The MLS coaching carousel is about to get cray-cray-crazy!

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This will be the most fascinating MLS off-season yet in terms of managerial shakeup and shake-out. Some positions are already open – although it is difficult to tell exactly how many, which is part of the ongoing fun.

Either way, others will almost certainly come open.

Let’s get this managerial wheel a’spinnin’ and see where it lands:

It’s hard to know how many coaching seats are open already because Columbus and San Jose are under interim direction. (Well, as San Jose manager Mark Watson cleverly observed about his profession, they are pretty much all “interim” managers, aren’t they?)

Watson took a struggling team at Buck Shaw Stadium, 3-6-6 at the time, and took it right to the edge of the playoffs. The side was 10-5-3 under Watson, some of that surely about getting some important players healthy. So, get a new manager now? Or does Watson get a year before the Earthquakes 3.0 (my words, not the club’s) move into their spanking new ground in 2015?

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Earthquakes wait a year. It seems less likely that Columbus will retain interim manager Brian Bliss, not in his current role, at least. New ownership is sure to look for a signature hire, as this is Anthony Precourt’s first big opportunity to make a decisive, aggressive move, to show where he wants to take the club.

Besides, it looks like the club has already interviewed Guillermo Barros Schelotto (pictured above). That’s according to a story in The Columbus Dispatch, and when it comes to Crew Stadium legends, Schelotto’s name is at the top of every Columbus fan’s list. It certainly should be.

FC Dallas, looking to replace Schellas Hyndman, seems intent on taking its time. But with important roster choices ahead (most MLS contracts expire Dec. 1, and the club has options on which to decide for several players), and with other player personnel elements to work through, wouldn’t it makes sense to get it done sooner rather than later?

source: Getty ImagesBy the way, I spoke to FC Dallas departing manager over the weekend. I always believed that he could manage as long as he liked in Dallas, owing to his special relationship with the Hunt Family. Not only did Hyndman know, love and respect domestic soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt for years, he coached Clark Hunt in college. Hyndman didn’t tell me that he was forced out … but listening to him discuss the situation, he sure didn’t sound like a man who was resigning on his own or retiring.

In Chicago, it seems fair to wonder if Frank Klopas’ job depends on him making the playoffs. You have to squint really hard to find much to like about his time as a technical director or a manager (having put himself in that position mid-stream in 2011, after ownership dismissed a man that Klopas (pictured, right) presumably helped to hire, Carlos de los Cobos).

The team, frankly, didn’t respond well to Arne Friedrich’s season-long injury. Questionable personnel decisions (Sherjill MacDondald, anyone?) and the inability to get more out of Chris Rolfe won’t help Klopas make a case.

John Hackworth at Philadelphia? Yeah, he’s still got a pretty young team, but the team’s grinding style cannot be called a selling point for the PPL Park faithful who continue to show up in a dodgy neighborhood for soccer that can get pretty hard on the eyes. Plus, playoff soccer has drifted steadily from view since early summer.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff recently reported that Ben Olsen would keep his job at RFK Stadium, although it’s still fair to wonder how fans of the Black and Red feel about such a thing? It seems dreadfully hard to sell it to the supporters considering a season that will go down, statistically speaking at very least, as one of the worst campaigns every witnessed in Major League Soccer. (It’s even harder to fathom how roster architect Dave Kasper will remain in employment, but there it is.)

source: Getty ImagesWho knows what will happen with Ryan Nelsen at Toronto? It seems unfair to fire the guy, who put an early end to his playing career to take over at BMO Field upon Kevin Payne’s request. Well, Payne is no longer in charge, so …

Rumors have persisted that perhaps former Earthquakes boss Frank Yallop (pictured, left) could be in position for this one (at TFC). Remember, the man in charge at BMO Field, Tim Leiweke, once helped hired Yallop at Los Angeles. Of course, Yallop has long been mentioned as Rennie’s possible successor at Vancouver if the Whitecaps make that anticipated change.

Speaking of a potential Cascadia Comeupance, the Sounders have made the playoffs, having sneaked in with the back-up lights on. But Sigi Schmid surely has to advance through one series, at very, very least, to keep the Washington wolves at safe distance.

Chivas USA is always a wildcard. Jose Luis Real could stick around. Or they could hire, I dunno, Diego Maradona! Or that character from the kid’s cartoon Go, Diego, Go for all we know. Or Guus Hiddink! Seriously, who knows what wackiness or pleasant surprises could fall from the Chivas tree of unpredictability?

And we’ll finish this odd (and yet fascinating) trot around the league here: the coaching carousel will spin that much faster if Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis takes the NYCFC position. That would open up a great position at Real Salt Lake, a team blessed with young talent and an owner who doesn’t mind spending prudently.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday