Garber: MLS plans to expand to 24 teams by 2020

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After New York City FC was announced, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said the league planned on taking a break from expansion.  However long that break lasts, the league now plans on expanding by 20 percent by the beginning of the next decade, with 24 the new magic number the commissioner provided at half-time of Wednesday’s All-Star Game.

In what’s become an annual event, Garber spoke to ESPN at halftime of tonight’s game, this time answer questions from analysts and former U.S. Men’s National Team standouts Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller. There Garber spoke of the league’s plan to eclipse the FIFA standard 20-team league six, explaining the league plans to add four new franchises by 2020:

“These expansion clubs have brought new ideas that have contributed to our strategy for growing the league and the addition of new markets has expanded our geographic reach while increasing our fan base …”

“The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league … We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game.

“As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”

That geographic coverage will almost surely address one of the league’s current deficits: a lack of teams in the southeast. Orlando has made a major push of be the league’s next expansion destination, with the Orlando City Soccer Club group headed by Phil Rawlins hoping to play as early as 2015. A potential return to Miami has also been speculated, with former LA Galaxy star David Beckham’s name linked with a possible successor to the defunct Miami Fusion.

While the biggest message for fans in potential expansion markets will be the potential for MLS soccer in their home town, the broader implication from Garber’s Wednesday comments concerns the league’s ambition. Previously content to build to 20 teams, the league has set its sights higher before the 20th team has even taken the field.

Though some will quibble with the idea of a league being allowed to build beyond a 20th team, the U.S. has always been seen as a unique market, both in terms of is size and the challenges soccer has to take root. Announce plans for another stage of “accelerated growth,” Garber is signally not only an intent to grow into that unique market but also leverage the stability the league’s established over the last seven years to grow beyond previous expectations.

So where do we go from here? From MLS’s release:

The process to determine a future MLS expansion market will be selected on the basis of multiple criteria.  Factors taken into consideration include:

  • Committed and engaged ownership;

  • A comprehensive stadium plan;

  • Demonstrated fan support for professional soccer in the market;

  • Support from sponsors, television partners and other constituents;

  • Geographic location;

  • A strategic business plan for the launch and successful operation of the club.

“Proud” hat trick hero Kane raves at shorthanded Spurs win

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This could’ve gone much worse for Spurs.

Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen were suspended, and Christian Eriksen was sick.

[ RECAP: APOEL 0-3 Spurs ]

Never mind all that: Harry Kane was healthy, and scored three goals as Spurs kept pace with group mates Real Madrid in filing a 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Kane said he was very proud of the side’s performance, as youngster Anthony Georgiou and seldom-used Georges-Kevin N’Koudou put in shifts in the win. From the BBC:

“We weren’t pleased with the first-half and a couple of chances could have gone the other way. We were more clinical and in the Champions League that is what you have got to be.

“We are missing a few players but the lads who stepped in were fantastic. We have a solid squad and you have to be ready. 3-0 away in the Champions League no matter who you play is a good result.”

Kane has 11 goals in September between club and country, and has six hat tricks in 2017. There may not be a finer big striker firing in Europe right now, and both England and Spurs will hope to ride him well into 2018.

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool: Frustrated Reds come back for point

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A point from far from home is not the end of the world, but Liverpool will rue its missed chances in a 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Goalkeeper Artyom Rebrov had a stellar day for Spartak before being injured and then replaced by Aleksandr Selikhov, who was also strong for the Russians.

Fernando (not that one) scored a free kick for Spartak, while Philippe Coutinho bagged the equalizer that keeps the Reds ahead of Spartak on goal difference. Both sides are three points behind Sevilla.

Liverpool visits Maribor on Oct. 17, while Spartak will host Sevilla.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Roberto Firmino saw a promising header saved, and Brazilian attack partner Philippe Coutinho cleared a launch pad for countryman Fernando with a needless foul minutes later.

The 25-year-old ex-Sampdoria man that curled a free kick over the wall, and not too near to a post. Loris Karius was too slow to move, and the ball found its way to the back of the net. 1-0.

Sadio Mane was lively as usual, and let fly with a low drive for Spartak backstop Rebrov to collect inside the six.

Coutinho made amends with a solidly struck equalizer just after the half-hour mark, working a 1-2 with Mane and lacing a shot beyond the hopes of Rebrov.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Spartak wasn’t sleeping to start the second half, and both Karius and his Russian counterpart Rebrov had work to do early.

Rebrov needed to be substituted following a collision with Mohamed Salah and long delay. A Man of the Match candidate, would the goalkeeper swap tilt the scales?

Manchester City 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk: KDB pulls the strings

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A Man of the Match performance from Kevin De Bruyne was just enough to send Man City past plucky Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

David Silva assisted De Bruyne’s second half goal, and Bernardo Silva set up Raheem Sterling for the second just before time.

Alone in first, City will host Napoli on Oct. 17 while Shakhtar is off to Feyenoord.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Kevin De Bruyne set Sergio Aguero up for a chance that was well-covered by Shakhtar backstop Andriy Pyatov.

De Bruyne had the best chance of the first half, working himself into a “Surely” position only to miss his mark with a shot and leave the match scoreless.

At the other end, Ederson made an excellent save on Marlos.

Fittingly, De Bruyne helped set himself up for the opener, winning the ball and working a 1-2 with David Silva to finish with style.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Leroy Sane won a penalty for City, but Sergio Aguero’s tame effort was saved. At the other end, John Stones was directing traffic when a ball hit his arm. No call from the officials.

APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Kane nets hat trick

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Cyprus has been kind to Harry Kane.

The English striker scored thrice for Spurs, who join group mates Real Madrid on six points after a 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

The Bernabeu is next for Spurs, an Oct. 17 date with 2-0 Real Madrid, while APOEL will host Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Hugo Lloris flubbed an early clearance and was fortunate to see the back-bounding ball dribble wide of his left post.

Carlao could’ve given APOEL a surprise lead close to halftime but headed wide of the net from within 10 yards.

Kane nearly added an assist to his ledger at the start of the second half, but Son Heung-min just missed his effort wide of the frame.

He scored another goal anyway, and another one. Moussa Sissoko set Kane up for the second of the night, a relatively simple finish for the striker, and Kane completed his trio of goals when he headed Kieran Trippier‘s cross home.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]