Category Archives: MLS 101

All-Stars and MLS: From the sidelines

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The MLS All-Star Game is the third biggest, yet most controversial event in Major League Soccer’s arsenal of annual festivities.  In the grand scheme of things, a midseason friendly, no matter the opponent, has very little to no clout and offers more risks than reward. However, this is America, and an All-Star exhibition game is about as American as you can get.

#tishajuvdossantos
Juventus player, Alex Sandro toe-pokes the ball away from MLS All-Star, Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy). Image: Tisha Gale

This year, the midseason clash between the MLS All-Stars and the Italian bigwigs, Juventus, led us to a showdown in rainy Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. In the weeks leading up to the match, the topic on everyone’s minds was the overall significance of the All-Star Game. I asked a few friends and colleagues to weigh-in with their opinions of the All-Star Game and here’s what they had to say:

“I’m of two minds when it comes to the MLS All-Star Game. On one hand, pitting our best players against a well-known European powerhouse draws more fans to our league, and ideally shows that we’re progressing in ability and quality with how we acquit ourselves in the friendly. The continued growth in fandom and support make MLS more viable as a major sport with key younger demographic groups. If you’re a fan of the league, you really have to appreciate that.”

“On the other hand, it’s a meaningless friendly in the middle of the season, where the players selected have little time to prepare and gel as a squad, making the possibility of a cohesive, well-drilled game plan difficult to realize and execute. There’s very little upside for selected players and greater risk of injury, especially when the game is played on turf. The game is held midweek during a brutal part of the schedule which doesn’t incentivize participation (so much so that a rule was created to punish those who skip it, even due to injury).”

“If I had a vote, I’d push for . . . a return to East vs. West [format] and make the outcome meaningful (e.g. home field advantage in MLS Cup Finals, or decide which leg to host in MLS Cup playoffs).”  Dave K. (@kilsey on Twitter)

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLS All-Star captain, Carlos Vela, wins a 50/50 battle with Juventus star, Emre Can. Image: Tisha Gale

The last time Major League Soccer hosted an East vs West All-Star showdown was at the 2004 game in which the East defeated the West in a 3-2 match at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. In fact, there have been six “East vs West” All-Star games to date, with the East holding an impressive 4-1-1 record. As a proud supporter of one of the best teams in the East, New York City FC, I would be happy to see the return of East vs West format.

My MLSFemale colleague, Keira, echoed Dave’s opinions. However, her biggest complaint has not to do with the game itself, but with one of the rules surrounding it.

“A change must happen to the rules regarding missing the All-Star Game (ASG) for a documented injury. If you miss at least two games prior to the ASG due to injury, you should not be suspended from the next regular season game due to missing the ASG. It’s a punishment to players and their teams. The ASG should be a celebration of excellence in MLS, not a burden.” –Keira M.S. (@keiramunsmith on Twitter)

This ASG rule sparked some outrage in New York when it was announced that David Villa would have to miss the NYCYC’s regular season match versus Vancouver Whitecaps because he had to bow out of the All-Star game. Villa was coming off a six-game injury spell.

There is clearly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the way the ASG is executed. While some people think a little restructuring would do the trick, others believe that a completely new blueprint might be the best option.

“I mean, All-Star games really are an American thing overall. The idea of this one kinda comes from MLB’s mid-summer classic . . . Personally, I think trying to Americanize soccer hurts it here; from scheduling to roster limits . . . What they should do is create an American Super Cup that pits the MLS Cup winners and the Open Cup winners together to start the season. Like the rest of the world does with their league winners and domestic Cup winners.” –Jeff W. (@J_Weisinger on Twitter)

For the players selected to represent MLS, the All-Star Game is the ultimate pick-up game. It is a chance for them to get together with their friends across the league, to set rivalries aside and enjoy a night of the beautiful game.

When Dudes in Blue co-host, Anthony Scarcello, asked Alex Ring what it was like to attend his first All-Star game, the New York City FC midfielder stated, “I think it was a nice couple of days seeing the guys from the other teams in the league. Playing a little bit, having some fun.” All in all, the game provides “a good opportunity to enjoy yourself a little midweek.”

#tishaalexring
Alex Ring, the only player to represent New York City FC at the 2018 All-Star Game, after Villa’s injury ruled him out of the lineup. Image: Tisha Gale

With the debate seeming to end in a stalemate, at least until things undoubtedly heat up again next year, on what side of the coin do you land?  Should the powers that be package the MLS ASG in maple and drape it in the stars and stripes, or will a simple restructuring make it a more appealing event for players and fans alike?

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Sami Khedira aerial challenge. Image: Tisha Gale

As for me, this was my first year attending an MLS All-Star game, and I was fortunate enough to do so while representing MLSFemale. The All-Stars also presented a unique opportunity for me to network with other fans, photographers, reporters and podcasters from across the league, including a few of my MLSFemale colleagues.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Cooligans Crew: Robyn (ATL), Jess (COL), Eve (IMFC), Aya (ATL), Tisha (NYCFC) 🙂

ATL All-Star 18 - Tisha - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Pointless or not, the atmosphere inside the stadium was electrifying; all my senses were heightened. The thrill of flashing my “Photographer” media credentials to security as I roamed the belly of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was enough to give me the best heart palpitations. By the time the game started, I was already on cloud 9. The photographer sitting next to me who kept quietly chanting, “This is boring,” could do nothing to lull me out of my perpetual state of bliss, and neither could the star whose bulb blew at the absolute wrong time.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Image: Tisha Gale

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Another type of pro in Dallas: Alan Avila

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Bailey Brown // @baileystaysposi

It may seem like it has been awhile, but it was only in April that we saw our first MLS Cup winner of the year… an eMLS Cup winner. The buzz and hype around the eMLS Cup in Boston this past year was just something I couldn’t get enough of. Seeing supporters of all clubs actively backing their professional gamers to defeat opponents game after game was awesome.

I couldn’t help but be curious as to this notion of signing a professional gamer to MLS clubs and how people even got there. As a teacher, I see middle school students trying to play video games in class. I’m actually pretty sure if I brought in my XBox and allowed them to play FIFA in class, we would have an all-out tournament. However, according to Forbes.com, esports is on track to bring in $900 million in revenue this year. You guys… $900 million.

It’s no wonder that MLS has started signing their own eMLS players as this is a huge market that any business would be crazy to not touch.. So, my next challenge? Talk to the FC Dallas eMLS player who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, Alan Avila.

 

Check out my interview – with former FC Dallas youth player turned eMLS star!

Okay so, let’s start with a little bit about your soccer background. You played for the FC Dallas youth system as a midfielder in high school. When did you start playing soccer and can you tell MLSFemale readers a little bit more about your soccer background?

I started playing soccer ever since I was four. My dad made a local team and coached me all the way up until my club soccer years. My first club team was the Dallas Texans. I started traveling 5 hours to Dallas and Frisco just to play my league games on the weekends, so it was a sacrifice I had to make, but it was all worth it. 1-2 years later, I joined FC Dallas’ Youth system and played in the Classic League. I played at Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas. I was on Varsity since my Freshman year. Unfortunately, my sophomore year of High School I tore my left ACL and had to miss most of the season. I then went on to play my junior year. My senior year, I tore my right ACL and unfortunately had to sit out my entire senior year. I had surgery again and recovered just in time for collegiate soccer at the University of Texas of The Permian Basin. During preseason I re-tore my right ACL. I had surgery, recovered, but then started focusing more on FIFA and YouTube.

I read in your interview with FC Dallas that you started playing FIFA after your third ACL injury. Surely to be as good as you are, you were playing the game before you decided to start competitively. Was playing video games always a hobby of yours?

Playing FIFA was definitely a hobby of mine ever since I was in elementary school. My soccer mates and friends would always get together and play against each other and have tournaments. It was something I really enjoyed to play whenever I was not playing actual soccer because I just love soccer so much. FIFA, the video game, helped me learn more about the game of soccer. I would always try out new moves or passes that I would see in FIFA on the field. FIFA was a nice hobby to have as a soccer player because during the offseason or whenever I wasn’t playing actual soccer, I would start up FIFA and start playing. I believe many soccer players love to play FIFA.

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Image: emlscup.us

With that, how did you decide to become a professional FIFA player? What is the process for those who didn’t know this e-world existed?

I got very fortunate with timing because, during my third ACL surgery recover, FIFA 17 introduced a new competitive game mode called “FUT Champions”. It is a competitive game mode where you play 40 games a weekend against the best players on your continent and compete with everyone from around the world. I started finishing in the Top 100 in the World leaderboard by winning 38, 39, or even 40 games out of the 40 we were required to play. It was no easy task by any means and it still continues to be very difficult. I then started qualifying for FIFA tournaments through FUT Champions and that’s how I made a name for myself. I posted YouTube videos and people started subscribing and really enjoying the content. In FIFA 18, the current FIFA, I did the same thing. The eMLS was introduced and luckily FC Dallas was able to scout me as a local Elite FIFA player and that’s how I signed my first professional contract. I stayed ranked among the best 100 players in the world. I qualified to the biggest tournament in Amsterdam hosted by EA Sports FIFA. It’s a continuous craft that I need to keep practicing and mastering.

When you saw other teams in MLS start to sign eMLS players, what were your thoughts? Did you initially reach out to FC Dallas about playing for them? How did the actual signing for you happen?

I have always brainstormed the idea of the eMLS becoming a thing long before it actually became an official thing. I saw other leagues around the world have their own FIFA leagues and it was something that I wanted to see in the USA and Canada with the MLS. When I found out about the eMLS actually becoming a thing, I was super excited because I knew that it would attract many people and that it was a great thing for competitive FIFA and the league. Like I stated in the previous question, FC Dallas did their scouting and found out about me through media sources and all of the FIFA rankings there are. They found out that I was a part of the actual FC Dallas youth program so it was just a great match for their program. I was invited to come down to Toyota Stadium and talk to everyone involved with FC Dallas and that’s where it all began.

Tell us more about the first eMLS Cup. I saw online that only current MLS players are available for teams. What were the other guidelines? How did you decide what squad to field? As a general fan, I didn’t know that you weren’t playing with the full FC Dallas squad. Tell us more about what goes into choosing the team you play with. How does your knowledge of playing soccer give you an advantage while playing people who maybe never have touched a ball in their life?

The first eMLS Cup was a success and a great experience. The guidelines were that we had to have three MLS players on the field at all times, two of which had to be from the MLS club you were representing. When I found out about this, I knew that I had to plan correctly and make a squad that would most benefit me. There is a lot that goes into making a squad to play with on FIFA. Many people want the fastest and most technical players.

In FIFA, there are 6 different categories that distinguish a player. There is Pace, Shooting, Passing, Dribbling, Defending, and Physical. As you can probably tell, everyone competing wants the players with the best overall attributes. FIFA has done a great job in making the game very realistic. This means that the players seem to perform as they would in real life.

Ronaldo, Messi, and Sergio Ramos are players that mostly everyone had on their squad in the eMLS. So if you are knowledgeable in soccer, making a squad in FIFA would become much easier because you will know what you are working with and how to use the players in each position to their best possible potential. I decided to use Kellyn Acosta and Urruti from FC Dallas because Kellyn had the physical and defending aspect of a midfielder and Urruti had the goal scoring ability. My third MLS player was Alessandrini because of his speed and ability to score. Many competitors selected Alessandrini for that exact reason.

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Image: mlssoccer.com

How was the first eMLS Cup? What were the vibes like? Did you previously know any of the other eMLS players from the gaming community and your previous competitions?

The first eMLS cup was a great experience even though I was eliminated in the Western Conference Final. I definitely learned a lot and cannot wait for the next one. The vibes were great. Everyone was excited to get the first eMLS cup underway. It was an honor to be representing the club. Many players including myself played with immense passion for the club and wanted nothing but the best for all the fans and club. The vibes were honestly everywhere. Excitement, curiosity, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, thrill, and a whole lot of adrenaline was seen by everyone throughout the eMLS cup.

I did know most of the players from the online leaderboards, previous tournaments, or even social media. It was nice to be able to actually meet up with them in person and share a great experience. Some of them even knew me from watching my videos on YouTube so it was really nice being able to meet everyone that I hadn’t before.

So now that this tournament is over, what’s next for you? How long are you in a contract with FC Dallas in this position? What are your overall goals?

Now that the eMLS Cup is over, I need to focus on any major EA Sports tournaments I have. I also need to focus on being more active on social media whether it is via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat to build a close community of great people. I also need to continue practicing a bit for whatever tournament is next. Most tournaments are over with for FIFA 18 so now I can take a little break and focus on starting strong in FIFA 19 in September.

I am in a contract with FC Dallas for a year but I’m hoping to sign again for the FIFA 19 season. There are many goals that I wish to accomplish. I want to win the eMLS Cup and any other major global tournaments. I also want to really build a community on YouTube and social media as a whole to help others in FIFA, their life, or whatever the case may be. Someone that they can look up to and enjoy being a part of the experiences.

For all of the aspiring eMLS players out there, what is one piece of advice you would give so that they could be the next eMLS player for their team?

One piece of advice that I would give to aspiring eMLS players is to never give up and learn from every loss. That is how you not only grow as a player but as a person as well.

And finally, if you could field your perfect 11 (not within the confines of eMLS Cup), who would your lineup be?

My perfect eleven would have to start off with David De Gea in goal. Marcelo at left back. Sergio Ramos and David Luiz at the center back positions. Kyle Walker at right back. Modric, Pogba, and Iniesta in the midfield. Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar up top.

You can follow Alan Avila on Twitter at @AlanAvi_ to see everything he’s up to and keep an eye on his gaming!

Featured image courtesy: Alan Avila

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @baileystaysposi

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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A Matter of Pride and Its History

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It’s Pride Month.  Many teams in MLS and NWSL are officially celebrating with Pride Nights. Many supporters are engaging in #PrideRaiser campaigns to benefit local LGBTQ-friendly organizations (The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters both have campaigns to benefit Portland’s own OutsideIn). Individual players have also gotten involved in #PlayingForPride.

The Timbers’ own Zarek Valentin, for example, was already committed to a pledge of his own before a rash bet he made forced him to follow through on a promise to wear a Hayley Raso bow in his hair for a match, which turned into an upcoming second Pride fundraiser:

At the national team level, both the USMNT and USWNT are honoring Pride month, with rainbow numbers on their jerseys, just as they did in 2017. This past week, we learned that Jaelene Hinkle declined the opportunity to play for the national team last year because, as she put it, “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey.”

At the time, the press release announcing her withdrawal cited “personal reasons;” this week, she chose to share the reason for her withdrawal on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club.  This announcement, just a few days before the start of Pride month celebrations, was met with a less than friendly reception in Portland, where she was met with boos from the Portland stands and at least one snarky two stick:

And, of course, there are those who react to displays honoring Pride Month that folks just “stick to sports.”

Here’s the thing about “sticking to sports”– it should never come at the expense of standing up for human rights.

I completely understand devotion to religious ideals. I was reared American Baptist, went to church three times a week for eighteen years, had family Bible study every morning. But it is not lost on me that the American Baptists were initially the Northern Baptists, who split with the Southern Baptists in 1845 over the issue of using religious interpretations to justify slavery and racism.

Want an extreme example of using religion to treat your fellow human unjustly? Look no further than, for example, Southern Baptist pastor Thorton Stringfellow’s 1860 Cotton Is King, And Pro-Slavery Arguments:

Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command…the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself…It is only sober truth to say, that the institution of slavery has saved from the sword more lives, including their increase, than all the souls who now inhabit this globe. Under the gospel, it has brought within the range of gospel influence, millions of Ham’s descendant’s among ourselves, who but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin.

My point is not to run down Southern Baptists, or people of any particular religious belief. Throughout history, one can find similar examples, from many faiths. My point instead is to note the danger of using religion to justify inhumane treatment of others, of treating fellow humans as “less than.” I picked slavery as just one obvious example.

Unequal treatment under the law has happened and continues to happen throughout the world based on race, gender, and sexual identity, among other personal characteristics. In our own country, there have been statutes on the books for persons perceived to be wearing clothing not belonging to one’s gender, or for simply gathering in the same establishment together.

Fighting for the rights of LGBTQ to exist and to expect equal treatment under the law arguably came to a head in this country during the Stonewall Uprising in June of 1969, which is the reason Pride Month is historically celebrated in June in the US.

Do you think discrimination against LGBTQ folks isn’t still a problem?  Try engaging in a Pride parade in Turkey or Uganda. Think it isn’t a problem in the US any more? Note that, as of this 2012 Williams Institute study of agencies who serve the homeless in the US, 40% of the homeless youth they serve are LGBTQ youth.

The top two reasons cited for homelessness among this population: family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity; or being forced out of the home by parents who reject the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And then, of course, there are the victims of violence simply for being LGBTQ.

Let us also remember that much of the soccer world’s recent celebration of Pride Month has been in response to inhumanity. Less than a week after the Pulse nightclub massacre, US Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley donned a rainbow armband to show his support for the LGBTQ community. And in 2017, Orlando Soccer Stadium unveiled rainbow-hued seats honoring the 49 victims of the tragedy.

It is in this context that the mens’ and womens’ national teams have worn Pride jersey numbers. It is critical to remember that Pride jerseys, parades, and events are not simply to “celebrate” one’s sexuality. More importantly, they are to recognize that all people are worthy of respect, dignity, and basic human rights.

Sometimes some of us in the Timbers Army joke that soccer is our religion, complete with Providence Park as our “church,” games as “worship services,” and songs and chants as our “hymns.” And when it comes to freedom of expression, we’re very good at that in the stands as well, booing both silly and not-so-silly things that take place on the pitch. But I take religious freedom and human rights very seriously.

Sometimes one’s religious tenets forbid eating certain foods, or eating at certain times, or marrying outside the faith, or uncovering one’s hair, or shaving one’s beard, or any of a thousand individual choices. Thankfully, the Constitution protects our freedom of religion. Nobody should be forced to follow a particular state religion, or be denied the opportunity to worship as they choose.

At the same time, nobody’s religious beliefs can be used as an excuse for unequal treatment under the law, let alone to foster an atmosphere where hatred and violence against a class of individuals is somehow regarded as acceptable. Just as it is abhorrent to conceive of using religion as an excuse to allow slavery and racial discrimination to exist, so, too, it is abhorrent to use religion as justification for unequal treatment of LGBTQ persons.

Jaelene Hinkle has the absolute right to worship as she chooses, to profess her faith, and to refuse a national team callup for any reason. I hope that eventually she also learns the difference between religious observance and creating space in the larger world for hate and inequality to thrive.

I will boo the heck out of hate and inequality whenever I see it; and I will also boo when I see people creating the space that allows it to continue to exist.

Peace/shalom/salaam alaikum/namaste.

Featured image: Timbers Army Flicker

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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MLS 101: First Team Roster Rules

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

I’ve been a Portland Timbers supporter for about fourteen years, but I’ve only been writing about them since 2017. And, like any career educator, I figure if I’m going to write about something I need to do my homework.

As I learn more about the league, I’m doing my best to get up to speed with everything from roster rules to international slots to homegrown status to TAM, GAM, and more. There are some aspects of MLS that are incredibly difficult to get a handle on. Some pieces of information are easier to find than others, and even when information is publicly available it is often not clearly spelled out and/or it is not easy to find in one place.

I am still at the beginning stages of information gathering and synthesis. I look forward to learning more and am happy to share my journey with you all in the meantime. Today, we’ll answer the question: Who gets to be on my team? What are the roster rules?

Roster basics

How many players are on a team? You’d think that would be a straightforward question, but it turns out the answer is “it depends.” If you’re an MLS club, you can have up to 30 people on your first team roster, but only under certain conditions. (And no, I’m not counting Atlanta United’s roster of 31, since that includes “Atlanta United Fans” as their 31st player.) Here’s how it works.

Senior roster: 20

Spots 1-20 on the roster are the senior roster spots. The salary for these 20 players counts against the club’s salary cap (this year that’s $4,035,000). The minimum salary for players on the senior roster is $67,500.

Supplemental Roster: up to 4

The supplemental roster can have up to 4 players. Those 4 players do not count against the club’s salary cap. Supplemental roster players can include:

  • Minimum salary players
  • Generation Adidas Players
  • Designated Players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft
  • Homegrown Players earning more than the senior minimum salary

Reserve Roster: 4-6

The reserve roster can have 4 players, or as many as 6 players if at least two of them are Homegrown Players. Reserve players have to be 24 or younger by year of birth during the league year. Their base salary is the reserve minimum salary (this year that is $54,500) unless they are Homegrown Players, in which case their salary can be more. So, if you have enough homegrown players, if you can stash at least two of them on the reserve roster, your official first team roster can have up to 30 players.

More roster rules: international spots and homegrown spots

This year, there are 184 international roster spots divided among the 23 clubs, which is 8 spots per club. International spots are tradable, and not just for the current year so some teams may have more than 8 international spots being used any given year.

If you’re a Canadian team, your domestic players are either Canadian citizens, or U.S. citizens or permanent residents (i.e. they have U.S. green cards); or they’ve been granted refugee or asylum status, or they are Homegrown Internationals (internationals who played for a qualifying academy team).

As previously noted, you can also stash homegrown players on the supplemental or reserve roster; but if you have a homegrown player on your supplemental or reserve roster and you move him up to the senior roster during the season, you can’t move him back down unless he is on a minimum salary.

#sheba

So, why doesn’t my first team have a full squad?

There are many reasons that the first team might not be using all 30 slots. It might be that they don’t have enough homegrown players to fill out the supplemental roster, or that they’d run afoul of the salary cap by adding another player, or that the player they want would require an international slot and the team doesn’t have any more at the moment.

The size of the roster can also be impacted by whether or not the first team has a USL affiliate, and where that USL affiliate is located.

USL Affiliates

In 2013, USL and MLS reached an agreement that allowed MLS teams to have second/reserve teams in USL. These USL second teams allow MLS teams to cast a wider net and sign a larger group of players than are allowed under MLS roster rules (maximum of 30 players).

As of this writing, most MLS teams have USL teams (only Columbus, New England, and Orlando City don’t have USL teams). MLS teams can use USL as a training ground for future MLS players, promoting the best of their USL players to their first teams, using the league’s USL Priority Player rule (priority rights to up to three players from USL affiliate).

Depending on how we count LAFC’s affiliate (I mean, Irvine isn’t that far from Los Angeles, but it isn’t exactly right next door either), about half of the USL affiliates are geographically close to their MLS parent teams, sometimes training and/or playing in the same facility.

Here is where I can see the tremendous advantage of having your USL affiliate geographically close to you: you don’t have to make official declarations of loans to USL teams for all of the players playing on your USL squad; it can happen on a week-to-week basis. In the case of the Timbers, for example, this has meant that first team players like Diego Chara and Vytautas Andriuškevičius can easily play for a game or two on the USL side as they recovered from injury and returned to match fitness, all while having access to first team trainers and facilities.

Conversely, players who are officially on the first team’s supplemental roster can still get regular playing time on the second squad, while being ready at a moment’s notice for a late call-up if the roster is thin on any given week (as happened to our squad last year v. the Vancouver Whitecaps).

If your USL affiliate isn’t geographically close to you, on the other hand, you pretty much have to decide when somebody is officially loaned out to USL. I assume that this is why, for example, the Colorado Rapids list only 24 active players on their MLS first team, with six players loaned out to USL sides.

The Rapids’ USL affiliate is the Charlotte Independence, which is over 1,500 miles away from the Rapids’ training facility. Charlotte Independence has 26 on its USL roster. In contrast, the Timbers have 29 active players on their MLS first team, with only 16 players listed on the Timbers 2 USL roster.

If you want to know more about who is officially on your team’s first squad, check out the roster page at the MLS website. It breaks down each team into senior, supplemental, and reserve rosters, as well as noting whether a player is a homegrown player, a designated player, or a player taking up an international roster slot, as well as players out on loan and players with season-ending injuries.

Those are the roster basics as I understand them. If you have questions or feedback, please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or hit me up on twitter at shebainpdx. Next time the Timbers have a bye, we’ll take a look at the rules for international roster spots.

Yowza.

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