Why NASL should consider breaking for international dates By Steven Sandor Posted on August 29, 2015 1 0 516 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Lance Laing Over the years, Major League Soccer has received more than its fair share of criticism for playing games during international dates. But, as more and more North American Soccer League players get the calls to play for their countries, that league should also be subject to the same scheduling scrutiny. In fact, you could argue that NASL teams are less equipped than the MLS teams are when it comes to dealing with games on international dates. NASL rosters aren’t as deep as MLS rosters; when the star players of NASL get called up to play for their countries, it’s harder for their coaches to replace them than it is for the MLS coaches to replace their national-teamers. This coming weekend, FC Edmonton will lose Lance Laing to Jamaican World Cup qualifying duty. The Eddies already lost their talisman for most of July because of the Gold Cup. The Eddies could also lose right-winger Sainey Nyassi, who is on the long list to represent Gambia next weekend. He’ll find out in the next 48 hours if he’s made the roster. The team is planning for him to be gone. It’s bad enough to have a home game on the last long weekend of the summer, when the fans you want in the seats are away at festivals or the lake or the cottage. (At any league level, teams fight against having home dates ‘awarded’ to them on holiday weekends.) But FCE will have to play that game shorthanded. Julian de Guzman will be playing for Canada next weekend, not the Ottawa Fury. He was a late addition to the Canadian roster ahead of its two-game World Cup qualifying series against Belize. The Atlanta Silverbacks will lose starting keeper Steward Ceus to Haiti. In the past, NASL teams have put players on national teams from El Salvador, the United States and several Caribbean nations. And, you can pretty safely predict that when Puerto Rico joins as an expansion team next year, that it will be similar in makeup to the Islanders of old — with much of the Puerto Rican “national” side’s players on the team. And maybe, just maybe, there could be an opening here for NASL to differentiate itself from MLS. And that’s to decide to give its teams bye weeks when the international dates come up. Could it be done? Well, it would likely mean sacrificing the month-long break between the spring and fall seasons. But, in doing that, you’d open up three to four off-weeks you could spread through the entirety of the schedule. As well, only four teams make the post-season in NASL. It’s now 12 teams in the MLS playoffs. That means MLS is under extreme pressure to create enough room for a long playoff schedule, but still get the MLS Cup done before you get into the deep of winter in the northern markets. NASL does not need that same kind of buffer zone. And, NASL already starts its season about a month later than MLS. By moving its openers from early April to early March, the NASL would create more buffer zones for international dates. Yes, that would mean that there could be a stupid game in Ottawa or Edmonton that’s played in freezing temperatures. Or, would that be stupid? Wouldn’t it only be fair that the northern teams get some wintery home dates? Consider that the teams in the south often get the advantage of playing many home games in the summer in temperatures of 30 C or more. To a sane person, it’s just as silly to play a game in extreme heat as it is in cold temperatures. And, sure, maybe playing on a cold winter afternoon in Edmonton wouldn’t bring a big gate. But you know what else kills a gate? Playing a game on the same day as the World Cup final, which is what FCE did last year. Each time an NASL player gets called to his national side, it reflects well on the league as a whole. So, why not give the teams and players every incentive possible — and every reward possible — when it comes to grooming their charges for international success? If NASL took the international weeks off, it could claim a moral high ground that MLS can’t get to. And, considering the Traffic scandals that plagued NASL this season, it could definitely use that kind of good-global-citizen-of-soccer publicity.