As Major League Soccer enters an extended break in play due to the FIFA international window, the latest rumor about Lionel Messi joining one of the league's teams has surfaced.
We’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating: Transfer rumors typically don’t get much play in this space. But when an iconic player of Lionel Messi's stature is being linked to a possible move to MLS, exceptions can and will be made. It’s also worth noting this isn’t the first time this year that Messi’s been linked with a move to MLS, but it is the latest episode of it.
And, of course, David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF project is in the fray. Sport.ES, based in Spain’s Catalan region, reported that Messi’s current negotiation to re-sign for FC Barcelona as part of a 10-year deal that includes both on- and off-field roles also features a multi-year stay at Inter Miami.
Does this report have more teeth than reports this past winter of a contract with City Football Group that suggested Messi would jump to Manchester City and later to New York City FC? Who knows? But one thing we know for sure is that it’s worth keeping occasional tabs on Messi’s possible movements and that’s even more true if MLS is being mentioned alongside his name.
RATINGS: UEFA Champions League final averages 3.65 million viewers in U.S.
Lionel Messi has played for FC Barcelona since 2004. (Photo: PAU BARRENA, AFP via Getty Images)
MLS news and notes
League goes on break: With the Concacaf Nations League and World Cup qualifying taking place, MLS goes on an extended break between games, returning to full action the weekend of June 18-20. The U.S., Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico will compete in Denver in the first-ever Concacaf Nations League finals, thus completing a competition that started in 2018. For the USMNT, it represents the first meaningful games since it clinched its spot in the Nations League final with a 4-0 win over Cuba on Nov. 19, 2019. Elsewhere, the remaining Concacaf squads carry on with first-round qualification games for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The USMNT, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico already have qualified for the eight-team final round that will begin play in September.
Concacaf Nations League finals schedule
- Honduras vs. USMNT, 7:30 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN)
- Mexico vs. Costa Rica, 10 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN)
- Semifinal winners, 9 p.m. ET (Paramount+, TUDN)
MLS shows well in USMNT-Switzerland friendly: The U.S. men’s national team opened the ongoing FIFA window for international play with a 2-1 loss to world-ranked No. 13 Switzerland on Sunday. Putting the loss aside, there were plenty of positives to take from the game, including periods of impressive play from the Americans. It was an especially positive match for Major League Soccer fans as three players from the league featured in the game. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget opened the scoring in the fifth minute to put the USMNT in front. Lletget, whose goal was the seventh of his international career, started alongside San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill. Both players went for 61 minutes in the game. When they were subbed off by manager Gregg Berhalter, Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta entered the game. The only MLS-based player who didn’t see time in the match was Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa.
Dike rejoins USMNT camp: Daryl Dike, who lit up England’s second-division Championship while on loan with Barnsley (nine goals in 19 appearances), returned to the U.S. men’s national team picture this week, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. After Barnsley declined the purchase option on Dike’s loan agreement, Dike participated in the U.S. men’s national team camp centered around the Concacaf Nations League finals, which resumed Thursday for the Americans against Honduras (7:30 p.m.). Dike is set to return to Orlando City SC, but will train in Berhalter’s camp ahead of next week’s friendly against Costa Rica, which he would be eligible to play in. Dike isn’t rostered for the purposes of Nations League play.
Daryl Dike scored nine goals in 19 games for Barnsley, helping the club reach the promotion playoffs. (Photo: Clive Rose, Getty Images)
Jozy Altidore's TFC future in doubt: On-again, off-again USMNT forward Jozy Altidore was not with his Toronto FC teammates during last week's loss to the Columbus Crew after being told to train on his own following a disagreement with coach Chris Armas, according to multiple reports. "We still are going to use the international break to discuss the situation, in-house," Toronto FC GM Ali Curtis told The Canadian Press. "That conversation will be handled internally. It will be a club decision. And it will incorporate what I would say is the totality of the time that Jozy has been with the club." Altidore is one of three designated players for Toronto FC, along with midfielders Yeferson Soteldo and Alejandro Pozuelo, the reigning MLS MVP.
Inter Miami penalized: Last week, MLS announced sanctions against Inter Miami CF for salary budget and roster violations. Sure, the league has complicated and convoluted roster rules, but Inter Miami really botched this. The team had five players on its roster in 2020 that should have occupied designated player spots (the league limit is three). It also underreported the salaries for three other players. While the league fined the club $2 million and issued a $250,000 fine to managing owner Jorge Mas, it's the reduction of $2,271,250 in allocation money for the 2022 and 2023 seasons that will hinder Inter Miami's roster-building capabilities moving forward.
Another Aaronson: On the same day that the 20-year-old Brenden Aaronson started for the USMNT in the friendly against Switzerland, his 17-year-old brother Paxten made his Philadelphia Union debut in a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers. Expectations are high for Paxten, whose brother made the move from the Union to Red Bull Salzburg – the Austrian Bundesliga champions – after the 2020 MLS season. Also, Paxten is coming up in one of the league's top developers of young talent, and his older brother wasn't the only Union product to make the move to Europe over the winter. Defender Mark McKenzie – who also started for the USMNT on Sunday – transferred from the Union to Genk in Belgium.
Vancouver adds firepower: The Vancouver Whitecaps (2-4-1) are currently the 10th team out of 13 in the Western Conference and have been just a few goals short of putting themselves in far better position in the standings. The ‘Caps attempted to address their offensive needs by trading for the New York Red Bulls’ 25-year-old Brian White. Vancouver sent an initial $400,000 in General Allocation Money to the Red Bulls and performance incentives could see the number rise to as much as an additional $100,000 GAM. White had 15 goals and four assists in 47 appearances in his time with New York.
By the numbers
68:Squads for the postponed Euro 2020 were finalized this week, and seven Major League Soccer players made rosters for their respective nations: Chicago Fire FC midfielder Przemyslaw Frankowski (Poland); Minnesota United midfielder Ján Greguš (Slovakia); Philadelphia Union midfielder Dániel Gazdag and FC Dallas forward Szabolcs Schön (Hungary); and Minnesota United defender Jukka Raitala and midfielder Robin Lod, and CF Montreal forward Lassi Lappalainen (Finland). Those three players named to Finland's Euro squad represents the most MLS has ever had called into a single team for the European Championships. In all, 68 MLS players – representing 26 of the league's 27 teams – have been called into national team competitions, with the Columbus Crew and Toronto FC having the most players called up by their national teams (five apiece). Canada, meanwhile, is the country that has called up the most MLS players (10).
EURO 2020: Complete squads for the European Championship
Ján Greguš has also been added to Slovakia’s squad! 🇸🇰 pic.twitter.com/LQhi1sN9UU
MLS power rankings: Top 10 power poll
1. Seattle Sounders: Seattle's best start in franchise history cooled off in its final two games before the three-week break, with draws at home against Atlanta United and expansion side Austin FC.
2. New England Revolution: Coach Bruce Arena's Eastern Conference front-runners have won their previous three games, in large part due to the contributions of playmaking midfielder Carles Gil, an early season favorite for league MVP honors.
3. Philadelphia Union: With Concacaf Champions League obligations out of the way for the time being (Philadelphia's semifinal showdown with Club America isn't until Aug. 12), the Union have been on an absolute tear that has reminded fans of why this team was Supporters' Shield winners in 2020.
4. Los Angeles Galaxy: While Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is pacing the league with seven goals scored, Jonathan Bond has been stellar in goal. Bond recorded 12 saves in last week's win over the San Jose Earthquakes, earning MLS Player of the Week honors.
5. Orlando City SC: Orlando's unbeaten start to the season came to an end last week in a road loss to the New York Red Bulls. Could Daryl Dike be back with the team after the break? The striker had his option to purchase declined by Championship side Barnsley, with whom Dike had thrived.
6. Sporting Kansas City: SKC sits in second place in the Western Conference and just two points behind Seattle, despite the Sounders' hot start. Fueling Kansas City's surge are Alan Pulido (third in MLS in goals scored) and Gianluca Busio, who scored a bend-it-like-Beckham-esque free kick in Saturday's win, just a day after his 19th birthday.
7. New York City FC: NYCFC rallied for a late road win over Los Angeles FC after being reduced to 10 players in what coach Ronny Deila called "by far the biggest win" of his two-year tenure with the team.
8. Colorado Rapids: Colorado collected 12 points from five games in May to enter June in the Western Conference mix. Coach Robin Fraser's team comes off the break facing FC Cincinnati and Sporting Kansas City on the road, the latter matchup being a test of this team's chances in the West.
9. Nashville SC: Nashville remained one of two undefeated teams (along with the Seattle Sounders) with a dramatic road draw against Atlanta United last week. Down 2-0, Hany Mukhtar scored two goals in three minutes to stun the crowd of 41,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and keep Nashville's surprising unbeaten streak alive.
10. Columbus Crew: After a slow start to the season – which could be attributed to Concacaf Champions League play – Columbus now has won consecutive games with four goals scored after being shut out four times in their first five league games.
Moving in: Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew
Dropping out: Houston Dynamo (previously: 7), Portland Timbers (10)
Others receiving votes: CF Montreal, Atlanta United, Houston Dynamo
USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mike Craven, Austin American-Statesman; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.
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