The Money Shot: Sporting Kansas City still on top in ProSoccerTalk’s Weekly MLS rankings

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We’ve already dropped knowledge and quasi-science on Parts II and III; here are your top money-makers and heart-breakers in our weekly MLS Rankings countdown, Nos. 1-6:

6. Seattle Sounders – How many nights will Marc Burch lay awake, pondering that stoppage-time header that cracked the crossbar against his old team? Well, a 0-0 draw in the Sounders’ first MLS road test of 2012 is hardly the worst of outcomes. They get back to CenturyLink Field this week as Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson look set for a possible return.

5. New York Red Bulls – Everything is ice cream and lollipops for the first team in 16-plus Major League Soccer seasons to win three in a row by three goals or more. And holy extrapolation, Batman! Look what happens if we put pen and paper and deep ciphering to Thierry Henry’s early, league-leading total of seven goals: Over a 34-game season, he’d hit for 47! Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would row across the Atlantic to beg personally if he thought Henry would exchange addresses once again at that point.

4. San Jose Earthquakes – There’s been so much said and written about New York’s high-scoring pair, it gets easy to forget a certain scoring machine quietly going about his business on the other coast. With two more last week, Chris Wondolowski is tied with Kenny Cooper on the MLS goal scoring chart at six, nipping at Henry’s seven. But to be fair, Wondolowski’s ongoing exploits are making it easier to overlook the real reason behind San Jose’s big success so far in 2012: guided by new center back Victor Bernardez, the Earthquakes have conceded just two goals in five matches.

3. Houston Dynamo – A two-week break that extended from March into April can hardly be considered ideal. “Let ‘em play!” But we’ll give the schedule maker a pass here since the idea was mitigating the strain of too many road matches while the paint dries and the bolts are tightened on BBVA Compass Stadium (opening date: May 12). This training ground injury to Brad Davis is unpleasant news as Dominic Kinnear puts his team on a plane for Chicago and this week’s visit to Toyota Park.

2. Real Salt Lake – Mark it down: This Saturday, 8:30 p.m., from Livestrong Sporting Park. Jason Kreis takes his team, atop the West with just one blemish in six matches, into Kansas City for a humdinger of an April matchup. In fact, this is the humdinger of all April matchups. Fabian Espindola, Ton Beltran and Kyle Beckerman are leading the charge at Rio Tinto, where last week’s businesslike, professional 2-0 win over Colorado helped arrange this week’s biggie.

1. Sporting Kansas City – Graham Zusi is getting the assists, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong get ink for their ongoing U.S. international possibilities, Bobby Convey is the alleged “final piece” and everyone along the back line looks like a world beater. All fair enough. But the real driving force behind Sporting Kansas City’s record breaking start (15 of a possible 15 points) has been Kei Kamara. His aggressive, vertical-thinking play embodies what Kansas City is at best. He shares the team lead in goals with three.

Northern Ireland manager O’Neill banned for DUI

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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has pleaded guilty to drunk driving and been banned from the road for 16 months.

O’Neill was caught by police on the outskirts of Edinburgh at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 10 and was found to be around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

O’Neill appeared on Thursday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he received the driving ban and fine of 1,300 pounds ($1,700).

O’Neill’s solicitor, James Mulgrew, told the court “this was simply a bad error of judgment.”

Northern Ireland is still in contention for its first World Cup trip since 1986. The team plays Switzerland in a two-leg playoff next month to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Newcastle takeover bid moves closer

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Newcastle United fans are getting very, very excited.

PCP Capital Partners, led by Amanda Staveley, have signed a confidentiality agreement with the club’s owners after Mike Ashley put the club up for sale earlier this week

Ashley is said to value Newcastle at over $520 million, while Staveley is said to believe the club is worth close to $395 million, so there is plenty of negotiating still to happen but things are heading in the right direction.

In a statement on Monday Ashley said he would allow any potential buyer to pay the overall transaction fee in installments, while he also wants a buy to be completed by the end of December.

Who is Staveley?

She was seen at a Newcastle vs. Liverpool game at St James’ Park earlier this month as speculation was rife that a new owner was being lined up to buy Newcastle. That is indeed the case and Staveley, 44, is now able to look over the finances of the club exclusively.

Staveley oversaw the purchase of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi United and also lined up a deal for Liverpool to be bought by Dubai International Captial which fell through in the past.

Her close links to the Middle East has seen her become one of the most prominent British businesswomen in recent years and she currently manages over $34 billion of wealth globally. Staveley and her investors are said to be interested in buying several Premier League clubs.

Ashley’s lawyer, Andrew Henderson, released a statement on Thursday stating several other parties have inquired about buying the club since the announcement came that they were up for sale.

“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible. We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”

Things are moving very quickly for Newcastle’s fans as they thought they’d never get rid of much-maligned owner Ashley who is a lifelong fan of the club and bought them in 2007.

After two relegations from the Premier League (followed by instant returns to the PL on both occasions) Ashley has been accused of failing to spend money on the playing squad and realize Newcastle’s full potential as they challenged for the Premier League title on numerous occasions during the 1990s.

With Rafael Benitez getting the most of his squad and the Magpies sitting in the top 10 of the PL as things stand, the future is looking bright for Newcastle with plenty of investment expected if this sale does go through to Staveley or those she is closely connected with.

VIDEO: Man United ooze class after consoling teenage goalkeeper

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Wednesday was a big night for Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his debut in the UEFA Champions League and in doing so he became the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in the competition, jumping ahead of the likes of Iker Casillas to set a new, hugely impressive, record.

Still, the night did not end well for the Belgian youngster.

[ MORE: United targeted Benfica’s goalkeeper ]

With Marcus Rashford‘s free kick floating into the box from out wide, he caught the ball but then stepped back over his own goal line… taking the ball with him.

Goal-line technology showed the ball had gone over and United were awarded the goal and won 1-0.

At the final whistle the teenager was stunned but Romelu Lukaku was one of the many United players who took time to console the distraught teenager.

Classy from Lukaku.

Even if Jose Mourinho did admit afterwards that United had targeted the teenager…

FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.