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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.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT