Pitch Points has a busy offseason

Running down the links of interest to Nashville SC and US Soccer fans. Please follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook if you don’t already, and if you like what you read here, share with a friend and encourage them to follow as well!

Daniel Ríos & John Ingram in front of Nashville skyline
Courtesy Nashville MLS

Busy offseason for Nashville SC. A little self-promotion here, but there’s been a ton going on over the past few weeks. Here’s a greatest-hits from some of the signing-related content I’ve been publishing:

Nashville SC offseason tracker. Signing profiles for Daniel Ríos, Ken Tribbett, Darnell King, Kharlton Belmar, and Connor Sparrow.

Given that I nailed the Tribbett and Belmar signings, you may want to re-visit these two posts, though I will say that NSC seems to be even more ambitious that I’d expected, so they may be obsolete by this point.

The Berhalter-ing. Who will be in the January USMNT camp? It’s always an MLS-heavy one, so keep that in mind when making your guesses.

Berhalter spoke with the MLS Extra Time pod about his vision for the USMNT. It’s not super-heavy on details, but certainly the generalities sound pretty good, and he’s quite obviously a very, very bright soccer mind. The tactical talk they did with video rather than just audio, on the other hand, is extremely informative:

I think just about everybody is excited to see the beginning of a new era for the US Men’s National Team after the yearlong interim tenure of the new North Carolina FC coach, and I for one anticipate it to be a very positive era (yes, that puts me outside of the constantly-pessimistic USMNT mainstream).

More from an interview with Alexi Lalas. And little fluff, primarily focusing on his love for tactics and analytics (without giving many specifics on either).

MLS thinkpieces. This was published before Atlanta United’s win in MLS Cup, but that make it all the more important (because it was obvious, title or not, how far ahead of the curve the Five Stripes are). MLS owners can’t agree over how best to grow the league($).

MLS now has a stability never before achieved in American soccer. It has strong markets with stadiums and training facilities built across the country. And it has a relatively diverse group of owners, many of whom are investing hugely in the sport.

Yet some owners expressed caution about whether the league is truly prepared for the next era of growth, especially if that growth is predicated on unbridled spending.

The sides are (somewhat simplistically, but perhaps fairly) divided into the progressive, “let us spend” types and the “don’t let the other guys spend because then I’d have to” stodgy types. I think it’s pretty clear that the vast majority of American soccer fans side with the former. Certainly a lot of the regulations have allowed clubs to survive and the league to remain stable and grow, but if others want to spend more, so be it.

Interestingly, Don Garber also admitted in his State of the League speech prior to the title game that MLS should be willing to become a selling league… something that he personally had been opposed to in the past. Of course, you don’t want to only be a selling league, but certainly embracing that side of the transfer market would be a positive (and profitable). League rules make it tough for that to be worth teams’ while all-too frequently, so hopefully some of the regulations about who keeps what portion of a transfer fee, how that see can be used (right now, my understanding is a team gets $750,000 max, only in TAM, for any non-Homegrown sale).

MOAR MLS. Speaking of Garber changing course on things, it sounds pretty likely that the league’s expansion will not stop at the previously established limit of 28 teams. Major League Soccer will get to that mark within the next year (Nashville and Miami will be Nos. 25 and 26, so two more bids are on the table), and then there will be a re-evaluation.

Looking simply at who makes geographic and demographic sense, stopping at 28 would be a mistake:

  • Phoenix (this one is a must for me)
  • Sacramento
  • St. Louis
  • San Diego
  • (The above plus Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Raleigh are the known bids for spot 28).

With Austin effectively promised No. 27… there’s not a ton of room there. Yes, USL can fill some of the gaps in the first tier, but the size of our country sort of precludes sticking to the “smaller top division” that you’d see in England (20 top-flight teams in a country smaller than the state of Michigan – and that’s with Northern Ireland and Scotland included, even though those constituent countries of the UK have their own top-flight leagues).

I’m all for as much expansion as the market(s) can support, and would assume there’s probably an MLB-like split at some point where the two leagues don’t play each other in the regular season with any regularity, though it’d be an East-West split rather than the semi-arbitrary divisions that baseball has. “But there’s interleague play all the time now!” is true, but the growth of soccer in the country and the logistics of cross-country travel for a sport that’s a little more physically demanding would make that sensible to me.

Etc.: Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre is behind an anti-scalping ticket measure based on Blockchain technology. … #OptaProSoccer conference in Chicago Jan. 9 should be a good one, but it’s invite-only :(. … A little history lesson on Atlanta-area soccer. … Zack Steffen‘s transfer to Manchester City is official. … Podcast with Liam Doyle from his homeland (I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to listen yet).

If you come across something you’d like me to share in a Pitch Points (or any other type of post), feel free to drop me a line via the comments here, or the social channels linked at the top of the post.

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