FIFA president Sepp Blatter says MLS must move season to lure next big star
FIFA president Sepp Blatter renewed his call Friday for Major League Soccer to adopt an August-May schedule.
The Associated Press
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PRETORIA, South Africa — FIFA president Sepp Blatter renewed his call for Major League Soccer to adopt an August-May schedule, saying it will struggle to persuade more star players to follow David Beckham to the United States unless it matches its season to those in Europe.
Blatter said that the current March-October season was the overwhelming reason that the MLS cannot compete with Europe's top leagues.
"There is one big problem there and they know, the organizers know, that as long as you don't have your own stadia in the MLS, you have to use stadia from another sport, which is American football," Blatter said. "With the season played from March to October, you are not in the so-called good international season. The result is that you will not attract star players from Europe to play for only six or seven months, with the exceptional case of Beckham."
Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy from Real Madrid in July 2007 but was loaned to AC Milan from January through the end of the Italian season last month to better his chances of maintaining a spot on England's national team.
Beckham is set to rejoin the Galaxy for its July 16 game at the New York Red Bulls. Citing that 17 of the U.S. Confederations Cup players are based outside the U.S., Blatter said Beckham is likely to be MLS's sole star import for the foreseeable future.
"Your best players play in Europe," Blatter said. "You take your 23 players here and most of them play in Europe, so this is not the right solution for MLS."
MLS commissioner Don Garber agrees with Blatter in theory. By next season, 12 of the 16 teams will control their own venues, all but Washington's RFK Stadium, Houston's Robertson Stadium, Kansas City's Community America Ballpark and San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium.
"We regularly evaluate all aspects of our competition, including the timing and format of our season," Garber said in a statement. "Because of the extreme winter weather in many of our markets in the U.S. and Canada, a switch to the international calendar would pose many challenges for MLS and its fans. I am convinced that the time will come when we do adapt to the international calendar. I just don't believe that time is in the foreseeable future."
Soccer's governing body demanded that the United States create a national league as one of its conditions for awarding the country the right to host the 1994 World Cup. The MLS began in 1996 and Blatter said organizers had long been aware of the problems regarding the clash in calendars. MLS routinely schedules matches on international fixture dates.
"They have to play and adapt themselves to the international calendar," Blatter said. "If they do that, they can have success. I spoke several times and I spoke on this 10 years ago when I was still secretary general and nothing has changed in the USA."
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.
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