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An approaching expiration date on the Chivas USA experiment?

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UPDATE: Major League Soccer was quick to deny this one. “Incorrect,” said the league office.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence this ESPN Deportes report comes the day after the Juan Agudelo sale, but when a well-under the salary cap team gives away one of its best players for nothing but allocation money, you can expect people around the league to take notice. And what they seem to be noticing here is an ownership group that’s not investing in the team, has shown little intention of doing so, and isn’t living up to the league’s minimum operation requirements.

Another way to put that: We may be hearing the death rattle of Chivas USA.

The scenario, as outlined by Alicia Ratterree at Chivas USA blog The Goat Parade, is one which would see MLS operate the club after seizing it from Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara:

If MLS do take the club over, they will likely turn around and sell the team to the highest and/or most sustainable bidder, one that could very likely cause the team to move away from Southern California.

Another possibility: If, for whatever reason, Chivas USA can’t garner a price Major League Soccer deems appropriate (or, if some of that money might end up in the hands of Vergara), MLS could be better suited to fold the team and proceed with 18 teams until expansion cities are deemed ready to go. Why team a discount rate for a broken team from a market that may one day pay full price?

There’s more at Goat Parade, parsing from ESPN Deportes’s reporting, with this particular incident highlighting Vergara’s unique methods of supporting his team (as well as one team blogger’s complete credulity such methods are being used):

Suarez also mentions that he has spoken with a sponsor who was evidently approached by Vergara or Chivas USA brass, asked for $1.5 million, with the express purpose of buying players with that money, then requiring said players to promote that company’s products to the hilt. As Suarez explains, and it makes sense to me, this would essentially be a way to get sponsors to buy players without Vergara having to shell out of pocket, thereby reducing his investment burden. Again, this is just one report, but it certainly seems plausible, doesn’t it?

Before the season started, Chivas USA were already in the spotlight. An apparent sell-off and the inability to secure a local television deal saw let many to wonder whether it was time to end the Chivas USA experiment. But a surprisingly strong start from Jose Luis “El Chelis” Sanchez Sola and his team forced us to reconsider.

As Steve noted recently, that strong start is a thing of the past. After giving away Juan Agedulo, Chivas USA may soon be a thing of the past, too.

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.