U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter noted his displeasure with Major League Soccer playing through FIFA international windows during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
It’s nothing new, with MLS having league games during the window for years, resulting in teams forced to compete without key players. The timing of the friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay in September comes at a critical time for teams jockeying for playoff spots late in the regular season.
Berhalter cited the playoff race as a reason for not bringing in USMNT regulars Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, saying it could potentially handicap Toronto FC, which sit just above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference, three points in front of eighth-place Montreal.
TFC plays twice during the FIFA window, traveling to FC Cincinnati Sept. 7 and then to NYCFC Sept. 11. The USMNT play Mexico Sept. 6 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Uruguay Sept. 10 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.
However, Berhalter did call up players such as Seattle’s Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman and LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget, whose teams all play during the international break. The Sounders and Galaxy both meet Colorado and LAFC takes on Orlando.
“We’re in a very difficult position because we’re only allowed to play certain times of the year,” Berhalter said. “One thing I’ve been a little bit disappointed in is the MLS teams opting to play in FIFA windows. It’s infringing on the time we have with players. I understand their situation in not wanting to play mid-week games during the year, but it also puts us in a difficult spot, where we have to make some of those [decisions] that are difficult for both the player and the club.
“Having worked in MLS, we try to be somewhat accommodating and try to work with the clubs, but sometimes there’s not perfect solutions and sometimes we just have to say, that’s just the way it is.”