With the long MLS regular-season finally winding down, now is the time that fatigue really starts to set in. That's especially true this year with Leagues Cup having been added to a schedule that already included 34 MLS games, both U.S. Open Cup finalists playing the maximum six games, Concacaf Champions League and even Campeones Cup, not to mention any international duty players may have had. As it is now, every MLS team will play between 37 and 54 games and with the expansion of Concacaf Champions Cup, that's only going to get worse.
LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo has been consistently critical of the roster rules that limit MLS teams' ability to deepen their rosters, while more recent Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake has said pointedly that there are too many games.
This is hardly a new topic of discussion but the addition of new competitions has made the problem more widespread than it has ever been before. Blake, for instance, has already played in over 40 competitive matches this year for club and country despite having missed seven league games and before the playoffs have even begun.
“We’re the ones that are suffering, and the quality of the league is going to go down,” Blake told The Inquirer. “Are you going to allow us to have more depth? Or, if you ask players to play however many games, obviously there’s going to be injuries, and when injuries come, then teams don’t have their best players on the field.”
While it's tempting to dismiss this kind of talk – especially considering the workloads of high level players in Europe and South America – there is some deeper consideration worth having and it will likely require action on multiple fronts.
The first and easiest part is for MLS to simply reduce the regular season by at least two games. A 32-game schedule would still guarantee teams the same number of home games as they had pre-Leagues Cup, since each MLS team is currently guaranteed to host at least one of those games. A 32-game schedule would also have some precedence in MLS as it's the number of games teams played from 1996-2000.
The more complicated part of the equation is on the roster side. I know the common refrain is to simply expand the rosters. I don't see much value in that. As it is, teams are routinely not actually playing the guys who occupy the last few spots on the roster. Adding more players who will never actually play isn't going to do anything to solve the problem.
What MLS needs to do is allow mechanisms that increase flexibility. For teams who know they might be playing 40-50 games, they should be able to add roster depth that makes spots 16-30 more useful. Other teams might elect to bolster spots 12-18. This will, no doubt, cost owners more money but should help ensure that teams are healthier at this time of year and improve the quality of the games when they have the most eyeballs on them.
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Looking back at the week's news
MLS MVP nominations are out; Men's World Cup 2030 decided, Women's World Cup 2027 hosts still to come
Messi was put up for MVP. He's not deserving, nor is the other Inter Miami nominated player. The Sounders nominated Jordan Morris and Stefan Frei, who is also up for Goal Keeper of the Year. Since all of Seattle's 2023 success has been due to goal prevention, Frei makes sense as a nominee. Since Morris exploded out of the gate in the early season and is the best attacking player for the 2023 Sounders that nomination makes sense – he also has 10 more goals than Messi. The award is for MLS matches only.
Men's World Cup 2030 will be hosted by six nations. Six! The complex travel and timing required to have three South American nations host the opener while Spain, Portugal and Morocco host the rest of the tournament will be challenging. The 6,000 mile, five time zone, season switching journey for six teams likely crushes their ability to compete – but the optics of Uruguay hosting the 100th anniversary will look great. There's still no word on where the 2027 Women's World Cup will be held, even as it seems inevitable that Saudi Arabia will host the men in 2034.
- Memorial Stadium will not be recognized as a historical landmark. The Wall of Names is, though.
- Former Sounder David Estrada has became a leader in New Mexico's soccer and community efforts.
- Seattle's Men's World Cup committee continues to elevate their commitment to a lasting legacy, hiring a Chief Legacy Officer.
- The next NWSL media rights deal is coming.
Puget Sound Soccer
Your look ahead at the playoff races for the area's professional soccer teams
OL Reign host Washington Spirit on big CBS at 5 pm PT. Lumen Field will be alive with the Megan Rapinoe tribute in her final regular-season home soccer match. With a win Reign and North Caroline draw/loss + Angel City draw/loss the club is in the second season, qualified to win that trophy that's eluded them so far.
- Match preview (RoValks)
- Rapinoe's chat with Ride of the Valkyries
- Remembering 'Pinoe (RoValks)
- Personal Essay: Megan Rapinoe Taught Me How to Fail (Seattle Met)
- ‘None of that happens without the Reign’: Megan Rapinoe’s emotional goodbye (Equalizer)
- The Last Supper featuring Megan Rapinoe, Lauren "Lu" Barnes, Jess Fishlock (Togethxr)
Reign rooting guide with the Shield in play;
- Portland Thorns draw NJ/NY Gotham FC (Saturday 2 pm PT / CBS Golazo Network, Paramount+)
- North Carolina Courage beat San Diego Wave (Saturday 4 pm PT / Paramount+)
- Houston Dash beat Angel City (Sunday 4 pm PT / CBS Sports Network)
Sounders host Vancouver Whitecaps at 7:30 pm PT at Lumen Field and free on Apple TV. A win ensures that Seattle has homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs. In August the Whitecaps were one of the best in the league. In September the Sounders were one of the best in the league. What will October bring for the two Cascadia teams that seem capable of making a playoff run?
- Episode 438: Thank Cristian, we’re back in the playoffs
- How Important is Cristian Roldan? There is a stat for that
- Austin over LAFC (5:30 pm PT / MLS Season Pass)
- Sporting KC over Real Salt Lake (6:30 pm PT / MLS Season Pass)
- Colorado Rapids over Houston Dynamo (5:30 pm PT / Apple TV for free)
Tacoma Defiance host Austin FC II in the MLS Next Pro Western Conference semifinals at Starfire Stadium and on MLS Season Pass at 7pm PT. The two sides split the series in the regular season. Austin's defense is strong – they have the goalkeeper of the year and former Defiance CB Joe Hafferty made the league Best XI. From Defiance, despite stellar attacking play from Braudilio Rodrigues and Paul Rothrock, it was AB Cissoko who made the league XI.