ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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There were big wins (so, obviously, also big losses as well) to examine during a busy stretch of MSL contests. Here is the weekly re-ordering following 26 rounds of league play:

19. D.C. United – There was a 40-minute, closed-door, post-game air-the-grievances thing after the latest disappointing result, a 1-1 draw with Toronto. But aren’t we way, way past that stuff around RFK? The team is poor. Period. All the clear-the-air meetings in the world won’t change that.

18. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen said his team deserved a win after a 1-1 tie at his old stomping ground, RFK Stadium. Not true. No one ever “deserves” anything; you just win, lose or draw.

17. Chivas USA – Jose Luis Real’s team took three of a possible six points at home in Round 26, a loss vs. Dallas and a big win over New York on Sunday. Apparently, when you lose to Chivas USA these days, you need to apologize to everyone. Ooof.

16. Columbus – Federico Higuain lost his mind and must now sit two matches. It happened at the end of an awful night, a 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, one that makes the Crew’s uphill slog toward the playoffs look that much more difficult.

15. FC Dallas – Dallas in the spring looked like a title contender. Dallas in early- to mid-summer looked like anything but a playoff team. With a win at Chivas and a draw at home with San Jose in Week 26, perhaps the club has settled into “average,” which was probably right all along.

14. Houston Dynamo – The worse loss of Dominic Kinnear’s time in charge of Houston (5-0 in Montreal) dimmed a week that began with a useful CONCACAF Champions League result.

13. Chicago Fire – The team helped tamp down the brush fires from last week’s PR kerfuffle with a big 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Mike Magee’s scoring has spigot, once flowing so fluidly, has been shut off lately.

12. New England Revolution – Kelyn Rowe’s sophomore season has been a bit quiet at times, but the man sure rose up with a fury, striking twice from long range in the Revs’ 5-1 dash-away from Philadelphia on Sunday. Rowe (pictured above) now has five goals and six assists in 2013.

11. San Jose Earthquakes – The Earthquakes’ saw a 2-0 lead on the road erased, but were definitely on the wrong end of a bad PK decision in Dallas. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

(MORE: MLS Round 26 week in review)

10. Philadelphia Union – Conor Casey’s goal put his team up, 2-1, early in the second half. Wait! What? … A bad decision from the man in the middle turned this one, but blame the Union for failing to cope with the disappointment and collapsing in an eventual 5-1 loss.

9. New York Red Bulls – Manage Mike Petke after a loss to last-place Chivas USA: “I apologize for that loss. We lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We had many chances, we didn’t capitalize on them, made some mistakes and had no creativity in the second half.  We looked like we were confused out there.”

8. Montreal Impact – Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins and Marco Di Vaio more or less had their way with the Houston Dynamo defense in a 5-0 statement at Stade Saputo.

source:  7. Vancouver Whitecaps – Martin Rennie’s team desperately missed injured attacker Camilo in the 1-0 loss to Los Angeles. That’s two shutouts (and losses) in a row; Chivas USA coming to town this weekend is a “gotta have” three points.

6. Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid’s second half adjustments were critical, as the Timbers had more or less ruled the first 45. Eddie Johnson’s huge goal (pictured right) was the difference in Sunday night’s massive Cascadia win.

5. Sporting Kansas City – No time to feel badly about Friday’s 1-0 loss to Chicago; Sporting Kansas City has a chance to take a big step toward 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League elimination stage when it faces CD Olimpa of Honduras on Tuesday night.

4. Colorado Rapids – Oscar Pareja’s young team had a week off to steel itself for upcoming road tests at Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles. We’ll know a lot more in two weeks about upside where the Rapids’ young lineup is concerned.

3. Portland Timbers – The mark of a complete coach is how he handles the bad times. Well, since a high-profile stoppage time win over L.A. back in mid-July, the Timbers are a humble 1-2-3 (a win, two losses and three draws). It’s time for Caleb Porter to get hold of this thing, because it’s going the wrong direction. Will Johnson’s healthy return will help a bunch.

2. LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan has always had a good left foot to go with an outstanding right. But who knew he had this in his “standing leg?” Donovan’s peach of a goal was the difference in a 1-0 win at Vancouver. And it moved the man closer to a huge achievement.

1. Real Salt Lake – Manager Jason Kreis called his team’s 4-0 win over Columbus the team’s most complete match this year. Meanwhile, anyone else think Kyle Beckerman, a defensive midfielder who scored two goals Saturday, deserves some mention, at least, in ongoing MVP conversations?

Russia regains FIFA Council seat after Mutko’s ouster

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GENEVA (AP) Russia has regained its place on the FIFA Council, six months after Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was blocked from re-election.

UEFA member federations on Wednesday elected Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, by acclamation as one of their delegates to FIFA’s strategy-setting committee.

The seat, which runs through 2021, was vacant since May when Mutko was formally forced to step down.

Mutko’s candidacy was blocked by FIFA’s then governance committee chairman, Miguel Maduro, because of a conflict of interest with his government work. Maduro, who was ousted by FIFA weeks later, said last week that the world soccer body’s leaders put pressure on him to protect Mutko’s position.

Meeting with British lawmakers, Maduro said he was told that his ruling on Mutko’s eligibility could threaten FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hold on power and “would be a disaster” for the World Cup.

Sorokin became the eighth of the nine European delegates on the 37-member FIFA Council. The ninth was left vacant in July when long-time Spanish soccer leader Angel Maria Villar resigned as a vice president of FIFA and UEFA after being arrested in a corruption investigation.

Villar was detained along with three other soccer officials, including his son, on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Interim replacements for Villar were to be confirmed later Wednesday at a meeting of the UEFA executive committee.

Predicting the FIFPro World XI for 2016-17

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With the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, releasing the 55 players who received the most votes from over 25,000 professional players from across the globe based on their play in 2016-17, plenty of usual suspects have been selected as the top players on the planet.

But who will make the final XI when it is announced in London on Oct. 23?

[ MORE: FIFPro nominees in full ]

With one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards selected by each professional surveyed, it is quite likely that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will make the team for the 10th straight season. Because, well, they’re Ronaldo and Messi.

Elsewhere there is plenty of debate as to who will make up the defense and midfield and even in goal.

Below I select my XI and I urge you to do the same in the comments section below.

Remember: we can’t always agree on everything but let’s get along…

JPW selects his FIFPro World 11

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Neymar JR (Paris Saint-Germain)

Karim Benzema signs new contract at Real Madrid

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Karim Benzema has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sargent to Werder Bremen

The French striker, 29, has become the latest star name to commit their future to the two-time reigning European champions with Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal all signing new deals over the past week.

Benzema will now remain at Real until June 30, 2021, with the Frenchman scoring 181 goals in 371 appearances as well as winning two La Liga titles, three European Cups and two Copa del Rey trophies during his time in the Spanish capital.

It is believed this new deal has a release clause of over $1.35 billion as Spanish clubs are now becoming increasingly wary of losing their star players a la Neymar leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite his expulsion from the French national team for over 18 months due to his alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving a sex tape and former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has been in fine form for Real since Zinedine Zidane took charge in 2015.

Benzema scored 19 goals in 48 games in all competitions last season and 28 in 36 games the season before that as his hold up play and ability to drift out wide or drop deeper crucial to getting the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Co.

That said, Benzema has scored just once in six appearances this season but Real are obviously happy with what he is producing aside from goals.

With question marks over the future of Bale at the Bernabeu, locking down Benzema shows just how important he is to Zidane’s attacking unit as they seek to seal a third-straight UEFA Champions League title.

FIFA open investigation into Chelsea’s youth transfer policy

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Chelsea could be in big trouble.

FIFA have confirmed they’re investigating Chelsea’s youth transfer policy yet again, specifically over the recruitment of foreign players under the age of 18.

What could the punishment be? The worst-case scenario is that Chelsea would be banned from signing any new players across its senior or youth levels but it is believed this situation isn’t as serious as previous investigations involving Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Via the Telegraph, FIFA had the following to say about the investigation: “As the investigation is ongoing, no further comment is possible for the time being.”

Chelsea released a short statement saying: “Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA Statutes and Regulations when recruiting players.”

It will be the third time in eight years that world soccer’s governing body have looked at Chelsea’s youth policy and back in 2009 they were handed a transfer ban for two transfer windows over the signing of French teenager Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007 but that was later overturned after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

Chelsea were also investigated last year over the signing of Bertrand Traore after images emerged of him playing for the club as a 16-year-old, before international clearance had arrived.

Spanish clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been found guilty after similar investigations took place with Barca banned from signing players for two transfer windows and the same happening to Atletico who can’t sign any new players until January 2018, while Real Madrid had their ban reduced to one window after an appeal.

In the UK both Liverpool and Manchester City have recently been handed fines and bans for not following rules over recruiting young players domestically.

For foreign players signing for a team in another country there are strict rules in place.

Their family must either be relocating for non soccer reasons to the country where the new club is based, they must live no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered with is within that 50km radius, or if they sign between the age of 16-18 the new club must provide them with housing, access to education and a soccer education.