clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Game Times Could Impact Teams in MLS is Back Tournament

New, 4 comments

Teams may struggle to adapt if slated to play in the morning.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-NYC FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Major League Soccer announced it would return with a league-wide tournament held at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The MLS is Back Tournament will feature three games held each day: one at 9 a.m., a second at 8 p.m., and the last at 10:30 p.m. Although we don’t yet know if scheduling will have teams rotating their start times, the scheduling of these games could have a big impact on their outcome.

Given the current situation and the logistics of the tournament, no player will be entirely comfortable. Things they are accustomed to doing on a normal basis will be taken away, including communal dining, group walks, and being with family. Players will be held in the hotel rooms for the majority of the time they’re not on the field.

While this will be a difficult adjustment for all players, there are some aspects that will be normal. Professional athletes usually have certain routines they go through before games. While these differ from player to player, each one has their own way of preparing before the game. This can include waking up at a specific time or taking an afternoon nap.

During regular seasons, MLS games are held at various times, but most begin at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Those that start in the afternoon typically do so after 1 p.m. This provides plenty of time for players to get comfortable before game time. For the tournament’s 8 p.m. games, a time slot that is already on the usual MLS schedule, players are able to complete all of these. Even though the 10 p.m. game is later than regular season games (for eastern teams), it will still largely be like playing a typical night game.

The problem might come for teams that have to take part in the dreaded 9 a.m. spot. This early game time means players will have to wake up earlier than usual on a game day and might have to exclude certain aspects of their preparations. While they do have training at that time each day, a game day is a different situation and this could have an effect on the play.

Given that these games will count toward the regular season and the winner will earn a spot in the Concacaf Champions League, these games will hold great importance. There are irregularities all players will have to go through, such as games feeling like the preseason in such a small venue, but none will be more complicated to handle than the timing of that morning kickoff.

In some games, it won’t matter where, when, or how the games are played. The better team will be far superior and the result will show that on the field. However, for the games in which the levels of the teams are closer, the ability to handle the game time adversity could have a big impact on the result. If the Western Conference games are all in the later time slots, those teams shouldn’t be affected, but as of now we don’t know what the schedule will be.

While this may not be how most fans hoped MLS would return, at least soccer will be back. The group stage games held at Disney will count and could give teams a lift when regular season games return as usual. Those fortunate enough to play their biggest games at comfortable times or those able to adjust to the odd morning start will gain a big advantage during the tournament.