MLS and the Gold Cup: Scheduling Conflicts Continue


With Major League Soccer’s self proclaimed “Summer of Soccer” continuing it’s worth noting that MLS has promised before the season to schedule smarter during internationals. I have previously stated that, while I would like the league to consistently break during FIFA blackout dates, I realize it is not necessarily practical and does not jive completely with a league that has many fans (and commentators) that live in a football vacuum.

MLS probably feels it does not need to break for internationals at all, because some fans of league don’t seem to be able to distinguish between a watered down product and the real thing. Thus with no mounting public pressure and a core of fans unwilling to criticize some of the league’s decisions, it is no small wonder Don Garber feels he can pay lip service to outside critics while not actually taking the promised action.

While other leagues play through FIFA breaks nobody else does it with the gusto MLS does.  What other league would allow league matches to kickoff at the same time as its national team is playing? Leagues such as Brazil and Mexico that play through the breaks they move the time of any match that conflict with the national team to create an exclusive time window for flagship team.

Last weekend for instance Brazil moved all its kickoff times to two hours after the anticipated conclusion of the Confederations Cup final. At the same time MLS began both a league and Superliga game while the USMNT was playing its first ever FIFA final. Despite the outstanding final TV rating the game produced, the audience was still cannibalized meaning the rating should have been higher had MLS cooperated.

But if MLS is ever to break for an international event, it should not be the World Cup, Confederations Cup or a qualifying week. It should be the Gold Cup.

For starters a league in North America should respect when its continental championship is being played. But more importantly the number of MLS based players in the Gold Cup is staggering: in fact MLS supplies on average more players to the Gold Cup than any other league.

Additionally, the Gold Cup when held in the USA is marketed by SUM, as Peter C has mentioned on this site in his excellent series on SUM and its finances. With so much invested in the Gold Cup both player wise and financially why MLS plays a full schedule right through the tournament needs to be addressed.

USL also has to look at what they are doing during the Gold Cup. Being a second division the league doesn’t lose as many players as MLS does. But USL does have a high profile team affected dramatically by the event: the Puerto Rico Islanders who have lost three regulars to the event.

This affected my personal decision to prioritize the Gold Cup last night over the local USL game between Miami and Puerto Rico. I will however be back to covering and supporting Miami FC next weekend, when they face Vancouver. The Whitecaps ironically have also been affected by the Gold Cup with Canada’s selection of Charles Gbeke.

USL should allow a team with three or more call ups to delay a match. But this sensible reform has not been proposed as of yet.

But back to Major League Soccer. Chicago benefited from Guatemala not qualifying for the Gold Cup with a great game from Marco Pappa in a critical road win over Colorado. But the Rapids without Colin Clark and Omar Cummings were short handed.

But had let us say Guatemala qualified for the Gold Cup and Jamaica not qualified (as was the case in 2007), it is very possible Colorado would have won the game last night. So you could have had a six point swing in the final MLS table based entirely on a reversal of qualification from the last Gold Cup.

MLS is holding an All Star game versus Everton in the middle of this tournament meaning any number of potential all stars will be passed over for second choice players thanks to the schedule. So what we’ll see is a makeshift MLS all star team take on an English Premier League team in what is considered one the league’s two annual showcase events.

MLS has long claimed its scheduling is due to the availability of stadiums. But the reality is two factors come into play: one is clearing the schedule for SUM promoted events including Superliga which forces no other breaks for the four participating MLS teams. The second is arrogance, fueled by the lack of accountability the leagues fans hold the league to.

As a football nation we need MLS to thrive. But its scheduling policies call into question its credibility as a league and its commitment to grow the game outside the MLS brand in this region.

This entry was posted in CONCACAF Gold Cup, MLS, MLS Talk, USL. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

22 Responses to MLS and the Gold Cup: Scheduling Conflicts Continue

  1. BayVol says:

    At least you put Waibel on this piece. Bald is Beautiful!

  2. Brian Zygo says:

    It was pathetic last night, MLS scheduled Wizards v. Dynamo at the same time as the USMNT match. It was the reporters who informed the Dynamo players that teammate Stuart Holden managed his first international goal with the US Senior team last night.

  3. Peter C says:

    I have to say that in this case I’m siding with MLS. It is historically a high attendance day and an American pro sports tradition(to play on National holidays). It’s packaged with fireworks and/or concerts and makes for a top package during a team’s season.
    This was only the 2nd time the US Men have played on the 4th. The other being a 1994 World Cup match v Brasil, before the league existed.
    This is a case where SUM, as the marketing agent of the Gold Cup for CONCACAF, has to overule any foreign TV contract demands and insist that any Nats game that is played on the 4th be completed by 5pm EDT. That way any MLS team could be scheduled for an evening game July 4 that allows for the ‘holiday fireworks’ package that has been so successful.

  4. eplnfl says:

    I’ll take a bit of a different spin on things. Yes, MLS has to avoid being up against the USMNT or for that matter El Tri. MLS has to avoid if possible setting games that will be greatly effected by internatioanl call ups.

    Yet, ok, hold on here, FIFA and Concacaf must admit (yes, admit is the right would) that there is a soccer season in North America that is a fixture and can not be changed. That Soccer must be a summer sport in North America and maybe a little realization at the top of those organizations will do great things. FIFA wanted an American pro-league and got it, but now FIFA must work with it for the betterment of the American game and to ensure that the American talent you saw on display in South Africa will continue to grow. It’s a` two way street, FIFA may ask if an international week is a good time for MLS or is another week better. Shocking I know. Concacaf must do it’s part. Avoiding matches on the 4th of July is a good idea. Just as England loves it’s Boxing Day fixtures, American’s love going to a ball game on the 4th(soccer ball that is).

    The above may sound radical but let’s stand up for American soccer as it emerges onto the world stage.

  5. Liverpool Football Club says:

    Emerges on the world stage? HAHAHAHHAHA!!!!! Don’t delude yourself. Your country’s FOOTBALL is still irrelevant and meaningless to football fans who matter. No one should bend over backwards for you clowns. You’re the only one anywhere who thinks the popularity of the game is rising in your country. It is not. Racing, MMA and Lacrosse are growing faster. You make a fool of yourself everytime you post here. Get help.

  6. Brian Zygo says:

    Sadly LFC, the only person here giving in to self-delusion is you.

  7. eplnfl says:

    LFC, why so negative. Did you drop a lot of money betting on the Spain game. Afraid the American game will swamp the old world game. Have no fear we will help football in the old world as we make the American game the worlds best. Maybe that is what you really fear. Fear not we come in peace to benefit all mankind and football fans everywhere.

  8. Michael says:

    Of note, not that I care too much about the All Star game, but further to the topic of discussion, Toronto FC has a CONCACAF Champions League qualifier on the same day as the All Star game. So no Toronto FC players will be making the trip to Sandy if they are selected for the game.

  9. Berlin says:

    Absolutely intolerable to have a USMNT game at the same time as a league match. Fine, I understand that the schedules overlap, but I would have watched them both live if I could have. Instead I had to flip back and forth between the two and almost missed the Dynamo score in both games at the same time. Full on fail.

  10. timmyg says:

    Good point Michael — and same for DC United and NYRB who play the day before and after the All Star Game respectively. So could we see three teams without players represented at the game?

    Also the Gold Cup wraps up on July 26, before the All Star Game. So the big question is if players will go straight from that to the All Star Game or take the week off.

  11. mmmikey says:

    fifa IS arrogant, but it is just as arrogant to demand special treatment for the betterment of “american” soccer. not to mention expecting MLS to become the number 1 soccer league.. this will never happen. it is THE sport in europe, and soccer will never be THE sport in the USA. it will become a much more competitive higher profile league one day, but the best you can hope for is to become the 5th biggest league in the world (behind england, spain, germany and italy), and it will take decades for that to happen.

    as for scheduling.. MLS “needs” these allstar games and midseason friendlies with top clubs to grow the league. but at the same time, they marginalize its importance by not scheduling around international dates. these international dates are to be high profile fixtures, and should be promoting the game in north america as much as any friendly or all star game. at the same time, MLS execs are convinced no fan will show up if the season begins any earlier or ends any later especially in the northern cities. however, leagues run in sweden, norway, russia, etc where weather is just as big a concern.

    at a certain point though, its time to bite the bullet.. pick one or the other. midseason friendlies, or “warmer” season timelines. but respect the international calender, ESPECIALLY for the gold cup. MLS is trying to have their cake, and eat it too. but if u really want to be a top league, don’t play games without your top players.

    can u imagine the patriots trotting out for a game vs the colts where manning and brady are off at a training camp somewhere?? the press and fans would go nuts..

    seems like in the MLS, the sideshow attractions ARE the most important thing to management. i don’t think they are aware of how many fans they are missing cause they see the quality of play and go “wtf? why am i watching the minor leagues?” *click*

  12. Michael says:

    @timmyg – was looking for the DC matchdate and then got sidetracked. Also forgot about RBNY. Also a great point about the Gold Cup finishing on the 26th and chances are the United States will be there.

    Being a Toronto FC supporter I am thankful we now have a team in Toronto. That being said there was a match last year when we could barely field a squad against Chivas because we had so many players away on international duty / injured and then league denied our request to postpone the match. That was wrong and truly unfair. It’s hard enough to try and build a squad in MLS.

    I realize that North America has a limited time frame as to when we can play our season here. Places like New York, Toronto, Columbus, DC, NE, etc. cannot play too late into the year. They could potentially start the season early March and end in late November. The simple fact is, is that the league really needs to break over international dates. With the cap and the size of MLS rosters, it needs to happen. Thank god we’ve had a couple players turn down the Gold Cup this year (DeRosario, Guevara), but it shouldn’t really have to come to that.

  13. EPLNFL,

    Are you asking FIFA to clear international fixture dates (which are worldwide and set years in advance) with MLS?

    Regardless of the merits whatever they may be of such an idea that will never happen. MLS knows the fixture dates in advance and they can pretty much guess when the US will be playing. Work around them. Have games 3 hours before or 3 hours after BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME!

  14. Uncle Ed says:

    I guess they liked this piece at bigsoccer because they wrote about it. You’ve got some fans Kartik!
    Well, more like haters.

  15. EPLNFL says:


    Your absolutely right on the need for MLS not to schedule games during a USMNT match or in my opinion an El Tri match. That much MLS can do. They can schedule games to avoid teams playing who will be heavily hit by call ups. Or move certain games to midweek.

    Yes, FIFA calenders just like NCAA schedules are made years in advance and would take a large effort to change. When I was in college I was involved in trying to reschedule an NCAA basketball game that had TV network implications since it was a game with a Number 1 ranked team. You would not believe the effort involved. So, I know a little bit about moving a game to midweek or longer. However, FIFA works with the European League schedules and weather conditions all the time and should also do such with MLS. The American soccer season has to be viewed by FIFA as a vital component of world football and not any longer a sideshow. US Soccer as a world player, MLS as a big league, and Concacaf tournaments now mean something. Yes, I suggest FIFA think about us and MLS think about FIFA and the USMNT schedule as well

  16. Berlin says:

    Weather should never be an excuse. London, Berlin, Amsterdam and dozens of other footballing cities are further north than EVERY MLS city. Try playing in Houston when its 100 degrees and 90% humidity. That’s a weather problem. MLS has an NFL problem during the typical European season.

  17. eplnfl says:


    Please come to Chicago in the winter. If you pick the average day you wouldn’t get off the plane. You can play at night in the warmer climates, ok still not great but bearable. No such option in the north in the winter. My father taught be growing up that if I go to Wrigley Field before June 1 just dress for a football game in December. He was right. I do not want to say your not well informed but while many European nations are further north then many MLS cities due to climatic conditions, ie; oceans and jet streams, and things like that, the weather is more moderate.

    I do agree that MLS does not want to up against the NFL or even NCAA football for that matter. Even Kartik, has his attention drawn away to an American football game when the college season starts. I will admit that the NFL forces soccer to the backseat for me. So, weather and football are major issues for the MLS.

  18. Berlin is right. Part of the reason (among others) Florida flopped in MLS and is flopping even worse in USL is the summer heat down here. I heard so many complaints during the MLS days from fans about coming to games in the heat. (less of an excuse for Tampa who played a lot of night games, but for the Fusion who were regularly on the Telemundo then Univision sunday afternoon games it was horrible)

    Dallas currently has the same problem and thus has underperformed as a market even when the (don’t call us) Hoops have been decent in the past.

    Houston has the league’s best GM, best coach, and most consistently winning team and also gets good crowds. But I would argue Houston with some of the best footy infrastructure in the country would lead MLS in attendance most years if not for the heat. Sitting out at Robertson for those 2pm local time Telefutura games which the Dynamo feature in regularly is downright oppressive.

    The TV ratings for MLS are the highest in the Houston market. They have the best team but their attendance while good is not as high as some others. Why? 110 degree heat index summers.

  19. adam says:

    Some of the comments here are idiotic. This article by Kartik is measured and reasonable. He’s not saying never play through breaks, but wants an exclusive window for the USMNT which is very reasonable.

    Those morons on Big Soccer reinforce why I never go to that joke site.

  20. Ace says:

    I agree with EPLNFL.

    FIFA shows the ultimate disrespect to MLS with not consulting us about the schedule.

    Worse yet, the USSF has scheduled qualifiers at the same time as MLS games. Sorry to burst your bubble Kartik, but MLS is not responsible when they put out their schedule and months later CONCACAF or the USSF schedule games to take advantage of TV windows. ESPN is also to blame for suggesting certain times for matches that conflict with a majority of MLS games.

    The USSF and Bradley also need to be taken to task for calling in all these MLS guys during the season. Other countries are equally inconsiderate. Jamaica called in Ricketts on Wednesday and also called in some USL player I read about at the very last minute throwing his club for a loop. I don’t follow USL like you do Kartik so you probably know the player I am talking about.

    So basically what we have is MLS with no say, and yet they get bashed for simply playing and the USSF and Bradley can show utter disrespect and yet not get criticized on this site. European clubs aren’t even playing now- why not take mostly European players for this tournament.

  21. soccer goals says:

    I hope that they can make exceptions for International dates.

  22. Rex says:

    I really dont care about playing on the same day as major international games, but PLEASE at least offset the times so that MLS games dont start at the SAME TIME as USMNT games.

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