Miguel Herrera, the manager of Club America and former Mexico national team coach, has doubts about Major League Soccer's ability to adequately prepare players for this summer's World Cup.
The coach said that while MLS continues to strengthen on the field, the calendar works against players who won't be seeing competitive action until March. Liga MX, by contrast, resumes Jan. 5.
"The players also have to realize that this league won't give them the chance to go to the World Cup. It will give them the chance to make a bigger name for themselves, but not to get in a good rhythm of play, unfortunately," Herrera told beIN Sports. "I always say the MLS is a league that's growing a lot but while they don't change their calendar, it will continue to be a league that can't compete with the rest of the world.
"It can compete economically. The United States is a very strong country economically. The Americans have built a strong league on an economic level, bringing in players, but when the players have realized that the league isn't going to help them be able to compete in other countries, they leave. Several players have done that. Those who have gone there to retire go back to their countries and say, 'The rhythm of the league doesn't give me what I need to play where I want to play.'"
MLS sent 21 players to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 12 of whom didn't represent the United States. Herrera, who was coaching Mexico at the time, didn't call any MLS players for his squad. There have, however, been MLS-based players in El Tri squads before.
In 2006, Ricardo Lavolpe included 37-year-old Claudio Suarez, then with Chivas USA, in his team. Jorge Campos made Manuel Lapuente's 1998 team as a member of the expansion Chicago Fire. The goalkeeper started every El Tri match at the tournament despite playing just eight times for the Fire that season. Rafa Marquez moved from Barcelona to the New York Red Bulls after the 2010 tournament.
This year likely will see the most MLS-based players ever making Mexico's roster with Jonathan dos Santos, Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela set to take part in the 2018 MLS season and likely to make the cut for Juan Carlos Osorio's final roster. But MLS' later start to the season compared to Liga MX has Herrera thinking that those players may be still finding their stride come June.
"I don't think they're going to come in with the same rhythm the others will because they don't start until March. That's two months. They have four months of vacation. A player has to put in the balance if the economic comes before the sporting," he said.
Herrera and America looked to pry Jona dos Santos away from Europe before the LA Galaxy did, but Jona eventually opted to join his brother in Southern California. Rumors circulated about the potential of an offseason loan for the brothers to the capital club, but Herrera dismissed the idea of a short-term loan.
"We sought out Jonathan, but unfortunately he decided it was better to go to MLS," Herrera said. "We'd love to have them but if it's bringing them in and having them return in March? For 10 matchdays? If it's a player who is important and making a difference and after that you lose him and don't have him, it's not easy. It's not easy to think about a player like that who will play for only 10 matches. And at the same time how do you explain that to the team? Those are the circumstances you have to think about with a player like that."
Herrera's team may have the chance to take on an MLS side as the season is getting underway. If the Mexico City club can get past Costa Rican giants Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16, a March meeting with FC Dallas would await in the quarterfinals should FCD get past Panama's Tauro.