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Referee “Punished,” Top Selling MLS Jerseys, CONCACAF Rankings

Chris Penso gets his punishment, Russell is ranked and Sporting KC are too. Plus, a new women’s soccer league is coming to the USA to compete with the NWSL.

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Johnny Russell and hit top selling jersey | Credit: Thad Bell

Penso Gets his “Punishment”

There was a lot of hemming and hawing and gnashing of teeth over the officiating in last weekend’s Sporting Kansas City versus St. Louis City SC game. Both of this site’s primary podcasts, For the Glory KC and the Shades of Blue Soccer Show, had a lot to say about the way Chris Penso called the game. And short of making a mistake so egregious it ends up in the Inside Video Review YouTube show, a referee not being assigned is about as close to an admission of poor performance that you’ll get.

That’s exactly what appears to have happened to Penso, who despite having the most games of any center ref this year, isn’t on the docket for Week 15 of MLS.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s being punished. It’s a holiday weekend, maybe he asked off. But I’m choosing to believe what I want on this, and we’ll see if he shows up on this week’s inside video review (don’t hold your breathe). Or maybe he went back to the MASL, as Thad pointed out on SOB.

I feel like I have to add the caveat that his poor officiating didn’t necessarily decide the game, but it impacted it. He can be bad and Sporting can also have played poorly. But who knows how the game plays out if the first two goals are taken off the board for fouls in the attacking phase of play by St. Louis, a blown PK call, or numerous other poorly handled situations.

Sporting KC came out with a pretty brutal injury report yesterday, and while it’s probably unfair to blame everything on Penso, he had a hand in letting the game get overly physical. If nothing, Logan Ndenbe having his ankle rolled up on violently (not a foul according to Penso, by the way), and him being questionable with an ankle injury feel incredibly related to each other.

For the record, the penalty he called, showed up on MLS’ “Instant Replay” show and David Gass didn’t think it was a penalty.

No mention of all the other physical play.

Top Selling MLS Jerseys

Johnny Russell made the list of highest selling jerseys in MLS. He came in at #22 and is the only Sporting KC player on the list. He’s one spot ahead of St. Louis City’s Joao Klauss, which is the tiniest of wins after a big weekend loss.

Carlos Vela of LAFC is in at number one, followed by Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC) and Walker Zimmerman (also Nashville) who rounds out the top three.

CONCACAF Club Rankings

The first ever CONCACAF Club Rankings are out, and Sporting Kansas City landed at 33rd on the list (somehow). I imagine it’s looking at a longer window of time than the abysmal 2023 MLS season, but Sporting KC landed ahead of LA Galaxy (somehow 34th), St. Louis City (47th — I’m not salty or anything) and Austin FC, who were the lowest ranked MLS team at 49th.

There are 184 total teams on the list, and it’s dominated by Liga MX and MLS teams. Mexican clubs take seven of the top eight spots (LAFC are 3rd) and nine of the first 11 (the Philadelphia Union are 9th). CF Monterrey, who famously demolished SKC in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, are the top ranked team.

More Women’s Soccer

The USL announced a new first division (application pending) women’s soccer league, the USL Super League, that is set to start in 2024. There are eight confirmed markets with the hope of going to 10 to 12 teams before the league launches. The cities are:

  • Charlotte, NC
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  • Lexington, KY
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Spokane, WA
  • Tampa Bay, FL
  • Washington D.C.

Other interested cities are Chattanooga, TN, Indianapolis, IN, Jacksonville, FL, Madison, WI and Oakland, CA. The plan to aim for Division I sanctioning will put them in direct competition with the NWSL, who is a Division I league.

Div I comes with higher standards, including:

  • Needing at least eight team
  • Covering at least two time zones
  • 75 percent of the teams need to be in cities with populations of 750,000 or higher
  • Stadiums need a minimum of 5,000 in capacity
  • Three years of financial operating capacity from the ownership group
  • One principal team owner must have at least a 35 percent share and a net worth of $15 million or more
  • Combined ownership net worth of $25 million minimum
  • The league needs its own year-round, full-time staff including a COO, CFO and Director of Marketing

There are lots of things to be worked out, but two big differences from the NWSL, is running a fall to spring calendar (which will be interesting in cities with a proper winter) and not having a college draft. Where it’s going to be the same is in pay, which is big. Amanda Vandervort, Super League President, said the USL Super League intends to be competitive on player salaries.

“We want to be competitive in the international marketplace, in the American marketplace,” Vandervort said. “The details of player compensation, player standards, all that stuff, we are excited to have those conversations with our ownership groups, with our players.”

The USL has a leg in the women’s game already with the USL W League. And they have some admirable attendance with 5,800 attending an Oakland Soul game and just under 5,000 attending Detroit City’s home opener versus Flint City AFC. Minnesota Aurora had 6,200 fans at their championship game and average attendance north of 5k. Aurora have better numbers than NWSL clubs Orlando Pride, NC Courage and NJ/NJ Gotham based on 2022 attendance.

It’ll be interesting to see this unfold in the coming years.

Bad Behavior

In a bit of a wild story, what appeared to be a fan poured beer (or some liquid) on a photographer at a North Carolina FC game, turned out to be connected to NCFC. I know my colleague and site photographer, Thad Bell, was offended for the impacted party (camera equipment is expensive).

Well, it turns out, it was a staff member of NCFC who wasn’t working at the game but attending as a fan. I haven’t seen any punishment yet, but it’s a really stupid way to lose your job.

Quick Entries

  • The KC Current are unlikely to have either Elizabeth Ball or Morgan Gautrat this weekend, but they are back in training.

  • The quarterfinals of the US Open Cup are set and, outside of FC Cincinnati, it’s all bad MLS teams that are still alive. I’m personally rooting for the USL clubs, Birmingham Legion and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to keep the “cupsets” going.

  • Speaking of the US Open Cup, the New York Red Bulls kitman went into the team story and made a field jersey for a goalkeeper just before penalties started. RBNY’s coach said he wanted to get Carlos Coronel on because he is a confident PK taker, not to play keeper.

  • I thought this was fun.

  • In case you missed it, we are giving away some tickets to Sporting KC versus FC Dallas that a listener of our podcast gave us. This Tweet tells you how to enter.

  • Not soccer related, but one of my other loves, Star Wars, turns 46 today. Happy Birthday Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

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