According to reports, in both the 2010 and 2011 MLS campaigns, MLS as a league finds itself third in average fan attendance within the professional sports landscape in America. Only the NFL and MLB average more fans per game than MLS. MLS has eclipsed the NBA and the NHL in average fan attendance domestically.
MLS also ranks eighth among the global soccer leagues in average fan attendance. Given those kind of facts and understanding the reality that MLS is a more than successful league, is it now time to see the MLS join the traditional FIFA calendar and stand as equals with the other top tier leagues? Should the league at least compromise with the calendar considering the league’s now certain emergence as a world class league?
The Houston Dynamo will host Real Salt Lake this coming Thursday. Eight players will be missing from that game between the two teams because of international commitments. 45 players from MLS have been called away from their respective teams for international duty overall this period.
Which means, for the next round of league games and possibly into the round after that, several MLS teams won’t be at full strength in what is now possibly the most important part of the season as MLS teams fight for playoff births and seeding.
Most global leagues take a break from their league games during the FIFA international periods. Whether it be for friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, or other competitions. In not following the FIFA international calendar schedule and in turn not taking a league break, MLS doesn’t do their teams any favors as they then are forced to field lesser teams because of depleted rosters during a vital part of the season.
MLS as a league also doesn’t present the best possible product to the paying consumer, who has more than helped raise the notoriety of the league, during these international periods, with so many players from the league being international level players.
What should MLS do going forward given its growing stature domestically and globally in trying to adhere to the FIFA international schedule? Should the league’s growing status influence a change within their current operations or philosophy? Should the league maintain the current league status quo for better or for worse? And ultimately, if not now, then when will the league be primed to look at the changing or compromising of their schedule?