Scheduling the MLS season is no easy task. The American sports calendar has no downtime; that, of course, is a problem for a league trying to establish itself. For various reasons, including the vicious winters in parts of the country, MLS is a summer affair. I quite enjoy it that way. I spent enough years attending English football games in the pissing rain and cold that I don’t particularly yearn to spend my winters that way anymore.
As an MLS fan, one can BBQ and drink a few beers in the parking lot, mix with folk, then head in for the game with a scarf an optional appendage, rather than a necessary accessory.
The problem for MLS, though, is that scheduling it in the summer means it ends during American Football season. It’s hard to impress on foreigners how much the NFL dominates the national sports landscape — indeed, how culturally significant it is as a whole. Moreover, the late summer and early fall also sees the baseball playoffs.
So it’s good news that so far this year, MLS has done well for itself (everything being relative) against the NFL juggernaut this season. As the USA Soccer Spot blogger reports,
MLS’ average attendance has actually slightly climbed since the beginning of American Football season, and it seems that MLS has won a core of fans in each market who will continue to attend matches regardless of what other sporting options are available in person or on TV. This is probably the best news yet for a league struggling to find its feet in America’s sporting landscape and on the international football scene.
Many MLS hardcore fans I’ve heard recently have commented on how they’re not so interested in American football anymore, after a summer with the rhythms of soccer — a rhythm not constantly interrupted as the game is in the staccato style of gridiron.
Plus, the way it’s going, either Chicago and Blanco or LA and Beckham (unless crappy Columbus somehow scrape in) will make it to the playoffs, and that ought to make some noise. Here’s hoping it’s heard over the din of men in large pads thudding into each other (and by the way, I actually like American football — I just wish more people appreciated more than one code of football).