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.

2 Responses

  1. I agree that the league should adopt a home and home schedule with every team playing every other team twice. It’s balanced and allows every market to experience all that MLS has to offer. The next thing the powers that be shoild do is abandon the absurdity that is the east and west divisions and adopt a single table. The playoff can continue with the top eight teams making the playoffs but there is really no need for divisions if the league is adopting a balanced schedule and it makes no sense to determine playoff qualification once the new schedule is adopted.

  2. I would argue that revenue increase could be expected from this change when you begin to factor in friendlies.

    Midweek league games still outdraw midweek friendlies against non A name competition. The reality is a lot of teams are playing 3 to 4 friendlies a year at home so why not take two those friendlies and turn them into higher revenue league games that are scheduled in advance for people to plan for instead of being added at a later date?

    Also with no two week break for the World Cup this season the amount of midweek league games should stay the same from this season to the next. So each team is getting a few more games on high revenue weekend evenings (this also opens the door for eliminating the 2 game playoff series for the first round). If I remember correctly league attendance is up slightly from last season even with the increase of weeknight fixtures this season.

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