Report: UEFA Planning to Adopt MLS Scheduling

We are the champions!

Recently we’ve shared that various soccer luminaries such as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson has advocated a spring-to-fall schedule change in advance of the 2022 World Cup.  Now we find out that UEFA itself is advancing well past the thinking stage.

The British press is reporting that the English Premier League and Bundesliga are gearing up to fight a UEFA (specifically, Michel Plantini) plan to implement a spring-to-fall schedule permanently for UEFA member leagues and alter the qualification calendar for international events.  The plan, which would hypothetically be put in place by 2015, supposedly echoes a proposal Plantini wrote for Sepp Blatter and FIFA in 1998 to change the calendar then, but was scrapped because of opposition from Italy and Spain.

All European leagues would run their schedule from mid-March to the end of October.  Qualification for the World Cup or European Championship would take place from November to mid-December, with the final tournaments played mid-January through February.  The articles also reveal that FIFA officials have been planning for a winter World Cup in 2022, despite their assertions otherwise.  In fact, it looks like Qatar was always going to be a winter World Cup, with the executive committee moving forward with January 2022 planning since the December 2 vote.

My first thought on reading this is I am glad UEFA is planning to make the move three years before the Russian World Cup, where I am sure a winter World Cup will be….quite pleasant.  But it seems like the movement toward a winter 2022 Cup (and consequently a spring-to-fall schedule) has been in the works for at least the past 45 days, probably more.  So anything FIFA has said so far about the 2018 and 2022 bid process has to be somewhat doubted if they’ve lied about the Qatar scheduling.

My second thought is that the major European leagues would never go for this.  I think some of the smaller European leagues (I’m looking at you Scotland) would fall in-line with UEFA, but this would be a major headache to the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue Un.  It would be especially bad for Italy and Spain where summer temperatures approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

But let’s assume UEFA is 100% in favor of this and forces all their leagues to switch to spring-to-fall.  All of the sudden, little stubborn MLS would be a trend setter in the soccer world.  The same nation whose president was told to his face that they needed to conform to the rest of the world’s schedule would now be the one to whom the world would conform.  Quite a nice vindication for Don Garber and USSF who have remained unmoved by the international pressure.

What are some of the other consequences of a European schedule switch?

  • No more Landon Donovan to Everton loans for a few months.  If MLS and UEFA play at the same time, American stars cannot go to Europe for a few months and return for the second half of the MLS season.  While this would alleviate some of the Beckham transfer drama, my fear would be that big name Americans would just go to Europe and not play in MLS at all during their peak years.  This could exacerbate the league’s talent drain.
  • Fewer tours of the U.S. by big European clubs.  Manchester United and Barcelona probably wouldn’t want to do a 12-day tour in the winter with the chance of their matches being snowed out.  So either they would tour the South (excellent for Miami and Dallas) or limit themselves to only one or two stops.  And if international qualifiers are occurring, then the biggest clubs would be reduced to their second team even more so than they are now.

I will believe a UEFA spring-to-fall when I see it, but we have definitely learned two things from this story: the fall-to-spring schedule is not sacrosanct and FIFA’s pronouncements cannot be trusted.

29 Responses to Report: UEFA Planning to Adopt MLS Scheduling

  1. Earl Reed says:

    Maybe if the Qatari World Cup Organizers ask Platini to jump off a cliff, he’ll oblige.

  2. dragon says:

    You forgot about the biggest consequence………it is doubtful whether the USA would ever host another World Cup. A January World Cup anywhere in the USA outside of South Florida, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and LA? Doubtful.

  3. David says:

    And I’m sure that the IOC would be thrilled having the World Cup either just before, just after, or even during the Winter Olympics on a full time basis…I’d think maybe they’d shift things on a temporary basis (during the 2022 qualifying cycle), but not permanently….

  4. Charles says:

    Robert Hay…thanks for this.

    For us old guys….there isn’t much more time to get the WCup to the US, but
    they could do an all southern US WCup, easily. Very easily.
    Seattle and areas like that could be used too. Rainy and cold, but almost never freezing.

    While I like the fact that the people wanting the US to move its schedule to the snow are shown to be…well not very smart …sorry…I think this would be very stupid for Europe to move their schedule. The beauty of the European leagues that can pull off the winter schedule, is you can run all day long in that weather.
    MLS play is slower because of the heat. No doubt about it.

    • dragon says:

      The US could do a southern/western World Cup but it won’t happen. NOT A CHANCE. More likely, Jack Warner and USSF will submit a pan-CONCACAF composed of south Florida, Houston, LA, Phoenix, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Kingston, Bridgetown, San Jose (CR) and maybe one or two others.

      • The Gaffer says:

        The 1994 World Cup was played in the sweltering heat of Florida, California and other states with temperatures soaring over 100F – so much so that it sapped the energy of players in many games and lowered the quality. Whether it’s the winter or summer, the USA can host a World Cup. The weather is never going to be perfect (either too hot or too cold), but it won’t stop the U.S. from hosting it no matter what time of the year it is.

        The Gaffer

        • dragon says:

          Not arguing that the USA can’t host it in the winter. They can. I am saying they won’t. Have you seen FIFA in action lately? Anything goes now. Including a pan-CONCACAF World Cup in winter. If I told you 8 years ago that Qatar would be elected to host a World Cup during the summer you would have laughed in my face. Yet here we are. It’s all about bribes and votes and influence peddling and nothing to do with where it is actually being held.

  5. Sancho says:

    I don’t understand why this “the whole world should be in the same pace” concept.

    If you pretend to establish a 8-month schedule as it seems to be the case, just break it in two 4-month’s and add 2-month winter and summer breaks in-between. Then, if leagues would be run from February to November (with a break in June-July) or from August to May (with a brake in December-January), it wouldn’t matter!

    How hard is this?

    • Tom says:

      I agree with Sancho- why does the world have to be on the same schedule? The world has different tempatures, hemispheres, and traditions- the game is played all over the world.

      Not to mention that for us fans, it is better than we have leagues on different schedules. Europe for the winter, MLS for the summer. No problem.

    • Sancho says:

      Poor portuguese speaker!

      I meant INTEND not PRETEND. Typical mistake…

      Sorry about that.

  6. Pegasus says:

    Who wouldn’t want to tour Dallas? Upper twenties this morning with frozen ground and frost on the field. My son’s high school team played a tournament game at 9:45 am and couldn’t keep from wiping out. Bet they can’t get frost or frozen fields in Europe this time of year.

  7. Arlington-MA says:

    FYI, the MLS would not be THE trend setter should UEFA change its schedule. That distinction would fall to the Campeonato Brasileiro, which already does this.

  8. BobbyB says:

    I don’t think this makes MLS a “trend setter” in any way. All it does is demonstrate how unbelievably shady and corrupt the whole World Cup bidding process was/is. FIFA is essentially “changing the rules” after the fact to suit a country that flat out bought the World Cup…and they clearly demonstrated (once again) their raging hypocrisy and stupidity.

  9. CoconutMonkey says:

    @BobbyB: Right on, man.

    As someone who hadn’t seen Qatar’s actual bid, I think it was fair to give FIFA and Qatar the benefit of the doubt. In fact I was kind of looking forward to seeing how they’d air condition the whole country. That stuff would be on the Discovery Channel for years!

    However, asking practically all of Europe to turn their schedules upside down? Seems to me like they won’t be able to do as they promised.

    Not only that, does anyone else think that this is a bit of a slap in the face for the Russians? They just went through the trouble of flipping their schedule to a fall-spring setup just recently.

  10. vermaelen5 says:

    I don’t like it one bit. I follow football from September-May and baseball from April to October, and it dovetails nicely.

  11. A bit ridiculous changing footballing tradition in the UK just to cater to the Qatari money wagon!

    That being said, there is always complaints from managers and players regarding the packed December – January schedule and calls for a ‘winter break’ have always been ignored. So, this kind of schedule certainly would have no negative impact on the, say, English league but then UEFA Cups and Champions Leagues would need re-arranged, and what about when it comes to hosting European Championships in a particularily cold country? Do we go back to running a different schedule to cater for that?!

  12. jose says:

    being an mls fan i love the change but on the other hand i don’t want a winter world cup.

  13. GI Joe says:

    That is a hard one to sell!
    UEFA Executive Committee has 16 members:
    France (Platini): It can go either way, influenced by Spain and England
    Turkey (Erzik): No
    England (Thompson): Yes
    Spain (Llona): No
    Cyprus (Lefkaritis): No
    Malta (Mifsud): No
    Italy (Abete): No
    Slovakia (Laurinec): Yes
    Portugal (Madaíl): No
    Ukraine (Surkis): Yes
    Lithuania (Varanavicius): Yes
    Denmark (Hansen): Yes
    Israel (Luzon): No
    Romania (Sandu): It can go either way, influenced by France
    Netherlands (van Praag): It can go either way, influenced by Germany and England
    Germany (Zwanziger): Yes
    Total: No(7); Yes (6); Maybe (3)

  14. ExtraMedium says:

    LOL Platini. Lol. If this happens by Platini’s desired 2015 then doesn’t that mean Russia 2018 will also be a Winter World Cup? And does this mean Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Egypt, and India will play league matches June-August? A uniform calender is nice but impractical. The spring-fall schedule is fine for MLS I just wish the games had a regular day/time (*cough*fridaynight*cough*).

  15. ExtraMedium says:

    As far as calenders go Brazil is very interesting. Early May-Early December is the national league. Jan-April/May they have state competitions. Some states have Euro style leagues while others have conferences (playoffs are standard in both formats). Hell, Miniero has a 12 team league followed by an 8 team play-off! This format exists because Brazil is a big country with spread out population centers. I say MLS go Apertura/Clausura with teams playing regionally (easier for away fans, lower travel costs) before top 4 playoffs at the end of each stage. With 2 short regular seasons MLS becomes like the NFL in a good way.

    • Sancho says:

      I could give a lecture (or better, write an article) on Brazilian Calendar, if anyone is interested. How it works, how we get there, what are the main debates down here on the issue.

      My position about this: I’m pretty fan of Brazilian excptionalism in soccer, but there are a lot of Eurocentrics here that defend by merely copying EPL would solve all our problems…

      • bradjmoore48 says:

        Yes, because the EPL is God’s gift to the soccer-loving world :-/ (sarcasm)

        BTW Sancho I love your idea on the 8-month club calendar with Dec-Jan and June-July breaks for international stuff/other. To me, that’s the only way you can make a truly uniform FIFA calendar. England can stop whining and get its winter break, Italy/Spain don’t have to play in June and July in heat, and MLS can keep its spring to fall schedule no problem. Haha and Qatar can have a winter World Cup!

        I’m curious what you mean by Brazilian exceptionalism? Are you talking about how good your players are, how good your league is, or is it just in regards to the calendar?

        • Sancho says:


          I meant a little bit of everything, but mainly the way soccer was build here, around small regional leagues and state championships. This helped to create many brazilian “schools”, with different views about how the game should be played. The “Samba Style” is ONLY ONE of them. When Scolari (2002) or Dunga (2010) Brazil teams start playing on strong defense and counter-attacks, they weren’t copy anyone. They were actually taking a typical Southern Brazilian approach, that has German and Italian influences.

          This, of course, has reflections on our calendar. The easiest way to explain for an American is doing a paralel to FBS College Football. It’s build on its Conferences and Bowls, but still there is a pressure to establish a national champion. How we deal with this pressure is another issue.



  16. eplnfl says:

    How wonderful it is to have someone agree with US soccer for a change and not be tied to a European/English schedule because it’s always been done that way. May be another harsh winter will make England come around anyway.

    Italy and Spain will most likely have to move to a night schedule but hey this is 2010 we have lighted stadiums.

    A victory for modern times.

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