MLS players gear up for busy summer of international duty

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Major League Soccer clubs are about to head into an extended international break ahead of a busy season for national teams.

The league has a full slate of games this weekend before many players scatter across the globe to play for their countries in an array of friendlies and tournaments. Because some events were delayed by the coronavirus, 2021 features an especially crowded calendar.

U.S. national team players are already off in the Swiss Alps, practicing at altitude before an exhibition match against Switzerland on Sunday.

The United States will play Honduras in a CONCACF Nations League semifinal next Thursday in Denver before possibly playing for the title on June 6. The U.S. faces Costa Rica in an exhibition on June 9 in Utah.

The whole idea is to get the American players ready for the pace of World Cup qualifying, which starts for the U.S. in September. The U.S. team is playing for a berth in Qatar next year after missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Coach Gregg Berhalter called up four current MLS players to train in Switzerland: San Jose midfielder Jackson Yueill, Colorado midfielder Kellyn Acosta, LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget and Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa. All four were on the U.S. roster for the Nations League matches.

The coach said he leaned on some of the European-based Americans in this camp because they'll need to take time off ahead of their club seasons. “Some of the roster decisions were made based on who’s available and what’s happening next in the summer," he said.

Those four aren't the only MLS players on national team duty. A look at some of the upcoming competitions and MLS players who will be involved:

CONCACAF NATIONS LEAGUE

The United States, Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are playing in the coronavirus-delayed finals of the tournament June 3-6 in Denver. This is a new competition for CONCACAF, meant to better take advantage of FIFA's international windows for the confederation's teams.

The semifinals were determined by the top finishers in the group stage. The United States plays Honduras and Mexico faces Costa Rica on June 3, with the winners advancing to the title match three days later.

A number of MLS players — in addition to the U.S. players — will be taking part. Mexico has called up Jonathan dos Santos of the LA Galaxy and Alan Pulido from Sporting Kansas City.

Costa Rica's MLS players include Chicago's Francisco Calvo, Cincinnati's Allan Cruz and Ronald Matarrita, the Crew's Luis Diaz, and Nashville's Randall Leal.

Bryan Acosta of FC Dallas, Maynor Figueroa and Boniek Garcia of Houston, and Romell Quioto of Montreal were called up by Honduras.

EURO 2020

Six MLS players were called into national team camps for the European Championships, also delayed because of COVID-19.

Chicago's Przemyslaw Frankowski made Poland's final roster for the competition, which runs from June 11 to July 11.

Minnesota's Robin Lod and Jukka Raitala and Montreal's Lassi Lappalainen were called up by Finland. Szabolcs Schon from FC Dallas and Philadelphia's Daniel Gazdag are on Hungary's provisional squad.

CANADA QUEST

The Canadian national team has a pair of World Cup qualifiers during the break, played in the United States because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

The Canadians play Aruba on June 5 in Bradenton, Florida, then face Suriname in Bridgeview, Illinois, on June 8.

Canadian coach John Herdman said it would have been great to have Canadian fans at the matches but he understands the restrictions.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round," he said.

Canada's roster for its March qualifiers included a number of MLS players, including Vancouver forward Lucas Cavallini, Toronto midfielder Jayden Nelson and Nashville defender Alistair Johnston.

Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras have opening round byes for qualifying because of FIFA rank.

ON THE HORIZON

The delayed Copa America is set to start on June 13. It was supposed to be cohosted by Colombia and Argentina, but CONMEBOL called off the matches in Colombia because of civil unrest.

Now rising COVID-19 cases have forced a lockdown in Argentina.

There were rumors the United States might be pressed into hosting the event but that was never a solid option because of travel restrictions and tricky scheduling with the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. CONMEBOL is expected to announce its plans later this week.

Regardless of location, Copa America promises to showcase numerous MLS players, including Peru's Raul Ruidiaz, who has six goals this season for the Seattle Sounders. Atlanta's Josef Martinez was among the MLS players on Venezuela's preliminary roster for the event.

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Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press