MLS 2020: A Quarter Century of Soccer

Titans Bastard

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Believe it or not, the 25th season of MLS begins tomorrow. My earliest memories of watching soccer are from the 1994 World Cup and it's mind-boggling that that was 26 years ago now.

MLS has once again expanded in 2020, taking membership to 26 teams: Inter Miami and Nashville SC have joined the league. The Southeast region, which had no representation between the 2001 and 2015 seasons, now has four clubs and Charlotte will be a fifth in 2021.

This offseason, clubs have been more aggressive with their spending. Incoming transfer fees have been rising and more than half of the league broke their transfer record this winter. The biggest "name" signing of the offseason is Chicharito, who joins LA Galaxy on a huge salary. Most of the spending is directed at young South American talent and established Liga MX talent. There's always a potpourri of European players coming in as well.

A big part of what interests me personally about MLS is the opportunity to see the evolution of American players. In that vein, there's a pretty solid array of interesting young players who are in line for good years as they work toward the USMNT. FC Dallas in particular provides intrigue in this regard: Cannon, Ferreira, and Pomykal have been capped, and they have other young guys of interest as well. I think that the whole developmental process from academy recruitment and coaching to USL reserve teams to first team integration has gotten a lot better in recent years, though there is still a lot of work to do.

Matt Doyle, whose work I always enjoy, did a massive team-by-team preview the other day. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the contours of the 2020 season, if you have time (it's long!).



ESPN+ remains a very good deal if you watch games from around the league (it's often not a good deal if you only watch your local team, depending on blackout rules).
 

67YAZ

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The Mansueto era has started for the Chicago Fire. The branding has been a flop, but he has brought the team back to downtown Chicago and got them a local TV outlet. There has also been a nasty tussle with the Section 8 supporters group, which actually seems pretty shortsighted. If they can get that sorted and tweak the logo & kit for next season...the club should be set up to become a bigger local presence.

On the pitch, exciting new talent has arrived to start the transition to Rapha Wicky’s pass-and-possess style. There’s experienced Internationals - Beric, Gimenez, Sukulic - and a couple for the near future - Aliseda and Navarro. Plus Frank Kloppas is back on the sidelines!

It’s going to to be a rocky season with a relatively small roster that doesn’t match well to the direction the team is taking. The Fire start off @Seattle, @New England, @Orlando, and the re-open Soldier Field with Atlanta. I’ll be glad if they walk away with 2 points from that slate.

But a group of us have tickets for the home opener, and the Fire say they’ve sold 30k tickets for it. Should be a blast, and probably the highlight of the season. But at least there’s hope now.

Edit: this piece has a ton of details about how Mansueto has overhauled the front office and team infrastructure - moving the senior team staff and operations to a space downtown 5x larger than what they had in Bridgeview and then renovating the Bridgeview office and locker room for Academy use. It’s very exciting to read that the Fire are now investing seriously in their academy as well as in off-field people and systems. Mansueto is really building something here.
 
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OCST

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Wish list:

  • Revs to get a metro-Boston stadium
  • NYCFC to get something, somewhere, other than that crap they have now
  • Red Bulls to raise their profile. The stadium is terrific (albeit in an industrial wasteland), they deserve better
    • And: for that psycho who owns the Cosmos trade dress to sell it to Red Bulls; that would put them off the charts, every hipster in Williamsburg already walks around with Beckenbauer Cosmos kits
  • Doing away with all these weird-ass player acquisition rules; the rest of the football world has figured this out, it's not that hard
  • Pro-rel, not because I want to euro-geek on it, but because there are great USL franchises that would be better for American soccer in the top flight, and because the Krafts et al should feel some pressure
 

67YAZ

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The Fire kick off their new era with this starting XI:

Kronholm; Bornstein, Calvo, Kappelhof, Bronico; Medrán, Pineda; Herbers, Mihailovic, Frankowski; Beric

Welp, it will be nice not to get run off the pitch today. Interested to see Beric and Pineda in their debuts. And I have hope that Djordie will make great progress under Wicky. I think he has the talent to pull the strings for a fluid, swarming attack - not yet, but I'd like to see him start growing into that role.
 

Titans Bastard

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The Fire kick off their new era with this starting XI:

Kronholm; Bornstein, Calvo, Kappelhof, Bronico; Medrán, Pineda; Herbers, Mihailovic, Frankowski; Beric

Welp, it will be nice not to get run off the pitch today. Interested to see Beric and Pineda in their debuts. And I have hope that Djordie will make great progress under Wicky. I think he has the talent to pull the strings for a fluid, swarming attack - not yet, but I'd like to see him start growing into that role.
I'm guessing the lineup graphics on the various typical sites are wrong and that Kappelhof is playing RB, Pineda CB, and Bronico CM. It'd sure be tough to give Pineda his debut in a road start in week one, out of position. Plus, it makes sense to put one guy out of his best position rather than two.

One saving grace: Lodeiro is still hurt for Seattle and Morris is on the bench for whatever reason. Danny Leyva, the 16 year old CM, is starting for Seattle.
 

Titans Bastard

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Ugh. A point would have been a fantastic start.
The Revs also lost on the road 2-1 after leading 1-0. But of the two clubs, at least one will have points on the board by next weekend!
 

67YAZ

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The take-aways for Fire fans -

Beric looks at home already, and his goal showed off his crisp finishing. Djordje was creating all kinds of problems with his movement and played very well off Beric. Pineda looked good for a guy playing in a new position on the road in his very first pro match. The Sounders ceded the flanks for the first half hour, and the Fire took advantage. When the Sounders switched up to close down out wide, the Fire started passing vertically through the middle, Medran looking particularly good here.

But then Jordan Morris came on and the lack of a RB was ruthlessly exploited. The good, compact mid-block more or less crumbled and the Fire spent the last half hour trying to hang on for dear life. Which they couldn’t do.

Getting Sekulic, a true RB, in the squad should be a huge boost. Teams will also watch this tape and start figuring ways to limit the Djordje-Beric tandem, so there will have to be other sources of creativity. Again, getting Gimenez in should be a boost here. But how quickly can the paperwork get processed and the boys be bedded in?

C’mon you men in navy blue. Let’s take it to the Revs this weekend.
 

Titans Bastard

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Wow, NYCFC signed Liverpool's starting DM!


(Liverpool FC of Uruguay)


Acevedo does have an interesting resume, though. He started at the U20 World Cup, played at the CONMEBOL U23 championship, and was a regular for his club. He'll compete with James Sands at DM for NYCFC, I'd imagine. I like Sands and hope he can hold his own. NYCFC is building some nice depth in CM. Acevedo and Sands at DM, Ring and Parks at CM. Moralez at AM is more indispensible, but Castellanos can fill in there too.
 

Titans Bastard

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DC has signed Federico Higuain as a player/coach. I don't think he has that much left in the tank, but it's not a bad thing to have him around as a mentor to some of the interesting young academy attacking midfielders they've recently signed, like Nyeman, Yow, and Paredes. Plus, lord knows Ben Olsen could use some help in terms of coaching a nice attack.

View: https://twitter.com/dcunited/status/1234520397019783169
 

67YAZ

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Damn, Chicago.

The logo was a fiasco, but in terms of other off the field stuff, this is an impressive move. Their social media game has suddenly been well above average, too.
So much of this is just low hanging fruit and common sense that can be achieved with money. Like having a Spanish twitter presence (@VamosFire, only created in November). I’m hopefully that Mansueto is the kind of owner who will keep pushing the envelope (full of cash) and make the Fire a great organization.
 
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Jimy Hendrix

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Just when I think MLS is doing a good job straightening out its rules, I get reminded that a team can have the “discovery rights” on a high profile player 12 years into his career.
 

Domer

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Why did the Revs-Sounders game get moved up two months?
The Sounders no longer need to keep 4/8 open for Champions League and they are off the following weekend. This helps them avoid a tough Saturday-Wednesday-Sunday week in June with two transcontinental flights.

The Revolution also don't mind moving up the match because they will now play 3 games Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday without travel. Originally, The Revs were scheduled to play Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday with the first match on the road at NYC.
 
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67YAZ

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Reggie Cannon's contract has a unique structure that rewards both Dallas and Cannon if he's sold for a big fee.

Cannon’s new deal includes bonuses for the homegrown right back tied directly to his sale. The larger the transfer fee, the bigger the reward for Cannon. On the flip side of that arrangement, Dallas increased its leverage in negotiations by locking Cannon down for four seasons while also keeping his base salary static at the 2019 level this year for cap purposes, allowing the club to keep a key player for 2020 without pushing them closer to the league’s $4.9 million salary cap. The deal includes a significant jump in salary next year and deferred bonuses that kick in if Cannon is still on the FC Dallas roster by a certain deadline. And it is those payment increases that incentivize Dallas to sell Cannon before the 2021 season kicks off.
 

Titans Bastard

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The Revs sign a local academy kid to a USL contract. Dennis Ramirez, an 18 year old DM, is from Waltham.

 

steveluck7

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From Grant Wahl:
MLS is suspending its season immediately until further notice due to coronavirus, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Sports Illustrated.
 

steeplechase3k

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With no games going on MLS is streaming classic games every night for the next few weeks. Right now is the Timbers at Seattle
second leg from 2018.


This ended LONG after midnight on the east coast, so this is a chance to watch it.
 

steeplechase3k

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Here is the rest of the MLS Classics schedule:

The Double Post won the fan vote on twitter so It looks like it's going be the the feature on Friday.
 

SocrManiac

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Jaap Stam was never on my radar screen as a guy that could transition to a managerial role, at least based on his playing career. The guy's style today would see him sit out 3/4 of every season suspended.

Not saying I didn't enjoy watching it at times, though...
 

DJnVa

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Read an article yesterday with some talk of MLS joining the NBA in Orlando/Disney and if the protocols work, allowing each to attend each other's games.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Apparently that's not good enough for the owners, who are pushing for a lockout.


This seems penny wise and pound foolish to me. If there's an NBA lockout, there is nowhere on earth I can watch better basketball, the same is not true for MLS and soccer. Even if they can successfully screw an extra percentage out of their players, it seems like it would hurt them more as a league.
 

Domer

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Apparently that's not good enough for the owners, who are pushing for a lockout.


This seems penny wise and pound foolish to me. If there's an NBA lockout, there is nowhere on earth I can watch better basketball, the same is not true for MLS and soccer. Even if they can successfully screw an extra percentage out of their players, it seems like it would hurt them more as a league.
It sounds like the players and owners have agreed to the magnitude of the 2020 pay cuts, but the players are objecting to an out clause that will void the CBA if attendance drops significantly in 2021.
 

Cellar-Door

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Apparently that's not good enough for the owners, who are pushing for a lockout.


This seems penny wise and pound foolish to me. If there's an NBA lockout, there is nowhere on earth I can watch better basketball, the same is not true for MLS and soccer. Even if they can successfully screw an extra percentage out of their players, it seems like it would hurt them more as a league.
A fun wrinkle.... if the owners lock the players out, I believe FIFA rules would allow those players to move without fees. So enjoy all the best young talent moving elsewhere.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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A fun wrinkle.... if the owners lock the players out, I believe FIFA rules would allow those players to move without fees. So enjoy all the best young talent moving elsewhere.
I was wondering whether the global market makes a lockout different for players as well as just viewers, but did not know the intricacies of contracts there.

That'd be a hell of a thing.
 

Kliq

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Apparently that's not good enough for the owners, who are pushing for a lockout.


This seems penny wise and pound foolish to me. If there's an NBA lockout, there is nowhere on earth I can watch better basketball, the same is not true for MLS and soccer. Even if they can successfully screw an extra percentage out of their players, it seems like it would hurt them more as a league.
Eh, I'm not sure the MLS's big selling point is the high quality of play. People who watch MLS are well aware that there are better leagues out there to watch. MLS's appeal is that it is the local team and the smart organizations have worked hard to embrace the regional culture of the city they play in to present an entertaining atmosphere beyond the play on the field. A lockout wouldn't really hurt them specifically outside of the typical damage a lockout does to a sports league.
 

67YAZ

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Eh, I'm not sure the MLS's big selling point is the high quality of play. People who watch MLS are well aware that there are better leagues out there to watch. MLS's appeal is that it is the local team and the smart organizations have worked hard to embrace the regional culture of the city they play in to present an entertaining atmosphere beyond the play on the field. A lockout wouldn't really hurt them specifically outside of the typical damage a lockout does to a sports league.
But MLS has been building real momentum the past couple years, particularly in key cities - Miami with a new club, Chicago with new ownership, the Revs with competent leadership! Going a year (or more, who knows) without MLS is going to grind to a halt a lot of the excitement and positivity around the country. And it probably presents a short-term aversion for exciting young foreign players to come in to MLS. Why join an unstable league?
 
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nayrbrey

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MLS Tournament begins July 8th


MLS IS BACK TOURNAMENT: KEY DATES
June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 8: Group stage begins
July 25-28: Round-of-16
July 30- Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
Aug. 5-6: Semifinals
Aug. 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final


The set up is group stages followed by knockout stages, with the final in early August. They also hope to play games at home venues in the fall.
This should be fun to watch, if everyone can stay healthy.
 

nayrbrey

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They did the group draw today.
Revs are in group C with Toronto, Montreal and DC. I think they have a chance to come out of C and go to knockout stages.
Edit- here’s the full list of groups:
 
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ThePrideofShiner

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Group F is a killer.

Since 16 teams make the knockout tournament does that mean the top two in each group and then the next four with the most points?