When we at the KC Soccer Journal were The Blue Testament, we would often write stories called Blue Links or Blue Notes that rounded up stories you may have missed. Welcome to Journal Entries (title pending). Let’s get to the news!
Current Fined for Charter Flights
It wasn’t that long ago that charter flights in Major League Soccer (MLS) barely existed. The pandemic changed all that. However, it’s a battle still being fought in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and one that hit a roadblock on Tuesday. Meg Linehan of The Athletic is reporting that the league fined the Kansas City Current $55,000 for taking a charter flight to the July 7th loss to Racing Louisville.
The KC Current took the flight because it was “relative” in price compared to the commercial alternative. That alternative would have required multiple days of travel and a layover, despite the cities just being 517 miles apart. The team also said in a statement to The Athletic that they were dealing with multiple injuries and the commercial flights wouldn’t aid in recovery and it was the end of a three-game road trip for KC.
I encourage you to go read the full article, but a few highlights:
- There was no intent to announce this publicly, but it was leaked from inside the league.
- There is no specific guidance on charter flights in the league’s CBA with the player’s association, just that travel over 350 miles should be on commercial carriers when “reasonably practical.”
- There is a private charter flight policy, also leaked, that isn’t available publicly that teams only received via email.
- The KC Current could have applied for an emergency exception to use a charter flight, but reportedly didn’t or weren’t approved, it’s unclear.
- The league believes it gives teams a competitive advantage to use chartered flights.
- The fine is more than the league fined the OL Reign and Gotham FC as a part of the widespread misconduct from last year’s NWSL/NWSLPA investigation.
My Take: There is no doubt it’s an advantage if one team can play their road games by traveling later, avoiding hotel stays, layovers and the general complications of flying commercial flights. However, owners like the Chris and Angie Long and Brittany Mahomes are trying to push this league forward. In the interest of the player health and safety, I’m for as much private travel as possible. I think the league looks really bad in this situation. Linehan also reported that NWSL Commissioner, Jessica Berman, has final say on the fine.
NWSL Free Agency Issues
In more negative press for the NWSL league office, they are headed back to arbitration with the NWSLPA over free agency a year after losing a similar battle. Last year’s ruling allowed for many players to become free agents who wouldn’t have otherwise been on that list, including Debinha, Vanessa DiBernardo and Morgan Gautrat, who all signed with the KC Current. The language in question is around option years in NWSL contracts.
If a player is out of contract at the end of the 2023 season and has five years of NWSL service, the CBA is clear those players are free agents. The Player’s Association is arguing (again, successfully in 2022), that if a player’s contract has option years, that option can only be triggered with the player’s consent. Arbitration begins on August 29th. Last year it started four days earlier and was resolved by October 17th.
Messi Advances to the Leagues Cup Final
Inter Miami CF and Leo Messi get it done again. This time 4-1 on the road against the Philadelphia Union. Messi scored his ninth goal across six games.
For those wondering if Miami are cheating to build this new team, there are definitely some questions. Tom Bogert did a breakdown worth a read. Some items he reported are that Rodolfo Pizzaro didn’t take a buyout for the last six months of his contract, as originally believed, but instead a mutual termination of his $3.35 million contract. He has since signed in Greece with former San Jose Earthquakes and Chivas coach Matias Almeyda. The real question mark is Jordi Alba, who reportedly made $20 million with Barcelona last year, playing as a TAM player meaning he can make no more than $1.65m this year. This from a Miami team who were already caught cheating with five Designated Players (two more than allowed) in their short history.
They will be joined in the finals by Nashville SC who downed Monterrey and Club America, two giants of Liga MX, to host the final. An all-MLS final. Check out the highlights of this wildly officiated game (at least the bad calls cancel each other out).
Women’s World Cup
Spain defeated USWNT ousters, Sweden, in the first semifinal to advance to the finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. No goals were scored until after the 80th minute and then the floodgates opened. The winners of this morning’s other semifinal between co-hosts Australia and England will face Spain in the finals on Sunday morning here in the United States. England are the champions of Europe, but Australia defeated them 2-0 the last time these teams met.
Speaking (loosely) of the United States, here are some way too early 2027 World Cup roster predictions.
- Chicago Cubs co-owner, Laura Ricketts, has reached an agreement to buy the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars. Hopefully this means more agressive spending in the league to push it to be the “Premier League” of women’s soccer. The window to pull this off could be closing.
- US Soccer reached agreements to get the US Open Cup final and semifinals on to 20 different broadcasters in over 100 countries. It won’t surprise you to know Messi is still in that competition. The semifinals are on August 23rd (man Messi is going to be exhausted by the time league play starts). FC Cincinnati host Inter Miami and the Houston Dynamo host Real Salt Lake.
- D.C. United and Taxi Fountas have “mutually agreed to terminate his contract” after credible allegations were made that he used a racial slur against a teammate during a game with the New England Revolution. Fountas is a repeat offender after an incident in 2022 involving then Miami defender Damien Lowe.
- The biggest winners and losers of the MLS secondary transfer window.
- USL Championship Power Rankings
- A little more Messi. The Athletic has a fantastic piece on the intricacies of trading jerseys with him or other elite players.