As a sports reform enthusiast, I can’t resist chiming in on something as broken as soccer’s schedule. It is really quite a joke. By the end of the posting, I will have fixed this issue for FIFA. Now all FIFA needs to do is show some political capital and get it implemented.

The Problem

But before I can change the sport for the better, we need to look at many of the issues that the current “schedule” presents:

  • Leagues around the world can run whenever they want. The main leagues run a season that goes from August to July, whereas other Leagues like Scandinavia and the MLS run January to December.
  • It is possible under the current set up for a club to play in the course of three weeks: two league matches; then have half your team fly around the world for an international friendly; then have a knock-out stage game in the Champions League; followed by a match in the FA cup. Ridiculous!
  • For the reason above, clubs and international federations argue all the time over players participating in international friendlies through the season. If I were a club, I wouldn’t want to send any of my players away for a meaningless February friendly. It leads to awkward peace offerings, like the one the Netherlands played against Bayern Munich after a dispute over Arjen Robben.
  • February international friendlies aren’t too fun to watch. It’s talent wasted in meaningless games.
  • League matches are starting in the middle of the transfer window, meaning the first two weeks of a season are ruled incomplete with incomplete rosters and teams in need a of a few more tune ups.
  • Top international players are playing in a slew of matches. Let’s look at Spain / Barca midfielder Xavi as an example.
    • From August 2011 - July 2012 he played 51 matches for his club and 14 for his country (65 total). This is about the maximum number of matches a player can play in in a year. Spain won the Euros, Barca finished second in La Liga (he played in most),  and they won the Copa del Rey, toss in the Club World Cup and some tune ups, and its a full year.
    • Portugal and Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo played in 55 for club and 9 for country for a total of 64 matches. There should be a max around this amount of matches.

The Proposal

Fortunately there’s an easy fix to this conundrum. Divide out the calendar year for specific competitions! Here how it would work:

First, each player should be maxed out at 15 matches for his country 50 for the club. That’s 65 matches. It’s still a lot, but its high enough to have to sit players for specific competitions. We’ll call it the Xavi Rule. And this will forever end all squabbles between club and country! (ahem.)

Next, the calendar should be divided out as follows:

  • First weekend in September to February 28:
    • League Matches (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, MLS, etc.).
    • If I counted right, that’s 27 weeks to play 38 matches, that’s very doable. In fact, if a league plays it right, it can give its teams a longer break ahead of the next scheduled events below.
    • Leagues in the Northern portions of the Northern Hemisphere would have time to avoid playing in January altogether.
  • March 1- 3rd weekend in March:
    • Break. There will need to be two weeks to set up the opening fixtures for the next set of tournaments.
  • 3rd weekend in March to May 30:
    • League Cups: FA cup, Copa del Rey, US Open Cup, etc…
    • Continental Competitions: Champions League, Europa Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, etc…
    • Top teams that qualify for continental competitions should field one team in each competition. But remember the Xavi Rule. This is why big clubs have reserve teams, isn’t it?
  • June 1 - second week of August:
    • International Window: clubs can’t host matches in this window and international teams must respect the Xavi Rule as well. No more than 15 matches per player. Remember, the World Cup can be won in 7 matches.
  • 2nd week of August - September 1:
    • Preseason tune-ups: The Xavi Rule lurks….
  • The transfer window would be from June 1 to the end of August.

Benefits of this proposal:

  • Every league is on the same schedule.
  • It provides focus for clubs, coaches, and players. Instead of having five competitions going on at once, its one competition at a time for each team. Coaches would be happier. Fans could follow along easier. TV would love this too. The Champions League would be better played over 2 months than 8 months. It would make more money.
  • Players are locked in to a club for an entire season, unless they get loaned out or released. So the same team that wins a league is the same team that goes into the continental competitions.
  • Also, the qualifiers of the Champions League would be based upon the league schedule that just ended, not the year before it. See Chelsea…
  • Big Clubs would have to develop quality reserve sides which in turn should help develop youth players. Most of them already have quality youth sides. This would give youth players more opportunity.
  • International play would improve overall. A dedicated window allows for high quality tournaments to take place every summer. Teams would have time to be coherent and a bit more fluid before the start of tournaments. Coaches could technically coach for club and country. Can’t get enough of Mourinho?

There you have it. The issue of the soccer schedule is solved. You know as a fan you want this!

Do you agree that I just solved the problem of the soccer schedule? Per tradition, here’s a link to FIFA’s contact form. Please send them a link to this post. Lets overrun them with this proposal.

Do you think this proposal can be improved? My ego really isn’t that big. Please let me know below!