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Honoring International Dates is the Next Step in MLS' Progression

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Major League Soccer has come a long way from its inaugural season in 1996. In order for the league to continue to grow and be seen as one of the best, they'll need to give time off for international dates.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


In 20 seasons, MLS has taken significant steps to grow exponentially into a league that is a competitive representation of the of the beautiful game. However, if commissioner Don Garber really wants the league to be one of choice, they have to address an issue plaguing the league and separating it from others across the globe.

This month, 44 players will miss regular season games due to international matches. The United States leads all countries with 22, as the U.S. Men’s National Team won a friendly over the Netherlands 4-3 June 5 and play Germany in another friendly June 10. The U-23 team also wrapped up the Toulon Tournament this weekend and the U-20 is in the World Cup, which concludes June 20.

It’s an issue that is not only on the minds of fans, but also U.S.-based Soccer players as well.

Improving this is a priority. - Michael Bradley on Twitter

Throughout the years, MLS has dealt with the problem of playing the season through international dates. The league has tried to put a positive spin on losing players by speaking on the added importance of depth among the rosters. While having talented players throughout the roster is important, it still takes away from the quality of the game when the league’s best are out due to national team commitments.

The task is a difficult one. MLS is already at a disadvantage by starting the season in March, while other leagues around the world play in August. The move makes sense. Unlike Europe, American football is king, and synchronizing seasons and breaks is realistically not an option. There is also the issue of what dates the league could honor. Taking a break may not be feasible for all international events, but still could be possible for the ones that will take the biggest names away from the league.

Another conflict the league runs into is the schedule and how it would be affected by honoring international dates. More games would have to be played within a shorter span, which is not uncommon. Orlando City played New England, DC and Los Angeles within a 10-day span in May and will play DC, Montreal and Colorado, plus a U.S. Open Cup date at Charlotte, over 11 days this month. While MLS may want to avoid playing games so close to one another and on weekdays, if the competition will be kept stronger for it, it’s worth it.

Looking at FIFA’s international schedule, there are official qualifying matches or friendlies on three occasions during the MLS season: June 8-16, August 31 through September 8, and October 5-13. With teams usually playing once a week, the MLS could take those weeks off and add more games to certain weeks.

There is still an issue of the U-20 and U-23 players missing time under this format, but given the younger players are still in development, taking the three weeks off is the best case scenario. It would allow for the top veteran players to represent their countries while also allowing fans of the league to see the game played with the league’s big names.

The MLS has made much progress over its existence and has shown steady growth. However, in order to provide a league that truly has a world-class product on the field every game, they’ll need to honor FIFA’s international dates.