The Toronto FC and DC United were scheduled for a match at 9AM on July 12, 2020 during MLS is back tournament. The match was however postponed due to potential COVID-19 positive tests.

What I find shocking is to have a game at 9AM, to me this is unheard of. Once you take into account time spent before the game to eat, rest and warm up, you're looking at players needing to wake up before sunrise for a game! While this might be normal for some other sports, it's something you never see for soccer. It must throw off the players bodies to play at a time they're not used to competing. And looking at the schedule of the tournament, there are more 9AM games to come, so this is not just a 1 off.

Most of the US wouldn't even be awake to watch the game considering the matches start 6AM on the west coast. It makes me wonder if MLS is targeting non local targets. So is MLS trying to please the Asian markets (where it would be evening or night time) with such weird schedule? Hard to believe other parts of the world would want to watch the MLS while only few hours later you could watch far higher quality European leagues.

None of the non-morning games are scheduled before 8PM, so this makes it even more confusing. At first I thought MLS is hosting tons of games per day and so games start at 9AM and go all the way to the night, but there are no games between 9AM to 8PM.

The only thing I can think of is to blame the heat and humidity in Orlando, and so not wanting to schedule games around noon or during the afternoon. Then why not have games at 7,9, and 11 PM? Even if a game starts at midnight, most Americans will be awake considering west coast is 3 hours behind the east.

Or even better yet, why not have games happening at the same time? That's what happens during a normal season anyway. Is MLS using only 1 field to play all their matches at the Disney World? It'll be hard to believe that they limited themselves to just one field for 20+ teams. What if the field suffers damages? Also don't you want to have games scheduled simultaneously for the last round of the group stage to preserve integrity and fair play? I have hard time believing MLS brought the league back to a location where there is only 1 field for all matches. And also have a hard time believing anyone would be interested to wake up for 9AM game on a Sunday.

So why is MLS having such bizarrely early game times?

1 Answer 1


From this ESPN article, the reason for the weird times (9am, 8pm, 10:30pm) is to avoid the heat:

The kickoff times are weird. Why is that?

At first glance, the schedule certainly seems bizarre. The games will be held at 9 a.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET, and 10:30 p.m. ET (2 p.m. GMT, 1 a.m. GMT and 3 a.m. GMT). The reasoning is simple: it will avoid playing games in the midday blast furnace -- average high temperatures are 92 degrees, with an average low of 78 degrees -- that is high summer in Florida.

As to why not 7/9/11, I can only guess; they have 2.5 hours between games, so perhaps they decided that 6/8:30/11 would be too far, but I don't believe they've communicated that information specifically (or at least not as far as I can find).

  • While the Florida heat is an issue, this sounds like an excuse from the MLS. As I mentioned on the question, if it's the heat, why not games at 7, 9, 11 or overlapping games?
    – alamoot
    Jul 12, 2020 at 16:55
  • @alamoot I don't see why you see some sort of malicious behavior on their part - I have to think they'd make the games as visible as possible to their viewers, and this is what they came up with. This is their stated reason, in any event, I'm not sure you'd get anything better even if there is some sort of underhanded reason for it...
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2020 at 17:01
  • oh I don't think there is a malicious behavior. I just find it super curious. Wouldn't midnight EST games have more American viewers than 9AM EST games? Did the players have a say at this? I'm not sure if there's a PA in the MLS. Again it kinda suggests to me they only have 1 field available to them (not having overlapping games), and that's hard to believe they risk bringing 20+ teams to play on only 1 field.
    – alamoot
    Jul 12, 2020 at 17:07
  • I don't have any stats to argue with, but I can 100% guarantee you that ESPN and MLS do have those stats and made the decision based on them. MLS Players Association undoubtedly had some say in it, but probably not as much as MLBPA would have given their relative strengths and their members' relative ability to forgo paychecks.
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2020 at 17:20
  • 3
    0900 ET (NB: not EST) games also fit pretty well with the very large European soccer market (14:00-15:00) and are in prime-time for the very large South-East Asian market.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 12, 2020 at 18:19

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