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Ship's Log, September 8: MLS taking a break, mostly

During the men's international break there are several important club soccer matches, including the final NWSL Challenge Cup Final.

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Lionel Messi playing for Argentina during the 2022 men’s World Cup.
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since MLS was founded, it's made a habit of playing through various FIFA windows. For much of its history, that didn't really matter. Sure, a few teams would be missing some players and fans would get all worked up, but it never posed anything like an existential crisis by bleeding teams enough that they would actually struggle to field a full squad.

In more recent years, however, it has become a bigger issue. We've seen the Sounders lose 10 or more players, for instance, and during this current window Inter Miami is missing nine players while playing some virtually must-win matches.

Tata Martino recently made waves by suggesting that MLS is now thinking about honoring these FIFA windows and going completely dark. If it happens, cynics will rightfully point out that it took losing the league's new Golden Boy for anyone to take action. But this is a change that has probably been long overdue.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is a question of will as much as it is a reality of the calendar. The problem is not so much that MLS doesn't care about playing through FIFA windows as much as it just doesn't have the flexibility to completely avoid doing it.

You may have noticed that the MLS season already starts in late February and ends in early December. The prospect of extending it significantly on either end is, at best, unlikely.

MLS also decided to plop a month-long tournament in the middle of the season, which is why there are so many more midweek games this year. Add in tournaments like Concacaf Champions Cup – which, by the way, will include even more teams going forward – and the U.S. Open Cup, and I'm not sure where the league can possibly move all these games already being played during FIFA windows.

The current policy, I'll also point out, is for MLS teams to have the ability to request not to play during FIFA windows. That's part of why the Sounders aren't playing this week or during most other FIFA windows. The big exception was the Gold Cup, which everyone played through.

What I'm saying is I'm not holding my breath on MLS actually issuing a blanket policy in regards to FIFA windows. This is where I also note that MLS is hardly some extreme outlier in this regard. Liga MX, as well as most of the other top leagues in the Western Hemisphere, routinely play through FIFA windows. I'm also skeptical that moving to a fall-to-spring schedule like most of Europe would be a magic fix.

While I think virtually everyone would agree that it would be preferable to stop playing games during FIFA windows, I think MLS will almost certainly leave open that possibility.

- Jeremiah

Looking Back

Another coaching change in MLS; Messi’s impact by the numbers; MLS keeps improving

Colorado Rapids gave up on Robin Fraser just two years after he guided them to the top of the West. Taking over for Fraser is former Defiance head coach Chris Little, now the third S2/Defiance coach to take over a first team in a top flight division (Ezra Hendrickson, John Hutchinson, Chris Little). MLS replacement coaches tend not to have a large bump in performance, as readers of last week's Ship's Log already know.

The team is an even lesser version of its 2022 self. Did I mention they’ve won one home game? - Burgundy Wave

Messi, Messi, Messi – You may be tired of reading about the Argentine sensation, but the rest of the world isn’t. He's driving signups to MLS Season Pass and to Apple TV+ too. Those numbers aren't big enough to make back Apple’s investment in the league – they’d need to increase by nearly an order of magnitude for that to happen. But as an initial surge and with Miami able to make a playoff run (who’d bet against Messi in the playoffs?) the numbers should continue to rise.

MLS, frequently treated as a joke by fans of Europe’s top teams, keeps improving in quality – no matter how you measure it. Now, likely a top ten league and possibly only behind the Brasileiro Série A in the Western Hemisphere, it’s the perfect time for the league to get all those Messi-centered eyeballs.


Puget Sound Soccer

The weekend in local soccer isn’t dry, it’s just different. It’s an international break for most of MLS and the NWSL only has the Challenge Cup Final.


North Carolina Courage vs Racing Louisville FC in the NWSL Challenge Cup Final at 9:30 am PT on CBS and Paramount+.

Seattle U men are at Gonzaga at 1 pm PT on ESPN+.

UW Husky men host Cal State - Fullerton at 3 pm PT on the Pac-12 Network and at Husky Soccer Stadium.

Seattle U women host UW Husky women at 5 pm PT on ESPN+ and at the best small soccer stadium in the region.

There are four MLS matches on Saturday, all on MLS Season Pass. Here’s your rooting guide – DC over San Jose (4:30 pm PT); Inter no-Messi over KC (4:30 pm PT); New England over Minnesota (5:30 pm PT); Timbers draw LAFC (7:30 pm)

WSU women host Kansas at 7 pm PT on Pac-12 network out in Pullman.


In LA Galaxy vs St. Louis City at 5 pm PT on MLS Season Pass, you can either root for St. Louis to nearly eliminate the Galaxy or if you are rather ambitious for the Galaxy to win and help Seattle at that tiny chance of winning the West.

Tacoma Defiance host San Jose Earthquakes 2 at 7 pm PT. Starfire Stadium would be happy to see you support the Pacific Division champs. There’s a full preview coming up shortly, as this is the only local pro soccer match this weekend.