Business Implications of the 34 Game Schedule

Major League Soccer has announced that it will expand its schedule to 34 games after the addition of Vancouver and Portland in 2011.  While the exact format has not declared, it is likely that each of the 18 teams will play home and away against each team.  According to reports, the season will begin on March 19 and will span 32 weeks.  As such, teams will play at least 2 mid-week games, with the possibility of much more.  This represents a significant departure from MLS’ recent goal of lowering the number of such games.

More games means more tickets sold, more concessions, more parking, etc…. However, mid-week games do not typically draw well, especially on walk-up,  and with many teams having already established their season ticket prices for 2011, it is unlikely that teams will generate significant additional revenue from ticket sales.  Many teams also build special event games into their season ticket packages.  With the addition of 4 games, it will be interesting to see if the teams continue to play those games and include them in season ticket sales.

At least for 2011, this ensures that every market will have access to the big stars brought in by the league.  Fans will have their shot at Henry, Donovan, etc… which is an important consideration for owners seeking to create “event” matches at their home arenas.  The league has also announced that there will no breaks in 2011 for international dates or other fixtures.  While this works for this season, because the Gold Cup is the only real conflict, it does raise questions about future seasons.  The Gold Cup offers teams great doubleheader opportunities and thus additional chances at revenue.

We think this is a good move for the next season.  The balanced schedule allows teams to ensure that star power makes the rounds and pleases fans who prefer the European model.