Yesterday, our local pal Steve Davis dropped this nugget of information over at ProSoccerTalk. Apparently, back at the MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City a few weeks ago, the league's board of governors discussed the idea of reducing the number of regular season games from 34 down to possibly 28 to help with the league being able to block out weekends for FIFA dates.
This news comes as the league is once again prepared to go into another weekend where teams will be left to deal with key players missing vital playoff-impacting games to World Cup qualifiers.
Part of the thinking, according to the report, is that reducing the schedule by six games would allow for more flexibility without having to move a bunch of games to midweek. It would also allow for the league to schedule around things like CONCACAF Champions League and the US Open Cup.
It appears though that the reduction of games won't come into place until 2015 when New York City FC joins the league. That is the most logical idea for a reduction in games when there will be 20 teams. Clubs will be able to play two against conference foes and one game against teams from other conferences, to get to the grand total of 28 games.
How this would benefit FC Dallas
Naturally this kind of thing would benefit all MLS clubs in some ways. For Dallas, I can think of a number of times this year when they missed both Raul Fernandez and Blas Perez to international duty. Heck, even right now, both are gone and will be out for a vital game against a team that they are in the playoff hunt against this weekend.
Dallas lost both of these guys a number of times this year to international duty. Perez for one was missing at the end of March, middle of June, and the middle-to-end of July for international duty, a total of four games. That might not seem like a bunch but considering the thought that had the league officially broke for FIFA dates this year, Perez would have likely only missed two games. The Gold Cup matches in July would have been his only absences.
Those two games he would have possibly been here for would have been against Real Salt Lake at home and at Portland. Thinking of that Portland game, I'm pretty sure Dallas could have used him that day (it was the game where Eric Hassli left the game injured eight minutes in and Kenny Cooper missed it for a family emergency).
I'm fairly confident having a guy like Perez around just a little bit more during the regular season would really benefit what FC Dallas is able to do on the field. I'm sure there are also some intangibles off the field that would improve with him here more as well.
The other side of this proposal
Now the other side of the ball is this, it means fewer games for us all to attend each year. That doesn't necessarily mean that season ticket prices would automatically go down for a reduced number of games either.
Outside of that, the revenue that the teams bring in would be less as well.
Then there is the TV side of things. MLS is going into the final year of their current TV deals next season and will be looking to increase those deals when the time comes to it.
The current deals are $80 million/eight years with Univision signed in 2006 to broadcast 25 MLS games a year, 10 U.S. men's national team games and five international games operated by Soccer United Marketing. ESPN paid $64 million/eight years for a deal that includes regular season games, the All Star Game and MLS Cup. In 2011, NBC signed a $30 million/three year deal for 45 MLS matches and four U.S. men's national team games each season.
I doubt those TV executives would like to choose from fewer big time games.
But the big question is, what will the league do when they ultimately get to 24 clubs? I can't imagine FCD executives and ticket salespersons wanting to figure out a way to promote a game with one of the two New York clubs once every other year or so (in a 24-team league, teams might only play each other every other year and visit each other every four years).
What do you all think of the idea of fewer league games? Personally, I'd be fine with losing two at the most right now, but will it really make an impact if it is done?