2009 Schedule Has Pluses and Minuses

2009 Schedule Has Pluses and Minuses

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On January 28, 2009
  • 2009 MLS Schedule

With the release of the 2009 MLS schedule I noticed a couple good things and some bad things. The league is back to an odd number of teams which makes scheduling tough to begin with. Throw in the number of international games that US team will have to do this year (Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, WC Qualifiers) and the schedule becomes all the more packed.

I figured it would be better to break it down in pluses and minuses here. As we all know things will kick off a little earlier in March on the 19th between expansion side Seattle Sounders FC and MLS Cup runner-up New York Red Bulls.

That’s game one of 225 contests. The playoffs begin Oct. 29 with the championship set for Nov. 21 or 22, meaning the league will wrap things up a little later than normal. Just a bit later.

Plus #1: This year’s schedule leans big time on the weekend match-up. Making 90 percent of all games this year will be on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, up from 84 percent last year. I’ve said for a while the league needed to not focus as much on mid-week matches and rather put more games on the weekends. Sports in today’s society just does not go to as many games Monday through Thursday. The more games Friday through Sunday the better the gate numbers will be and possibly the better the ratings on TV will be.

Minus #1: Too many Wednesday games. I know some are expected to be on ESPN2 but its still a few too many for my liking. I know, they can’t be avoided sometimes too.

Plus #2: The schedule load will lighten up with three matches per club between Aug. 30 and Sept. 12.

Minus #2: The league will play right through other qualifier dates, however. During June, the US will travel to Costa Rica on June 3 and then play host to Honduras on June 6 (match days 4 and 5 in final-stage World Cup qualifying). Between June 4-7 (Thursday through Sunday), MLS will play a full slate of eight matches. New York will actually play twice during that time.

Plus #3: A slightly reduced schedule in early October as the rest of the world finishes up qualifying. Guess the league figured David Beckham in the mix for England in this instance. If he stays in LA he won’t miss any league matches with the Galaxy during that time.

Minus #3: The dreaded Thursday-Sunday swing is back. Yup, those lovely two game weeks are back due to the odd number of clubs in the league. Defending champs Columbus will get tested first for this with a meeting at RSL on April 2 and then a match that Sunday the 5th against a more rested Chivas USA in LA.

Plus #4: This could be a minus for some but take Columbus for instance, they begin the year with three of the first four games on the road. The league figured if they were going to start early this year they’d at least put some of the colder weather teams in warm places.

Minus #4: But with some of the changes you still get the lovely idel week. It could help some but last time around it was a minus for others. Some clubs will get nine days off between matches. Early in the year that could be good but late in the year it could be a momentum killer.

Overall the league did what they could this year. Some things are better than others but for the most part they couldn’t avoid most weekends that there will be national team games. In the economic state that we are in right now the league was smart to just tough it out and schedule during some of those heavy international dates.

Sure it doesn’t always help the national team(s) but I’m sure the US national team would take a huge step back if the league folded due to stopping on international dates. That’s something we can’t have at all.

Anything at this year’s schedule jump out at you? I noticed for me here in Dallas I should have a better chance at going to more games. Last year there was just too many week-night games and not enough weekend games. I think I only counted a couple midweek games this year for Dallas and the rest are on Saturdays and Sundays. I like that a lot.