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Why does MLS have a different calendar from European club seasons?

04:35 EAT 24/01/2023
Toronto FC Columbus Crew snow MLS 2022
Unlike in Europe, MLS clubs are not in action for the majority of the winter months. GOAL explores why that's the case...

While the Premier League and other major European divisions are busy in January, MLS remains dormant for most of winter.

The difference between MLS and many European calendars means club transfer windows don't perfectly line up between continents. Additionally, MLS clubs are active when international tournaments occur during the summer.

But why is that the case, and will MLS ever shift its calendar? GOAL breaks down the situation below.

What months are MLS games played?

For 2023, MLS is scheduled to run from opening day on February 25 until the final day of the regular season on October 21, with a break from July 15 to August 20 for Leagues Cup play.

That's quite different than the Premier League, for example, which started last August and will end on May 28.

How long is an MLS season?

The 2023 MLS season will last about eight months, though it will be interrupted by the Leagues Cup.

Why does MLS have a different calendar from European clubs?

There are several reasons why MLS is geared for the summer months rather than the winter.

Snow and cold weather are factors; while the UK does get snow, the average annual snowfall is well below that of Toronto, Montreal, Columbus, Denver and several other cities with MLS teams. And even in places such as New York City, where it snows fewer days than it does in the UK, the severity of each storm is often much greater.

Soccer can be played in wintry conditions - take the U.S. men's national team's frostbite-marred match against Honduras for example - but abundant snow is a safety hazard for players and deterrent for fans.

So even though summer comes with its own set of weather problems, namely extreme heat in the southern states, it's seen as the lesser of two evils.

There also used to be potential conflicts between MLS clubs and NFL teams using stadiums from September through January, but that's no longer as big of a deal as soccer-specific venues pop up around the country.

Will MLS ever change its calendar?

All indications are that MLS will keep the same schedule framework for the foreseeable future.

After reports in 2014 said MLS was exploring a shift, commissioner Don Garber publicly dismissed the viability of a calendar that included the depths of winter.

“From a weather perspective I think it is almost impossible with the number of teams that we have and the weather that we have in the United States and Canada to make the kind of change that would be a full alignment,” Garber said.

When the question was posed again by ESPN in 2021, the commissioner offered a similar response: "We continue to have to manage the largest geographic region for any league in the world, and the most weather changes and time changes of any league in the world. As such, the likelihood of us playing in a dramatically different calendar is far, far, far in the future and we would only do it if we saw the value for our fans and for our competition. Today, we don't see that value."