Each country participating in this summer’s FIFA World Cup will name their provisional squads for the tournament by Monday, with around 20 MLS players – including some of the biggest names in the league – likely to be included on their national team’s initial lists.
While the league will go on hiatus from June 14-June 23 to accommodate most of the group stage, MLS players named to their country’s World Cup squads will still miss a significant chunk of the season.
FIFA requires that all clubs release their players for pre-World Cup training camps by May 21. However, because the league plays through the summer, FIFA granted MLS a waiver that will allow its clubs to hold onto their players until May 28, multiple club executives told MLSsoccer.com.
But just because MLS teams can hold onto their World Cup-bound players for an extra seven days doesn’t mean they will.
Playing in a World Cup is the culmination of a life’s work for any player. With many pre-World Cup training camps set to open on or shortly after May 21, most will view joining their national team on time as more important than sticking around for one extra league match. That’s especially true for players on the fringes of their country’s World Cup roster. They need to get into camp on time to maximize their shot at making their country’s final squad – showing up a week late could torpedo their hopes of going to Russia.
According to the club executives, that calculus will cause some, if not most, MLS teams to release their players on May 21. Having World Cup-bound players around for an extra match would be nice, but, at least for most teams, it’s not worth damaging their relationship with the player and hurting the individual’s chances of playing in the tournament.
With the World Cup group stage set to end on June 28, MLS players who are released by their clubs on May 21 and make their country’s final squads will be gone from their teams for at least five weeks. Players on teams that advance to the World Cup knockout rounds could return to their clubs as early as July 1 or as late as after the final on July 15.
MLS players in contention for the World Cup
*Player has been called up in the last year, but wasn't included in his country's most recent first-choice squad
Aleksandar Katai (Serbia)*
Ulises Segura (Costa Rica)
Adolfo Machado (Panama)
Clement Diop (Senegal)
New York Red Bulls
Yoshi Yotun (Peru)