Clint Dempsey debuts tonight – good luck seeing it on TV!

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In too many ways, Major League soccer cannot escape from the shadow of its former self – a smaller, less substantial shadow to be sure.

Tonight we have a good example:

Clint Dempsey will be at BMO Field in Toronto, likely to make his Seattle Sounders’ debut as the U.S. international’s new club visits Toronto FC. It’s a watershed moment for the league; in some quarters, this is a bigger signing than David Beckham’s back in 2007. (I would argue the point … but let’s stay on mission here.)

So why isn’t the momentous match on national TV? Why, instead of watching a big moment unfold on a beautiful Toronto summer evening, at a swell MLS ground, are we watching a last-place team at PPL Park against the fourth-place team in the East in the nationally televised match on NBC Sports Network?

Nothing wrong with a contest from picturesque PPL Park outside Philadelphia, but under the circumstances Seattle-Toronto is a better choice. By a long way.

Well, here’s why:  Major League Soccer does not have flexible TV scheduling. The matches for all three league TV partners, ESPN, NBC Sports and Univision, have been set since January.

It hurts MLS most at playoff time. On the final match day, Oct. 27, NBC will show Houston at D.C. United. There is no way United will be in the playoffs, so events from RFK Stadium that night won’t matter for United. Houston is in fifth place currently; any further fall in the standings and the Dynamo won’t be a post-season player, either.

But the lack of flexible schedule also dents MLS on nights like tonight. Why doesn’t the league practice a modern policy of flexible scheduling?

Because TV contracts in MLS aren’t the money-bag behemoths that rule other professional leagues in our country. Gate receipts represent a higher percentage of overall revenue, whereas TV money mostly dwarfs ticket sales in NFL, NBA, etc.  Therefore, MLS clubs get protective about their local fans and those ticket sales.

They worry that juggling kickoff times and match days, frequently necessary for a TV switcheroo, would hack off and potentially hack away at their bread-and-butter fan base.

It’s smaller thinking, a relic of another day in MLS, when clubs probably could not afford to alienate any portion of its local fan base. And Major League Soccer is at a point where “bigger thinking” is the right play.

If you have MLS Live, you can watch Major League Soccer’s big moment tonight. If not … well, check out the highlights later.

UEFA bans Samir Nasri six months for IV treatment

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Former Premier League midfielder Samir Nasri has been banned for six months by European governing body UEFA for receiving an intravenous drip treatment in Los Angeles, California in December 2016.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails Man City as trophy haul begins ]

During the time in question, Nasri was on loan from Manchester City with Spanish side Sevilla.

Nasri reportedly received the treatment upon an initial diagnosis from his ex-girlfriend Dr. Sarabjit Anand. He later traveled to LA for the treatment, where a private medical company known as the Drip Doctors, set up the IV drip for Nasri.

The IV was said to have contained sterile water containing 50 milliliters of micronutrient components, which given in an infusion over the span of six hours is considered illegal by the World Anti-doping Agency.

Nasri is without a club at this time, after last appearing for Turkish club Antalyaspor in January. The 30-year-old left the side this winter after making just eight appearances in all competitions.

PSG suffers big blow as Neymar stretchered off against Marseille

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With an important run of fixtures upcoming, including a UEFA Champions League date with Real Madrid, the Parisians received disappointing news on Sunday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails Man City as trophy haul begins ]

Despite picking up a 3-0 victory against Marseille, Paris Saint-Germain suffered a massive blow in the second stanza after Neymar was stretchered off the pitch with a right leg injury in the 81st minute.

The Brazilian international appeared to twist his ankle upon landing on the ground after going in for a challenge, although there was no contact when the attacker went down in agony.

Minutes after suffering the apparent ankle injury, Neymar was carried off the field on a stretcher by medical staff, raising questions about his availability in the coming weeks.

PSG faces a crucial run of matches, including Wednesday’s French Cup match against Marseille and their second leg UCL fixture against Real Madrid.

Unai Emery and his side currently trail 3-1 against Los Blancos, as the tie heads back to Paris for the second meeting.

This season, Neymar has tallied 28 goals in all competitions for the Parisians, including six finishes in the UCL, so his potential absence would be a huge blow to PSG’s hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals.

La Liga & Serie A: Griezmann hat-trick paces Atleti, Milan tops Roma

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Sevilla 2-5 Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann’s hat-trick helped pace Atletico on Sunday as Diego Simeone and Co. continue to apply pressure to Barcelona at the top of La Liga. Atleti remains seven points behind the Blaugrana in Spain’s top flight, after picking up its 17th victory of the season. The visitors scored twice in the first half with finishes from Diego Costa and Griezmann, before Koke and two more goals from the Frenchman extended the lead to 5-0.

Meanwhile, Sevilla did manage to pull back two late goals through Pablo Sarabia and Nolito, however, it was too late to complete a comeback.

Valencia 2-1 Real Sociedad

A brace from Santi Mina pulled Valencia to within two points of Real Madrid for third place in La Liga. The defeat for Sociedad keeps the bottom half side in 14th place, however, the side has a 10-point cushion above the relegation zone.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Malaga
Villareal 1-0 Getafe

 


Roma 0-2 AC Milan

A big victory for the Milan side has Gennaro Gatusso’s men back in contention for a top five place in Italy. Second-half strikes from Patrick Cutrone and Davide Calabria helped pace the visitors, as Roma suffered a big blow in the title race. Roma now sits 16 points behind league leaders Napoli, while already having lost earlier in the week to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League.

 

Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 2-3 SPAL
Fiorentina 1-0 Chievo
Hellas 2-1 Torino
Sampdoria 2-1 Udinese
Sassuolo 0-3 Lazio
Juventus vs. Atalanta (POSTPONED)

Usain Bolt claims he’s signed with professional team

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A former world-record sprinter is set to take his opportunity as a soccer player, however, he won’t reveal which club just yet.

[ MORE: Three things from Man City’s Carabao Cup triumph ]

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt revealed on Sunday that he has signed a contract with a professional side, although the 31-year-old wouldn’t state which club or where the side resides.

The veteran runner retired from track and field last year after winning eight Olympic gold medals in his career.

Bolt has been connected with several major European clubs in the past, including Manchester United — whom he has been a lifelong supporter of — and Borussia Dortmund.

Bolt was set to have a trial with the German side next month, although it’s unlikely that the Jamaican will have that chance now that he’s signed with a team.

Last month, he also trained with South African side Mamelodi Sundown.