Oklahoma City FC to become NASL’s newest franchise?

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It appears a new team will be present for the start of the North American Soccer League’s 2015 season.

Current USL Premier Development League side, Oklahoma City FC, are set to become the NASL’s newest team in 2015. This news comes after the league invited a ownership group from Oklahoma City to their Board of Governors meeting on July 25 to tie everything up.

North American soccer’s second-tier Tweeted out a slightly cryptic message yesterday evening, but nonetheless it seems as if OKC is going to get a NASL franchise.

NASL said in the Tweet: “We’ve invited a group from Oklahoma City to make a final presentation at our July BoG meeting. Look forward to their admission to NASL.#2015”

With various responses coming from the NASL’s official feed following their announcement, it seems as though the franchise is all but sealed for Oklahoma. So what do we make of this?

(MORE: Which US cities are next for MLS expansion?)

First of all, it is awesome news for the Midwest and for soccer rivalries within NASL. Now fans in cities such as San Antonio and Indianapolis will be able to travel to Oklahoma and help fuel soccer and its burgeoning reputation in the Midwest region.

But does this further imply the NASL’s aim to become a strong and meaningful second-tier for North American soccer and reignite hopes for promotion and relegation?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But there is hope for those who want to see movement between North America’s top two leagues.

So the NASL is building quite a nice little portfolio for itself as the league, reborn in 2011, reaches out to new markets amid rapid expansion in the next two to three years.

(MORE: MLS, USL announce Reserve League, USL Pro integration)

In 2014 three new teams will take to the field, with the Ottawa Fury, Virginia Cavalry and Indy Eleven all arriving on the NASL scene. While, of course, the New York Cosmos begin play this season when the second half of the NASL campaign which begins this fall. Then there is the Puerto Rico Islanders who are on hiatus but should return next season in a stronger NASL.

With the current sides, and Oklahoma City joining, that will bring the total number of NASL teams to 13, which is a number that will continue to grow. And amid recent reports that up to six more professional teams will be created in the Western half of the United States, lower-tier soccer is stronger than it has ever been in the US.

Like I said, promotion and relegation is a long way off. But if the NASL and USL Pro continue to develop at this rapid pace and feed of the success of Major League Soccer, then why can’t it happen between the second and third tiers of North American soccer?

(MORE: A little history to consider re MLS and the wonderful old NASL)

That is opening up a whole new can of worms given the struggle both leagues went through to become affiliate. Tensions do exist between the two. But the lower-tiers of North American soccer can prosper if all three professional leagues work together more. Which will only reap benefits in the future.

Discuss.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.