MLS clears 2026 World Cup break to avoid incomplete rosters

Major League Soccer plans to take a break during the 2026 season to accommodate the World Cup in order to avoid incomplete rosters throughout the duration of the competition.

The length of the pause remains undetermined, but the league agreed it was needed to navigate the calendar.

Brad Pursel, the senior vice president of MLS game schedule management, provided insight into the planning process for the upcoming seasons.

“For the World Cup in 2026 we will take a break,” he said. “MLS will pause during that competition, but the length of that break is to be determined. But given the size and scope of the 2026 World Cup, and being in North America, that is one tournament we will take a break for.”

“We have an ongoing dialogue with our clubs about this challenge that we face year to year during FIFA windows and international competitions, so it’s something that we discuss,” he said.

“We’re looking ahead to 2025, 2026, and 2027 to consider and make adjustments to our schedules so we don’t lose quite as many players to these competitions that conflict with our season.”

The league’s regular season extends from late February to Decision Day in October, while playoffs run from November to MLS Cup the first weekend of December.

MLS takes a summer break to participate in Leagues Cup, a joint, month-long competition between MLS and Liga MX held throughout the United States.

Though Pursel said Leagues Cup will remain a priority during 2026, officials may introduce changes or modifications to the tournament to adjust to the necessary calendar.

“I don’t think we’ll pause Leagues Cup, but we’ll have to adjust our calendar to be able to accommodate everything, and Leagues Cup is obviously a new but very exciting competition that we and our partners in Mexico want to maintain. There may even be adjustments or modifications, but it is a competition we plan to move forward with,” he said.

Despite honoring several FIFA windows throughout the 2024 season, the league failed to halt for the 2024 Copa América tournament being hosted by the United States.

MLS will play six matchdays during the duration of Copa América, leaving teams like Inter Miami CF to compete without the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez.

“We understand key international players will be missing from various teams but it’s also important that we maintain the number of match dates necessary for our season,” Pursel said. “And even though some key players will be missing, those summer dates are very popular dates for MLS games and for fan attendance and fan interest.”

Copa América concludes on July 14, giving participating MLS players enough time to join their respective teams for the 2024 Leagues Cup tournament starting on July 26.