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Soccer’s inventory problem

Tuesday's soccer news starts with the potential for more games that count for some of the world's biggest clubs. The NY Times' Tariq Panja reports on a meeting between those clubs and the owner of the Miami Dolphins and International Champions Cup investor Stephen Ross. The purpose is to turn the summer touring schedule into games that count. That means full buy-in from the clubs likeliest to participate.

It's an interesting scenario in what will soon be the era of the FIFA Club World Cup. Whatever that tournament's current reputation might be, it changes through expansion and a move to the summer. The new Club World Cup is FIFA's attempt to own a major piece of the club game, and with it add more games to the schedule.

For all of professional soccer, it's the scheduling problem that now looms. It doesn't take much to see just how many games players are now obligated to play. Through club and international commitments, there's barely a break in the schedule especially for European-based players. If it's not international commitments it's club obligations both competitive and friendly. In an era where more physical endurance is a requirement across the board to keep jobs, organizers continue to add games.

Here's the thing. From the perspective of the International Champions Cup organizers, these games should mean more. The stage they've set is bigger than subbing out multiple players at halftime and experimenting with tactical choices. FIFA will get around that with the summer World Cup by imposing seriousness.

By definition, FIFA's games aren't friendlies and require something similar to the effort a supporter would expect to see in a domestic league setting. FIFA obviously wants more than that, with teams seriously contending for the title of best club in the world. That they haven't gotten it for the annual December version of their tournament would quickly turn into a hazy memory. It's that push forward, regardless of the games already on the schedule.

It's ultimately FIFA's job to set that international schedule, which is part of the problem. It's the governing bodies adding games. FIFA with its Club World Cup and expanded World Cup, UEFA with its intent on expanding the Champions League and adding a third European tournament. UEFA again with the Nations League and Concacaf following along. Making friendlies count might sound nice, but it only increases the work required from the players involved.

The goal, of course, is more soccer for sale to broadcasters. The soccer TV rights market is strong, especially at the highest tier. FIFA, UEFA, and other parties are looking to capitalize in the moment. UEFA's Champions League changes tie directly to the next TV rights deal. FIFA needs a replacement for the Confederations Cup. The Nations League is sold as a competition rather than ad hoc exhibitions. The elite clubs are also well aware of their own values and what might be possible if they act in their best interests.

What's clear about the elite clubs potentially breaking away is that there would be less games. Most of the floated plans are for an 18-team league or two that would replace domestic and European obligations. 34 games at the highest level determining the biggest team on the planet. If it's a true breakaway from the soccer establishment, there would likely be a deal to release players for national team duty. That would be with club interest in mind instead of FIFA imposing breaks with their calendar.

A breakaway doesn't need FIFA's sanctioning or their calendar. FIFA needs the players from those breakaway clubs to keep the World Cup's value. That scenario leaves UEFA out completely on the club side, the scary future Europe's governing body has spent several decades trying to stall.

That makes the governing bodies pushing for more right now not at all surprising. Their authority exists only because the stakeholders allow it. They may already be asking for too much.

AP's Rob Harris has La Liga president Javier Tebas questioning FIFA's expanded Club World Cup. The Independent's Miguel Delaney explains the broader issue with the expanded Club World Cup. The Guardian's Paul Wilson argues that English soccer has to drop the League Cup and revamp the FA Cup.

SI.com's Avi Creditor looks at the state of Inter Miami as they prepare for their first MLS season. The Athletic's Sam Stjeskal with the latest version of NYCFC. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tannenwald has increased expectations for the Philadelphia Union. The Canadian Press's Neil Davidson reports on Michael Bradley's injured ankle and Jozy Altidore's comments in Toronto. MLSsoccer's Mike Gramajo talks to Orlando City player Dom Dwyer. The LA Times' Dylan Hernandez interviews new LA Galaxy player Chicharito Hernandez.

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