Which US cities are next for MLS expansion?

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After the fanfare in New York City this week, we now know were Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise will be based.

But what about the future? Just look at St. Louis last night for the friendly between Manchester City and Chelsea. 48,263 fans turned up. Officials said they could have sold at Busch Stadium twice over.

Wow. That is something to think about. And MLS Commish Don Garber said he is doing just that. “There’s still a lot of activity going on in a lot of different markets.”

So many cities across the USA are scrambling to try and grab a piece of the MLS pie. Some more deserving than others, some more likely to be successful than others and some cities are just finding out their potential status as a staunch soccer city.

Why don’t we take a quick scan across the nation, to see which cities could be future MLS destinations.

San Antonio

Only in their second season in the NASL, the San Antonio Scorpions have a beautiful new soccer-specific stadium that is the jewel in the crown of US soccer’s second-tier. Toyota Field has seen tremendous attendance figures so far, can San Antonio surpass their impressive figures of 9,317 in the 2012 season? And can Texas handle another MLS side? Of course they can.

Orlando

We know how close they are to building a new soccer-specific venue downtown, with Mayor Buddy Dyer on board and pushing hard for USL Pro side Orlando City to become an MLS franchise. They’ve had to recently modify their new stadium plans after a bill in the Florida Senate giving money to upgrade sports facilities wasn’t passed. Average attendances are rising this season, with huge financial backing in place to see Orlando become an MLS side. Favorites to become the next MLS expansion franchise.

Atlanta

This city has produced plenty of soccer players over the years, with several USMNT players hailing from ATL. The NASL Silverbacks have recently been re-branded and their new stadium is currently set at 5,000 but can expand to 15,000 over the next few years. Soccer is on the rise in the Southeast, with Florida also pushing for a new side. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is planning to get an MLS franchise to play in the Falcons’ new stadium.

Minneapolis

Much like Atlanta, the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium is set to include plans for an MLS side to play in. That would involve lowering the roof and/or covering up the top bowl of the stadium to create a more intimate and lively atmosphere. Minnesota United are the reigning NASL Champions, and they were also re-branded this season. A new logo, name and ambitions surround the Northern city. Could MLS come calling soon? Maybe not, but watch this space.

St. Louis

As we mentioned, St. Louis put on a great show for soccer last night. As Taylor Twellman mentioned in commentary, how could a businessman not see potential in the St. Louis region? Over 48,000 for a friendly at a baseball stadium? Surely they could attract more than 20,000 for an MLS side? We wait and see, but STL showcased just how big of a soccer city it could become.

Phoenix

A new USL Pro franchise has arrived in Arizona this season, as Phoenix FC is on the scene. Currently they play at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, and a standing room only crowd of 4,198 saw them win their home opener. I know some of their players have been blown away with the level of support for soccer in Phoenix and as one of the fastest growing cities in the US, population wise, it’s hard not to see soccer getting bigger in PHX in the years to come. Also the huge number of Hispanic residents well help Phoenix and San Antonio with building a solid and stable fanbase. Exciting times in the Southwest for soccer.

Miami

Miami of course had an MLS franchise. Based in Ft. Lauderdale, the Miami Fusion were disbanded along with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001 due to a multitude of problems. But with David Beckham rumored to be on board and helping Miami grab an expansion franchise, could soccer return to South Beach? Locals from soccer loving nations in the Caribbean and South America would give any potential side a huge boost in attendance figures. Expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

You tell us: Obviously there are plenty of other cities not on this list, so where should MLS look to expand? There are plenty of worthy regions across the US and Canada.

PL Preview: Brighton vs. Stoke City

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  • Stoke leads all-time 16W-14D-9L
  • First league meeting since 2006
  • Potters have won last 8 in series

Brighton and Hove Albion meets Stoke City for the first time in Premier League history when the two battle at the Amex Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Brighton is unbeaten in its last four PL matches, with a pair of away wins and two draws at home.

They’ve been led at the back end by Shane Duffy and in attack by Pascal Gross, but it’s been a well-traveled Premier League veteran filling the goals. Glenn Murray has historic motivation to keep scoring, knowing that a marker versus Stoke would make him the first Brighton player to ever score a goal in four successive top flight matches.

Stoke followed up its win over Watford with a draw against Leicester City. The Potters have two goals and four assists from Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, and three and one from Senegalese scorer Mame Biram Diouf.

What they’re saying

Brighton’s Chris Hughton on bagging wins“For a club like us to get back-to-back wins would show the level we are playing at. It’s tough. I remember being told by somebody with one of the promoted teams that they didn’t get their first away win until February-March. That can happen and it’s exactly the same for a team getting promoted to get back-to-wins. They are hard to come by. Any way we are able to do that would certainly be a major boost for us.”

Stoke manager Mark Hughes on Xherdan ShaqiriHe is taking on more the role of the main instigator of our attacking threat. When he gets the ball, I think the whole team responds to that. You sense that maybe something’s going to happen. And I think the crowd sends it as well. And I know opposition team sense it too.”

Prediction

Few matches are more of a toss-up than this one, and there’s no recent match-ups on which to rest our heads. So we’ll side with the home team managing a point, and maybe a pair of old-timer goals from Murray and Peter Crouch, in a 1-1 draw.

Italy soccer chief resigns after failure to reach World Cup

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ROME (AP) Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio has resigned a week after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Monday’s announcement came following calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s most popular sport, from the amateur leagues right up to Serie A and the national teams.

[ MORE: What’s next for West Brom? ]

Sweden’s playoff win over Italy kept the four-time champion out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired two days after the loss.

For the last week, Tavecchio has resisted calls to step down but he eventually lost the support of the federation’s board of directors.

Former federation chief Giancarlo Abete said as he left the board meeting where Tavecchio resigned that a new election would be held within 90 days.

Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.