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MLS game less than beautiful when top players are away

The clock is ticking and we are now just 367 days away from the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The clock is ticking and we are now just 367 days away from the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. For soccer fans, it is the culmination of everything that is good in the game they love.

For one month, the world stands still and watches as heroes are born and losers are, well, in some cases, shot.

Much of the discussion in the last year has centred on whether South Africa will be ready in time.

After years of worker strikes and stadium funding concerns, it does appear now that South Africa will, indeed, be ready come June 10, 2010.

But, and it might seem like a strange question, will MLS be ready for 2010?

Last summer, we were witness to how underprepared MLS is when it comes to FIFA dates. Teams were gutted as players headed off to compete for their country in World Cup qualifying. Few provisions were made to accommodate those teams that were going to be hit hard and the MLS schedule continued on as though nothing else were happening.

This past weekend, on a FIFA qualifying date, nearly every other league in the world was on hiatus or had finished its season.

MLS? Well, it continued on pretending as though nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, nearly every team in the league was missing one key player of another. Toronto FC was missing Amado Guevara and Marvell Wynne. Their opponent, the LA Galaxy, was missing Landon Donovan (their leading scorer) — not to mention David Beckham (I say, not to mention, because he is not worth mentioning.)

Upsets were had, outcomes were affected and overall, with a worse product on the pitch, the league and its fans were the big loser.

And next year, when the whole world stands still to watch the beautiful game at its best, the MLS will keep on playing. MLS needs to find a way to get on the FIFA calendar and stop league games for weekends like this; otherwise fans will continue to be treated to Minor League Soccer. And there is nothing beautiful about that.

FIFA dates
• A FIFA date is a fixed date on the soccer calendar on which leagues associated with FIFA — soccer’s governing body — generally do not schedule regular games in order to accommodate demand for players at international fixtures.

– Watch Ben Rycroft on the It’s Called Football show every Monday at metronews.ca;
ben.rycroft@metronews.ca.

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