Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

Ship's Log, Dec. 22: One neat trick to reduce fixture congestion

Every league needs their top talents to play fewer matches so they remain healthy. Why not reduce those players' workloads?

Last Updated
4 min read
Players like Reed Baker-Whiting would benefit greatly from squad rotation. | Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

Stop playing the same 14 players every match.

If MLS officials are worried about fixture congestion and the impact it has on players, a good place start is to simply use more of the roster they already have at their disposal. Teams can handle the congestion. It's the players whose health is impacted by playing too much.

But frequently MLS coaches select the same players in every match. When they don't do this, like for the early rounds of the Open Cup, they're told they aren't taking the tournament seriously.

Rotation is necessary for player health and safety. Top talents that are called into national team matches and on pro squads that make deep runs in multiple tournaments can wind up playing 70 or more matches.

Eliminating 2.62 matches from that doesn't make a difference, especially when those first two matches of the Open Cup are played by callups from the deuces and players a coaching staff doesn't trust to make the matchday 20 in league.

The only way to significantly help player health from overuse is to play those specific players less. Not just by having them as subs. Have them not take the field at all.

A way that MLS could do this while improving the chances that youngsters get meaningful playing time would be to have the Leagues Cup be during the summer national tournament season.

In Seattle's case that would mean fewer matches for Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Nouhou, etc. It would mean more matches for rotational talent and bench players who need meaningful minutes.

From a marketing aspect it would be easy for MLS and Liga MX with their broadcast partners to say things like "Enjoying star YYY at the World Cup/Euros/Gold Cup/etc? Watch the leagues where they developed tonight!" Or some such – I haven't fully workshopped this and I don't really do marketing for free any more.

Other systems to force rotation get harder. Could MLS mandate that a player on international duty miss one of the next three matches? Sure. Could they insist that coaches not select a player 6 times in the same month, a kind of reverse of the NBA's anti-resting rules? Yes, but those kind of rules would be more extreme than MLS normally restrictive ruleset.

The one neat trick is easier – the second tier competition should be clearly second tier. The third tier competition never really impacted player workloads anyway.

-- Dave

P.S. I don't expect the Ship's Log to come out on Christmas. I'll see y'all on Boxing Day

Sounder at Heart gift guide

Catching up on Sounder at Heart

It’s been a busy couple of days, so you may have missed a few updates on your favorite teams:

Looking back at the week's news

New England hires Caleb Porter; Blas Perez can't quit soccer; EU rules against FIFA; MLS wants Next Pro expand and MLS2 sides to move

New England Revolution replaced Bruce Arena with Caleb Porter, which does kind of feel like their hiring method lately is just going through various eras of Sounders rivalry.

Why is 42-year-old Blas Perez playing indoor with the Dallas Sidekicks ... again? In a story as old as time, and as old as Blas Perez, some players always find a way onto the field – like Tacoma Stars player Roman Torres.

The European Court ruled against FIFA, UEFA and a few leagues that blocked the formation of the Super League. It's a ruling that could wind up shaking up global soccer. The Independent says it could be 'bigger than Bosman.'

MLS looks to spread presence in lower divisions. It shouldn't be a surprise that MLS wants MLS Next Pro to grow. They keep adding independent teams, and two MLS teams in the US don't have Next Pro sides yet. One thing that is a surprise is the claim that MLS wants teams to innovate and do what the Sounders, Philadelphia, Salt Lake and D.C. United already did – play outside their home cities under unique brands.

Big stories around the NWSL:

Oh, yeah. Luis Suarez joined Inter Messi, bringing the average age of the starting XI to about 35 (no math was involved).

Pacific Northwest Soccer

Sounders schedule is one of the easier at home next year;

Seattle has a favorable home schedule, based on last year's record.

Find Sounder at Heart on Mastodon, Bluesky and Threads.