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RSL not warming up to talks of a possible format change

Published January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was 17 degrees in Sandy on Thursday evening shortly before 5.

Not exactly ideal weather for watching a soccer match at Rio Tinto Stadium.

So while Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber is once again talking about the possibility of changing the league's schedule to a fall-to-spring format, Real Salt Lake President Bill Manning doesn't see it happening any time soon.

"Do you want to play a soccer game here in January?" Manning said Thursday, after being asked about Garber's remarks to The Washington Post. "There's idealism, and then there's realism. This is a very large country with different time zones and different weather climates. For me, it's just not feasible to play the calendar they play in England or Spain."

Garber has said a change could come eventually for MLS.

"In order [to become one of the top soccer leagues in the world], we have to measure up against all the other leagues and more than likely have a similar calendar," he told the Washington Post.

But there are other countries that aren't playing that schedule (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Brazil, China and Japan, to name some of them).

Until every team has its own stadium and completely controls its own scheduling, Manning said it would be impossible to change. And even then, winter weather could hurt attendance and performance.

"Russia just changed their schedule within the last year, and I know there were some games in Russia this year that were just abysmal," he said.

RSL has had decent weather and has been able to sell out its home-openers the last two Marches. But colder weather still keeps fans away in the early goings (RSL sold out nearly every home match from July on last year).

"One of our big fears is we get one of these 25-degree days with a foot of snow and we have to play a soccer game," Manning said.

As it stands, RSL starts preseason training in January and begins playing preseason games next month in Arizona. A team could play into early December if it were to make the MLS Cup.

"The league is continuing to grow and its doing extremely well," Manning said. "Really, if you look at our schedule, with the exception of July ... it almost matches up with the FIFA-preferred calendar."

— Aaron Falk