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Blue Links: 2022 MLS Jersey Insight, Work Stoppage Avoided, USL CBA, Kaw Valley, CCL

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Lots of news you may have missed in the last few days, plus we break a bit of our own.

MLS: FORWARD25 Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last month, it looked increasingly like MLS owners were going to lock out the players and the start of the 2021 season would be delayed. In the late hours of Friday night, that crisis was averted.

MLS Work Stoppage Avoided

Multiple sources, including the league, are reporting a tentative deal is in place by a vote of 24 to 11. The vote will now go to the full player pool to try to reach a simple majority in order to ratify the agreement.

If you missed the drama (we’ve got you covered here) the MLS owners wanted two more years on the CBA that was negotiated twice last year. It basically will make the 2020 CBA an eight year deal (as it was extended a year last summer). The full terms aren’t known, but it sounds like the deal will be for seven more years (what the owners wanted) and run through 2027. There is no concrete word on what the players wanted or got from the deal. They had asked for looser free agency and higher salary budgets in future years, though the details have yet to come out.

For more on the process of negotiation and who was being reasonable in all this, check out our earlier reporting. For a good chunk of info, check out Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio’s Q&A from The Athletic. A few notable points that aren’t all CBA related:

  • Owners can do this all again in 2022 by re-invoking force majeure
  • The U-22 initiative is in effect for 2021 (kind of like extra DP slots for young players, with some restrictions that haven’t been fully outlined)
  • Sam and Paul think Kansas City will be a World Cup city
  • Seattle and Atlanta qualified to sell a 3rd kit (but only Atlanta is) in 2021

Good and Bad News for 2022 MLS Kits

I know the vast majority of the 2021 kits have yet to be announced, but there is already early reporting on what could be a big negative for the 2022 kits. The Athletic is reporting that Adidas is looking to substantially change the relationship between the league’s teams and the process. From the 2022 Adidas design brief:

“Adidas will not execute input 1:1 based off of the images [teams] provide,” the brief reads. “Adidas has the lead in providing design ideas and the club makes the final decision between the provided options.”

That sounds very negative. However, The Blue Testament spoke with Chad Reynolds, Creative Director for Sporting KC, who assured, despite the briefing doc saying this is how it’s going to be, “doesn’t mean that’s how it works in practice.” He went on to say “the process with adidas is collaborative. The briefing document is a starting point, and there is a lot of good back-and-forth after that initial briefing discussion. At least for our club’s process. I can’t speak for other clubs.”

That seems like a good thing for creativity on the SKC front and a bad thing for lots of other teams who basically wear plain white t-shirts. However, those wild Philadelphia Union kits do you give you hope. Chad went on to get us more excited for the 2021 versions of the kit, which will be announced in the coming months, calling it a personal top five. Yes please!!

MLS is a Selling League

If you’ve tuned out during the offseason, lots and lots of MLS players have been transferred overseas, including lots of young Americans. The Athletic does a nice round-up of the players sent out, and the players who are coming up behind them and likely to go next. It will be no surprise that they see Sporting KC’s Gianluca Busio on that list.

USL Labor Negotiations

MLS isn’t the only league going through a labor negotiation. The United Soccer League are approaching their first ever CBA agreement, two years after the league voluntarily recognized their players union. As a show of good faith. the union is allowing teams to once again sign foreign players, after they blocked it for a portion of the offseason. SKC II have made a few signings from “abroad” in the last few weeks.

Kaw Valley FC

KVFC (USL League Two) have mutually agreed to part ways with Istvan Urbanyi, the team’s coach for their first three years of existence. He is now the Sporting Director at Honved FC, a club you may recognize as where Botond Barath came from when he joined Sporting KC. Urbanyi formerly worked for SKC as well and was part of the connection bringing in guys like Krisztian Nemeth and Daniel Salloi.

New SKC Youth GK Coach

Paulo Pita, who is just 26-years-old, has retired from playing and will be the goalkeepers coach for the SKC Academy according to reports out of Brazil. He was drafted in 2020 by LAFC but spent the season with North Carolina FC. Their self-relegation led to budget cuts and his wife’s family is from Kansas, so the move was natural.

CONCACAF Champions League Expansion

CCL will be growing in late 2023. Count me as against this move. There will be four groups of North American clubs, four groups of Central American clubs and two groups of Caribbean clubs, before narrowing to a field of 16 for the knockout stage. It will cause CCL to need to start in the fall and finish in the spring.

20 teams (four groups of five) will start in North American from USA, Mexico and Canada and matchups will be more regionalized. Get ready to play Minnesota United in the US Open and CCL now (as well as two to four times during the season). The whole joy of CCL is seeing if MLS teams can beat Liga MX teams (for me at least). The only “positive” will be winning the previously useless Leagues Cup will earn a CCL spot.