WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
SMALL-SIDED: KITS, QUEENS AND ROSTER MOVES
Welcome back to small-sided, the section where we take a quick look at what's happening around the league. Do you get it? Small-sided like the tiny version of soccer but it sounds like "small-sighted" which is pretty close to the more commonly used "short-sighted?" Anyway, that's not what's most important today. What's most important today is that NYCFC have a new stadium, St. Louis CITY SC have a new kit and a handful of players will have a new team.1. RIP to Twitter's one jokeLook, I'm not saying that Twitter going into a death spiral at the same time everyone is set to lose their ability to make the same baseball stadium tweets about NYCFC is correlated. I'm just asking how far you can stretch the arm of coincidence. It's just unclear what people (including me) are going to do now that NYCFC will have a stadium of their own. At least they still have a few years to get prepared and come up with new jokes. Unfortunately, NYCFC have been the most consistently excellent team in the East since they came into the league so it probably won't be based on the team's play. Probably. A lot can change quickly in MLS. But anyway, I'm going to digress here as soon as I look up "digress" to see if I'm actually using it correctly and… yep, I'm going to digress here and say that this is outstanding news for the league as a whole. NYCFC haven't had problems winning games or creating a stellar fan base, but the atmosphere in Yankee Stadium just isn't on par with MLS's best. It's not a guarantee that the new stadium will have the same vibe as a game in Austin, but it gives NYCFC fans way more of a fighting chance to do it. And that gives NYCFC a chance to grow the league exponentially in the league's biggest city. Because the league's best attributes are the fact that you never know the outcome of a game beforehand and that the crowds aren't like anything else in the other major sports leagues. Oh, by the way, they should totally keep the same field dimensions as Yankee Stadium but not tell anyone at first. Just for fun.2. St. Louis CITY SC makes another big impressionYesterday, St. Louis CITY SC unveiled their first-ever kit and then went ahead and sold out a friendly in their first-ever match at their brand-new stadium. That's a pretty good day. Especially considering that the kit turned out really sharp and St. Louis fans are more than eager to get a hold of one. Just a quick refresh in case you forgot, St. Louis received 50,000 deposits for season tickets…on the very first day people could make deposits. The instant connection this club had with this city is insane. Like, y'all, CITYPARK only seats 22.5k. Tickets are going to be near impossible to come by in year one. And that's in part because, for now, the club seems to be getting the little things right as well as the big things. The kit itself is a good example of that. It has a handful of little details that connect it back to the city of course, but most importantly it looks good and it looks unique. St. Louis fans are getting a product that's their own and, as we've seen with the city's other sports, they're going to consume as much of it as possible. I'm not sure I can hype up the next great atmosphere in MLS enough.3. There were also some roster movesOn Tuesday and Wednesday, the last few clubs officially announced their end-of-year moves. There's not a whole lot to report that we didn't already assume was happening but there are a couple of quick notes.
- Nashville would have been extremely misguided in not keeping Dax McCarty. It's good to see he got a new deal.
- Cristian Tello just kind of came and went at LAFC. That seemed like it would be a bigger signing when it happened and then it just…kind of wasn't. I'm going to bet LAFC will be fine without him though. Especially if they re-sign Ryan Hollingshead.
- NYCFC may have taken the biggest hit of any team in the league with these moves? Losing Anton Tinnerholm, Sean Johnson and Alexander Callens all at once is brutal. Just a lot of talent gone at once. It will be interesting to see how NYCFC reshape part of their core.
- The Union kept nearly everyone if you're wondering who to pick to win the East next year.
- FC Cincinnati got rid of a few heavy contracts. Ronald Matarrita and Geoff Cameron are gone (among others) and Cincy seemingly have a lot of room to work this offseason. In the first few years of the club that wouldn't have been frightening. Under this version of the front office, Cincy are primed to fix some key issues and compete at the top of the league next season.
AND OTHER THINGS
- Nashville SC acquire Shaffelburg in trade with Toronto FC: Nashville SC have permanently acquired winger Jacob Shaffelburg from Toronto FC after he was on loan from the fellow MLS team. In the trade, Nashville sent Toronto $300,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money (GAM) and there's the potential for an additional $50,000 in conditional GAM for performance-based metrics. He joined Nashville on loan in August, helping them secure a third straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs trip.
- Timbers defender Bravo signs contract extension: The Portland Timbers have signed defender Claudio Bravo to a contract extension. Bravo's new contract keeps him with the Timbers through 2026, with a club option for 2027. The 25-year-old left back arrived at Portland for the 2021 season from Argentine side Club Atlético Banfield. He's since tallied four assists across 49 MLS appearances.
- FC Dallas sign academy defender Norris to homegrown contract: FC Dallas have signed academy product Nolan Norris to a first-team contract in a three-year deal with options for 2026 and 2027, the 17-year-old defender becomes the 35th player to sign a homegrown contract for Dallas, tying a league record with Real Salt Lake.
- Vancouver Whitecaps sign wingback Ahmed from MLS NEXT Pro: Vancouver Whitecaps FC have promoted wingback Ali Ahmed from their MLS NEXT Pro side. The 22-year-old has joined from Whitecaps FC 2 through 2025 with a club option for 2026. A Toronto native, Ahmed made two first-team appearances during the 2022 season after signing MLS short-term agreements.
THE READING RAINBOW
Good luck out there. Start off strong.