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US Open Cup fourth round wrapup – five more MLS teams tumble out

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The fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is now complete, and there are still some Cinderella stories left as it moves to the quarterfinals.

The most recent round wasn’t fully complete until this afternoon when the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew played after kickoff Wednesday was postponed 16-1/2 hours due to inclement weather.

Now, the quarterfinals are set without last year’s defending champions, and with two lower division teams still in the mix, it’s sure to give us an intriguing finish.

Sporting KC 0-1 Orlando FC

With their second straight MLS upset, the Lions have officially burst onto the scene in the U.S. Open Cup. They shocked their MLS affiliate and defending Cup champions Sporting KC with a quick-fire 2nd minute goal by Chinese striker Long Tan.

The goal, conceded after a turnover in their own half by Kansas City, was dubbed by KC manager Peter Vermes as “a terrible mistake.”

After going 1 up, Orlando dropped back and played solely on the counter-attack.  Despite just two shots in the first half, Orlando was actually unlucky not to be up 2-0 at halftime.  Tan had a close-range effort agonizingly saved by Eric Kronberg.

Orlando, currently sitting in first place in the USL Pro, will look to be just the second non-MLS team to win the Cup since MLS teams entered in 1996.  They were also the only away side to win in this round of play.

D.C. United 3-1 Philadelphia Union

Dwayne de Rosario decided he’d seen enough of the MLS standings.  Despite sitting in last place, a hat-trick from de Rosario sent the Black-and-Red on to the quarterfinals.

A goal from red-hot youngster Jack McInerney wasn’t nearly enough for Philadelphia as they get a taste of their own medicine.  The Union defeated D.C. United in the same round and venue during the competition last season.  Unfortunately for United, they did lose Chris Pontius in the process, after he took two blows to the head in the span of a few minutes and was subbed off at halftime.

You can watch de Rosario’s hat trick, plus a horribly awkward postgame interview, here.

Chicago Fire 2-1 Columbus Crew

It was a horror night for Columbus, as not only were they knocked out of the Cup despite leading 1-0 early, but they also may have lost Brazilian central defender Glauber for an extended period of time.

The 29-year-old, who was only recently acquired in January, left in just the 9th minute with a knee injury.  The extent of the injury is not known, but with Eddie Gaven already having blown out his ACL in the previous Cup match, it’s fingers crossed for Crew fans.

The one positive for Columbus is Konrad Warzycha’s header goal in the 22nd minute marks the first time father and son have scored in the U.S. Open Cup, following in the footsteps of Crew head coach Robert Warzycha.  Unfortunately, the red-hot Mike Magee responded just six minutes later to equalize, and then Patrick Nyarko provided the winner for Chicago in the 78th minute.

Real Salt Lake 5-2 Charleston Battery

You wouldn’t know it by the scoreline, but this match actually went to extra time.  Having already defeated San Jose in the previous round, Charleston found themselves 2-0 up on Real Salt Lake just 18 minutes in and could taste another upset.  Unfortunately, the #2 team in the West realized what was happening and turned on the afterburners.

Devon Sandoval opened the scoring for the MLS side in the 66th minute, and Joao Plata converted a penalty 12 minutes later to equalize. Extra time saw Sandoval’s second 7 minutes in for the winner, and Salt Lake added two more for insurance against the exhausted Battery.

Carolina Railhawks 3-1 Chivas USA

Things are going from bad to worse for Chivas USA, as extra time proved deadly to the MLS side and gave Carolina their second straight upset win, having already slid past L.A. Galaxy in the competition.

Cesar Elizondo and Brian Ackley both netted in the extra period to give the NASL club the quarterfinals berth.  It was hot in North Carolina, but the sides were hot-headed as well, as seven yellow cards were handed out in the match.

In an odd bit of news, new Chivas manager Jose Luis Real was in attendance for the match, but did not coach.  Instead, Sascha van der Most continued his interim coaching duties.

New England Revolution 4-2 New York Red Bulls

The Revs continued their season revival by thrashing the Red Bulls in their first home match in the Cup in four years.  New England went ahead after just four minutes as Kelyn Rowe scored the first of his brace, and they kept scoring all the way until their fourth in the 87th minute.

New England are on a vicious run, unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions, and they’ve outscored their opponents 19-4 during that span.

Dallas FC 3-0 Houston Dynamo

The “Texas Derby” found its way into the U.S. Open Cup, and MLS leaders in points didn’t disappoint.  Kenny Cooper’s brace gives him five goals on the year for Dallas in all competitions, and they both came off set pieces taken by Brazilian midfielder Michel.

That sounds really familiar….oh right, that’s exactly what happened when the two clubs met in the league back in March.  Dallas have an MLS match on Saturday, but played a pretty full-strength lineup anyways, only missing international call-ups Raul Fernandez and Blas Perez, plus David Ferreira sat.

Portland Timbers 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Portland proved the only MLS team to easily put away their lower division opponents in the fourth round.  Tampa Bay had already defeated Seattle in the previous round, but Portland went ahead early in the ninth minute via Michael Nanchoff and never looked back.

It’s Portland’s first ever visit to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal matchups:

New England Revolution at D.C. United
Orlando City at Chicago Fire
Carolina Railhawks at Real Salt Lake
Portland Timbers at FC Dallas

Leicester fan will win $50,000 from $10 bet if Foxes win Premier League

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring against Manchester United, his eleventh consecutive goal in the Premier League, during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Vardy becomes the first man to score in 11 consecutive English Premier League soccer matches after finding the back of the net against Manchester United today.(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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As their odds of winning the Premier League title continue to be slashed, tales of Leicester City fans set to win an incredible amount of cash continue.

The latest story is a beauty.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired” ]

On the eve of the 2015-16 Premier League season one Leicester City fan, Chloe Cope, decided to put $10 on her side to win the title. The odds were 5,000 -1. So, with the Foxes five points clear at the top of the table with just 13 games to go, the first league title in Leicester’s 132 year history would not only bring unbeliavable amounts of jubilation to the East Midlands city but also plenty of cash for its fans. $50,000 for this Miss Cope, in fact.

The story gets even better. Check this out.

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Miss Cope’s flutter on her beloved Foxes was actually her first-ever bet. She opened up an online betting account last summer in the UK with Sky Bet and was rewarded a free $30 bet which she used to make a bet that Leicester would finish in the top six this season. That’s virtually assured so she will win another $637.

The two bets she made back on August 7 2015 are shown in the Tweet below via Jacqui Oatley.

A few other Leicester fans are also in line to win plenty of cash, but this one seems to have the most riding on it.

Will big changes in Europe threaten UEFA Champions League’s future?

FC Barcelona, 2014-15 UEFA Champions League winners
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With talk of the UEFA Champions League being threatened by a “super league” of some sort, that notion has been undermined by some of Europe’s top teams.

For now.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI?

On Wednesday in Paris the European Clubs’ Association (ECA) met at its 16th annual congress and confirmed it will seek to change the way the UEFA Champions League and Europa League is run when the current term of agreement cycle expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

With over 200 member clubs the ECA represents many of the biggest teams on the planet with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Chelsea all included.

In the past there has been a growing notion for a European “super league” to replace the Champions League and that perennial European giants should not have to rely on qualifying for Europe via their domestic competitions.

That is one of the factors currently being discussed by the ECA, as they released the following statement after the congress in France this week.

“In light of the upcoming 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle, the clubs are currently discussing the future of UEFA’s main club competitions, namely the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. As in the past, the clubs are in constant dialogue with UEFA to further develop and improve both competitions. All ECA Member Clubs have gathered in informal working groups to exchange initial thoughts and ideas.”

[ MORE: Reports claim Mourinho to United is “done deal”

The current ECA chairman and chairman of Bayern Munich, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, also spoke about the need to revamp both club competitions.

“I believe both ECA and UEFA are interested in an evolution of the competitions. Stagnation means regression,” Rummenigge said. “We have always jointly looked into ways to further develop and improve the competitions. It is important to find a good and balanced solution for everyone involved.”

So, overall, it seems that for now both ECA and UEFA is willing to work together to improve the current format of the UCL rather than go their separate ways and the ECA member clubs beginning their own competition, as had been mooted by Rummenigge and other high-ranking officials in the past.

What changes could be discussed for the 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle?

For me, it seems like it would be a good idea to somehow reduce the number of UCL teams who enter the group stage. That would help it preserve its elite status and potential shave two matchdays off the schedule to lessen the pressure on teams. Currently 32 teams qualify in eight groups of four teams and a total of 78 teams from across UEFA’s 54 member nations qualify for the UCL each season. 46 fall by the wayside in the qualifying rounds and many of those teams are too small to ever dream about getting anywhere near the group stages.

[ PHOTOS: New PL logo released

Perhaps just having one playoff round to make the UCL and limiting the number of spots for nations with lower UEFA coefficients is the way to go. That way those nations would back their teams competing in the Europa League and that competition will gain more prestige as a direct correlation between teams performing well in the Europa League will lead to certain nations being granted places in the UEFA Champions League. That’s the case now, but adding extra emphasis to the Europa League should be a big part of the next cycle.

The biggest situation the ECA seem to want to sort out here is how some of Europe’s biggest teams did not qualify for the UCL. The overriding notion seems to be that the ECA wants them to qualify each year. Even though the likes of past UCL winners Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund weren’t involved in Europe’s elite competition this season, did the tournament really suffer because of it? In terms of gate revenue, perhaps, but it seems that the ECA is conflicted about the best way to get as many of its member teams involved in the elite competition as possible.

Another idea I’m just throwing out there could be to hand teams a spot in the UCL based on their current coefficient which takes into account their previous performances in UEFA Club Competitions. Perhaps four spots per season could be reserved for teams who don’t qualify for the UCL domestically, but have the highest coefficient of the non qualifiers. Just a thought.

There’s clearly plenty to sort out but it seems like — for now, at least — we haven’t seen the end of the UEFA Champions League. But tweaks will need to be made to stop it regressing.

VIDEO: Will Ferrell is feeling guilty – “I got Jose Mourinho fired”

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Sometimes there’s just something you have to admit.

[ MORE: Mourinho to United “done deal”

It sounds better if you say it out loud and get it off your chest. This is one of those moments for comedian, actor and now part-owner of a Major League Soccer franchise, Los Angeles FC, Will Ferrell.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Joining the Men In Blazers this week the self-proclaimed soccer nut joked that he was the one who actually got Jose Mourinho fired by Chelsea.

For real. Watch the video above to see Ferrell’s admission as he explains exactly what happened.

[ MORE: Arsenal, Spurs to fight for the PL title? ]

Just seven months after leading Chelsea to the Premier League title, Mourinho was dismissed by the west London club in December.

NOTE: Severe tongue-in-cheek mode activated.

WATCH: NBC to stream USWNT, every CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying game

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The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championships kick off on Wednesday and NBC Sports will be streaming all 15 games of the tournament over the next 11 days.

Every single game will be streamed live online or on the app via NBC Sports Live Extra, in addition to up to four matches airing on NBCSN with the U.S women’s national team — aiming for a fourth-straight Olympic gold — featuring heavily in live broadcasts.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The eight-team tournament takes place from Feb. 10-21 in Houston and Frisco, Texas, with the top two teams advancing to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Below is a full schedule of the games.

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Puerto Rico vs. Mexico                                   5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Costa Rica                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN