Which cities will be home to the four new MLS expansion franchises?

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After Don Garber’s comments at half time of the MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City last night, the soccer landscape in North America will change drastically over the next five to seven years.

Bring it on.

MLS’ Commissioner confirmed on Wednesday that Major League Soccer will expand to 24 teams by the year 2020. Giving hope to thousands of fans across North America that their city will be home to one of MLS’ new franchises.

Garber’s comments have been welcomed with open arms by the US soccer community. And speculation is rife, as always, as to where these next franchises will pop up.

According to the following comments from the MLS Commish, the teams will help spread MLS’ reach to the whole of the US. So expect more teams in the Midwest and Southeast regions.

(MORE: Garber plans to expand to 24 teams by 2020)

“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.”

So with that “geographic coverage” in mind, let’s split up potential MLS expansion cities into regions and analyze which city could come out on top.

SOUTHEAST

Miami: With David Beckham involved in a potential franchise in Miami, this deal should get pushed through and I expect MIA to be one of two new franchises in Florida. The infrastructure will be there, the soccer fans are there but getting them all to support one team proved difficult in the past. Can it succeed this time?

Orlando: Brett Lashbrook is on board for a reason, MLS will come to Orlando very soon. Two of the four new MLS franchises look set for Florida, but Orlando have some hurdles to jump in order to get their new stadium built in time. With local business and the mayor at loggerheads, will MLS arrive in Miami before Orlando? USL Pro outfit Orlando City are pretty confident though and after a great Open Cup run and big crowds, they should be.

Atlanta: A city that has long been earmarked for an expansion franchise, the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL have a sparkling new soccer complex that can be expanded. Owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank, has proposed a soccer team coming to the newly developed Falcons stadium in downtown ATL. If it could be similar to the way BC Place is adapted for the Whitecaps, that would be pretty awesome.

source:
Will MLS be head over heels for Orlando?

MIDWEST

Oklahoma City: In terms of soccer in the Midwest, OKC is embracing the world’s sport like no other. Over the past month, USL Pro and NASL have set up rival franchises in the city as they aim to bring MLS to town one day. The support for both teams will be analyzed over the coming years and Oklahoma would certainly be an interesting option for MLS expansion.

St. Louis: There is no professional soccer team in St. Louis, and there are no plans for one either. But that doesn’t mean there are no soccer fans in STL. Oh no. We saw a huge crowd of over 48,000 pack Busch Stadium when Manchester City and Chelsea visited earlier this summer for a friendly and the sports mad town could definitely have some awesome rivalries with Chicago and Kansas City. Why not St. Louis?

Minneapolis: Minnesota United, Minnesota Stars and all the other name changes it has gone through, the Twin Cities have long been home to second and third-tier soccer teams. Can it make the jump up to MLS? A possible stadium link up with the Vikings has been mooted, but will there be enough fans to fill a 20,000 plus soccer-specific stadium week in, week out?

Indianapolis: Chelsea play Inter Milan at the Lucas Oil Stadium later today and the Indy Eleven franchise will start NASL play next season. Indy is definitely becoming a soccer obsessed city. The MLS SuperDraft was there in January and this town would also provide a great link between the East coast and the cities of Chicago and KC.

Detroit: Plans for a new downtown soccer stadium are close to being submitted in Detroit, as soccer fans in the Motor City have been causing quite a stir for sometime. A NPSL side, Detroit City, regularly attracts over 5,000 fans and the atmosphere created for a minor-league soccer team is incredible. A dark horse for MLS expansion?

WEST

Sacramento: Preki is now in charge, and something tells me the former USMNT and MLS legend wouldn’t be involved with the Californian team unless something huge was on the horizon. Ambitious plans have already been unveiled for the Sacramento Republic. Can they back that up in their USL Pro debut season next year?

San Antonio: The sparkling gem that is Toyota Field has become the jewel in NASL’s stadium crown. With a 8,000 capacity that can be expanded, soccer is a big deal in the Texas city. Rivalries with Dallas and Houston would be massive for the league and the Scorpions are one of NASL’s best run outfits. Potential.

Phoenix: At the moment the Arizona city has a USL Pro in its first season of play, but could it grow into an MLS franchise? Perhaps not. Although crowd numbers have been decent in its inaugural year, it is hard to see cities such as San Antonio ans Sacramento not jumping ahead of Phoenix out west.

Where else? Obviously there are plenty of other cities not on this list, (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Las Vegas to name a few) so where should MLS look to expand?

There are plenty of worthy regions across the US and Canada. Tell us where you think they should be.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

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MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.

Tactics Session: Inside the mind of Kevin De Bruyne

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If not for Harry Kane‘s prolific scoring of goals during the early days of this season, Kevin De Bruyne would almost certainly be the early runaway favorite for 2017-18 Premier League Player of the Season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

Alas, Kane, the one-season wonder that he is, seems hellbent on cracking the century mark in the PL this season, rather than waiting until 2018-19. This sets up what should be a thoroughly exhilarating seven-month battle between two polar opposite players — Kane, the goalscorer; and De Bruyne, the assist machine.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle delved into the mind of De Bruyne (above video) in light of last weekend’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City, during which De Bruyne notched another pair of assists to take season tally to five through eight games. Later on Saturday, De Bruyne added another in Man City’s 3-0 victory over Burnley.

[ MORE: Matchday experience — behind the scenes at Southampton ]

The first thing pointed out by Earle is the recovery — though deployed as more of a central midfielder on the day, De Bruyne sits wide with City in possession high up the field, just waiting for the opportune moment to surge forward and join the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero (now that he’s back from injury). When Jesus’ ball is too lightly weighted, De Bruyne reacts quickest to make the recovery.

From there, his head is up and scanning the entire field. One touch forward, and he’s already accounted for the positioning of each of his teammates, as well as the Stoke defenders, and every pocket of space into which he’ll either carry or play the ball. He knows the precise spot on the field he must get to in order to pull the defense to him, thus opening the necessary space (and time) for the final man — Sane, in this instance — to make his run in behind.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

This is the part of De Bruyne’s game which he does better than anyone else in the world right now; no one can hold a candle KDB’s timing and vision — not Henrikh Mkhitaryan, not Isco, not Mesut Ozil, not even his brilliant teammate (and fellow six-assist man) David Silva. He’s almost operating at peak-Andres Iniesta level right now, which makes KDB and Co. appointment viewing every weekend.

Even now, after creating the passing lane and providing Sane the extra half-second to get level with his man before accelerating past in the blink of an eye. Even then, having seen the pass he has to play, there’s still the (major) matter of threading the needle through and around four defenders. On this occasion, the perfect pass is nearly 15 yards in front of Sane, and far less than that distance in front of the goalkeeper. An inch or two too short, it’s cleared by the right back; and inch or two too long, and the goalkeeper collects it easily.

As usual, no player in the world comes close to matching De Bruyne’s genius.