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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.

source: Getty Images
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.

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.

Three battles that could determine the Champions League final

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 14:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF is tackled by Koke of Atletico Madrid and Mario Suarez of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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We’re just two days away from the Champions League final, as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid prepare to face each other in Milan on Saturday.

The tie is a rematch of the 2014 final when Real Madrid won 4-1 to claim a record tenth Champions League title. Atletico led that match 1-0 in stoppage time, only to concede a late equalizer before collapsing in extra time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

With Real one of Europe’s best attacking teams and Atleti the best defensive side, two completely different styles of play will clash at the San Siro this weekend. Below, we take a look at a few key matchups that could determine who leaves Milan as champions.

Keylor Navas vs. Jan Oblak

In the Champions League this season, Navas has kept nine clean sheets in ten appearances (tied for the most-ever in a single campaign), while Oblak has kept eight in 12 appearances. Oblak was named to the La Liga Team of the Year after a stellar season for Atleti, and his massive double-save on Thomas Muller’s penalty kick in the semifinals helped Simeone’s men reach Milan. For Navas, the keeper’s strong play is often overshadowed by Real’s attack, but the Costa Rican international has proved massive for the club all season long. In what will surely be an extremely tight match, one big save could prove the difference.

[ MORE: Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders ]

Luka Modric vs. Gabi 

These may not be two “superstar” names in the sides, but Luka Modric and Gabi may be the most important men on the pitch for Real and Atletico, respectively. When Real goes forward, it starts with Modric in the midfield. The Croatian playmaker is confident in possession and spreads the ball all over the pitch, seemingly always in the right place at the right time. On the other side, Gabi epitomizes what Diego Simeone wants in his Atletico squad. The hard-nosed midfielder sits right in front of the back-line, in charge of clogging up and holes and making sure the rest of his midfield tracks back and keeps shape, which will be vitally important against Real. A product of the Atleti youth system, red and white runs through Gabi’s veins, and having already experienced a loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final back in 2014, Simeone’s leader on the pitch will want to turn the tides this time around.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Atleti back-line vs. BBC

When all is said and done, the biggest battle will be between the stout Atleti defense and Real’s potent attack. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have become the best center-back pairing in Europe, while Real’s BBC trio of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano combined for 119 goals in all competitions this season. Atleti have already kept clean sheets in the Champions League against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but both of those matches were in front of a home crowd at the Vicente Calderon. Expect a few heavy challenges to come in early, as the Atletico defense will look to keep Ronaldo & Co. honest.