The Oz Blog View about stuff while living in the Land of Oz

3Jul/13Off

Sporting KC and KC Royals Attendance Comparison

Five separate times in 2012, the Kansas City Royals and Sporting Kansas City hosted home games on the same day as each other, a few of which had overlapping game times.  In each of those instances, the Royals drew more fans through the gates than Sporting.  Some games were close in attendance, such as on April 14 where Sporting drew 19,422, compared to the Royals who drew 21,788. Other games were more like May 5, where Sporting pulled in 20,404 and the Royals saw 29,121.  In all during 2012 the Royals drew 31,157 more fans than Sporting did in the five games.

Fast-forward to 2013, when the initial schedule came out that five home games for each of the two teams would be played on the same day, all with overlapping game times. For Sporting, there has since been an additional Open Cup game on May 28th and a CONCACAF Champions League match on September 17th tacked onto their schedule.  Three of the overlapping games have already taken place. On May 5th, Sporting hosted Chivas USA to the tune of 18,811 fans while the Royals hosted the Chicago White Sox with 16,462 fans. This is the first time that Sporting has drawn more fans than the Royals, but will it be the last?  The second game was on May 26th when Sporting hosted the Houston Dynamo with 20,876 fans and the Royals hosted Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with 24,475 fans.  The third game so far was May 28th when Sporting hosted the Des Moines Menace in front of 15,621 fans while the Royals host the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 27,833 fans.

Upcoming games include today July 3, when Sporting hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Royals host the Cleveland Indians. On August 10, Sporting will host the New England Revolution and the Royals host the Boston Red Sox. On September 7, Sporting hosts the Columbus Crew and the Royals host the Detroit Tigers. On September 17, Sporting hosts the Real Estelí FC, from Nicaragua, while the Royals host the Cleveland Indians.

Will it be that Sporting can out draw the Royals this year or in the future?  I don’t know if it will get to that point this year, if ever it is not very likely.  If the Royals ever return to their winning ways then they will have a following that fills the stadium that is bigger than Sporting at the present time.  As far as 2013 Sporting has to make up 13,462 fans which I also don’t see happening.  If you take out the May 28 games then it is much closer, Sporting is just behind 1,250 fans which is nothing that can’t be made up.  This will also depend on if the Royals are able to stay in contention throughout the year.  If they are then they will begin to pull more and more fans into the stadium and drive up their attendance.

The whole reason of this post is nothing more than just pointing out that the attendance is good for Sporting but even as bad as the Royals have been playing they are still pulling more fans.  If the Royals contend will they begin to pull fans from Sporting?  As we have seen peoples entertainment dollar is only so large so some fans will have to choose.  Will Sporting be able to still sell out games if some fans choose to go to the Royals instead of Sporting?

It will be interesting to see if this city has two teams that are contending for playoffs if the city can support both in the way of attendance.  When the Chiefs start up that is another team that will pull people away.  People say that Kansas City is a great sports city it looks like we will just see how good it is.

13Mar/13Off

Sporting KC & Orlando City Player Loan Update

Since the last blog about Sporting Kansas City and the Orlando City SC player loan, Sporting KC has signed two new players. Defender Mechack Jerome and Midfielder Christian Duke were added before the season started. Here is a quick look at both players as far as a loan to Orlando City.

Mechack Jerome - Mechack has been in the game day 18 for the 1st game of the season for Sporting Kansas City and made an appearance as a sub for Myers. With that evidence and the fact that I highly doubt that Sporting KC would sign a player just to loan him back from where he came from.

Christian Duke – Christian was drafted as a supplementary draft pick after spending time with Sporting Kansas City academy. Has not appeared for Sporting KC on the first team yet in his young career. Would not be shocked at all if he does in face go on a loan to Orlando City.

With the two additional players and seeing the game day 18 for two games it is a bit easier to have an idea on who will be going to Orlando City on the season loan. I fully expect to see Dom Dwyer, Kevin Ellis, Kyle Miller and Yann Songo’o be the four players to go on loan. Could see Mikey Lopez but with his Generation Adidas contract that would surprise me.

13Feb/13Off

Sporting KC and Orlando City Players Loan

When the announcement came out a month ago, January 23rd, about the agreement between MLS and USL Pro a lot of talk has come about what that meant for MLS teams.  Sporting KC announced an affiliation with Orlando City SC later the same day and with that comes four players that will be on loan from Sporting to Orlando City for the season.  The preseason began on February 9th with the regular season for Orlando City begins on April 7th the regular season ending August 17th then they have playoffs after that.  Any players then that go out on loan would probably be around the middle of March and them come home anywhere from middle of August to beginning of September if the schedule holds like last year.

 

The topic of what players are loaned with being discussed between both teams and this is done with no insider information.  I have went through the roster of Sporting and come up with 18 players that I see as having no chance of going out on the loan.  These players are Jimmy Nielsen, Eric Kronberg, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic, Lawrence Olum, Josh Gardner, Graham Zusi, Peterson Joseph, Paulo Nagamura, Oriol Rosell, Benny Feihaber, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, Bobby Convey, Jacob Peterson, and Claudio Bieler. All of these have the potential to start or be a key sub. That leaves Jon Kempin, Kevin Ellis, Ike Opara, Yann Songo’o, Michael Thomas, Kyle Miller, Mikey Lopez, Soony Saad, and Dom Dwyer as the four players that could go on loan. Here is a short look at all the players.

 

Jon Kempin – Jon played in one first team game, verses couincely Orlando City SC in the US Open Cup, he also did play in some reserve league games this year and the past.  I can see him being loaned if the OCSC goalie is not back but if goalie is back then there is no reason to loan him out to sit on the bench.

Kevin Ellis – Kevin seems to be the primary back up to Myers on the right hand side unless Peter Vermes deems that Josh Gardner can cover Right Back also.

Ike Opara – Ike played in half of the MLS regular season with San Jose. Would seem to be the four ranked, fighting with Lawrence Olum third rank position, Center Back on the team and with Matt Besler getting United States Men National Team looks I would be surprised to see him go on loan.

Yann Songo’o – Yann is a new player to the team and MLS.  With him being young, not a whole lot of experience and at a deep position on the team in Center Back, he would be a player that the loan could be good for.

Michael Thomas – Michael is one of the easier players to predict on where he will end up , the fact that he played some in the first team and would the sixth Midfielder on the team should help him.  He could benefit from playing more but with Zusi and possibly Feihaber playing some USMNT this year is more likely to stay.

Kyle Miller – Kyle made no first team appearances and while having some time in reserve league and the two friendly’s he would be a good choice to send to Orlando City if Sporting feels that he can make a difference in a few years.

Mikey Lopez – Mike is a hard choice to be made, could he grow by going on loan absolutely but being a Generation Adidas player his contract doesn’t count against the salary cap. I can see this going either way and depending on what other players are going who knows where he will end up.

Soony Saad – Sonny is a player that I almost had on the safe list but one that I would be shock to see go on loan.  He played in a few games with the first team and with Kamara leaving I don’t see him leaving.

Dom Dwyer – Dom was denied a loan to St. Mirren of the Scottish Premier League. At the time was the partnership between MLS and USL known by Sporting? Possibly, which may be the reason why the loan was denied.  Even with Kei Kamara on loan for the first of the year and maybe the whole season, Teal Bunbury hurt until the summer time, I still think Dom Dwyer will end up being one of the players on loan to Orlando City.

 

After looking at each player listed above and also taking into account the USMNT games through the World Cup Qualifies and Gold Cup and first team schedule with League, Open Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League, Sporting only having four players on loan instead of a full reserve league schedule is a good thing.  When both teams get together it will be interesting to see what they both need and who they want to send down to further develop and help Orlando City.  Unless there are some incoming players through Free Agency or Supplemental Draft pick signing, i.e Christian Duke, with this roster I think Yann Songo’o and Dom Dwyer are locks to head down to Orlando City.  The next most likely player to be heading south to me is Kyle Miller he is the odd man out with Mikey Lopez in the Midfield some due to Mikey Lopez’s contract as a GA and his ability to play in more of the attacking role.  The last player could be a couple different players but if Orlando City is interested I think Sporting would like to send Jon Kempin to get some playing time if Orlando City is not full at goal keeper if not Jon Kempin then Mikey Lopez would be the logical choice.

20Aug/12Off

Q & A with Craig Rocastle

I was recently able to exchange e-mail with Craig Rocastle and ask him some questions regarding his past and future. I want to first thank Mr. Rocastle for taking the time to answer the questions and be willing to in the first place. As you know Mr. Rocastle was with Sporting KC be being let go, returned to Greece and now has come back to play with the Missouri Comets. I for one can’t wait to see him play this year and hope that what you read brings a little insight to who he is.

(Q) You were just in Kansas City a short time yet you decided to return here after the year in Greece is there any particular reason or just something about the city hit you the short time you were here?

(R) Coming to Kansas City in 2010 my plan was to be here for a long time and despite my injury in the Gold Cup June 2011 which ended my 2nd season with Sporting KC I still considered Kansas City as home. I met my girlfriend here and we've just had a baby girl May 2012. I did return to my former Greek team in January 2012 for their 2nd half the season to play games and get my form back after the surgery.

(Q) From what I have been able to research of your career this is your first time that you will be playing indoor soccer are there part that you are looking forward to and also part you are not looking forward to?

(R) As explained to a lot of people soccer outside the United States is really the number 1 sport so growing up you play it every day, everywhere possible. So yes I’ve never played indoor as a profession but it is something I’m very comfortable doing. The Missouri Comets is a great organization, who have treated me so well and I’m hoping to repay it back with success.

(Q) If the chance came up would you like to return to a team that plays outdoors?

(R) I had options but I needed to make the best option for my family and this deal after 3 months of thought made the most sense for all parties involved. Being a parent you have to provide stability and there is a lot of places I would not want my child to grow up in and there are also places where my girlfriend could not continue her career in. We are all very happy with the decision made it is a new beginning.

(Q) As you climb in years above 30 and your career start to wind down is there one last football goal you haven't reached yet that you can see you accomplishing?

(R) There is nothing I have not done in my career so far that I did not dream about doing. I am grateful for what I have achieved and I'm sure I'll continue to achieve more because I'm healthy and still have the hunger. I have just started my coaching session’s #FocusOnTheGain which is doing well so far and I hope to expand this into a small academy in the near future.

(Q) After your playing career is coaching what you envision and want to do and would you focus more on academy age groups or do you want to get in a professional level?

(R) Both! Right now I'm coaching all ages on a 1 on 1 basis and also coaching a U9 team at Topeka Select 'Comets' and I really enjoy it. I've been approached to do a lot more now I've decided to stay in Kansas and I'm exciting about building my academy in the near future.

As for the professional side of things I'm building my coaching portfolio and getting the necessary qualifications to be certified so if an opportunity at a professional level is there I'll be ready to accept.

 

Filed under: Blythe, Comets, MISL, Soccer No Comments
20Feb/12Off

MISL Comets Playoffs

Today MISL announced the Central Division Finals schedule for the Missouri Comets and Milwaukee Wave.  The first leg will be hosted by the Comets on March 9th at 7:35 p.m. CT while the second leg will be hosted by the Wave on March 11th at 3 p.m. CT.  Now while it probably will not matter the third leg (mini-game) will be also hosted by the Wave immediately following the second leg.  I have a few questions as to why this has already been announced when the Division winner has not yet been decided.

For the Comets to win the division they would have to win out and the Wave would have to lose out.  The Wave has three games remaining, first the Syracuse Silver Knights on Wednesday then two games in Independence versus the Comets.  The Comets only have the two games against the Wave left.  So it may seem a bit like a long shot but stranger things have happened in the world of sports.

Since the host has already been decided will it take the competitive nature out of the final two games?  I am not saying that the Comets will not play hard in front of their fans but they don’t have anything to play for.  The prize for winning a division has already been taken from them.  (I have not found anything about a trophy but please correct me if I am wrong.)  The Comets are coming into the home stretch injured after missing three players before the last game started and losing two players during the games.

On February 12th on twitter the Comets announced that they would host a playoff games on March 9th.  Now was this because the thought of winning the division was possible but not likely or was it because they had already come to the agreement with hosting what game. With the Independence Event Center schedule then it would not be surprising in this.  There is a high school playoff basketball game on the 10th and a Missouri Maverick ice hockey game on the 11th.  If they played the game on the 10th then they could probably fit it in but if they did that would they also play the 9th in Milwaukee or would it make more sense to move that game up to the 8th.  That would not fit in the MISL playoff game dates.

In the end it is what it is.  We can’t determine what the MISL does for the schedule.  I don’t think that in the end it will matter where the games are played.  You have to play at each arena once. The only thing that will matter is if you have the play the third mini-game.  We will certainly know more next weekend after both games and then get to watch the playoffs unfold.

18Jan/12Off

Sporting KC Jersey Sponsor Idea

There has been a lot of talk lately about Sporting KC getting a jersey sponsor for this coming year.  With the Chicago Fire announcing the sponsor ship from Quaker Oats for reportedly approximately $2.5 million per year for three years talk have again rising about the state of Sporting KC’s jersey sponsor.  A lot of the fans would love to see a local business be able to be on the front of the jersey.  While I also would like to see this happen the list of companies that can afford this amount of money to be placed into their advertising budget shrinks that list significantly.  That being said I have a suggestion for people that want a jersey sponsor but also want it to be a local business.

Breaking down the Chicago Fire’s deal it is approximately $75,000 per league game. Now if you add in that there will be at least one US Open Cup game then that number drops to just above $71,000 per game.  The deal is for the year not for just game-by-game bases so the better that they do the more games you will play and the more the sponsor will be seen.  This would drop the game cost average but that is unknown at this time.  If the Chicago Fire were able to win the US Open Cup, 5 games, and the MLS playoffs, 6 games, then the cost per game would be approximately $55,500.

Taking this average of cost from the Chicago Fire deal and making it a round number of say $75,000 per league game could Sporting KC then find multiple sponsor that would be willing to buy the league games?  You can divide of the number of league games however you want and create packages for the sponsors to buy.  This would make it more feasible to the jersey sponsor to remain local.  Can a local company like Boulevard Beer afford to sponsor say a 4 game package compared to a 34 game package?

Now this does not take into account the US Open Cup games, any friendlies, and MLS playoffs.  I imagine that you could come up with sponsors just for those select times.  Create a US Open Cup package and an MLS playoffs package.  The sponsor could just pay for the games played but knowing the max amount that it could cost if the team went to the final and agree to pay that amount.  This way the team is not left without a sponsor in the final, or scrambling to find one at the last minute.

I, like a lot of people, would like to see local business like Boulevard Beer, Hallmark, AMC Entertainment, and Cerner, just to name a few be on the front of the jersey.  These are businesses that perhaps do not want to or are not able to spend the $2.5 million per year that Quaker Oats just did but could sponsor 4 games at $300 thousand.  This is all just a thought of how to keep the sponsor local while getting a sponsor in the first place.  I am sure the Sporting KC is working on this and knows better than me how to complete a jersey sponsorship.

14Jan/12Off

CCL Changes

CONCACAF announced yesterday changes to the way the Champions League will be run starting next year. They have done away with a round and added every team to group stage.  The teams will be divided into eight groups of three. While this may not seem like huge news to everyone I feel these changes certainly affect each country differently and the two biggest beneficiaries are the United States and Mexico.

The reason that clubs from the United States and Mexico benefit so much is that the earliest they can meet is the quarterfinal round. Now this is not to be taken as that it is impossible for teams from outside these two countries to qualify for the quarterfinals but I think any US club that does not have to play in Mexico would have a better chance. There seems to be a mental block on US clubs, at least until recently, that travel to Mexico. They just can’t seem to win versus these clubs.

This is obviously a ways off, first game is during week of July 31, so there will be time to look at the exact teams and see which has the best chance. But I think that all of the US teams have a better chance to make it to the quarterfinals next year then they did this year.  Now does this mean that a US team can finally win the league? Well the more teams that you have in the knockout stage the better chance you have.

This should be a fun league to watch and fun trips for all the clubs that participate. I can’t wait until Sporting KC makes it to the CCL and we can start talking about trips to Caribbean and Central America.

Filed under: Blythe, MLS, Soccer No Comments
9Jan/12Off

Q & A with Andrew Wiebe

 

I was recently able to send a few questions to Andrew Wiebe (Twitter: @AndrewWiebe_MLS ), Sporting KC beat writer and New Media Editor at www.mlssoccer.com, about the length of MLS season compared to the English Premier League mainly but the rest of FIFA also.  Andrew was nice enough to take the time to answer them and get back to me.  If you want to frame of reference or more discussion on the topics please take a look at my other two posts on www.fromthelandofoz.com.

 

Q: Do you feel that the MLS hurts its talent and competitiveness by having such a long break from the end of one season to the beginning of the next?

A: It's been said plenty already, but the point bears repeating: Major League Soccer's footprint isn't all that much different from the English Premier League, the standard bearer when comparing our league to the rest of the world. I know Jurgen Klinsmann gave this talking point some serious momentum with his comments following the 2011 season, but I don't buy it for the most part. And that's not me simply sticking to the company line.

Comparing the 2012 MLS season to the current EPL campaign makes my point for me. Premier League fixtures start and end on the 13th of August and May this season, meaning there are almost exactly three full months of offseason to work with in the English top flight. Obviously, the MLS postseason skews things a little bit on our side of the Atlantic, but since more than half the league participates, it isn't quite as drastic as people would like to believe.

In 2012, MLS will play from March 10 to December 1 (not including CONCACAF Champions League). That means nearly nine months of play. Sure, it’s slightly less than the EPL (by just 10 days), but that makes sense because MLS plays four fewer regular-season games per team – essentially a month of action. Preseason starts in mid-January, so we are talking about around two months off and as little as a month or so in select cases. Plus, most teams continue training for a few weeks after their season ends, whittling that down time even further.

So is it valuable for rising stars, players with high ceilings and whoever else can find an opportunity to train or go on loan abroad during their down time? Sure. But that was happening long before Klinsmann took possession of US soccer’s top job. It's just been publicized heavily since he made his opinion known, and his connections (and desire to see national team hopefuls train abroad) have opened doors to players who may have taken the time to rest and recharge during previous offseasons. For me, this is an argument born of the idea that Europe does it right and MLS does it wrong without really examining the nitty-gritty details. It just doesn't hold much water in my opinion.

 

Q: In your opinion what is the coldest temperature that competitive soccer can be played in without hurting the attendance figures clubs can draw to their matches?

A: Certainly, a huge part of the puzzle regarding playing games in the dead of winter is the game itself. You can't play with snow/ice on the field or on top of a frozen pitch. Along those lines, it is nearly impossible to maintain some stadiums and fields during the winter months as well, especially if you are expecting to play top-level soccer in those facilities (see BMO Field).

Realistically speaking, though, this is about the fans and whether they are willing to brave the conditions on a regular basis. Who is heading out to a January/February game in 80 percent of the league's markets? Not many people, that's who. How many owners want to put on a game without any butts in the seats? They don’t exist.

While the quality of the games and facilities would be a huge concern in the winter months, the real issue here is attendance. There just isn’t a compelling argument that I’ve heard to play into December, January and February, especially since the offseason isn’t as long as some would like to believe.

 

Q: In your opinion would setting up a winter league in Arizona and/or Florida help a player that are not able to secure training stints or loans to Europe?

A: I'll go back to the first question on this one. If players want offseason training opportunities, they can find them with the help of their agents and clubs. And if they don't go that route, it isn't as if they are sitting at home on a fast-food diet, burping and scratching themselves all winter.

These guys are professional athletes for a reason; they are motivated, driven to succeed and dedicated to their occupation. I think a winter league is just over thinking things. Who runs it? How do you determine who plays? Can you actually get enough guys to make it viable? More importantly, do the clubs actually want their players in an environment they can't directly control?

Probably even more importantly, what is the cost/benefit ratio of funding such a venture when players have plenty of (better) alternatives at their disposal?

 

Filed under: Blythe, MLS, Soccer No Comments
5Jan/12Off

MLS Schedule Ideas

In my previous blog I posted about the lengths of break that MLS teams take compared to other teams from across the world. Now coming up with a list of complaints and no solutions is useless and annoying to me. Below are two solutions that I have come up with that anyone would help the MLS. For any solution the first question raised is going to be the weather problem in MLS cities compared to Europe. (We will use the same teams as last time: MLS Teams: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Sporting KC; Manchester United, English Premier League; Barcelona, Spanish La Liga; AC Milan, Italian Serie A; Nottingham Forrest, English Championship; Tigres UANL, Primera de Mexico) As you can see below for most of the cities it is not that big of a difference in the winter months.

 

Monthly Average Temperatures:

 

TEAM

H/L

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

ManU

H

43

43

48

52

59

64

67

67

62

56

48

44

L

34

34

36

39

45

50

53

53

50

45

38

35

Bar

H

55

57

60

62

68

75

81

82

78

70

62

57

L

40

41

44

47

53

60

66

67

62

54

46

42

AC M

H

40

46

55

63

71

79

84

81

75

64

50

41

L

28

32

37

44

52

59

63

62

56

47

38

30

NF

H

40

45

50

54

60

65

70

70

64

57

49

46

L

34

34

37

39

43

48

52

52

50

45

39

36

Tigres

H

67

72

81

86

90

94

94

95

89

83

75

69

L

48

51

58

65

70

74

74

74

71

64

56

50

KC

H

39

45

56

67

76

85

90

89

80

68

54

42

L

22

26

36

47

57

67

72

70

61

49

37

26

SEA

H

47

50

54

59

64

70

76

76

71

60

51

46

L

37

37

39

43

48

52

56

57

53

47

51

36

LA

H

68

69

70

73

74

78

83

84

83

79

73

68

L

48

49

51

54

57

60

64

64

63

59

52

47

 

Now there are also some traditional MLS teams that play in colder weather cities. Below are two that I consider to be the worse for temperature to play soccer in.

 

TEAM

H/L

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

COL

H

45

46

54

61

71

81

88

86

77

64

52

43

L

18

20

26

34

44

53

59

57

48

36

25

17

MTRL

H

22

24

36

52

65

75

79

76

67

55

41

37

L

04

07

19

32

43

53

58

55

47

37

27

11

 

The two cities above, plus possibly more, make it very hard for the MLS to change their schedule to match that of Europe and the FIFA calendar.  That being said there are options available that can make the MLS more competitive in keeping the US talent and also bringing in foreign talent.

 

The first solution that I came up with was to stretch out the season a couple more weeks on each end.  This year MLS is starting around the second weekend in March.  If you move that forward to the end of February then you can add a game or two at the front end.  Now on the back end if you had the finals on the second weekend of December this would give you almost another month of playing time.  With the top five teams making the playoffs and a total of six needed game days.  Even with the added amount of time needed for the playoffs you can still add regular season games.  The whole purpose of stretching out the season would be to make the regular season a little longer and so that you can play a complete balanced schedule.  This will just add two regular season games but also give more time to play a few friendlies, take an off week every so often, and take a break when National Team tournaments come around, i.e. World Cup and Olympics.

 

The second solution that I came up with is the creation of a winter league in either Florida or Southwest or both.  This would be primarily for players that are not injured, able to secure a loan or transfer to Europe, or players invited to National Team camps. Just thinking about this off the top of my head you could start a week or two after the finals and run for about six to eight weeks, ending about the end of January.  Then take another week or two off and come back for preseason training.  This would allow teams to continue to be together and train together while giving the coaches a chance to look at their younger players in game situations that don’t count for the regular season or playoffs.  You can have a staggered start for teams also.  For teams that don’t make a playoffs (plus the loser of the first game) on one date then after the finals the playoff teams.  Play a total of just 10 games or so. Enough to keep the rust off but not so much that it hurts players and keeps them out of the regular season.

 

Major League Baseball has used the Arizona Fall League and Caribbean Winter League for years as chances to get younger players more playing time and help them work on their development.  Another good thing about this is that the coach would be able to see their players and know what players need a break here and there.  They know how hard the players work during the regular season.  If a player goes on loan or training with a European team then the coach does not know how much work they were able to get in.

 

For the long run I think the idea of a winter league in the US would be more beneficial. It will give the coaches and players more time together and improve the quality of play.  Even if two teams would like to combine forces and just produce one team then it would help all parties involved. The main idea is to keep the players playing and not taking such a long break between the end of their season and the beginning of the next.

31Dec/11Off

MLS Length of Season

On October 10, 2011 US Men National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann made comments about the length of the current MLS season.  I didn’t think too much about it until news keeps coming out about MLS players going on training stents with European teams or just working out on their own.  Sporting Kansas City’s own CJ Sapong said as much during his interview with Yanks Abroad about his call up to the USMNT.  Now why is Sapong working on improvements taken from the USMNT coach own his own or at the max with just a few people?  For the development of the league and US players something needs to be done.  I did some comparisons of MLS Teams (LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Sporting KC), European Teams (Manchester United, English Premier League; Barcelona, Spanish La Liga; AC Milan, Italian Serie A; Nottingham Forest; English League Championship) and Mexican Team (Tigres UANL, Primera de Mexico).

 

Below you can see how much difference the number of games and length of breaks taken throughout the world is and why it seems that MLS players take so much time off. The first thing that many people know is that FIFA’s world football calendar runs August/July to April/May. MLS does not run this way but they are the only major league. Mexico runs two separate seasons with the top eight teams going into a home and home aggregate playoff.  They take a small break in winter and a longer break in summer.

 

Calendar year 2011

 

TEAM

GAMES PLAYED

LEAGUES

DAYS BREAK

LAST GAME/ FIRST GAME

ManU

62

Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, FA Community Shield

70

UEFA Champions League/FA Community Shield

Nott Forest

53

English League Champions,  FA Cup, Carling Cup

87

English League Champions/English League Champions

Barcelona

60

La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup

77

UEFA Champions League/Super Cup

AC Milan

50

Serie A, UEFA Champions League, Super Cup, Coppa Italia

75

Serie A/Super Cup

Tigres UANL

42

Primera de Mexico

76

Primera de Mexico (Clausura 2011)/ Primera de Mexico (Apertura 2011)

 

FIFA Season 2010/2011

 

TEAMS

GAMES PLAYED

LEAGUES

DAYS BREAK FROM 2009/2010

DAYS BREAK TO 2011/2012

ManU

60

Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, FA Community Shield

90

70

Nott Forest

53

English League Champions,  FA Cup, Carling Cup

87

81

Barcelona

60

La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League

104

77

AC Milan

51

Serie A, UEFA Champions League, Coppa Italia

105

78

QPR

49

English League Champions, FA Cup, Carling Cup, Barclays Premier League

96

97

 

MLS

 

TEAMS

GAMES PLAYED

LEAGUES

DAYS BREAK FROM 2010

DAYS BREAK TO 2012

Seattle

49

MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup

127

126

LA

46

MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup

120

107

Sporting KC

39

MLS, US Open Cup

146

131

 

As you can see from this small sample size the MLS teams play a significantly fewer games then their European counterparts and take a much longer break in between their seasons.  Even if a team is playing in the MLS Playoffs and CONCACAF Champions League their break is still long.

 

What is there to do about the significantly long breaks for many players? Is this something that the MLS should be worried about? Does it affect the players that are off for 140 days or so? Does it ultimately hurt the League in the way of prestige, talent, competitiveness? There are so many questions that can be asked and solutions that can be guessed on.  Some of the more fortunate players are afforded the opportunity to train with a European club or even go on loan to a European club.  But are those few players getting the most for their time or would it be better spent with their club here in the MLS?  This is a problem that MLS will need to look at sooner rather than later.