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.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”