Report: MLS will adopt European schedule in 2014… Would August-May work?

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According to reports on Monday morning, Major League Soccer is extremely close to changing their game schedule to match that of Europe, with a season running from August to May likely to come in for the 2014 season.

If this is true, it would be the single biggest change to MLS in recent history, with a 6-8 week winter break rumored to be placed throughout December and January as the logistical problems of having franchises in Toronto, Montreal, New England, Chicago and elsewhere in the North, can be somewhat averted.

However, as early as next season? I think not. That would mean no MLS between December 2013 and August 2014, but with the World Cup coming up throughout June and into July, maybe MLS bosses think now would be a good time to switch things up.

The reports surfacing in the New York Daily News cited a league source revealing talks have intensified in recent weeks as MLS commissioner Don Garber has been eager to adopt a European-esque schedule for quite some time. But Dan Courtemanche, MLS’ Executive Vice President of Communications, has Tweeted out the following, suggesting no massive changes are imminent.

With pressure from Sepp Blatter and other FIFA officials in the past to switch the USA’s domestic soccer schedule to a more traditional August-May FIFA calendar, it seems as though Garber and MLS are seriously contemplating the switch as of next season. Which is much sooner than many would ever have thought, and pretty outlandish. Maybe somewhere down the line this would work, but not next year.

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Conditions like this back in November 2012, would make a August-May schedule hard to pull off in MLS

But, with many outraged in the MLS community at hearing these rumors, is this move actually a good one for MLS?

Let’s break things down, right now, throughout the summer months MLS only has regular season MLB and NBA playoffs to compete with due to the March-Decemeber schedule. But when NFL, College Football, MLB Playoffs and plenty of other sports dominate in the fall months, MLS playoffs and the race for the Cup is very much shoved towards the back shelf in the minds of most American sports fans. If this schedule change is about attracting more fans to watch soccer, then it could be a winner, with an MLS postseason in April/May really capturing the imaginations of fans alongside the NHL’s own playoff race.

However, there are many other reasons why this schedule wouldn’t work.

As we mentioned, extreme winter weather is a massive issue that plenty of European leagues don’t have to worry about. With the relatively moderate temperatures in Continental Europe, compared with huge sub-zero numbers in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and many other MLS cities in the Winter, no other league across the globe has to deal with these kind of temperature fluctuations. Just how will games be played in late November, early December or even late January or early February? I can’t see it working.

Apart from weather issues, the MLS would also be competing with several other sports that would likely see attendances at stadiums and TV viewership fall drastically. With NFL, NHL and College Football in full swing throughout the fall, MLS has a hard enough time as it is holding onto fans and nurturing new ones, so this calendar would stunt the development of North America’s fastest growing major league sport. Maybe switching the calendar to an August-May schedule running up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia would be a good idea, as MLS will likely have to shut down over the summer.

Surely MLS aren’t thinking of leaving domestic fans without soccer from December 2013 to August 2014 if they do adopt the schedule for next season? Because that’s the reality.

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Scenes like these could become more regular for MLS fans.

Personally, I just can’t see this schedule change being good for MLS on multiple levels. FIFA executives, President Sepp Blatter, even USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and now seemingly MLS commish Don Garber think an August-May schedule in MLS would be best for everyone…

I guess they know best. But if this report is more than just tittle-tattle leaking out of MLS’ HQ on Fifth ave. in NYC, I’d be extremely worried for the future growth of the league. Going head-to-head with Europe’s top soccer leagues and the biggest American sports will be one heck of a struggle.

Why would MLS want to risk all the good work they’ve done so far, just to appease FIFA and some other executives who have it in their head that every soccer league should work in the same way. North America differs from Europe and Europe differs from elsewhere. It’s okay to have different schedules and for everything to mesh together, MLS should stay as it is.

I think many of us would argue that domestic soccer in the USA has never been healthier. So, if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

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Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

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A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.

Argentina closes in on Sampaoli, according to FA boss

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The Argentinian FA is hoping to convince Jorge Sampaoli to abandon Sevilla and take the opening in his home nation.

President Claudio Tapia confirmed that Sampaoli is their top target, calling the 57-year-old their “chosen one” in an interview with ESPN.

“We have chosen a coach that has a contract,” Tapia told ESPN. “We want to be respectful and wait because he has a release clause which is once the tournament ends. We will communicate it to the club and we will sit down and negotiate his departure and release clause. We want things to go well in the final games he has left.”

Argentina dismissed coach Edgardo Bauza after the country fell to fifth in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification following defeats to Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile over the past six months.

Sampaoli is under contract with Sevilla until the summer of 2018, but has a $1.6 million release clause, to which Tapia was referring. Sevilla sits in fourth position in the La Liga table, level on points with Atletico Madrid but behind significantly on goal differential. The club finishes its league season on May 21st against Osasuna, and Argentina’s next game is a friendly on June 9th at home against Brazil. The next World Cup qualifier is in August against Uruguay.

Samapoli has been with Sevilla since since last summer in his first European club job, but the Argentinian has ample experience to take over for his home country. He managed Chile for four years, winning the 2015 Copa America in Chile. He resigned in early 2016 due to a contract dispute, paying a heavy price to do so as he gave up bonuses to wriggle free of his contract.

Argentina’s desire to secure Sampaoli as coach is nothing new, as the man himself confirmed an offer for the job a week ago, but said he would not consider it until the end of the season. It appears now that a deal is likely, and he will have a very short turnaround to get his first look at the team against a fierce continental rival.