Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez ‘still not on board’ with owning a USL team

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez ‘still not on board’ with owning a USL team

One of the trendy topics in Major League Soccer is the evolution of the United Soccer League as a development league.

MLS teams are creating their own USL clubs to provide another link in the development chain from the academy to MLS. Currently, 12 MLS teams run a USL club. It allows younger pro players to get more playing time than they would sitting on the bench of an MLS team and academy players to gain some pro experience.

The Fire are currently affiliated with Saint Louis FC in the USL. The affiliation means the Fire can send players to the USL team to get playing time and experience, but there is a limit on how many and the Fire have no control over how the players are used.

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez is not convinced that owning a USL team as opposed to affiliating with one, like the Fire have done with Saint Louis FC, is the way to go.

“I’m still not on board,” Rodriguez said to reporters at Toyota Park on Thursday as part of an hour-long Q&A session. “The USL is a good environment. I still don’t believe it’s a better environment than our first team. Games and minutes do matter, especially for our first team players.”

This season rookies Drew Conner and Alex Morrell and second-year pros Patrick Doody and Collin Fernandez have gone on loan to St. Louis. Eric Gehrig also went there on his way back from injury like a Major League Baseball team would send a recovering player on a rehab stint to a minor league club.

Rodriguez said the relationship with St. Louis has been good, although he did admit that the Fire were surprised when Fernandez did not play for St. Louis on Aug. 27.

“Drew Conner got really good minutes and important minutes and forced us to bring him back,” Rodriguez said. “With Alex and Patrick Doody, it’s been injuries.”

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As Rodriguez conceded when he bemoaned that Fernandez didn’t appear in that one match, St. Louis isn’t directly obligated to play the Fire’s players and the Fire have no control over tactical styles or how their are used. Owning their own USL team would correct that and most of MLS has gone this way.

“I don’t know if having our own USL team would have changed the trajectory of any of those guys,” Rodriguez said. “I think that one moment of disagreement that we have with St. Louis doesn’t discount all of the good work that St. Louis has done for us and with us. I’m still not convinced that there’s enough guys to merit having our own USL team.”

Rodriguez described some of the Fire’s young players that have seen regular MLS minutes, like Jonathan Campbell and Rodrigo Ramos, as tired from playing their first long professional seasons. That’s part of the reason why Ramos hasn’t played in the past four MLS matches.

Even though the Fire are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot and only nine matches remain, don’t expect young players to be given minutes just for the sake of it in the near future.

“We don’t play guys because they’re young,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t play guys because they have an option. We play guys that we think give us the best chance to win. This is not kiddie soccer. We get fired if we don’t get results. It’s that simple. We will play the guys that we think will help us win games and should it come to a point where we’re mathematically eliminated we still have an obligation and an integrity of the game to put forth what we think gives us the best chance to win.

“If those young guys are expecting a gift of playing time, they’re mistaken. They have to earn it in training.”

MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

USA Today

MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

MLS soccer is coming back this summer.

The league announced a plan to have all 26 MLS clubs resume play on July 8 with a league-wide “MLS is Back Tournament.”

The games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, without fans in the stands.

Here’s how it will work:

Clubs can arrive in Orlando to begin training on June 24. Then a group stage will begin July 8 followed by a knockout stage, starting July 25.

There will be six groups, three for each the Western and Eastern Conferences. The group stage draw will occur on June 11 at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Each team will play three group stage matches, and the results from those games will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings.

Then the top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage. That stage starts with a round-of-16, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and then the championship game. The championship game will be played on August 11.

In case of a tie at the end of regulation in the knockout stage, games will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.

The winner of the tournament will earn a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

At the conclusion of the tournament, MLS will resume its regular season followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup.

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MLS cancels three marquee events in wake of coronavirus, reschedules for 2021


MLS cancels three marquee events in wake of coronavirus, reschedules for 2021

Major League Soccer announced Tuesday the cancelation of three marquee 2020 events in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup have all been canceled, the league announced Tuesday. Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. was set to host the All-Star game on July 29, and MLS said the 2021 event is now expected to take place at the same venue. 

MLS will resume negotiations with LIGA MX with hopes of squaring off in the 2021 exhibition match.

The second annual Leagues Cup tournament was set to occur between July and September, featuring top MLS and LIGA MX teams. The two leagues canceled the event in a joint decision and plan to play the tournament next year.

Similarly, MLS and LIGA MX jointly canceled the Campeones Cup, which features the reigning MLS champion against the LIGA MX's Campeón de Campeones winner. The 2020 event was scheduled for Aug. 12 at CenturyLink field, home of Seattle Sounders FC. It will return in 2021.