“North American Soccer League announces move to international calendar,” says the headline on the press release on the league’s decision to make the best of its legal limbo. The NASL will start in the fall and continue through the spring.

One problem: No matter how many people retweeted and even reported this move as a switch to the “international calendar,” there’s simply no such thing.

At least not as it relates to leagues. There is a FIFA calendar that sets dates for national team play, both friendlies and qualifiers. There is not an international calendar that says a domestic league must follow the traditional academic year.

That’s good, because otherwise, all of these countries would be out of compliance:

Country Population League system
China 1,388,550,000 March-November
USA 326,423,000 March-December
Indonesia 261,890,900 April-November
Brazil 208,503,000 May-December (state leagues earlier in year)
Nigeria 193,392,500 January-September
Japan 126,700,000 February-December
Philippines 105,143,000 February-December (new league)
Vietnam 93,700,000 January-November
Thailand 66,061,000 February-November
Myanmar 53,370,609 January-September
South Korea 51,446,201 March-November
Kenya 49,699,862 February-October
Sudan 40,782,742 January-November
Canada 36,982,500 March-December
Malaysia 32,359,500 February-November
Uzbekistan 32,345,000 March-November
Peru 31,488,625 Split season, playoffs in December
Venezuela 31,431,164 Split season, playoffs in December
Ghana 28,956,587 February-October
Mozambique 28,861,863 March-November
Angola 28,359,634 February-November
Madagascar 25,571,000 August-November
Chinese Taipei 23,566,853 May-November
Cameroon 23,248,044 February-October
Mali 18,542,000 February-November
Kazakhstan 18,137,300 March-November
Malawi 17,373,185 May-December
Ecuador 16,906,600 January-December
Zambia 16,405,229 April-December
Zimbabwe 14,542,235 April-November
Sweden 10,103,843 March-November
Belarus 9,495,800 April-November
Tajikistan 8,829,300 March-November
Kyrgyzstan 6,140,200 April-October
Turkmenistan 5,758,000 March-December
Singapore 5,612,300 February-November
Finland 5,509,984 April-October
Norway 5,290,288 March-November
Congo 5,260,750 January-September
Ireland 4,792,500 February-October
Georgia 3,718,200 March-November
Uruguay 3,493,205 Split season, playoffs in December
Mongolia 3,189,175 April-September
Lithuania 2,810,865 March-November
Estonia 1,352,320 March-November
Iceland 346,750 April-September

Sources: Soccerway (and occasional extra Googling) for league systems; Wikipedia for population. You’re welcome to click through every source at Wikipedia or find your own to check my work on the population.

I’ve omitted the smallest nations and those that have incomplete data (say, a 10-game season) at Soccerway. I’ve also omitted some South American countries whose Apertura and Clausura seasons may or may not hint at a fall-to-spring calendar — Colombia and Paraguay, for example, have an Apertura ending in June and a Clausura ending in December.

So that’s close to 3.5 billion people living under the tyranny of a non-“international” calendar. And that doesn’t include Russia, which has switched to a fall-to-spring calendar with the asterisk of a winter break lasting nearly three months.

Am I being pedantic here? Perhaps, but there’s a legitimate point here …

We should probably stop taking every single cue from a handful of counties in Europe.

I’m not going to veer into the identity politics of the raging “Costa Rica in Red Bull Arena” or “Jonathan Gonzalez proves USSF diversity problem” arguments. Nor would I suggest that the long-term survival of a U.S. league depends on syncing its calendar with Turkmenistan. (I could not find any evidence of an MLS player ever calling Turkmenistan home.)

But we do need to think more broadly when we think of “the rest of the world.” Scandinavia is certainly the rest of the world. So is Brazil, whose league system may have some elements worth copying.

That doesn’t mean the switch to what we could call the “Major Euro” calendar is a bad idea. We have aspirations of doing most of our outgoing transfer business with the big leagues, so if we can align our offseasons with them, that’s a positive. And ending a season in May has advantages over ending it in December — better weather, fewer football conflicts, etc. (You’re still going up against the NBA and NHL playoffs, along with the part of the baseball season before they start building for next year.)

But then let’s be honest about those reasons. Let’s not say we’re “complying with FIFA,” as some suggested on Twitter over the weekend, by having a summer offseason.

And let’s figure out what works for us rather than blindly copying league systems from countries that are smaller and meteorologically diverse.





6 thoughts on “No, the NASL is not going on the “international calendar” — and here’s why it’s harmful to say it is

    1. US youth leagues typically start in September, finish up by May and take 3 or 4 of the hottest months of the year off.

      As a player & coach, playing in temps > 80 that also have high dew points is MISERABLE.

      I’ll buy into the MLS groupthink on the March to October season when both 1) the US youth leagues convert to it and 2) tier 1 pro leagues are playing half their games in temps >80.


      1. A lot of US Youth play actually does take place in the summer. It’s a regional thing. California actually has high school soccer in the winter, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense in, say, Minnesota.

        In any case, I don’t think anyone mentioned “MLS groupthink” here. The post, along with several other posts of mine, suggests changes to the MLS calendar.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s