Oct 27, 2022 | Lattanzio becomes permanent head coach
Plus: MLS considering postseason changes in 2023
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THE BIG STORY: Christian Lattanzio becomes second head coach in Charlotte FC’s history
As many were expecting, Charlotte FC announced they signed an extension with Christian Lattanzio through the 2024 season with a club option for 2025. Lattanzio took over as interim head coach on May 31 after Miguel Ángel Ramírez was fired and went 8-10-2 in his 20 matches leading the club.
The word used over and over during the announcement was "consistency”. After a tumultuous first six months that saw CLTFC fire a head coach and go through several executive changes, club leadership wanted stability.
What I think: Excellent news. While 2022 obviously had its ups and downs on the field, I’m not nearly as down on the actual soccer product at the end of the season as I was in May, August, or September. The best soccer being played, in my opinion, was in the final stretch of games in October as the team pushed for playoffs and Lattanzio showed an appropriate level of flexibility to get the best out of his team - mainly moving forward Karol Swiderski into a more creative roll deeper in the midfield.
That said, this is also the head coach that consistently started a midfield three of Brandt Bronico, Ben Bender, and Quinn McNeill during the dog days of summer that was so rough to watch. Lattanzio has a background in youth development and I have zero problems with #playthekids. However, McNeill ended the season on loan to USL League 1 side Charlotte Independence and the club hasn’t decided on his contract yet as they’re waiting for the Independence’s playoff run to end (or not!). That the club had to start a 24 year old rookie ten times and aren’t even sure if has the quality to earn a cheap roster spot next season says a lot.
Ownership and execs have committed to Lattanzio and the rest of the major sporting staff, which is excellent. Now we need to see movement in the off-season on the player front, both in the intra-league marketplace and in the post-World Cup winter transfer window in January. But now, Lattanzio knows he’s here to stay and has the full off-season to help build a squad he believes can make the playoffs next year.
HEADLINE: MLS considering adding more playoff matches in 2023
According to a anonymous source and some private league documents, The Athletic is reporting [paywall, but worth it] that Major League Soccer is considering changing its post-season playoff format in 2023 - mainly, increasing its number of matches from 13 to a potential high of 30.
The goal is to increase its overall inventory with its new media rights holder, Apple. Signed this year, Apple is paying the league $2.5 billion over 10 years beginning 2023, making the streaming platform the exclusive home for all MLS matches (yes, including even OTA local broadcasts. Will dedicate a newsletter to the MLS-Apple deal soon). Obviously, that’s a huge jump, and the league is considering its options in how to increase the number of matches with the main format getting consideration being a group stage before progressing to a knockout stage.
It’s a format used in the World Cup every four years and almost monthly by major esports tournaments around the world. It’s a great way to create a minimum of games played for teams, which is perfect for tournaments like the World Cup where teams have traveled to a central location and spent years earning the chance to be there.
My take: I’m seeing a lot of dunking on this idea in the immediate aftermath, which I think is a fair, knee-jerk reaction. MLS is unique in the soccer world for having a playoff to determine a league champion every year, with most top divisions around the world simply awarding its trophy to the team with the most points (equivalent to the MLS Supporter’s Shield). Next year, assuming nothing changes, 14 out of 29 teams would make the playoffs. I’m not sure adding even more matches that could be considered “pointless” is a worthwhile affair from a sporting perspective.
That said - as a fan with a season ticket, I can’t say I’m mad at the prospect of seeing my team play more games - especially if Charlotte makes it to the playoffs in their second season.
HEADLINE: Charlotte FC commits to reinvesting in youth programs that develop homegrown players
Charlotte FC announced a new initiative called the “Carolina Homegrown Commitment” that promises to provide financial donations to youth development programs if Charlotte signs one of their players to a full-time contract. The first donation made under this initiative was $10,000 to Charlotte Soccer Academy for their development of Brian Romero in their youth squads before Romero signed for CLTFC’s academy and eventual MLS contract.
What I think: The fact that this isn’t a requirement for MLS clubs to begin with a travesty, and I’m proud that Charlotte saw this gap and is voluntarily stepping in to provide what most would consider the bare minimum. Around the world, youth clubs are compensated in two ways when one of their former player’s makes it big: training compensation when the player signs their first pro contract and solidarity payments for transfer fees. Only recently has MLS begun abiding by these FIFA regulations, but I haven’t been able to confirm that one or both of these payments are made to American youth clubs.
Regardless, CLTFC committing to financial compensation when a North or South Carolinian youth program develops a player of enough quality to make it to the club’s MLS squad is a brilliant step in the right direction as the club continues to build out a talent pathway to professional soccer in the Carolinas. You can read more about these kinds of payments here.
The NWSL Championship is this Saturday on CBS - Portland vs Kansas City
MLS Conference Finals on Sunday - LAFC vs Austin | Philly vs NYCFC
MLS-based players gather for USMNT pre-World Cup training camp [MLSsoccer.com]
CLTFC players named to Polish World Cup preliminary roster [Charlotte FC]