In a move that could put it at odds with FIFA, Major League Soccer is refusing to release some of its players for international duty ahead of the October FIFA international window due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to ESPN.
The New York Times was the first to report the news.
With the pandemic in various stages of intensity around the globe, there have been concerns about the safety of players should they have to travel in order to play international games. The window also comes at an awkward time of the season for MLS, with teams jockeying for position for the MLS playoffs. The MLS regular season is scheduled to conclude on Nov. 8.
The source indicated that MLS has sent letters to the soccer federations of Peru and Paraguay in which it refused to release players. Peru had named seven MLS players to its preliminary 30-man roster for World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Paraguay on Oct. 8 and 13 respectively. That list included Orlando City SC goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and Seattle Sounders FC forward Raul Ruidiaz. Paraguay has six MLS players on its initial roster, including New York Red Bulls midfielder
That said, the source confirmed that the refusal to release players isn't league-wide. Rather, the league's approach is being handled on a club-by-club basis.
MLS and other leagues around the world are waiting for FIFA to issue guidelines regarding the release of players in the October window. The New York Times reported that earlier this week, an alliance of leagues, the European Club Association, and FIFPro -- which represents the interests of players around the world -- presented a plan to FIFA spelling out the requirements for releasing players in the October and November window. No agreement was reached.
FIFA gave the green light in September that World Cup qualification games in CONMEBOL would go ahead in October as planned, adding that Europe-based players from South American countries must be made available for selection to their respective national teams.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley said on Saturday that his club will go with the wait-and-see approach on potential decisions.
"We have always supported our players when it comes to the national team," Bradley said. "We have four players that are on the preliminary 30-man rosters. We've been in communication with those federations. They know that we support players, and now we wait to see what's happening with the final decision when they go from 30 to 23."
Bradley also said that it would be based on the individual clubs, not MLS, on if players will be released.
"First of all, every club decides what is best," Bradley said. "What surfaced yesterday that it was a blanket statement from the league was not correct."
Although CONCACAF won't play World Cup qualifiers during the October or Nover windows, Inter Miami CF and Mexico star Rodolfo Pizarro expressed concern about joining the national team.
"You always want to represent your country, but we'd miss a lot of games," Pizarro said. "We're fighting for the playoffs and it's complicated. I put myself on the side of the club. It's been a complicated season and I stand with them, it's maybe hard to let me go and miss those four games. I want to go but it is a difficult decision."
Miami manager Diego Alonso added: "If we can keep Rodolfo and he doesn't have to travel for the game, that's what we'll do because he is a very important player, especially in these times.
"We've maintained conversations with the Mexican federation and we'll keep having them, with each of us protecting our interests: the national team wanting him and and us too."
FIFA stated then that if there was a quarantine period of at least five days upon arrival in the country where a club is located, the players from that club didn't have to be released.
MLS currently requires players arriving from abroad to quarantine for minimum of 10 days. Canada, in which three MLS teams reside, has a 14-day quarantine period.