Dear Major League Soccer: We need to talk.
The Under-23 United States Men's National Team didn't qualify for the 2012 London Olympics (which is another problem entirely, but that discussion is for another time), so the most meaningful game played by the USMNT this August will occur this coming Wednesday (August 15) when they travel south to take on rivals Mexico. It's always a heated affair whenever these two sides meet, but Wednesday's friendly-in-name-only will also serve as somewhat of a victory celebration for a Mexican team that won gold this past Saturday.
I was glancing at the midweek "soccer on TV" list of matches when I noticed that MLS had three scheduled league contests for Wednesday evening, I first thought that it was a good, maybe even brilliant, idea. With coverage of the Mexico vs. USA match airing on ESPN2 starting at 7:30 pm ET, there was the possibility for a USMNT and MLS national TV doubleheader. As I've stated before, I'm a fan of just about anything that brings more attention to the league. The MLS match in question wouldn't necessarily even have to air on ESPN2. NBC Sports Network could join in on the fun at 10:15 pm or 10:30 pm ET.
Fans won't be treated to such a doubleheader on Wednesday. Instead, NBC Sports Network, the TV home of MLS, will be showing the Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy match starting at 7:00 pm ET. That means that a live soccer game that should feature David Beckham, the most recognizable soccer star in this country and maybe the entire world, will be entering halftime right as the USA vs. Mexico match is about to start on ESPN2. That clicking sound you will all hear between 7:45 and 8:00 pm ET on Wednesday will be the sound of 90-95 percent of soccer fans in this country changing the channel from NBCSN to ESPN2.
While making an appearance on the Seeing Red podcast earlier in 2012, the now former New York Red Bulls President of Business Operations Chris Heck stated that he had decided parts of the team's schedule, including the controversial 1:00 pm midweek July match. A large amount of RBNY supporters, myself included, criticized the idea of New York hosting an afternoon game during the dead of summer, and Heck was ultimately relieved of his duties at the beginning of August. It's likely that Heck and the Red Bulls didn't part ways over that one decision, but I doubt that experiment's perceived failure helped his cause.
Multiple trustworthy individuals have told me that the kickoff time for a MLS match airing on national television is decided by the network, NBC Sports Network in this case. Assuming NBCSN set the time for Wednesday's Columbus vs. LA contest, it seems reasonable to suggest that the network and the two clubs could have reached some type of agreement that would have allowed the match to begin somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30 pm. Such a start time would have given an interested viewer the opportunity to catch all of the MLS match live before switching the channel to Mexico vs. USA.
These scheduling conflicts are nothing new, of course. MLS matches went head-to-head with a USMNT game that was taking place in Florida earlier this year. Our domestic league should be working with, never competing against, US Soccer. If anything, in fact, USMNT and USWNT matches showing on national television could actually be used to promote the league. This desired teamwork continues to not exist, however, and it's extremely frustrating for soccer fans in the United States.
I'm sure that those at NBCSN and those who scheduled the start time for Columbus vs. LA Galaxy know far more about creating a live television broadcast than do I. I also know this: Starting at 7:30 pm ET on Wednesday night, I'll be watching ESPN2.