Heads-up: a little trouble could be brewing for MLS Cup 2012

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Most of us cheered when Major League Soccer made the most significant of tweaks on title-deciding methodology: the decision to house each year’s MLS Cup final on the grounds of the higher seed.

Splendid idea, guys!

With that, the regular season grew even further in importance; every point earned improves a team’s chances of hosting a final. And hosting a final will be a very special thing each year, adding  drama and a certain edge that a neutral site simply cannot replicate.

It really was a terrific shift, for a number of different reasons.

There was one, itty-bitty little worry about it all: What if the final lands at one of the less-desirable venues?

By “less desirable,” I don’t mean anything disparaging to the clubs or their hard-working personnel. Really, it’s about logistics. That is, a short list of teams existed that had everyone thinking: “This thing could turn in on itself pretty quickly.”

Still, most of the less-liked MLS venues didn’t seem like such a threat, not for 2012, at least. New England and ill-fitting Gillette Stadium, where the MLS final might be played over unsightly football lines? (Update: I’ve been alerted no such thing would happen, that no gridiron lines would be visible in such a scenario.)  Well, the Revs were rebuilding, so that really didn’t seem worth worrying about.

Yes, Jay Heaps’ men could find great late-season form and fight their way to the final; but it seems highly unlikely they could stack up enough wins to be in position to host the final.

Columbus, where nasty winter weather could pose a threat, and where hotels and other ancillary sites might become a real problem? Well, a young Columbus team could make the playoffs, for sure, but they didn’t seem to be a threat for a top finish.

(Truly, only by finishing first or second in the conference would a team have a realistic chance of hosting the final.)

Who else? Well, San Jose would be a problem due to its tiny venue, cozy and quaint little Buck Shaw Stadium (pictured). But San Jose …

Uh-oh!

Frank Yallop’s team is very good this year. A lot better than last year, in fact.

You will currently find the Earthquakes with the league’s best record. So, if they keep chugging along and then crack the playoff code, your first final in the new M.O. will land somewhere in the Bay Area.

They could move it Stanford Stadium, site of last weekend’s big win over Los Angeles. But MLS Cup’s Dec. 2 date falls two days after the Pac-12 Championship Game, which could also land at the historic Palo Alto grounds. That would pose a strenuous complication.

After that? It could go to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but that facility is far less than perfect for a number of reasons.

Or, they could just keep it at Buck Shaw and take the PR hit of having their nationally televised championship marquee contest in the league’s smallest ground – an up-armored college soccer facility.

Of course, it could all work out just fine. A final in Kansas City, New York, Washington, D.C., or Salt Lake City – other reasonable possibilities at the halfway pole of this MLS season – would work just fine.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET