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NASL Switches to Mexican Style Schedule; MLS shouldn't follow

Matt Lam's skipping with joy at this change! (Not...)
(CREDIT: Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
Matt Lam's skipping with joy at this change! (Not...) (CREDIT: Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
Getty Images

A few days ago, the NASL announced that they were switching from an all-summer schedule, to a split season, with a summer break in between. This format is identical to the Apertura-Clausura model that most of Latin America follows in their seasons, and has been suggested in MLS circles, as a way to more closely align with the common Fifa schedule and also get around the harsh Canadian and North US winters, and southern US summers.

The proposed schedules will see the first half (the "Apertura" part) of the season played between March and July, while the second half (the "Clausura" part) will take place between August and November. The playoffs would be eliminated altogether, but there will be a one-off match between the leaders of the two seasons, with the first half winners hosting that final.

Despite the fact the league bragged how this was a unanimous decision between its teams, the change isn't going over so well up in Edmonton, where Eddies supporters aren't exactly thrilled about the prospect of going to matches at Clarke Stadium in minus-30 degree Celsius Alberta capital weather in March and/or November. While an obvious solution would be to play a majority of the away matches first and last to ride out the weather, as we TFC supporters know, that doesn't solve anything.

While it is commendable for the NASL to try to switch to a proven model that's worked elsewhere, those places don't always have the vast difference of weather that the USA and Canada have. At the end of the day, it's a solution to a problem that wasn't really asking to be solved, and is bound to cause more trouble as two more northern NASL teams set to enter the fray: the revived New York Cosmos next season, and the Ottawa team in 2014, with a Hamilton team possibly on its way shortly after that.

It's also wonderful that the new style will reduce the championship to a single game, but arbitrarily assigning home field advantage to the winner of the "Apertura" half of the season almost makes the second half pointless. What possible motivation could be left for teams in the second half to try to win, knowing they'd be already behind the eight ball in terms of the one-off championship match (which has been deemed the "Soccer Bowl", a hark back to the earlier NASL)

Some in the MLS may be looking at this change with envy and keeping a close eye on how it works out, but the league has enough problems on its own; and adopting the Apertura-Clasura scheduling model will just add one more to a growing pile -- plus, how would the league convince all owners to make such a jump, given that only five of 19 teams currently play in snow-free areas (as opposed to six of eight NASL markets), and would potentially put them in direct contest with every one of the big four sports leagues during the season?

It's a bold move by the second tier league to make a clear break from the MLS's model at the top, but is this the change that will make the game better Perhaps not.