NASL moves to split-season schedule


Starting next season, the NASL is making a radical change to its schedule and competition format, one along the lines of something that some have been calling for MLS to adopt as its own.

NASL announced Wednesday that in 2013, as opposed to the current format in which the regular season is followed by a typical playoff set-up, the league will be played in a split-season, Apertura-Clausura style. The winners of the two half-seasons will meet in a winner-take-all Soccer Bowl, where one will be crowned the league's champion. If the same team finishes first in both half-seasons, then the team with the second-best record for the entire year will qualify for the championship match.

Next season's first portion is slated to begin either in the end of March or beginning of April and last until July 4. The second part will pick up about a month later and run until Nov. 2, according to an NASL press release. All teams will play each other twice, once home and once away, in each half-season.

"The new format takes into consideration a variety of factors including fan and player comfort in our many warm-weather cities," NASL commissioner David Downs said. "But the bottom line is that we believe this new competitive format will bring more excitement and meaning to each of our regular season matches for all of our teams throughout the year.” 

What do you think of this development? Do you wish MLS would move to a similar schedule? Do you like the format?

Share your thoughts below.

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53 Responses to NASL moves to split-season schedule

  1. So, theoretically, the team with the best record over the course of the entire season could miss out on the playoffs? Yeah, that seems like a good plan … NOT. What are these fools thinking?

  2. Oshi says:

    Wow. Oh wow. Major props to NASL for trying this out, especially with a city like Edmonton in that league. Though with more southern teams, it does make sense.
    A very interesting experiment indeed.

  3. Tim F. says:

    Bravo! I never thought it would happen but I’m glad to see that it did.

  4. Daniel says:

    Experimentation is good! It’s obvious the the current MLS schedule is not the ideal schedule for soccer in the US but it’s tough for them to try a bunch of different things. It’s easier for NASL to experiment so I’m glad they are. I like the split-season thought and hope it works!

  5. Topher says:

    I like it. Just think they should take top two from each so there is a bit of a playoffs at the end.

    Seed them (replace any dupes with combined record #3/#4).

    I wonder if this means they are stopping at 9 teams for next season. Would have like to have seen Orlando City SC join the league.

  6. Dave says:

    For one, they’re thinking that playoff scheduling is awkward and expensive for the clubs. For another, they’re thinking that having 75% percent of your clubs in the playoffs is too many. This format ultimately puts more value on the regular season AND still lets the league have a showcase match at season’s end, without the extra expense of three weeks of playoffs.

    Yes, theoretically, a team can amass more points over both seasons than either champion. Only a few fans of the team that suffers through this will complain about that, and that’s only if it happens, and everyone else will tell them to stop complaining and start adapting to the league format they’re playing. I think this has potential to make next season VERY interesting.

  7. NC Jeff says:

    You got a point, but as long as everyone goes into the season knowing this is the rule, it’ll be OK … the problem you point out is when you change in the middle of the season (e.g., MLB in 1981 … the Reds had the best record in baseball and the Cardinals the best in their division, but both missed the playoffs).

    One advantage this makes is the final games before 7/4 become really BIG.

  8. Gnarls says:

    I like it! Now, if they could just make amends with USL and create a two-tier league, it’d be perfect!

  9. MattCox says:

    Being a Rowdies season ticket holder, I can vouch that the July and August matches are usually either incredibly hot or subject to lengthy rain delays, and as much as the late Fall games would be fun from a climate standpoint, I don’t think this is an altogether great idea for a couple reasons. Firstly, the Spring champion is automatically awarded hosting rights for the championship match. Where’s the motivation for that club to do anything in Fall besides remain healthy? Secondly, while eliminating playoffs appeals to the hardcore soccer purists, I’m not quite sure this league is at a point where it can afford to tell the fanbases of 77% of it’s clubs that their games are essentially pointless.

    If this is going to be the format, then homefield should be awarded to the season winner with the most aggregate points. Make the Spring winner stay competitive to secure the extra home game/revenue.

  10. Rory says:

    Great, now I gotta go wiki the 1981 mlb season and see what the hell happend there.

  11. Rory says:

    won’t matter… the whole league will be gone in two seasons anyway

  12. Rory says:

    Big deal, it’s essentially running the exact same MLS calander with a month off in the middle of the summer and a different playoff system.

  13. BamaMan says:

    I like the idea of a split regular season (with what I’m guessing is a winter and summer break on either side). I don’t like the idea of awarding a champion for each side; I know that’s how many Latin American countries do it. I’d prefer to simply have a playoff in the spring of the four teams with the best aggregate record. How hard would that be?

  14. Dave says:

    I’ve been suggesting the same thing — season winner with most overall points should be host. Part of the reason for this new format, certainly, is that playoff scheduling must be proving awkward and expensive for the clubs. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be that difficult for all the clubs to set aside ONE DATE for a potential final. It certainly wouldn’t be more expensive.

  15. Joe shmoe says:

    stupid league stupid system that’s all.

  16. Hooloovoo says:

    Actually Rory, this second division league is going to grow. You are totally wrong and obviously not following their press releases. This league is going to expand and get larger. The MLS needs this second league or else the MLS is doomed. So Rory sorry to say you are wrong.

  17. kevdflb says:

    Yeah, because this format is completely novel and has never been tried anywhere else in the world
    No other place.
    Just the NASL.

    Not almost all of latin america pretty much forever.

  18. Gazza says:

    MLS is not doomed no matter what happens the second division or third division in North America.

    That would be like saying the NHL is affected by what happens to the AHL or IHL

  19. Mauricio says:

    Responsible approach to game, seasonal and team conditions that may make the NASL the league to watch for Division 2 soccer. With the MLS cutting out college players, American players only have limited domestic options. The NASL is on the verge of growing itself over the next few years, and as the pay catches up to the talent, good things will come.

  20. Daniel says:

    As Dave says, I think it’s related to scheduling. The sooner you know who is hosting the sooner you can get the venue locked down and prep for everything involved.

  21. kevdflb says:

    Fair enough idea.
    A 3 game playoff shouldn’t be financially prohibitive.

    They’re at 10 teams now, not 9.

  22. I agree.

    MLS should watch what happens and consider it for themselves.

  23. Mike says:

    This isn’t “Apertura/Clausura” at all. That system crowns two champions – there isn’t a “Soccer Bowl” at the end of it. This is more like the Can-Am league in independent league baseball. God help the fans of the team that wins the first half of the season and has to sit through three months of absolutely useless games.

    Terrible move by the NASL. If they wanted to do an ACTUAL Opening/Closing season, that would have been absolutely fine. Crown two champions per season, and move on. This, however, reeks of amateurism, and is just an awful competitive format for both the players and the fans. It’s going to be difficult for the league to separate this from the immediate connection with very low-level baseball.

  24. bigprof says:

    yep, one half of it should at least take place while MLS is out of season, to at least capitalize on that

  25. CJ says:

    This is great for soccer in the N. America. Why try to reinvent the wheel and be MLS Jr.? It’s more ballsy to try something new. Plus, I think it makes sense to have a break in the middle of summer. Even soccer players need a vacation.

  26. So that makes it less stupid? Just because other places may or many not do it doesn’t make a system that could leave the best team out of the playoffs smart, does it?

  27. Vic El Paso texas says:

    Why not make NASL get on the same schedule like MLS and grow together, so simple and obviously Nasl has less teams but work something else. Anyways, Mls its to big and powerful for a change like that, and it would not help Mls. Mls needs to expand to 24 teams or 26 ( half and half in each conference) and start the season in early or late August and have WINTER BREAK, NOT A SUMMER BREAK. Start in August, winter break from December (before xmas) to after superbowl or star the second same weekend as superbowl. During break winter break, have a little tournament in hawaii or have friendlies in non mls cities. After starting the second half of the season, play in warm cities to give north mls cities to recuperate from the winter. Finish the season in May or April, with the playoffs. Then for the summer have your friendlies versus European teams.

  28. kevdflb says:

    Yup. The system’s considerable success in many places over many years would indicate that it isn’t “stupid.”

    I’m not saying that it is the ideal set up, just that your criticisms seem, well, overblown (to say the least).

    I am glad to see a reduced play-off format in favor of one that favor a team’s success over a season. I’d prefer a single season, with a single winner determined by points over the course of the years, but a clausera apertura system is still better than a silly playoff system with the majority of teams making the playoffs.

  29. kevdflb says:

    Typo city….

    I am glad to see a reduced play-off format in favor of one that favors a team’s success over the entire season. I’d prefer a single season with a single winner determined by points over the course of that year, but a clausera / apertura system is still better than a silly playoff system in which the majority of teams make the playoffs.

  30. CanadianDave says:

    You’ve never been to Canada in October, November, December, February or March. That would NOT work for Canadian teams in the NASL or MLS.

  31. Seriously says:

    Ah, but as shown above it does not favor a team’s success over the entire season. It favors a team’s success over half of a season. A team that is successful over the entire season can get absolutely nothing. Also if I’m the team that wins the first half season thing then I’m not trying for crap in the second half. I’m already in, the second hlaf season will be nothing but glorified training in preparation for the final.

  32. Seriously says:

    I agree 100%, though I think 2 champions a season is stupid as well, this is ridiculous. The point you bring up about the first season champion is exactly what went through my mind. That team has zero incentive in the second half season. I’d make sure I stayed healthy and in form, but screw results. Loss all the second half games, no biggie. Only the final will matter for that team.

  33. Seriously says:

    It would appear you dont know what “reinvent the wheel” means.

  34. Topher says:

    There are 9 set for next year. Ottawa can’t be the 10th team because it would mean more than 25% of the teams would be from outside the USA.

  35. Vic El Paso texas says:

    In that case make mini sss with retractable roof……. Or at least with winter in mind. For hot humid cities, with roof cover like livestrong park and winter cities, well roof cover and,maybe a retractable roof. but mls does need two seasons in one, it needs 24 to 26 teams in order to go August to may with a winter break. Add more southern teams and southwest teams, no more Canadian teams because their winter is not good for mls future. Phoenix,Tucson, las vegas, San Diego, San Antonio, albuquerque, el paso, Miami,Orlando, Tampa bay, Atlanta, nc,sc, Alabama, Tennessee- maybe new orleans

  36. Rlw2020 says:

    So basically they are taking a break in July and reformating their playoffs. Good move i guess. They should start the season in the late summer to fall and then the second part begins in the spring with the “soccer bowl” in june. Following the more common openning/closing season will have its advantages when dealing with forgein transfers, mls loans and the state of clubs when they enter the USOC. Plus a championship game in june would be great and not barried by MLS playoffs and american football

    Hopefully they can grow under this system and absorb the usl pro div

  37. LA G says:

    SO only ONE team makes the final each half season? Why would any team that is below say 3rd even try(If the gap was wide enough)? Why not have a playoffs for the championship spot?!

  38. Ezra says:

    The NHL would be very affected if something were to happen to the AHL. Do you know how many players spend time developing in the AHL after Juniors and before hitting the NHL? Just for an example, on the Stanley Cup winning team this year (LA Kings), only 4 players did not spend any time in the AHL. The lower level hockey leagues like the CHL and ECHL on the other hand usually have journeyman players who will never make it to the NHL, so losing them isn’t that critical. But without the Major Junior leagues like the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL, the NHL would also be seriously affected. While the number of former college players in the NHL grows, the majority of them still spent time playing in one of the Major Junior leagues before going to college.

    One of the problems that’s constantly touted for MLS, is the poor youth development. The North American hockey development model, would actually be a good system for MLS to model itself after for it’s youth development, IMHO. Use leagues like the PDL and NSPL as equivalents of the Major Juniors, and NASL or USL Pro as the AHL.

  39. dan says:

    meh i dont want to see this crap in MLS. Single table, single season

  40. Mesheke says:

    Cosmos are joining in 2013, Ottawa in 2014.

  41. kevdflb says:

    Which is why I think a single table full season is better.
    But, 2 seasons a year is better than silly playoffs.

  42. kevdflb says:

    Ah. Ok – they are already listed on the NASL website – so I assumed they were coming in next year.

  43. betamale says:


    I like that NASL is at least listening to the core soccer fans in the country. If they were able to do a 2 tier setup with promo/relegation people will take notice of their league with greater interest.

    MLS playoff system is going to look silly this year. Unbalanced schedules, way too many teams making the playoffs. It seemed like they were starting to get it figured out over the past few years but took steps back this year.

  44. Shawn says:


    The problem with MLS player development is tied to NCAA rules regarding practice time and participation, which puts them dramatically behind their overseas counterparts at what is typically the beginning of their pro careers.

    That isn’t going to change whatever NASL does. I don’t have a problem with this, and I do think it would be interesting if MLS moved to it as well. It would shut Blatter up about “matching the world’s schedule,” since we’d be paired with OUR Hemisphere’s schedule, which is as it should be.

  45. kevdflb says:

    I don’t think the NASL or USL Pro have enough stability right now for Promotion Relegation….
    Or enough teams.

    But, I think it is a good goal – a goal that could be achieved within 5 years, and it’s more likely to happen between the 3rd and 2nd leagues than between the 1st and 2nd (unfortunately).

  46. Footy76 says:

    Canada need their own league MLS would expand in to Canada and then make a Canadian league sanction by the CSA that would also give them three spots in the Concacaf Champions League.

  47. kevdflb says:

    Canadian teams have some of the best support in the league.
    Retractable roofs are financially out of the question for almost every club.

    Tucson, Albuquerque, El Paso, and Alabama are markets too small to even mention.

    And the plan is to expand beyond 20.
    24 and 26 would work – some will almost certainly be in Canada and a few will be in the SE and SW (oh, and a second in NY).

  48. ViC El Paso Texas says:

    tucson might not, but el paso and albquerque are hidden gems for business and sports. El Paso can sure support a 20,000 stadium even though our metro population is 900,000 but adding our sister border city of Juarez with their rich people and population, El Paso becomes over a 1million. As a matter of fact El Paso is getting a triple-A baseball team and stadium downtown,which they want to make a SSS next to the baseball stadium as well.

  49. Scatt says:

    It puts more value on the regular season ONLY for the top few clubs. The rest of the league will be playing meaningless games all year. (This approach is only exciting with promotion and relegation in place – with half the league battling for promotion spots and the other half trying to avoid the relegation the zone.)

  50. Scatt says:

    Yeah, that’s a pet peeve of mine. It makes NASL look a little desperate. Wish they’d separate future teams into their own section at least…

  51. Ezra says:

    Yes, it doesn’t really matter what NASL does. What I was suggesting is changing the relationship of MLS with NASL (and with the development leagues) so they don’t have to rely on the NCAA to develop players, and that will have to come from MLS. I was just showing how the AHL does matter to the NHL and that MLS doesn’t take advantage of a similar relationship.

  52. kevdflb says:

    San Antonio has given great support for their new NASL club – and there is only one other major professional franchise.

    I wouldn’t say that you’re wrong about those cities. But, they won’t be getting any MLS clubs until they prove themselves – like San Antonio is doing.

    El Paso is the 65th largest metro area in the US – between Allentown PA and Baton Rouge Louisiana. You’ll be starting with an NASL or USL Pro team – don’t hold your breath for an MLS club. But, that is what these leagues are for. With real promotion / relegation smaller market clubs could work their way up. Thats what I’d be in favor of (eventually).

  53. kevdflb says:

    And El Paso is the 76th media market…. Which is more important. Obviously other factors are important, soccer culture and history, competition from other professional and college sports – but even with those factors in your favor, it’s tough to move up from #76.