Major League Soccer 2023: Now With League-On-League Violence

Titans Bastard

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The USMNT lost its round of 16 match to the Netherlands on Saturday. Among other things, this obviously means there is no more soccer worth paying attention to until the MLS season begins in late February.

Folks, it’s the 28th season of MLS, which is a hell of a long time. It's wild to think our very own domestic league is approaching three decades of existence. As many years as this league has been around, somehow the number of clubs is larger, with St. Louis City SC coming in as the 29th team this season. This also marks eleven consecutive expansion clubs that have come in with a name that has “FC”, “SC”, or “CF” and also “City”, “United”, “Inter”, or just the city name. The last team that didn’t go that route was the Montreal Impact who subsequently changed their name to… CF Montreal. Pain. But I guess bland, Anglophile names are what the people want. I digress…

THE LEAGUES CUP GAMBIT

This season promises to be an interesting one for the league, with several changes afoot. The one foremost on my mind is the first full-blown edition of Leagues Cup. In previous years, this has been a glorified friendly tournament between MLS and Liga MX clubs, but in 2023 it is taking a dramatically different, larger, and more serious format. MLS league play will go on hiatus from mid-July to mid-August and every single MLS and Liga MX club will compete in this tournament, which will have a group stage and a knockout phase. I’m really excited to see how this goes — international club competitions pit the best of the league against each other, but we’ve never seen two leagues go up against each other from top to bottom. There is the potential for a lot of score-settling here, although it’s not totally “clean” because all the games will be held in the US in 2023.
TV DEAL SHAKEUP

MLS entered into a new contract with Apple TV for its rights. This means that every single game will be on the platform, although some games will also be on normal cable channels like in years past. As a demented MLS fan, I like this arrangement because there are no local blackouts, but the worry is that (a) casual fans will have a hard time finding their way to these games and (b) the pricing is too high. In any event, 40% of games on Apple TV will not be behind the paywall per The Athletic, so there will be plenty of soccer available provided you can make your way to Apple TV.

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

2022 was the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for for more than a decade. Seattle won the CCL, ending Mexico’s reign and the long streak of MLS disappointment. This was coming, as MLS clubs have steadily done better and better in CCL on the aggregate, with several near-misses in finals. This is a club-level capstone on a thoroughly demoralizing year for Mexican soccer, whose clubs, NT, and youth NTs have played second fiddle to American soccer in literally everything.

Seattle paid the price, as MLS teams who make deep runs in CCL often do. They ran out of gas and missed the playoffs for the first time in their history. (They also had a lot of injuries.)

LAFC, Philly, Austin, Orlando, and Vancouver are flying the league’s flag in 2023.

COACHING CHANGES

There aren’t as many openings this offseason as there were last winter. Ben Olsen was hired as Houston’s new manager — truly, an inspired, exciting pick for an inspired, exciting club. Luchi Gonzalez will take over at San Jose now that the World Cup is over (he’s been one of Berhalter’s assistants since Dallas canned him). Columbus and Caleb Porter parted ways in October and they have yet to make a hire. Bradley Carnell, a longtime RBNY assistant, is the inaugural manager for St. Louis.

TRANSFER MARKET AND ROSTER BUILDING

Things have been relatively quiet so far but will pick up after the World Cup. There have been a few outgoing sales & transfers, mostly centered around Montreal who have generated close to $20m this offseason.

Djordje Mihailovic was sold from Montreal to AZ Alkmaar in a deal announced earlier this year. ($6m)
Alistair Johnston was sold from Montreal to Celtic a few days ago ($3.5m)
Ismael Kone is about to be sold from Montreal to Watford for a reported $8-10m
Joao Moutinho (no, not that one) left Orlando on a free for Spezia of Serie A.
Paxten Aaronson was sold from Philadelphia to Eintracht Frankfurt for $4m


Internally in MLS, there have been a few free agent signings, the re-entry draft process, and some homegrown signings. The imports will begin flowing in soon.

Garth Lagerwey’s contract in Seattle ended and he’s now the CEO of Atlanta United, which is the biggest internal transfer of the offseason so far.

WHO WILL BE GOOD IN 2023?

Only idiots and fools bet on MLS. Well-above-average parity means that it’s hard to predict with accuracy who will be good on opening day — to say nothing of predictions in December while teams are still re-tooling their rosters. The chaos and uncertainty is part of the beauty of the league. Last year’s MLS Cup finalists LAFC and Philadelphia Union should continue to be good, but we’ve seen teams mysteriously implode for no particularly good reason. Embracing the chaos is part of what following MLS is all about.

One team that’s suffered a recent setback is the LA Galaxy, who just got crushed by the league office for breaking MLS rules related to the signing of Cristian Pavon back in 2019. They’ve been fined a boatload of money and will lose a boatload of GAM (= salary cap space). Inter Miami were crushed even harder, but made the playoffs in 2022 anyway because they have a good GM. LA Galaxy are stuck with Chris Klein running a lot of the show, so good luck.

IN CONCLUSION…

Everyone knows MLS isn’t the best league in the world, but it offers both a decent level of soccer and a particular brand of zaniness that you can’t find elsewhere. Due to the increased productivity of MLS academies of late, it’s a central hub of American soccer and if you have a local team it’s worth checking them out and keeping tabs on them for a variety of reasons. Join us as the growth and development of American soccer and American soccer culture continues to unfold before us right here in the US of A.

MLS followers: what are you looking for with your team in 2023?
 

OCST

Sunny von Bulow
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The 718
Here's the tally of which leagues sent the most players to the 2022 WC.

Premier League 136
La Liga 83
Bundesliga 76
Serie A 68
Ligue 1 54
Major League Soccer 35
Saudi Pro League 33
Qatar Stars League 33
EFL Championship 26
Liga MX 23



Now, quantity =/= quality, especially if you look at who's just below MLS. Another table of which leagues have players in the knockout rounds would skew heavily away from anything below the top five. But - it's not nothing. It speaks to MLS' status as a not-elite but decent link in the talent pipeline. I'm not going to hunt down who those 35 are, but I would assume it's a mix of lifers in some lesser WC nations, and a few up and comers that may feature in a top European league by the next cycle.

Actually, the improvement of the USMNT drives that MLS number down, as there are fewer MLS players on the USMNT roster than ever, yes?
 

Senator Donut

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Here's the tally of which leagues sent the most players to the 2022 WC.

Premier League 136
La Liga 83
Bundesliga 76
Serie A 68
Ligue 1 54
Major League Soccer 35
Saudi Pro League 33
Qatar Stars League 33
EFL Championship 26
Liga MX 23



Now, quantity =/= quality, especially if you look at who's just below MLS. Another table of which leagues have players in the knockout rounds would skew heavily away from anything below the top five. But - it's not nothing. It speaks to MLS' status as a not-elite but decent link in the talent pipeline. I'm not going to hunt down who those 35 are, but I would assume it's a mix of lifers in some lesser WC nations, and a few up and comers that may feature in a top European league by the next cycle.

Actually, the improvement of the USMNT drives that MLS number down, as there are fewer MLS players on the USMNT roster than ever, yes?
There’s a handful of factors driving the large number of MLS players at the World Cup. First of all, it’s the only league that is the top flight for two participant nations: USA and Canada. That alone gives it an edge over some of its peer leagues. It is also simply bigger than most (all?) other leagues with 29 clubs.

The good news is that there now are far fewer fading stars (e.g. Bale) than there are up-and-coming players who are probably too good for their own domestic league, but maybe not quite talented/ready for a big five European League (e.g. Nouhou, Świderski). Throw in some Concacaf neighbors from Mexico and Costa Rica, and those are pretty much your archetypes for an MLS World Cup player.
 

InstaFace

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I'll put some numbers on it. Here's who's in the World Cup from MLS:

Canada (11): 4 starters (Johnston, Miller, Osorio, Laryea), 3 rotation players (Kaye, Cavallini, Kone), 4 cheerleaders (Piette, Pantemis, St. Clair, Waterman)
USA (9): 1 starter (Zimmerman), 5 rotation players (Ferreira, Morris, Moore, Yedlin, Acosta), 3 cheerleaders (Long, Roldan, Johnson)
Ecuador (4): 3x LAFC, 1x Seattle (Arreaga)
Costa Rica (2): LB Bryan Oviedo (RSL), winger Ronald Matarrita (Cincinnati)
Cameroon (2): Seattle's LB Nouhou (starter), Philly's CB Mbaizo (cheerleader)
Uruguay (2): Orlando's winger Facundo Torres (DNP), and LAG's CB Martin Caceres (1 start)
Wales (1): Gareth
Argentina (1): Atlanta's 21yo MF Thiago Almada, surely an example of the Senator's category of "too good for their domestic league, not quite ready for Big 5"
Mexico (1): Hector Herrera at Houston
Poland (1): Swiderski in Charlotte
Australia (1): CB/RB Milos Degenek
Switzerland (1): Chicago's Xherdan Shaqiri

So there's 36 of your 35 MLS participants. So it is indeed over half USA/Canada, then a handful of people from the Americas who are in between their domestic leagues and the Big 5, and then there's the guys from Poland, Switzerland, and Bales.
 
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67YAZ

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Chicago Fire 2023 - Such Great Heitz?

No. the answer to that question is, no. Hietz has yet to put together a complete MLS roster, whether it's been whiffs on DPs, Young DPs, or any other signing. Until he shows savvy in navigating the salary cap and contructing a full, coherent roster (try a domestic signing or two, dude!), it's hard to see the Fire getting beyond last-playoff-spot contnders.

But they should get new kits this seaons reflecting the new badge!

Ezra Hendrickson was ok in his first season as manager. The Fire were generally streaky all season and part of that was due to having a roster made up of misfit toys. I hope a year's experience gives Ezra a platform to build on and we'll see some growth in his match planning and player development.

The good news is that the Fire academy is starting to generate more senior talent. BGuti was very creative and exciting in his age 18/19 season...when Shaqiri was out. It's hard to see hpw those two play together, though Guti is younger and more lilely to add defensive chops to his game that Shaq at this point. If Hendrickson can get both on the pitch without creating massive defensive gaps, the the attack should be potent.

Brady steps in to replace Slonina. There may be some bumps while Brady acclimates to a higher level, but he has all the tools necessary to be a star. Really looking forward to watching him grow.

There's also a crop of teenaged attackers who got a little run at the tail end of last season and should push for bigger roles this season: Bazerra, Monis, Oregel, and Missael Rodriguez. And then there's Allan Rodriguez and Javier Casas who will look to break into the midfield. I don't see any future stars among this group, but if half of them can become regular rotation players, it will be a big help for the club.

Jhon Duran ended the season on a heater and with the Fire's golden boot. He's going to get European interest in January, and he definitely could move if the right deal comes along. I hope we see him here in Chicago for another full season, but I have no idea what that means for Pryzblyko. The Pole was exposed as not being able to generate his own chances; he needs the kind of quality service he got in Philly to succeed...which makes the hard pressing and pacy Duran a better fit for a Fire squad that has to play on the counter almost always. But no one is taking Pryzbylko at his current salary.

The Fire opened up a DP slot by reworking Gaston Gimenez' deal and extending him until 2025. I'm not looking forward to 3 more seasons of Gaston, but a DP slot is a nice thing to have?

Chris Mueller looked really feisty in a half season. He was the only attacker Shaqiri regularly combined with to any effect. But the big investment in Jairo Torres has to pan out this season. Torres came to Chiago after playing 32 matches for Atlas in Liga MX in 2021-22; Torres never looked sharp for Chicago. So here's hoping a full offseason allows hiim to build up fitness and come out hot.

The back line is a mess. Maine's own Wyatt Omsberg was the first choice partner for team MVP Czichos, but Omsberg is not starting quality for a top side. Outside Czichos, Heitz really needs to use this window to completely overhaul the backline and create a stable base from which attacking tactics can develop.
 

Titans Bastard

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Since you were all wondering what Bobby Wood is up to these days:

View: https://twitter.com/NERevolution/status/1599795931213225986



He's 30 now and will finish his career with 45 caps for the USMNT. His 17-goal season with Union Berlin in the 2.Bundesliga is actually the only season in which he's scored more than five goals. I don't expect him to start for the Revs.


Meanwhile, the Timbers are splashing some serious cash on a Brazilian attacking midfielder.

View: https://twitter.com/tombogert/status/1599811165143457804
 

Titans Bastard

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Wow, huge move by Portland given that the owner is selling (right?)
Paulson only announced that he's selling the Thorns.
Another banger from Nutmeg News:

View: https://twitter.com/TheNutmegNews/status/1598433337672335363



After one year playing in MLS, Montreal's 20 year old Canadian central midfielder Ismaël Koné is now officially off to Watford for close to eight figures. Montreal has a lot of big pieces to replace this offseason at RB, AM, and CM, but they also have a ton of cash to spend if they want to.

View: https://twitter.com/cfmontreal/status/1599826075475152896
 

Titans Bastard

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This has been rumored for a while, but it's now official. In addition to selling three of their better players, Montreal is also losing its coach Wilfried Nancy to the Columbus Crew. Nancy finished second behind Jim Curtin in the coach of the year voting in 2022. Montreal has a lot of rebuilding to do.

View: https://twitter.com/tombogert/status/1600138980858658817
 

Titans Bastard

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Who remembers when this guy filed a one-time switch from Colombia to play for the US?

Well, he was part of the U23 Kreis-tastrophe and got one cap for the US in the 2021 January camp. Now he's on the move to the Union, who have a zillion games to play in 2023, so they need depth. Perea isn't my prediction to win a backup 8 spot with the national team, but he's young enough to make a leap if he's in the right situation. There will be a lot of young talent kicking around the Philly midfield next year: first and foremost Jack McGlynn, but also Perea, Leon Flach, and Quinn Sullivan.

View: https://twitter.com/PhilaUnion/status/1600158123007672325
 

Titans Bastard

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Three more moves from last week:

The big one is French winger Kevin Cabral moving to Colorado for $1m in GAM. The Galaxy are paying half his salary for the remainder of his three-year contract. LA paid a good chunk of change to buy him from a Ligue 2 club, but he's been disappointing as a DP. They'll be happy to dump his DP slot and part of his salary, and get some GAM (=salary cap space) for their trouble. The Rapids specialize in reclamation projects and they have a very good coach in Robin Fraser, so it could wind up being a win-win. The $1m GAM price tag does feel steep to me given that it's a salary dump for LA.

Longtime MLS right back Zarek Valentin has signed with Minnesota, as has longtime goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Irwin has a nice out-of-nowhere backstory but signing him to replace Tyler Miller means that the club is clearing the deck for Dayne St. Clair to be the undisputed starter.

There are a lot of rumors of foreign signings percolating but not too many official announcements just yet.
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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Jozy Altidore started following the Brazilian club Vasco da Gama and it's new manager, Maurício Barbieri, on instagram. The club has a new owner, was just promoted to Série A and is reformulating it's roster, so this started a lot of transfer rumours.
 

Titans Bastard

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Senator Donut

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MLS has announced the traditional/linear television partners who will compliment Apple TV for the next four seasons. In summation, ESPN is out after 27 seasons. The Univision family of networks will only cover Leagues Cup matches. Fox, FS1, and Fox Deportes will expand their coverage to pick up some of old ESPN/Univision rights, including the MLS Cup final.

FOX Sports​
  • 34 regular season games annually and eight Audi MLS Cup playoff matches each season on FOX/FS1/FOX Deportes (Including 15 regular season matches each year on FOX)
  • MLS Cup every year on FOX and FOX Deportes
  • Leagues Cup: 10 Group Stage, four Round of 32, and two Round of 16 matches each tournament on FS1
TelevisaUnivision​
  • Leagues Cup: 21 matches each tournament on Univision/UNIMÁS/TUDN, which includes:
    • 12 Group Stage matches
    • 8 Knockout Round matches
    • Leagues Cup Final
You can read more at the press release if you're interested in the details or the Canadian rights.
https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/major-league-soccer-fox-sports-televisaunivision-tsn-rds-announce-multi-year-lin
 

InstaFace

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I am irrationally excited for the Leagues Cup. I've long thought that full-table league-vs-league play would be an awesome way to gauge relative league strength and that it should happen lots of other places. Somewhere, Chuck Blazer is smiling, because this is the sort of thing he'd have loved.

I'm sure it'll get its own thread as it approaches, but first let me say: love the idea, can't wait to see the matches, but the format is stupid.

- 47 teams enter (29 MLS + 18 Liga MX)
- 2 teams get byes to knockouts (defending MLS Cup champion, Liga MX title-holder from apertura or clausura, by aggregate standings)
- Remaining 45 teams are put into 15 groups of 3, playing 2 RR matches + a bye
- Top 2 teams from each group, plus the 2 bye teams, proceed to a R32 single-elimination knockout bracket

Thankfully, their piloting of this moronic format should be the final nail in the coffin of its proposed use for the World Cup 2026 format, as the two bear a very close resemblance. That's about the nicest thing I can say about it. Because otherwise:

- Heightened prospects for a Disgrace of Gijon in each group, with G3 participants colluding (explicitly or implicitly) to eliminate the third
- Differing amounts of rest for the two teams contesting the 2nd and 3rd games in each group
- Hugely differing number of games played for teams in the contest: leaving the bye teams aside, 16 clubs will play 2 games, ~16 will play 3, the remaining 15 could play anywhere from 4-7, which seems like a missed opportunity
- All venues will be MLS home matches, and intra-Liga MX matches will be at neutral MLS venues

They're trying it out, and that's the important thing. I'm sure it'll make a lot of money and will be very competitive between the two leagues, and that's also the important thing. But once they go to tinker with the format, I hope they'll come up with something like:

- Since this is the de-facto NAFU club championship, they should invite one Canadian PL team to get to even numbers, or even allow teams from Bermuda to qualify or something. Odd numbers and byes and such all suck.
- Every proposed format for the expanded World Cup would work equally well here, assuming you go to 48. Do 6-team groups, do a double group stage with 16 byes, do Swiss Tournament format, whatever. Try it out, get creative.
- Whatever you do for a group stage, the knockout stages should be home-and-home affairs much like the UEFA Champions League (and UEL and UECL) knockout rounds. Give both clubs' home supporters a hot ticket to buy and a chance to see them without traveling. And then you can do rolling match schedules where there's 3-4 games every night for national television, rather than just everyone plays on Saturday.
- You can't necessarily make the competition "midweek only" a la UEFA competition, because Liga MX plays a lot of weeknight games already. But maybe you could adapt a bit and make MLS and Liga MX be weekend-only just for the month of September, and have Leagues Cup play 3-4 midweek knockout matches in that time. So most teams are back to one game a week, but the few teams still in it have room in the schedule and can have the games be a nationwide showcase.
 

ThePrideofShiner

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No Messi in Seattle this year, unfortunately.

I am circling the NYCFC at Philly game in July plus a Mets at Red Sox game later that week for a solid Northeast vacation. Was hoping to see the Red Bulls as well, but not sure I can swing that.

Edit: I guess Leagues Cup games could be on the docket for late July as well.
 

SocrManiac

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I feel like the MLS playoffs exist because the US sports world demands it, and without relegation to balance out excitement at the bottom half the regular season could leave you cold. This seems like a bridge slightly too far, though. Over half of the league makes the playoffs, and they tack on an additional 7 games to win the championship? That’s a hard way to end a busy season.
 

InstaFace

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I'd rather have a group stage than single-legged elimination matches.

They should (continue to) give a bye to the quarterfinals for the conference winners, though, and have the next 6 (not 7) teams in each conference form 3 (not 4) groups of 4.

Either way, good on them to mix it up. If America demands playoffs, then make the playoffs as entertaining as possible.
 

Titans Bastard

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MLS definitely needs playoffs. The regular season would be totally meaningless for a significant majority of the league without them. There isn't relegation. There also isn't a chase for Europa League spots among clubs in the middle of the pack, either.

I also think American pro sports fans expect a bit more egalitarianism and opportunity than what exists in the ossified financial caste system of European leagues. Everton are never, ever, ever going to win the league title and everybody knows that. What Everton can do is try to be an upper-middle class EPL time and try to qualify for Europe. I just don't think telling a lot of clubs that are trying to grow their fanbases "you'll never be great but you can aspire to a top eight finish now and then" is a winning formula for MLS.

MLS also has 29 teams. The median European league has about 16 teams and nobody has more than 20. You just can't have that many teams with nothing to play for.
 

dirtynine

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As someone who is a bit lukewarm on MLS, I'm pretty excited by this playoff format concept. A single bracket seeded by league finish has never really been fair, and two-legged matches proved too exotic for American fans. Coming off the World Cup, where the group stage is hugely popular, this could have real resonance and carve out a great space for the league within the American sporting landscape. Plus draws in the group stage can happen and will have value, without cheapening the nature of the playoffs. I think this is pretty cool.
 

Titans Bastard

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The two-legged playoff went away mostly because it made for a lot of boring soccer in the first leg, but also because it didn't provide much advantage to the higher seed. Single elimination hosting rights provided a better balance between the existence of the playoffs and adding meaning to the regular season.

I'm open to the group stage format too. I'm not 100% convinced, but it could definitely work out and be a cool thing. Hopefully the better playoff seed always gets to host.
 

InstaFace

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Yeah if you group (say) 1/4/5/8 and 2/3/6/7 and then have the higher seed always host, it makes the regular season very meaningful (3 home games vs 3 away games in a row?), and in each group is at least one pair of teams one of whom just barely edged the other out, and as a result has HFA for their matchup against the other.

I will defend two-legged playoffs as a fairer test if you do need to have knockout football, nobody thinks the UCL knockouts have "boring first legs". Plus the ability to host the 2nd leg is deemed enough of an advantage to the "seeded team". But that's not the option under consideration right now, so the most I'll do is give a thumbs-up to the group-stage dynamic. I predict that, if it really proves to work here for MLS, then UEFA will eventually copy it to replace one of their knockout rounds (only one more match, never any extra time, and helps a team avoid a matchup-of-death a la 2010s Arsenal always finding themselves up against Barca or Bayern - now all you gotta do is beat the other two).
 

Titans Bastard

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I will defend two-legged playoffs as a fairer test if you do need to have knockout football, nobody thinks the UCL knockouts have "boring first legs". Plus the ability to host the 2nd leg is deemed enough of an advantage to the "seeded team". But that's not the option under consideration right now, so the most I'll do is give a thumbs-up to the group-stage dynamic. I predict that, if it really proves to work here for MLS, then UEFA will eventually copy it to replace one of their knockout rounds (only one more match, never any extra time, and helps a team avoid a matchup-of-death a la 2010s Arsenal always finding themselves up against Barca or Bayern - now all you gotta do is beat the other two).
It's annoying because the UCL knockouts don't have boring first legs and that should be a rock-solid counterexample, but boring first legs was the way it usually was in MLS, unfortunately.
 

67YAZ

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The Fire used three 3rd round picks in the super draft tonight. The first was for a Vermont kid - Noah Egan from MLS Next. maybe Wyatt Omsberg can welcome him to town a tell him not to try the Malort.

And then Bill Hency from Loyola University Chicago, where I work. That’s pretty neat.

Hopefully these guys can catch on at Indy or Lansing.
 

Titans Bastard

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The last coaching vacancy has been filled as Montreal has hired....Hernan Losada. This will be an interesting one. Losada did well with a tiny Belgian club, but his stint in DC ended in acrimony because he ran the team into the ground. He was so particularly obsessive about fitness, weigh-ins, and controlling diets that he lost half the locker room. We'll see if he carries lessons from that experience to Montreal, or not.

View: https://twitter.com/cfmontreal/status/1605624272478736384
 

Titans Bastard

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An abridged transfer roundup from the last couple of weeks:

  • Montreal has made a couple of interesting acquisitions across the league. They traded for Aaron Herrera from RSL, who will be very capable of replacing Alistair Johnston after the latter was sold to Celtic. They also traded for George Campbell from Atlanta, who is a young center back who should continue to improve. I'm not sure he'll be a starter right away but he could evolve into a solid player.

  • Toronto signed Matt Hedges, who was a free agent. Their defense was a total mess, so they'll hope he has enough left in the tank to be a veteran anchor for 2023. It will be weird to see Hedges play for someone other than FC Dallas, where he spent the entirety of his 11 seasons in MLS so far.

  • Cincinnati signed Marco Angulo, a 20 year old Ecuadorian DM who recently debuted with their NT but who did not make their WC squad. Angulo comes from Independiente Del Valle. TM says the fee was around $3m.

  • D.C. United picked up Brazilian right back Ruan from Orlando City. He'll start for them, most likely.

  • Dallas signed 21 year old Brazilian right back Geovane Jesus from Cruzeiro for a fee of around $1.5m, per TM. They've had trouble with their right back situation since selling Cannon and Reynolds. Despite being a big club, Cruzeiro were relegated a few years ago, so he's a mystery box Brazilian Serie B signing.

  • St. Louis signed 23 year old South African DM Njabulo Blom from Kaizer Chiefs for a fee of around $320k, per TM. I'm guessing he'll have a good chance of being a starter as the only other DM is an NCAA guy who played with their reserve team in MLS Next Pro last year, but it's an expansion team without a full roster yet so who knows.

  • Chicago signed 23 year old Swiss winger Maren Haile-Selassie on loan from Lugano, which is the Swiss club that shared ownership with the Fire. I expect a full scouting report from @67YAZ by EOB. I'm always a little skeptical of these sorts of things — what are the chances a guy on Lugano is actually a good fit for what the Fire need, what are the chances that as a member of a sister club he was easily available.

  • Some outgoing transfers: Maxi Moralez, who has been an attacking midfield talisman for NYCFC since arriving from Liga MX in 2017, is leaving for his boyhood club, Racing, in Argentina. At age 35 this was going to happen sooner rather than later. Their offense may increasingly rely on their trio of young Brazilian attackers. Chicago is dumping 23 year old Ecuadorian RB Jhon Espinoza on Lugano after he didn't work out over the last two years. Charlotte has sold 25 year old Mexican forward Daniel Rios to Chivas for an unknown fee. They are reportedly close to bringing in a new Argentine forward. NYCFC shipped out 23 year old Uruguayan DM Nicolas Acevedo on loan to newly-promoted Bahia of Brazil. Vancouver sold Canadian CB Derek Cornelius to Malmö for around $500k.
 

67YAZ

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Chicago signed 23 year old Swiss winger Maren Haile-Selassie on loan from Lugano, which is the Swiss club that shared ownership with the Fire. I expect a full scouting report from @67YAZ by EOB. I'm always a little skeptical of these sorts of things — what are the chances a guy on Lugano is actually a good fit for what the Fire need, what are the chances that as a member of a sister club he was easily available.
Chicago’s Rastafarian community is head over heels for this move. I & I approve!

MHS has 199 Swiss top flight matches under his belt by age 23. Not a lot of product to speak of, but Heitz is talking up his pace. Mueller played just about every minute on the left wing once he was brought in last summer, so a young back up/understudy is helpful.

This was probably more about getting Jhon Espinoza’s $215k salary off the books. Which is great if the have a RB already locked up to replace him because right now there is not an MLS-ready replacement in the squad.
 

InstaFace

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Chicago signed 23 year old Swiss winger Maren Haile-Selassie on loan from Lugano, which is the Swiss club that shared ownership with the Fire. I expect a full scouting report from @67YAZ by EOB. I'm always a little skeptical of these sorts of things — what are the chances a guy on Lugano is actually a good fit for what the Fire need, what are the chances that as a member of a sister club he was easily available.
hey, it worked for Caden Clark Tyler Adams!

Also kinda worked for EPB, didn't it? Troyes is a part of CFG, and EPB had a half-dozen loans that didn't work out for one reason or another, but with Troyes, once they wanted him, the usual haggling over the loan army didn't hold things up, because it was just moving money from one pocket to the other.

(edit: also, "I & I approve" got a big laugh from me, 67Yaz. Well done.)
 

Titans Bastard

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Chicago’s Rastafarian community is head over heels for this move. I & I approve!

MHS has 199 Swiss top flight matches under his belt by age 23. Not a lot of product to speak of, but Heitz is talking up his pace. Mueller played just about every minute on the left wing once he was brought in last summer, so a young back up/understudy is helpful.
Well, 63 Swiss top flight matches, but if Heitz is confident in the signing... :)

hey, it worked for Caden Clark Tyler Adams!

Also kinda worked for EPB, didn't it? Troyes is a part of CFG, and EPB had a half-dozen loans that didn't work out for one reason or another, but with Troyes, once they wanted him, the usual haggling over the loan army didn't hold things up, because it was just moving money from one pocket to the other.

(edit: also, "I & I approve" got a big laugh from me, 67Yaz. Well done.)
I don't see those situations as analogous, though. We're talking about a 23 year old who has never been more than a rotational starter in the Swiss League, and has spent a number of years in the second division.

Basically, you can see why a bigger club would want a top prospect like Adams, or why a Ligue 1 club might get use out of a Man City loan army guy. I don't think anyone in MLS would be interested in a player with Haile-Selassie's resume if not for the linkage between Chicago and Lugano. But @67YAZ may well be right about there being some internal bookkeeping matters in play.
 

67YAZ

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I know clubs can get real creative with player valuation in swap deals, and making the balance sheet dance is really the only way it makes sense to swap your starting RB for a back up LW.

So far, the biggest benefit of the Chicago-Lugano relationship has been the Fire dumping contracts - Espinoza & Aliseda. MSH is the first player to arrive from Switzerland, and he doesn’t really profile as an impact signing.

Scanning Lugano’s last couple years of transfer dealings, and I see a lot guys who were about to or just aged out of Bundesliga and Serie A club youth teams. That makes sense for a Swiss Super League club - maybe they even hit on a late bloomer who can be sold for big bucks! - but doesn’t profile like a feeder club.

Still, a place to dump bad contracts is really valuable…especially when Heitz is in charge.
 

InstaFace

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It's not a bad business model. Jordan Pefok is a nigh-canonical example of a Ligue 1 castoff finding his place in the Swiss league and then being able to eventually turn that success into another shot (in this case the Bundesliga) in his late-prime. Between the extra UCL money and the profit they made on his purchase and sale, it looks like a pretty repeatable process (late bloomers are numerous).
 

OCST

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My anecdotal, non-scientific and not really very useful take from the chatter on Everton social media is that MLS is being taken more seriously as a source of talent. As Everton's season circles the bowl and panic sets in about who we might get in the January window, various MLS names are thrown out and there is not the reflexive "retirement league/worse than League Two/Yanks should stick to hand-egg" stuff.

The success of Adams, Aaronson, and especially Almiron has quieted that.
 

Titans Bastard

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My anecdotal, non-scientific and not really very useful take from the chatter on Everton social media is that MLS is being taken more seriously as a source of talent. As Everton's season circles the bowl and panic sets in about who we might get in the January window, various MLS names are thrown out and there is not the reflexive "retirement league/worse than League Two/Yanks should stick to hand-egg" stuff.

The success of Adams, Aaronson, and especially Almiron has quieted that.
Tim Howard weeps.
 

MetSox1

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No Messi in Seattle this year, unfortunately.

I am circling the NYCFC at Philly game in July plus a Mets at Red Sox game later that week for a solid Northeast vacation. Was hoping to see the Red Bulls as well, but not sure I can swing that.

Edit: I guess Leagues Cup games could be on the docket for late July as well.
First beer is on me in Chester. As long as you arent in light blue. See you there.
 

InstaFace

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My anecdotal, non-scientific and not really very useful take from the chatter on Everton social media is that MLS is being taken more seriously as a source of talent. As Everton's season circles the bowl and panic sets in about who we might get in the January window, various MLS names are thrown out and there is not the reflexive "retirement league/worse than League Two/Yanks should stick to hand-egg" stuff.

The success of Adams, Aaronson, and especially Almiron has quieted that.
I still find it hard to believe a player could go directly from MLS to the Premier League without some intervening development years at a Salzburg or Leipzig. I get that Almiron did, but there really aren't a lot of examples in the last decade. Aaronson and Adams have shown that US outfield players can be in the middle of the field in the EPL, not some speed merchants pushed to the outside for want of technique (like Yedlin), and bring success. And that's great. But I'm not sure it helps show a path for an Everton right now.

Who in MLS do we think would stand a chance of making it on the field in the EPL, nevermind making a difference out there? I'm sure there are other young Aaronsons in the league who could be bought from age 19-22 and develop for a year or two and then maybe be ready for that step... we've gone over that prospect list in the Yanks Abroad thread (I think) and that cupboard is reasonably stocked. But even leaving aside the "American" filter, are there DP players in MLS who are EPL-worthy and just being kept state-side by the DP paycheck? Would Shaqiri walk onto an EPL team right now? I kinda doubt it. Certainly not Higuain or Chicharito or HH. Bernardeschi, maybe - did anyone watch a lot of Toronto? But yeah it's just hard for me to watch, say, Seattle, against MLS competition, and imagine a Lodeiro or Ruidiaz out there against Liverpool or Brighton. The difference is just so stark.

So if you're a Big 5 team with more money than points in the league table right now, who are you raiding MLS for?
 

Senator Donut

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I still find it hard to believe a player could go directly from MLS to the Premier League without some intervening development years at a Salzburg or Leipzig. I get that Almiron did, but there really aren't a lot of examples in the last decade.
Matt Turner has not conceded, except from the spot, for Arsenal.
 

OCST

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I still find it hard to believe a player could go directly from MLS to the Premier League without some intervening development years at a Salzburg or Leipzig. I get that Almiron did, but there really aren't a lot of examples in the last decade. Aaronson and Adams have shown that US outfield players can be in the middle of the field in the EPL, not some speed merchants pushed to the outside for want of technique (like Yedlin), and bring success. And that's great. But I'm not sure it helps show a path for an Everton right now.

Who in MLS do we think would stand a chance of making it on the field in the EPL, nevermind making a difference out there? I'm sure there are other young Aaronsons in the league who could be bought from age 19-22 and develop for a year or two and then maybe be ready for that step... we've gone over that prospect list in the Yanks Abroad thread (I think) and that cupboard is reasonably stocked. But even leaving aside the "American" filter, are there DP players in MLS who are EPL-worthy and just being kept state-side by the DP paycheck? Would Shaqiri walk onto an EPL team right now? I kinda doubt it. Certainly not Higuain or Chicharito or HH. Bernardeschi, maybe - did anyone watch a lot of Toronto? But yeah it's just hard for me to watch, say, Seattle, against MLS competition, and imagine a Lodeiro or Ruidiaz out there against Liverpool or Brighton. The difference is just so stark.

So if you're a Big 5 team with more money than points in the league table right now, who are you raiding MLS for?
Well, it's Everton chats, so we have no money and no points....

I agree with your larger point, mine being just that raising the idea of a transfer in from an MLS squad no longer gets an automatic snort. For example, Everton have been linked with 19 yo Colombian forward Jhon Duran, from Chicago Fire. Not too long ago there would have been reflexive "they should stick to baseball" etc.; now it's essentially like discussing a prospect from a second-tier European league. That's my modest point.
 

InstaFace

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Ok, Matt Turner is a good example, but he has already left. He was also demonstrably the best GK in the league for several years running.

Who's in MLS right now who you'd bet to be similarly up for that task? I'm not implying there isn't anyone, I'm just not up on it enough to know the best candidates.
 

Titans Bastard

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Ok, Matt Turner is a good example, but he has already left. He was also demonstrably the best GK in the league for several years running.

Who's in MLS right now who you'd bet to be similarly up for that task? I'm not implying there isn't anyone, I'm just not up on it enough to know the best candidates.
There aren't a lot of candidates to go straight into an EPL team. I think there are several reasons for this:

1) Financially, the EPL has separated itself from the pack. In the other big five leagues, sure, maybe a guy is far from Bayern or PSG or Juventus or Real Madrid, but it's not nearly as much of a hurdle to be good enough to help Salernitana or Freiburg or Ajaccio or Elche. The EPL bottom-feeders still have ungodly amounts of money.

2) In the last number of years MLS has been better integrated into the global transfer market, so if an MLS guy is young and that good, he's not going to stick around for long, so at any moment in time the number of EPL-ready candidates will be small.

3) Obviously, American player development is improving but is not elite.

A few EPL candidates to watch in 2023:

Thiago Almada. The first player to win a World Cup as an active MLS player. Almada was not exactly instrumental to Argentina's run (and was an injury replacement), but he was the youngest player in their squad and Atlanta spent big on him ($15m).

Talles Magno. 20 year old NYCFC winger who they bought from Vasco da Gama for $8m, who was really good in 2022. He's already good enough to have a lot of Euro eyeballs on him, but he if improves more in 2023 he could be an EPL transfer target.


I don't think there are that many straight-to-EPL-playing-time American candidates. In part this is because the universe of American players who are good enough for the EPL is growing but not huge. In part this is also because MLS clubs are trying to set a market for their academy talent and are selling on the early side. They want to (a) lock in a profit and (b) show that they are a pathway to Europe to future academy kids. That means they are selling guys at young ages, which means selling them to lesser leagues or to clubs where even the best case scenario is that they'll be reservists for a good while (Gaga at Chelsea). Can MLS clubs develop domestic talent to an EPL level? Perhaps, perhaps not, but we don't even know because they are selling their top prospects before they have enough time to try.