“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:
|Brazil||208,503,000||May-December (state leagues earlier in year)|
|Philippines||105,143,000||February-December (new league)|
|Peru||31,488,625||Split season, playoffs in December|
|Venezuela||31,431,164||Split season, playoffs in December|
|Uruguay||3,493,205||Split season, playoffs in December|
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.