Editorial (March 17, 2018) – The 2018 MLS regular season is into the third weekend of competition. MLS bye weeks for teams seem to be more frequent in this part of the year than previous seasons. Is this by design and is it logical? Let’s break it down.
All These MLS Bye Weeks Make No Sense
Through the third weekend of Major League Soccer, 28 matches have been played. In total, MLS teams have had a combined 14 bye weekends. By Monday, just 12 of the 23 teams in the league will have not played the maximum of three possible league games.
Odd number and CCL complicating things:
Los Angeles FC are the lone expansion team this year. With that, there are now 23 teams in the league. Assuming no double game week for a team (which would require a midweek league match), at least one team will have a bye on any given week of the season. The first non-weekend (Friday to Sunday) league match of the year is not until Wednesday, May 9 (five games).
Additionally, five MLS teams have participated in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League this year. However, they only account for six of the 14 byes MLS teams have had through this weekend. Colorado Rapids are the only team with two byes in three weeks so far league wide.
Looking at the first four full weeks:
The first international break of the season is March 19-27. Excluding the weekend of March 24 because of international play, lets look at the first four proper weekends of league play:
March 3-4: 10 games (three teams inactive)
March 10-11: 9 games (five teams inactive)
March 17-18: 9 games (five teams inactive)
March 30-April 1: 11 games (one team inactive)
Remember, with an odd number of teams at least one team a weekend will not play. The maximum number of games played over a weekend is 11. That means in the first four weeks of league play without international play, the league chose to have five fewer games than it could have. It will take till the fifth weekend of the season for the maximum number of games to get played.
Making sense of this:
I can understand having MLS bye weeks for the teams playing in CCL, even with the Round of 16 ending before the league season kicked off. But all the bye weeks for teams not taking part in CCL is unnecessary.
If MLS teams advance further in CCL, league matches can always be moved to later in the season. The teams could agree to play over an international weekend or move it midweek in a week that makes the travel easy (maybe on the way to another away game for the visiting team). MLS could also front load CCL participants with league home games to cut down on travel for them, especially with teams traveling south to play in Mexico.
The league could have done a better job having more games this early in the season.
Want to have the MLS teams in CCL play only three games in the first five weeks? Fine. That doesn’t mean non-CCL teams should be staying home. Move the league matches between CCL participants to later in the year. If a team advances in CCL, they can always reschedule an April match to allow them to focus on CCL.
Sporting KC will play at Colorado Rapids next weekend. It will be SKC’s fourth game, but only Colorado’s second. That’s ridiculous.
Last Word: All things considered, MLS can do better
MLS already has the shortest off-season of all the professional sports leagues in North American. From MLS Cup to the opener of the next season, they have one of the shorter off-seasons in World Football.
MLS should be trying to have the maximum number of 11 game weekends this year.
In a league season that’s already too long, with a crowded upcoming summer schedule, and noticeably worse attendance for midweek matches compared to weekend matches, there shouldn’t be this many bye weekends. It hurts teams, competition later in the year, and thus the league.