Setting the scene in South Wales ahead of Cardiff vs. Swansea

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As I headed towards the Welsh Capital on the train this morning, the sleepy foothills of the valleys to my right acted as a juxtaposed precursor to the atmosphere brewing in Cardiff.

Excitement, bedlam and anticipation all neatly packed into the first-ever South Wales derby being played in the Premier League on Sunday. Wales and its biggest city has come alive to a soccer rivalry that promises to produce fireworks, fervor and passion on and off the field.

To help set the scene, it’s worth nothing that a massive police presence is evident as I pull into Cardiff Central station. Heddlu (meaning Police in Welsh) are everywhere, mounted on horses, dressed in riot gear and no doubt these guys have been up since the crack of dawn helping to escort the 2,000 plus Swansea fans along the M4 and into Cardiff safely in the revolutionary tactic known as ‘the Bubble.’

(MORE: Rivalry and passion define soccer’s heyday in South Wales – Part I)

As I got off the train at Cardiff, it was evident that the party had been going on around here for most of the morning already. Outside many of the pubs lining the city center streets were groups of middle-aged men who already seemed to be two or three beers deep… at least. Usually rivalry games likes this have earlier kick off times to stop fans drinking before the game… the South Wales derby begins at 4pm local time. The decibel levels should be through the roof with the inhibitions gone after a few pints and local bragging rights at stake.

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Cardiff fans congregate in the local pubs ahead of the game.

Around the stadium men of a certain age are lingering around, with locals waiting for the Swans fans to arrive on buses but the whole ‘Bubble’ operation had averted any ugly scenes that have marred this fixture in the past.

(MORE: A tale of two cities in South Wales – Part II)

The pitch looks immaculate, the segregation is in place and the PA system is booming with music to liven things up. Fans from both teams are starting to filter into the stadium, as Cardiff and Swansea will kick off the first-ever game in the Premier League that will not have an English team in action…

At last, South Wales has arrived in the PL. The stage is set for Cymru to show it’s true identity as a soccer nation.

We’re ready here at the Cardiff City Stadium… are you?

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.