MLS 101 – FIFA International Breaks

If you weren’t aware, soccer is in the midst of a FIFA international break. FIFA international breaks are periods of time set aside by FIFA for scheduling international matches per their annual calendar. What that means for this window is teams in Europe are qualifying for UEFA Euro 2020 while teams in Africa have started World Cup 2022 qualifying. CONCACAF sides are playing friendlies in this break which is why the USMNT and Mexico are playing tonight in New Jersey. Almost every big league in the world respects these FIFA windows and stops play because so many players are called in during the break to play for their country. MLS, however, typically plays matches during the break. There is a full schedule of games in MLS this weekend and more than half a dozen teams will be missing major players for one or two matches. No one is getting it worse in this window that Seattle. The Seattle Sounders have 10 players off on international duty for their upcoming match. Look at this list – Nicolás Lodeiro (Uruguay), Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru), Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Jordan Morris (United States), Cristian Roldan (United States), Román Torres (Panama), Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), Jordy Delem (Martinique), Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and Brad Smith (Australia). This sucks if you are a Sounder fan or season ticket holder. MLS standings are tight and one win (3 points) can literally tip the balance between making the playoffs or not. It’s crazy and as MLS improves this is only going to become a bigger issue.

Some sides opt out of releasing players. Given they play two matches during the current break, Toronto FC didn’t release Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore. Not having its full group of starters available makes it harder on the USMNT to improve in the limited time the coaches have the players together. Berhalter was “a little bit disappointed” despite having managed Columbus and knowing the deal when he accepted the job. There’s been talk of change for years, but it’s not likely to happen for a few reasons. The biggest being having to fit these matches in elsewhere would likely mean more midweek games which have lower attendance. Also, while MLS teams can pressure the USMNT manager not to call in players for a friendly, next year these dates will happen during World Cup qualifying at which point MLS teams have to release their players.

So what does this mean for Nashville SC? Depends on the player. Hany Mukhtar plays for Germany which is one of the best soccer countries in the world. It is near impossible for an MLS player to get a called into the German National Team. I don’t think it’s ever happened. If Hany did that would be amazing for the Music City. But odds are he’ll be playing for Nashville SC in almost every match next year which is a good thing for the club. This was pointed out in reddit post by user lawvol here. The opposite can be said for the newest signing, Randall Leal who plays for Costa Rica. While just 22 years old, Leal already has 11 caps for Costa Rica, including three at the Gold Cup earlier this summer where he played over 200 minutes. It’s safe to assume when Nashville SC has matches in the international window next season Leal won’t be in the squad. One player isn’t that big a deal, but it is likely he won’t be the only one. Something you might want to pay attention to if you can only attend a few MLS matches next year.

Other posts in our MLS 101 series

MLS 101 – Single Entity Salary Cap And Designated Players
MLS 101 – GAM And TAM
MLS 101 – Development Academy And Nashville SC Youth Structure
MLS 101 – SuperDraft