Major League Soccer’s three teams left in the CONCACAF Champions League all crashed out in the quarterfinals this season, a fact that’s led to much consternation among the league and its supporters.
There’s no question the timing of the competition, which occurs very early in the MLS season window, hurts MLS teams in their quest to compete against “in form” competition from outside the league.
MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked about the schedule in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview with our friends at Soccerly:
Soccerly: Regarding the schedule, is the focus on changing CONCACAF rather than changing things here?
Don Garber: You guys have seen the last number of weeks. It is a virtual impossibility for us to play games in this country and in Canada in February. If we had changed the schedule for this year we would not have been able to play games. We had temperatures that were below zero, we had many feet of snow in most of our markets. It is impossible, so we have to hope that we could influence CONCACAF.
We accept and we understand that we are the outlier, and that we are playing at a different schedule. I think it’s in everybody’s best interest- including Liga MX- to have the fairest possible competition and we’ll continue to look at it over time. Nothing is going to happen in the short term on either side, that’s for sure.
Fields are a problem this time of year, just ask anyone who witnessed Toronto FC’s match with DC United last weekend. While DC is in the full throes of complaining, TFC — specifically Jermain Defoe — could’ve easily struck for a hat trick with better footing.
The league is in a unique climate for soccer and anyone who’s lived in the north knows the challenges that would be presented to MLS by a traditional winter schedule. How good would attendance be, regardless of the importance of the match, if Toronto was hosting a January match with its mean temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit? Other solutions to the CCL problem will have to arrive for the competition to truly be on even footing.