Breaking point for MLS teams? 'We are not equipped enough for all these competitions'

Major League Soccer teams' ability to cope with the demands of new international competitions is under scrutiny after two games on Wednesday highlighted the consequences of a crowded schedule.

The league's star attraction, Lionel Messi, was forced to sit out Inter Miami's U.S. Open Cup final with Houston Dynamo along with his Spanish teammate Jordi Alba, frustrating fans and viewers globally.

Shortly after that game in Fort Lauderdale was won by Houston, MLS champion Los Angeles FC was playing for another title on the West Coast when it faced Mexican club Tigres in the Campeones Cup.

The game was organized by MLS, but the league's commissioner Don Garber wasn't at the match, as he watched the Miami game.

The Campeones Cup, an annual contest between the MLS and Mexican Liga MX champion introduced in 2018, ended in a goalless draw with Tigres winning after a penalty shootout.

It was the third competition this season bringing together MLS and Liga MX clubs following the CONCACAF Champions League and the new 47-team Leagues Cup - both of which LAFC had already competed in.

With the traditional domestic knockout competition, the U.S. Open Cup, the 34-game MLS regular season and the expanded postseason MLS Cup playoffs, with potentially six more games, there is little time for rest and recovery.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo believes it is time that MLS changed its rules on salaries and squad size to allow clubs to operate with a bigger pool of players.

"I can tell you the rules and regulations of MLS roster building are not ample enough, and we are not equipped enough for all these competitions," he said after the Tigres match. "I think we have done an incredible job to stay in all competitions very late, but our guys are depleted, our stadium ops is tired, everybody in the organization is tired.

"Maybe this is too many games, or maybe we don’t have enough people to cover all these games," added Cherundolo. "I do think the owners and the commissioner and the rest of the league office need to sit down and come up with solutions because status quo is not going to work. I do know that, and I can tell you that’s the opinion of many other coaches, as well."

Squeezing in. While other leagues can at least rest some players during the international breaks, MLS even squeezes in some fixtures while top players are away with their national teams.

The congestion is coming from outside of MLS, too. For national team players, the Concaacf Nations League finals were held in June with the confederation's Gold Cup the following month.

Next year, an expanded Copa America, which will feature many MLS players, will be held in the USA and in 2025 there will be another Gold Cup running alongside the expanded 32-team FIFA Club World Cup, which could feature two MLS teams.

Quite how the Leagues Cup will fit into that schedule remains to be seen but that tournament, which produced 77 games in less than a month, certainly has impacted this year's winner, Inter Miami.

Messi made his debut against Cruz Azul on July 21 and played seven games including the Aug. 19 final in Nashville.

He played four more matches, ending with a cross-coast trip to Los Angeles, before flying off to play a World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires.

It is not only Messi and Alba who have struggled of late. 

Coach Tata Martino described Inter Miami as "spent" after their loss to Houston on Wednesday and had no doubt that a price has been paid for the thrilling Leagues Cup run.

"The reality is that we were eventually going to suffer the consequences of playing so many games."


© Agence France-Presse

4 comments about "Breaking point for MLS teams? 'We are not equipped enough for all these competitions'".
  1. Michael Taddonio, September 29, 2023 at 3:14 p.m.

         What people said in the article is correct. There are just too many games on the MLS schedule. Increasing squad size and salaries would help somewhat. However, the decrease in the number of games would help. I feel that money is the problem. People who put on these competitions are motivated by the green pieces of paper with the numbers on them. This has to stop. The problem with too many scheduled games also exists in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. Too many scheduled games can result in tired times and possible injuries to players. The quality of play suffers.

  2. Michael Taddonio, September 29, 2023 at 3:17 p.m.

           One further comment. Other team sports have increased their schedules and have overexposed themselves. The overscheduling is not just restricted to soccer.

  3. Donald Lee, September 29, 2023 at 3:19 p.m.

    Multiple competitions forces teams, especially succesful teams like LAFC to prioritize and field 2d choice teams for some. Cherundolo doesn't want to accept that reality -- but it is a feature not a bug. It makes the overall soccer more interesting and allows multiple teams to succeed. 

    Plus, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup are just silly exhibition events. It is all Cherundolos fault for not rotating his squad and taking silly exhibitions seriously. 

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, September 29, 2023 at 3:28 p.m.

    Oh come now, really?  If anyone knows, it is coach Cherundulo, I do believe he does know on which side his bread is buttered, but to say he doen's "know" is akin to saying the sky is falling.  MLS head honchos should know better, and even my young ten year old nephew has said there are just too many games in the MLS schedules.  

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