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Marc Burch’s playoffs over: MLS hands Seattle defender three-game suspension

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Late Saturday night, Major League Soccer announced the news we were all expecting. Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch, having admitted to using a homophobic slur in Thursday’s match against Real Salt Lake, has been suspended for three games, the same punishment Houston’s Colin Clark received earlier this year for a similar offense.

That means Burch is out for the playoffs. If Seattle doesn’t make the MLS Cup Final, Burch will sit out the first game of the 2013 season.

Burch was also fined and assigned mandatory diversity and sensitivity training.

“Major League Soccer has a zero tolerance policy in response to this type of behavior from its players or staff,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, via a statement disrupted (sic) by the league.  “While I understand and believe that Mr. Burch is remorseful, Major League Soccer is committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.”

The four takeaways on our minds:

The message: No tolerance – There were a number of small differences that distinguished Burch’s offense from Clark’s, but MLS’s ruling affirms they are, in fact, small. The overarching point (and precedent): Intolerance is unacceptable. Expect a three-game ban whenever players make Burch’s mistake.

Why so long? – Burch issued his public apology mid-day on Friday. What took Major League Soccer so long to act? The suspension was announced only 22 hours before kickoff of Sunday’s match in Los Angeles.

One theory that sounds pretty legit: The league notified the parties on Friday but waited a day to announce, giving the appeal process time to play out.

Who plays left back? – Burch was only starting on Thursday because first choice left back Leo Gonzalez is injured. Though the Costa Rican is improving, the team had already conceded Burch was preparing to start on Sunday. (Why? Who knows.) That tells us Gonzalez probably isn’t ready. Expect Zach Scott, who we haven’t seen since picking up two yellow cards in a regular season game against Real Salt Lake, to get the start.

Move on, but don’t forget – Credit to Burch for owning up to his error, and based on what we’ve heard from the veteran defender, he is intent on making amends. By all reports, Burch is a good guy, which makes this incident even more poignant.

In our culture – particularly in sports culture – this type of intolerance is often so pervasive that it’s often unconscious. While MLS’s responses to Burch and Clark have been admirable, the problem transcends anything one league can do. More broadly, as a culture, we must continue to make strides.

If people even good people are susceptible to these types of mistakes, then as a society, we need a more intense, more public dialog about the issue.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.