Major League Soccer (MLS) loves its news dumps in the leadup to the season’s first matches. Much has transpired in MLS circles this week. Check out how it applies to the orange and blue.
MLS postseason changes
First reported by the Athletic, MLS formally announced their plans for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Tuesday afternoon. The new format will feature 9 teams from each conference competing for the MLS Cup.
The competition will kick off on Oct. 25-26 with wild card matches between the 8th and 9th seeded teams. Following the wild card round, round one will take place between Oct. 28-Nov. 12. Round one will be comprised of a new best-of-3 series format, with the team winning two matches advancing. If a match is tied at the end of regulation (90 minutes), no extra time will be played. Teams will participate in a penalty shootout to determine the match winner.
There will be a two week break between round one and the conference semifinals. The conference semifinal round will take place around Nov. 25 with the conference finals the following week. All rounds following the first round will be one-and-done elimination, identical to the 2022 postseason, including extra time.
The Audi 2023 MLS Cup final will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9 hosted by the highest seed. All games will be broadcast on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass with select games on Fox networks.
While round one is a bit orthodox, the league is looking to create more meaningful matches, assumingly for its new broadcast partner Apple. An attractive part about the new format is that at least 16 of the 18 postseason qualified teams will host a home playoff match. With many teams still new to the league, this is an attractive proposition to host more high-profile events. Some debate could be had, but I do think that this does favor the higher seeds vs. the straight home-and-home in previous years.
Adidas until 2030
Following on the heels of the new broadcast rights deal with Apple that will net the league approx. $250 million+ per season, the league announced an increased deal with apparel and shoe provider Adidas.
The extension will carry the Adidas brand on all MLS jerseys and apparel through the 2030 season. This will see Adidas partner with the league through the important 2026 FIFA World Cup which will certainly be a boon for MLS.
Adidas will fork over nearly $830 million in money and apparel which is approx. $20-30 million more per season than the current deal. The extension was announced internationally on the CNBC “Squawk Box” program Wednesday morning.
iHeartMedia to air FCC on radio
On Tuesday FC Cincy announced that iHeartMedia will be the Official Radio Broadcast Home of FC Cincinnati for the 2023, 2024 and 2025 seasons. Matches will primarily air on ESPN1530 including new 30 minute pre and post match shows. This will bring FCC closer in line with Bengals and Reds coverage.
Long time broadcaster Tom Gelehrter returns for play-by-play along with analyst Kevin McCloskey. The duo have been a part of nearly all FCC MLS and home USL broadcasts since their inception and is a welcome inclusion following the Apple TV news.
Interestingly, former MLS players Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz will also join Tommy G in the booth for some matches this season. Cummings has served as a long time club ambassador and two-time MLS Cup champion Larentowicz was appointed as an academy development coach. While Larentowicz did not play for FCC, he has played against them as a member of Atlanta United. The midfielder/defender has over 400 MLS appearances and will offer great insight as part of the broadcast team.
MLS roster deadline is this Friday
MLS teams have until this Friday to submit their initial player rosters for 2023. This date matters in several ways. All player “domestic” rights must be approved including the Green Card process. To count as a domestic, each player much receive their permanent residence status by the Roster Compliance Date (Friday).
This also has an impact on which clubs use their one-time buyout. A club may buyout one player (including a Designated Player) who has a Guaranteed Contract during the offseason (before Friday) and free up the corresponding salary budget space. Such a buyout is at the club’s expense.
FCC has some logical buyouts including Kenneth Vermeer and Isaac Atanga, however they do not HAVE to remove them as the club still has several international roster spots unfilled.
Should Vermeer be bought out, FCC could have up to three senior roster and four international spots available for new signees and possibly one or two supplemental roster spots. Atanga is on loan at Turkish second division size Goztepe and due to his large transfer fee is less likely to be bought out.
I think it could be possible to see one of these two on the senior roster this season without ever stepping foot in the Mercy Health Training Center. An interesting wrinkle in the MLS roster build process.
FCC announces kit numbers
In another relation to the MLS buyout/roster deadline, FCC announced the numbers of 26 senior players. Vermeer was not listed, so, could the keeper be waived or bought out?
Some interesting numbers include first round pick Joey Akpunonu as the new #3 replacing Johnny Nelson. Normally sub-1o numbers are reserved for impact players, so could the Generation Adidas pick be in line for some playing time?
Have to think #37 is going to be a hot selling jersey soon?!?
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) February 22, 2023
In an interview at MLS HQ on Wednesday, MLS commissioner Don Garber commented on the most likely expansion candidates for spot 30. Unsurprisingly, San Diego and Las Vegas were bandied about by the boss in what was thought as the last expansion spot for the recent future.
While spot 30 should come in 2023, the commissioner said, “Never say never” in terms of expanding beyond 30.
Other expansion cities mentioned in Garber’s address include San Antonio, Sacramento, Detroit, Phoenix and Tampa as possible candidates. Indianapolis, with their upcoming 20,000 seat stadium along with FCC-rival Louisville, were not named. However, they could also play a part in the expansion process should MLS push well past 32.
Could a possible 40 team pro/rel league be in the cards for MLS? Check out this amazing interview on the Athletic of Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville.
First off, thank you for reading our site and downloading our podcasts. In 2017, I created a show called March 2 Matchday. More recently Boston and Brad carried the flag before our newest host, the legend, Geoff Tebbetts. With the turmoil in local coverage brought on by the dissolution of SB Nation sites, Geoff went to create a new brand.
Jersey Swap will feature, local, non-mainstream outlets that cover MLS clubs. This weekly preview podcast is a labor of love and might be one of the best analysis pieces in all of MLS. At CST, we know the dilemma of not being valued at times by former club staff and national outlets and we want to help other media options carry the flag for MLS clubs. I encourage you to like/follow all guests on this show and truly help increase the coverage of MLS in other cities.
CST has also released the return of the Growler Cup in 2023! Do you want to show your knowledge of the league? Donate to our Patreon and join our weekly Growler Cup prediction contest. I have yet to pay inaugural winner Michael Walker, but you will most certainly get your award! We are changing up the award to not only include a cash prize but also a relic from the past.
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Finally, many of you have requested it and CST hopes to deliver. We will be announcing additional staff members that will work to cover FC Cincinnati 2. The schedule is due to be released in the next few weeks and so will our coverage plans. CST can always use more bodies to cover FCC2 and would love to hear from you if interested. Please email email@example.com if you would like to be an additional beat writer for FCC2.