MLS Roundup: Hong Kong chaos, FC Dallas record signing, 2026 World Cup stadiums

We’re into February and the new MLS season, with the earliest start date in league history, is fast approaching.

This week’s MLS Roundup will cover the highs and lows of the preseason preparations, with a quick trip through the MLS stadiums selected for hosting duties in the 2026 World Cup. We’ve had record signings, transfer controversy and even a first victory of 2024 for Inter Miami, although the Herons may not be returning to Hong Kong for a while.

With less than three weeks to go until the new season, we take a look at the biggest questions from MLS in the last seven days…

Why were Inter Miami booed in Hong Kong?

Well, for once this preseason, those in the stands can have had no complaints about the scoreline. The Herons cruised to a comfortable 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong Select XI, essentially an All-Star squad of players from the local league. There were goals from Dawson Sunderland, Leonardo Campana and Ryan Sailor, but the opener from Robert Taylor was the pick of the bunch.

However, you may have noticed that the more illustrious name of Lionel Messi was not included in that list. That’s because, despite Tata Martino previously suggesting otherwise, the Argentine was deemed unfit to feature. Messi remained on the Miami substitutes’ bench as the crowd grew increasingly restless. At first the longing chants of ‘Messi, Messi, Messi’ sounded playful but as the second half wore on they became more demanding, and were eventually replaced by ‘Where is Messi?’ and ‘Refund! Refund’.

The resting of a veteran star may seem fairly understandable given Miami’s busy preseason schedule and his lingering fitness issues. But, given that his presence been weaponised fairly cynically throughout the tour, it can’t come as too much of a surprise to see that supporters are unhappy when the guest of honour is otherwise engaged.

They were not the only ones. The Hong Kong government’s Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) had reportedly chipped in a cool $2 million to help faciliate the arrival of Inter Miami ft. Lionel Messi and a statement released after the game read: “the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organisers’ arrangement. The organiser owes all football fans an explanation.”

In the circumstances there is little that Inter Miami could have done to mitigate for the absense, but they may deem it wise to steer clear of the Special Administrative Region when planning their 2025 tour.

Is Petar Musa the difference-maker for FC Dallas?

FC Dallas head coach Nico Estévez coaxed a solid performance out of a fairly mediocre squad in 2023. They reached the playoffs but were forced to field Jesus Ferreira as the central striker, rather than his favoured deeper role.

They look to have solved their striking problem with the addition of Petar Musa, who arrives from Benfica in a club-record deal. The 25-year-old striker has spent the last two years in Portugal’s top flight, scoring a goal every 96 minutes for the Portuguese giants. At 6ft3 he could provide the perfect focal point striker around which Estévez can arrangethe likes of Ferreira, Bernard Kamungo and Alan Velasco.

“Last season, when we needed a goal we put on another forward and moved Jesús [Ferreira] underneath and that’s something that we’ve been training this preseason,” Estévez said after Musa’s signing was announced. “Because of Petar’s profile, and the profile of the other attacking players, we will be able to feed everyone and it’ll strengthen us on the offensive side.”

His arrival is perhaps the most unexpected of the 2024 off-season, a peak-age forward arriving from Europe to join a team historically reluctant to spend big on transfers. But if it pays off, it could be one of the most crucial.

Is Duncan McGuire going to England?

Yes. And then no. And finally… maybe.

In a literal sense, at least, the Orlando City forward has definitely gone to England. On Janaury 31 McGuire boarded a flight to England to complete his move to Championship side Blackburn Rovers. However things were complicated when Blackburn, while McGuire was still in the air, phoned Orlando to explain that they’d had a change of heart and would no longer be willing to proceed with the deal as previously agreed.

McGuire spent a day holed up in a Sheffield hotel as Orlando looked for another English suitor, before eventually settling a different deal with Blackburn. Finally the player was in the correct country with all terms agreed and ready to go.

But The Athletic reports that an adminstrative error made by Blackburn on the eve of the English transfer window deadline has scuppered the deal. As it stands McGuire cannot be registered as a Blackburn player until the summer, meaning that the move appears to have collapsed.

The English club have appealed the decision in the hopes of getting McGuire into their squad for the remainder of the current season. A verdict is expected in the coming days but, until then, McGuire looks like he may be forced to return to Orlando for the first half of 2024.

Which MLS stadiums are hosting games at the 2026 World Cup?

On Sunday FIFA announced the venues for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The tournament will be the first World Cup in the new expanded format, with 48 teams playing 104 games across 16 cities.

The US is home to 11 of those host cities and a number of the stadiums used will be that of MLS teams. Lumen Field (Seattle Sounders) will host the second game of the tournament for the United States, while all of Canada’s group stage fixtures will take place at BC Place (Vancouver Whitecaps) or BMO Field (Toronto FC).

The two semi-finals will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta United) and AT&T Stadium, with the final to be held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The only other MLS stadium set to be used in the 2026 World Cup is Gillette Stadium (New England Revolution).

The first game of the 2024 MLS season will see Inter Miami host Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, 21 February. That will then be followed by a complete fixture list on the following weekend with seven matches from each conference to kick-start the new campaign.


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