After months of speculation, FIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place in winter, running from November 21st to December 18th. This will mark the first time that the tournament has taken place in the winter and will likely cause disruption in the majority of major European Leagues. However, there is one league that the World Cup will not disrupt, and that is Major League Soccer.
As we saw last summer, the World Cup can cause some of Major League Soccer's biggest stars to miss around a month's worth of games. While MLS has done an excellent job of marketing these absences as a positive for the league and a sign of growth and talent, clubs and their fans are left without some of their marquee players. When the players do return to their clubs they are often fatigued or in some cases injured, which can further disrupt a team's season. Having the top players available to their clubs can only be a positive for the league, and a winter World Cup allows this to happen.
There are some negatives for the league with this new set-up and it involves the MLS Playoffs. The MLS season generally ends in late October, which puts the World Cup smack in the middle of the playoffs. Losing a chunk of the leagues best players is bad during the regular season, it is even worse during the playoffs. In the summer, the World Cup affects the first third of the season. It's not an ideal situation, but at least clubs aren't in the midst of fighting for a playoff spot or more importantly a championship. There is a fix to this problem, if MLS were to move the start of the season up a month, the MLS Cup would take place right before the start of the World Cup and avoid the possibility of a team playing for a championship without one of their best players. Either way, this setup presents a big issue for the league.
It will also be interesting to see how MLS uses the World Cup to their advantage from a marketing standpoint. Last year the league was able to use the loss of stars to their respective national teams as a positive, highlighting the growth of the league. The league was also able to capitalize off of the popularity of the World Cup among casual fans and create more exposure for the league. Simply put, it becomes difficult to market MLS players in the World Cup when the league won't know which players will male the cut until the latter part of the season.
Not surprisingly, FIFA's decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar continues to create problems for just about every major domestic league in the world. The major European leagues are likely to lose out on large amounts of TV revenue, and MLS will have to completely adjust it's schedule and the timing of the playoffs. More issues are likely to make their way to the forefront and 2022 draws closer, but it is important to mention that there are still seven years until the Qatar World Cup. We still don't know what the make-up of the league and what national team players will be selected. So despite all of the issues mentioned above, there is plenty of time to figure out how to best tackle these problems.