MLS expansion update from Commissioner Garber

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Yesterday afternoon an impromptu Twitter Q&A from MLS Commissioner Don Garber lifted the lid on all kinds of MLS expansion talk.

St. Louis? Miami? NYC 2? Sacramento? Orlando? Chill out guys, let’s get down to what was actually said.

Fans inundated Garber with requests on the leagues expansion plans, and the commish gave some revealing answers.

According to Garber, the plans for NYC 2 are developing: “we continue to make progress in Queens.” While in the Floridian market, both Orlando and Miami have seen rising levels of interest in an MLS franchise. Garber is “hoping to see support in Florida House for stadium support bill,” to help out Orlando City, while he admitted that in Miami “there’s been more and more interest of late.”

MORE: Nine mayoral candidates, but no committals to support MLS stadium in Queens

Some cities further down the pecking order for MLS expansion franchises were also mentioned, as Sacramento and St. Louis made the Twitter Q&A. With Garber hopeful of next month’s Manchester City vs. Chelsea friendly at Busch Stadium helping to promote soccer and MLS in St. Louis.

And one fan even asked if 30 teams would adorn MLS in the future. An emphatic, yet slightly non-committal, response came from Garber’s twitter feed: “30 seems like too many.”

So what do we learn from this impromptu outreach from the commissioner? In a nutshell, NYC 2 is pushing ahead and Florida seems to be a market where MLS is targeting.

Fans in Atlanta, Minnesota and San Antonio may be disappointed to hear their names not mentioned more prominently. But those markets are focusing on proving themselves in the NASL, and all three are doing a fine job at that.

Expansion talk always gets the juices flowing, and with Garber opening up to fans about the potential new franchises, it only helps to keep the chatter going amongst soccer circles in the US.

MORE: Orlando purchases $8.2 million parcel, unveils soccer stadium plans

But if the league does fail in its bid to make NYC 2 happen and a stadium plan cannot be worked out in Queens, what then? Orlando seems to be the best option. They have already earmarked land for a new soccer-specific stadium that the city has purchased for the franchise. Plus Orlando City now has a wealthy Brazilian part owner, who will help fund the new SSS. The fan base is on the rise and their links from playing against plenty of MLS sides in preseason and affiliation with Sporting KC has helped their stock to rise further.

What we learned from Garber’s expansion chat is that MLS has plenty of options. We aren’t much closer to seeing which ones will pan out. But boy, its fun to talk about it.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.