment) midweek matches are of the rivalry variety, or if the League insists on putting midweek games on FIFA official competition matchdays, like will happen on March 29th.

Some of those complaining have every right in the world. They're season ticket holders, potential season ticket holders, part owner of season tickets, journalists covering the sport, or just people who want to be able to buy tickets to a match or two (which you can do at TixDaq, I hear), and are ready to schedule their soccer days out. After all, Henry and Beckham will only be scheduled to visit once each.

I get it. The moaning, complaining, kvetching, and taking shots at MLS by calling it bush while at the same time passionately supporting one of its teams is part of the experience. We want the League to do better, so we shovel out the criticism when it "fails" to meet our expectations of how a top class competition should run. After 15 years, we're all convinced that MLS should have its shit together. They probably should, on most fronts.

There are complications, of course. Brian Straus laid them out at Fanhouse (while drawing conclusions I'm not entirely on board with, but that's mostly a splitting of hairs). There's a television contract still up in the air, making it difficult to complete a schedule with nationally televised games properly placed for maximum effect. If the choice is a schedule released closer to the start of the season than we would like or a better TV contract that will benefit the League in the long run, a bit of a wait is preferable.

Two new teams enter the fray, and stadiums that don't open until the season is already underway make for headaches. Friendlies, still a boon to MLS in terms of money and visibility, clog up the summer months. Making room for them is a concern for the League and the clubs, but not necessarily for the passionate fan. Naturally, that will lead to hostility.

While I have an intellectual understanding of what generally goes into making a schedule, I know that there are variables on top of variables that make the process much more complicated than it seems. I've never tried to make one myself, nor would I want to try. It's obviously not as simple as drawing chits from a hat, and no matter how it's done there will always be issues that prompt complaints. Some of those complaints will be myopic in nature. Others will gain traction because they involve TV, travel, or place a team at a competitive (dis)advantage, causing a ripple effect in the standings and stoking fires in fan bases. On one hand, it's a good thing people care so much. On the other, it's tiring to have the League in a damn-if-they-do-damned-if-they-don't situation.

Whatever. We'll finally have a schedule today, and I won't even let the expected grousing over so many midweek games (which we knew was coming) bother me. I'll do my best not to let the haters smother the excitement. I expect the majority of fans will do the same.

Steve Davis called this problem "growing pains." MLS is just as awkward and clumsy as any 16 year-old.

Oh, right. MLS owes us a playoff structure announcement, not to mention that TV thing. If the former isn't forthcoming alongside the schedule today, complaining on that front is completely understandable.

All that being said, and my complaints about the complaints now lodged (and I've said that the League needs to make an attempt at explaining the delay, even if it just sounds like excuses to most people), a February of this is better than what we were doing this time last year.

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