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U.S. Soccer vibe check: U.S. Closed Cup and NWSL expansion draft stress

MLS is playing more soccer but also less soccer than ever

2023 MLS Cup - Commissioner Don Garber Press Conference Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Major League Soccer is picking up its ball and going to play with its new friend LigaMX. That’s effectively what the league is saying by announcing it is just sending U-23 teams to the US Open Cup. Andre Blake and others complained at the end of the 2023 season about having to play too many games. Between things like The Champions Cup, The Leagues Cup, Concacaf Champions League and the critical mid-season friendlies against teams from Europe the schedule is certainly full. The league could expand rosters, but that would cost owners more money. Instead MLS is just not going to play soccer anymore in the US Open Cup.

Meanwhile, the league has expanded its various offerings in playing games against LigaMX to prove once and for all that if MLS can do enough cash grabs play enough games against teams from Mexico, people will think it is better than LigaMX. A thing that is very important for MLS.

The decision, announced by MLS Commissioner and US Soccer Board of Directors member Don Garber, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the tournament. Part of the interest that it draws is the potential for Cupsets as lower league teams can potentially knock out sides from MLS.

Though not directly related, perhaps on cue the news came as USL team RVG Toros announced that they’d be shutting down.

At the very least this shows why and how US Soccer is so toothless when it comes to doing things like advocating for the sport in the country. With the Commissioner of the league that is actively doing something to harm the sport sitting on the Board of Directors of the organization there’s little hope regulation or any repercussion at all will come from this.

Expansion draft or

Everyone who has had a job is accustomed to their employer doing generally inconvenient things. Pro soccer in the USA takes this to another level with the expansion draft in both MLS and NWSL. The process works by teams being able to name certain players safe from being drafted while deciding everyone else isn’t that important.

Darian Jenkins talked about how stressful the situation is for her but noted that some teams do consider what players want with transfers.

However, player protection is yet another area that it seems like US Soccer could play a bigger role in advocating for the sport. Pros in the United States do not have the same rights as those in other countries where a transfer can be arranged by a club but if a player does not want to move can refuse terms with their new club. At the very least, if a player does move they typically get a percentage of the transfer fee plus can negotiate a better contract. In both MLS and NWLS no such system exists.

So, the vibe is pretty crummy. Bet?

Rather than leave on that note, if the vibe from USSF ever changes to above crummy it’d be a pretty huge accomplishment, let’s see this goal that was very bussin from Sergino Dest with an assist from Malik Tillman for the team that makes up about 3/23 of the USMNT in the Netherlands.