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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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MLS combats latest winter schedule move report

Is Major League Soccer close to revamping its season schedule, moving toward the traditional winter-laden slate used by European leagues?

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According to a story by The New York Daily News, MLS is "inching closer" to adopting a "European-type" schedule that could be implemented as soon as the 2014 season.

Frank Isola of the Daily News reported that the plan — in full support of FIFA, the sport’s governing body — would have the MLS season begin play in either late July or early August and include a six- to eight-week winter break. The championship would either be played in late May or early June. The MLS season currently begins in March and runs until the championship match is scheduled to be played the first week of December.

As noted by Isola, most European leagues begin play in August and end sometime in May. Currently a 10-month season, MLS begins matches in March and stretches to early December, the time of the MLS Cup championship.

Isola cited a league source saying, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has "been considering adopting the calendar used in Europe for several years but talks have intensified in recent weeks. The move would also placate FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has been an outspoken — and often unfair — critic of the country’s fastest growing professional league."

But MLS quickly responded to the report.

Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications for MLS, tweeted: "‘Rumors’ is an appropriate way to classify it. MLS has reviewed many possible schedule formats throughout the years."

When asked what the 2014 season schedule would look like, Courtemanche responded: "We hope to announce soon, but the timing will be very similar to the current season."

The prospect of changing the schedule — even with a potential six- to eight-week winter break — could be problematic. Of the 19 professional franchises in MLS, 12 certainly are in an area/region that could receive significant winter weather anywhere from February to April, Salt Lake City being one of the 12, along with Denver, New York, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, D.C., Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Columbus and Vancouver. One could even make an argument for Portland and Seattle.

What do you think? Would RSL — along with the MLS as a whole — benefit from this move soon or later on down the line? Soccer is tricky in this country because the winter climates surely don’t make the decision process any easier for the league or the owners. Everyone remembers the infamous snow match in Commerce City, Colo., on March 23 when the U.S. men’s national team somehow defeated Costa Rica in a whiteout.

Even risking potential delays, rescheduling or cancellation should be enough to make MLS think twice about any sort of move.

Had a few fans tell me the winter-season-schedule move worked out well for the Russian and Ukrainian soccer leagues.

Well, Kiev isn’t exactly Los Angeles in February. Or March for that matter.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani



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