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Gulati backs Klinsmann's idea of stretching MLS season

Jurgen Klinsmann y Sunil Gulati

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HARRISON, N.J. – US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati agrees with Jurgen Klinsmann's controversial assertion on Monday that the Major League Soccer season isn't long enough to help American players compete with the rest of the world.

“The season is too short,” Gulati said on Tuesday shortly before the US-Ecuador friendly at Red Bull Arena. “It’s not the number of games that’s the critical issue, it’s the offseason.

“What Jurgen is talking about is not 50 or 60 going, but guys that are key guys in his team – three months off is too much, we know that. The guys that are not playing in the MLS Cup, there are players who will be finished in two weeks. They’re not playing again until Jan. 4, when they’re with us.”

Klinsmann said on Monday that the current MLS schedule – which runs largely between mid-March and late November for the two clubs who reach the MLS Cup final – is not competitive enough for USMNT players currently in the league.

“If you have a seven-, eight-month season, that’s not competitive with the rest of the world,” the US national team manager said. “We need an 11-month season for those guys.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber, who spoke at a halftime press gathering, confirmed Wednesday’s meeting with Klinsmann to take place at league headquarters and did not dismiss the US manager’s suggestion to extend the MLS season.

“Jurgen’s right. The season’s too short,” Garber said. “I’d love to be able to have global warming take its effect and have the weather in our country change and be able to have a longer season. But I think our fan base is developing. The time will come we’ll be able to spread our season out a little bit. I appreciate Jurgen’s support.”

Gulati said Tuesday that he will meet with Garber and the leadership of the league to talk about technical issues on Wednesday morning in New York. The length of the MLS season will assuredly be one of the topics, as will the opportunities for younger players in the US pool to supplement the MLS schedule during the offseason.

“It’s not as if we’re ahead of the world’s game, and our young players especially need to be playing regularly for 10-and-a-half or 11 months, and that’s what [Klinsmann] said,” Gulati said. “He’s going to raise that with the Commissioner about how we do that, how we accomplish that and get some of those guys abroad.”

If the United States are to build on the success of the 2010 World Cup, then the development of young players and using the offseason will be important issues, and one that Gulati hopes will be handled during his meeting with the league on Wednesday.

“The break between January being off, some teams being done on Oct. 22, 10 weeks, is simply too long,” Gulati said. “More school will develop better players, and more playing up to a point where the curve turns another way is a positive. Jurgen said that very clearly yesterday.

“We agree with it and MLS agrees with it and that’s why you’ve seen the season stretched out a little bit over time, but there are still some constraints, and we have to deal with it.”