ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 19 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Ben Olsen’s team was dominated in Colorado, but coming away with a 0-0 draw, especially without some important starters, was surely a moral victory for United.

18. Toronto FC – Diego Forlan is coming! … Oh, wait … No, he isn’t.  Either way, goal scoring wasn’t the issue in last week’s 3-3 draw with Montreal at BMO Field.

17. Chivas USA – Two draws on the road (at FC Dallas and Montreal, both among their conference’s leaders) made for a highly respectable week around Goat Valley.

16. San Jose Earthquakes – A win over Colorado in Mark Watson’s first match as interim head coach provided some hope – but they’ve lost three of four since. With three straight matches at home, we’ll know by early August whether this club has gone from Supporters Shield winner to non-playoff team, because they’ll need at least six points from this set to even think about post-season chances.

15. Columbus – Playing at home, with a lead, a man up for almost 80 minutes, the Crew still made fairly hard work of a 1-0 win over Portland. Federico Higuain did not help by missing his second penalty kick this year.

14. Chicago Fire – “Magic Mike” is up to 11 goals (tied for league lead) with another strike Sunday at Toyota Park. If the Fire climbs into the playoffs, is Magee the league’s MVP?

13. Houston Dynamo – Things are a little better around BBVA thanks to a 1-0 win over Philadelphia, but Dominic Kinnear’s team knows he cannot count on Ricardo Clark to score the goals going forward. The strikers and outside attackers simply must start producing.

12. Colorado Rapids – Any other team have two legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates? The Rapids do in Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown, who had a goal in a 2-0 win over New York.  (They followed up three nights later with a 0-0 draw at home against D.C. United, a bit of a bummer.)

11. New York Red Bulls – Mike Petke’s team is a relatively modest 8-7-4. They play two of the next three at home in Harrison, with the one road trip into bottom-of-conference Toronto. That sounds like “Time to make a move” to us.

10. New England Revolution – The team just keeps improving, slowly but surely. The weekend’s fairly comfortable 2-0 win over San Jose makes Jay Heaps’ team 5-1-2 since mid-May. A spot in the playoffs is a within reach. Oh, and  Saer Sene sure nailed a beauty of a goal, didn’t he?

9. Philadelphia Union – A tough week on the road finishes with a draw at Real Salt Lake and a close (1-0) loss at Houston. It gets a little easier now, with Chivas USA and Portland en route to PPL Park over the next two weeks.

8. FC Dallas – Why is the team winless in six matches in all competitions now, after looking so powerful through March, April and May? It’s mostly about depth … and a serious lack of it in certain places.

7. Seattle Sounders – Weirdest stat about the Sounders: they have played just five matches since May. All the better, thought, given Osvaldo Alonso’s injury, and how diminished the team looks without him.

6. LA Galaxy – Robbie Rogers (pictured above, on the right) had his best outing yet in a Galaxy shirt, helping guide a good performance in a 2-0 win – And a controversy-free win at that! – over FC Dallas. FYI, goal scorer Robbie Keane now leads the league with eight assists.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps – So now we know: the Whitecaps can beat Seattle after all. Only took 13 tries! Martin Rennie’s team is 5-1-1 lately as Kenny Miller and Camilo are producing goals consistently.

4. Sporting Kansas City – A win at Chicago was huge for Peter Vermes’ team, which marched into Toyota Park over the weekend with just single win in league play since mid-May.

3. Montreal Impact – Marco Schallibaum’s team is winless in three matches, including two at home. And the Impact needed a late penalty kick Sunday just to split the points with Chivas USA. Time to wake up, Les Bleus.

2. Real Salt Lake – First run-out without all those important pieces? Meh. A 2-2 draw (against Philadelphia) without the likes of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and others is holding serve, at least.

1. Portland Timbers – The Timbers’ 15-game unbeaten streak, which was approaching league records, is over after a 1-0 loss at Columbus. Considering that Caleb Porter’s team was a man down for almost 80 minutes on the road, there was still enough to feel good about. They are, however, going to miss their captain.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.