Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. It seems that any given day, you’ll find soccer on the TV, the radio or online – and even near you!
It can lead us to question how exactly soccer is being played all year round and why this is the case. Most sports have time-specific seasons, why doesn’t soccer?!
Well, in short – soccer does have these time specific seasons, but they’re different in the US, Europe and other continents, which in essence means that soccer will never stop throughout the year, but there’s much more to it than that.
This guide provides you with everything you need to know about soccer, its seasons and why it goes on all year!
Okay so the first thing to note is that the MLS (Major League Soccer) which is the top division of soccer in the United States, has a different season time-frame from other leagues and even that can be changed slightly every four years when the World Cup is around.
The MLS season runs from March to November whereas most soccer seasons in Europe run from August to May.
If the World Cup is a factor, the MLS season will be extended.
European countries will differ when it comes to their season time-frame, and they even differ in their own country.
For example, the United Kingdom has many soccer leagues and these are further split into four countries.
Scotland’s top soccer division begins at a slightly earlier time than the English top soccer division.
Similarly, their lower divisions will play at slightly different times, usually a week or so before the top division season begins.
It’s important to note that many countries, especially in Europe, have implemented a winter break during their season for fatigue purposes. This normally includes a two-week break from the normal schedule.
What Happens Out-Of-Season?
This depends. In the United States, the usual MLS season completion is November when the play-offs conclude.
At this time, High-School soccer will begin, but this depends on from state to state due to weather and seasonal conditions.
However, if a World Cup or other major tournament is on – the “out-of-season” period is filled with World Cup soccer.
In Europe, the out-of-season period begins normally in May and concludes in August.
This can vary though due to European title finals like the Champions League or Europa League which are normally played between the middle of May to June.
During this period in Europe, there is what is known as the summer transfer window which concludes normally on August 31.
This is an opportunity for clubs to purchase and sell their players and generally give their club a shake-up.
There are two transfer window periods. In Europe, it is normally January-February and then June-September.
In the United States, the first is March-May and then July-August, although some deals can be completed provisionally prior to these official periods.
Do Soccer Players Have Time For Vacation?
This is a fair question because when it’s all said and done, soccer is still a job and the players are some employees to the overall club. As such, they are entitled to vacations!
Soccer players will normally take a break when they are able. In Europe, this will be during the winter break period and for one day at Christmas.
In the United States, players may take a period of rest for two to three weeks in the postseason.
As professionals at the top level, most players will continue to train to keep their muscles and ability at the highest possible standard, but they will not play an official soccer match. Some players may also decide to take part in charity soccer events.
What Does Pre-Season Mean?
You may have heard the term preseason or “pre-season friendlies” when it comes to soccer.
Essentially, pre-season is the time between the end of the previous season and the beginning of the next season.
It’s a time for players to train and try new things out without too much pressure, it’s a time for new players or coaches to get to know their new club, and it’s a time to start getting some balance, shape and organization ready for the season ahead.
It’s a critical period. A good pre-season can give a club the confidence boost they need for their first competitive soccer match of the season, and it allows the club time to resolve any crises that they may have gone through.
This is more common in the modern game due to the amount of money that now exists throughout the sport, which may lead to financial difficulties or even the destruction of a club entirely.
Pre-season normally involves clubs agreeing “tours” where European, African or South American clubs may travel to areas of the United States or vice versa and play a series of friendly matches.
During these friendlies, clubs may play their young academy players, new signings or try out new tactics.
Generally, the training involves a lot of fitness training and then honing in on skill training. This training is then put forward into the competitive matches during the season.
Some pre-season tours have been made into tournaments with a trophy being on the line.
Examples of this include the International Champions Cup, Audi Cup and Emirates Cup.
How Does The Season Go In Europe?
Typically, the season begins in Europe with a cup match between the country’s league winner and the country’s most major cup winner.
This match will then have its own name like the Super Cup or Community Shield.
Examples of these winners are in England where the Premier League winner will face the FA Cup winner (this alters if the winner of both of these is the same), and in Spain where the La Liga winner plays the winner of the Copa del Rey.
The format of most European seasons has a league where each club will play each other twice.
Once at home and once away and the winner of the league is the team that has reached the most points. Normally, it is 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and nothing for a loss.
There is also goal difference (GD) to consider. This is the figure of the net number of goals a team has scored throughout that season, calculated by goals scored vs goals conceded.
For example, if you have played 5 games and won each game 1-0, the goal difference will be +5.
This format is the same for most European leagues, except for Belgium who follow a similar format to the United States with a post-season play-off, along with what is known as the conference format.
Most sports in the US follow this format, so it’s something you’re probably already familiar with.
At the end of the league season in Europe, major cup finals are played both domestically and internationally.
For example, in May – England’s most major domestic cup (the FA Cup) final is played. Only English (and some Welsh) clubs can compete.
Then, typically, the European finals will be played last – although sometimes the European final is played before the FA Cup – these finals are the Champions League and Europa League. Many European clubs see these as the biggest cup to win.
Is It Normal For Soccer Players To Play Every Day?
That’s not the case. Most medical and sports experts believe it takes between 2 and 3 days to recover from a full 90-minute match of soccer.
Therefore, in most leagues – even with an extremely packed calendar, only 2 matches at most will be played for the senior team.
This packed schedule is why the winter break was brought about to begin with. Famous managers like Jürgen Klopp were calling for a winter break in England which previously did not exist.
As a result, before the winter break was granted, many clubs had to bolster their squads with extra players or more youth players simply, so they could rotate their squads and not risk injury to their best players.
This causes controversy, especially when one club is involved in more matches than their opposition that week when it is out of their control.
As mentioned earlier, players will normally be allowed National holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving to spend with their families, but they may have to play on New Year’s Day.
The one thing that many people forget is that players and clubs may have to travel far to play their weekly matches and this can be a factor in fatigue also, especially mentally.
Who Comes Up With The Soccer Schedule Anyway?
The main schedule or calendar is created by FIFA who are the primary governing body for soccer.
Once the fixtures and overall format of the year is delivered from FIFA, the other soccer organizations like UEFA, the FA and CONCACAF will devise their fixture list.
They will take into consideration what we mentioned earlier about 2 or 3 days rest required to recover and then work around this to make a fair calendar.
Often, fixtures will be postponed or rescheduled due to conflict in the fixtures or through an act of God or other major incident.
Once the MLS season comes to a close, you can also switch the TV over to watch European soccer! Because in essence, soccer is all year round, just not every day in the same league or country.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many frequently asked questions when it comes to soccer, so we’ve compiled a few with the answers you need.
Are Soccer Players Paid Well In The US?
The top league in the United States is the MLS. Currently, the highest paid player is Carlos Vela who is taking home around $6.3 million bucks a year! He plays for LA FC and used to play for England’s Arsenal.
Generally though, MLS players will net around the $400,000 mark each year.
What About The Referees?
This depends on from league to league. The MLS pays referees around $900 per match, but European referees may earn significantly higher than this. Spain pays their referees over $6,000 per match.
Are Soccer Stadiums Expensive?
Depending on their size and age, soccer stadiums normally range from being expensive to very expensive! You can expect anything from $200,000,000 to $2 billion.
What’s A Typical Scoreline In England?
1-0 is the most typical scoreline in the English Premier League, but this does not mean the matches are boring by any means.
It’s also not uncommon to see much higher scores in some matches!
How Can Players Play So Much Soccer?!
It might seem like soccer players are forever playing the game, and you simply can’t fathom how they can handle it! These are professionals at the peak of their game, but even then – they often get injured.
An example is when David Beckham played for AC Milan and became injured during a Serie A match right before the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
It shows that even the best can succumb to the demand.
Soccer is an all-year-round sport, but it’s not played all year in the same nation due to the physical and mental demands of the sport.
However, it does mean that you can likely catch some soccer on the TV at any time of year!