Will Bruin;Boniek Garcia

Major League Soccer’s playoff pace, timing utterly nonsensical

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The pace and rhythm of Major League Soccer’s playoff stinks. It’s broken, largely ineffective and fairly nonsensical. There’s no other way to say it.

It’s really about a larger problem with MLS priorities: League stability now largely achieved, steady growth now a pleasant reality, Major League Soccer can now lean into the business of refining its product. And nowhere is refining (“reforming” actually, in this case) more important than in year-long scheduling. The concerns are myriad, including the problematic issue of playing through FIFA fixture dates, TV time slots that don’t make a lot of sense, the loss of opportunity in a lack of simultaneous final-day kickoffs and more.

Over the last few days, we’ve seen another troublesome, pot-holed road of MLS scheduling: a playoff docket that works against the league in so many ways, in limiting ticket sales and in stripping away any chance to build meaningful post-season momentum.

Let’s start here: Major League Soccer is committed to its playoff system. Not everyone agrees it should be this way; a day never passes in MLS supporter circles without impassioned debate over whether traditional world soccer models – single table, no playoffs, plus promotion-relegation – should decide the championship. But American sports are about playoffs, and I happen to believe that’s fine.

So MLS is committed to playoffs, and fair enough. League deciders favor the playoffs so much that three years ago they added two teams to the post-season field, getting more teams involved not only in the post-season, but in the truly exciting stretch run, the dramatic playoff races that (league officials hope) create memories, adding interest and fans along the way. So, fair enough to all that.

But it makes no sense to draw a big red circle around your post-season and point toward that show cow all year – and then fail to make it a priority in overall scheduling.  The league builds and builds and builds toward the playoffs – and then “Poof!”  So much of it is over in about 10 minutes.

(MORE: Dynamo president Chris Canetti talks about low turnout)

If we isolate scheduling, it really looks like the playoffs are just something MLS sticks on the back of the regular season. As in, “All right, let’s get this over with!”

First thing that happens: Teams often get two or three days to sell the first match. That’s why Seattle had just 32,204 in attendance for its elimination game against Colorado, a contest that kicked off just two-plus days after the final regular season kick. A few days after that, Seattle was back on the field again, this time playing before 38,507. Both are great numbers in domestic soccer – but well below average for the Seattle Sounders.

Along with the final regular season match, MLS policy forced Sounders FC to ask its fans to buy tickets three times within seven days. And that’s a tough ask. Bottom line, when Seattle is having trouble selling tickets to important matches, something has gone very wrong.

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Both Seattle playoff matches at home so far fell well south of this swell attendance number; this was the final regular season match at CenturyLink.

Houston had issues selling playoff  tickets, too, no real surprise considering the Dynamo didn’t know it was in the post-season until final day – and then had seven days to sell two matches. (Yes, other sports, NBA, NHL, etc., face tight sales windows at playoff time. But as we all know, and yet sometimes conveniently forget during these conversations, MLS is not the NBA or even the NHL.)

TV becomes problematic, too, with so little time provided to sort out the particulars. MLS had major trouble ginning up network interest in last week’s elimination matches. Neither of tonight’s matches (where the league’s largest market club, New York, could be eliminated) will appear on an English-language national outlet.

Aside from ticket sales and missed opportunities to create sponsor involvement and TV interest, MLS gives itself and its clubs zero chance to build some real marketing momentum along the post-season way.

The season ends. Three or four days later, two teams are gone. A week after that, four more are out.

Think about that: Within 11 days of the final regular season whistle, 6 of 10 teams are gone! The bulk of the playoffs – remember, that big red circle the league has pointed to over an entire year – are history in just 11 days.

That is what MLS wants its playoffs to be about?

The single-game, 4th-vs.-5th elimination match is fine – but put it on the weekend after the final regular season match. (And for heaven’s sakes, stop putting one of the first MLS playoff contests on Halloween! People are out and about, not home watching sports.)

(MORE: MLS loses opportunities with no final-day simultaneous kickoffs)

Then stretch these conference semifinal series over two weekends. Give them some room to breathe. We see fantastic momentum build during playoff series runs in baseball, basketball and hockey. Those are multi-game sets, of course, and MLS is fine with its two-game, home-and-away format – but give them a chance to create some energy in the market, at least.

None of this even addresses issues of fairness or technical quality. Play, travel, play, travel … that’s hardly a recipe for great soccer.

Mostly though, MLS just doesn’t give itself a chance to exploit the meaningful post-season narratives, the memory makers that create club history and build legacy. And that’s a real shame.

It’s not that difficult: Add a couple more regular season weeknight dates – and then avoid them at all cost during the post-season.

Generally, when creating the overall schedule, MLS needs to start with a playoff schedule that makes sense, and then back into the regular season from there.

Report reveals world’s most valuable players under the age of 21

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on April 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Watch out for these guys in the next few years.

The folks over at Soccerex have put together a handy list of the most valuable players under the age of 21.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

There’s no surprise that plenty of Premier League stars are in the 20 player list, with four of the top nine hailing from the PL.

Schalke 04 have three players inside the top eight as the Bundesliga side continue their impressive record at developing young stars.

[ MORE: Zlatan reveals MLS offer

Anthony Martial is the clear winner as the Manchester United and France forward is valued at over $10 million more than his nearest competitor. Plenty of other names on the list have been linked with moves to Premier League clubs this summer, while Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Kelecho Iheancho also feature among the most valuable youngsters in world soccer.

Below is the list in full, with many factors such as media perception, years remaining on contract, history of injuries and their clubs average selling value all calculated when coming to this valuation.


  1. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) – $52.1 million
  2. Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) – $41.1 million
  3. Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) – $38.2 million
  4. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) – $37.8 million
  5. Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich) – $33.9 million
  6. Breel Embolo (Schalke 04) – $28.1 million
  7. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – $24.9 million
  8. Max Meyer (Schalke 04) – $23.9 million
  9. Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) – $22.1 million
  10. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) – $21.98 million
  11. Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras) – $21.97 million
  12. Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – $21.4 million
  13. Riechedly Bazoer (Ajax) – $21.2 million
  14. Niklas Sule (Hoffenheim) – $18.4 million
  15. Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Monchengladbach) – $16.6 million
  16. Giovani Lo Celso (Rosario Central) – $15.8 million
  17. Ruben Neves (FC Porto) – $15.6 million
  18. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund) – $15.5 million
  19. Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) – $15.3 million
  20. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) – $15.2 million

Bob Bradley linked with Hull City job in Premier League

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Bob Bradley coach of  United States during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship against Mexico at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Former U.S. national team head coach Bob Bradley has been installed as the bookies favorite to take over at Hull City in the Premier League.

ProSoccerTalk understands that there has yet to be any formal contact between Hull and Le Havre about Bradley’s services.

[ VIDEO: Pulisic scores for Dortmund ]

Bradley, 58, has yet to coach in England — if he is appointed he’d be the first-ever American to be in charge of a Premier League team — and in the past his name has been brought up surrounding vacant positions at Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland and Fulham.

A report from the Hull Daily Mail claims that Hull are looking across Europe for a new manager to replace Steve Bruce who stepped down last week after four years in charge at the KCOM Stadium. Roberto Martinez, current caretaker manager Mike Phelan and Steve McClaren are also said to be in the hunt.

This link with Bradley comes alongside reports of a potential American takeover at Hull but co-owner and current chairman Ehab Allam recently put talks over the sale of the club on hold until after the summer transfer window ends.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley – “That’s Football” ]

As for Bradley, the New Jersey native is the current manager of Le Havre in Ligue 2 in France but it is well known that Bradley has been waiting for a chance to manage in the top-flight of one of Europe’s elite leagues.

After assembling an impressive coaching resume around the globe since he left the U.S. setup in 2011, Bradley appears a good fit for the Tigers.

He worked wonders in a perilous situation in Egypt as he took the national team to the brink of the 2014 World Cup at a time of extreme turmoil in Egypt. He then went to Norway and on a tight budget took newly-promoted Stabaek to a comfortable ninth-place finish in his first season in charge and they then finished third and challenged powerhouse Rosenborg for the title in his second full season in Norway.

Bradley has since moved on to Le Havre in France’s second-tier and after arriving midway through the 2015-16 campaign they agonizingly missed out on the last promotion spot on the final day of last season with just one goal separating the Normandy club from gaining promotion to Ligue 1.

Fans of the U.S. national team have kept Bradley close to their hearts since U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann in the summer of 2011 and many would love to see him take charge of a Premier League outfit.

Bradley is unlikely to get many resources from Hull’s owners, the Allam family, as Bruce blamed his exit on a failure to add new players this summer. Owner Assem Allam has fallen seriously ill in recent months and has left his son Ehab in charge but he and Bruce butted heads which led to the English manager departing less than three weeks before the new Premier League campaign.

With the Allam family hailing from Egypt the links to Bradley seem to add up as the job he did when in charge of the Pharaohs from 2011-13 was nothing short of miraculous.

Let’s see what direction this moves in but Hull could certainly do a lot worse than hiring Bradley who has a strong background in getting the best out of teams with small resources and the players currently at Hull would certainly slot in nicely with his soccer philosophy.

Man City beat Dortmund on PKs after Pulisic scores late goal

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 28:  Kelechi Iheanacho (R) of Manchester City contests the ball against Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Borussia Dortmund during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on July 28, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Manchester City beat Borussia Dortmund on penalty kicks at Shenzhen Longgang Stadium in China as Pep Guardiola picked up his first win as City’s manager and both teams completed their 2016 International Champions Cup campaigns with a 1-1 draw in regulation.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza ]

On a pitch which cut up badly, Dortmund started brightly but after a raft of changes at half time City were the better team in the second half as Guardiola gave plenty of his more experienced players a run out.

One of those players grabbed the goal as Sergio Aguero tapped home a flowing move 12 minutes from time to hand City their first goal of preseason but right at the death 17-year-old U.S. international Christian Pulisic — who came on at half time and impressed on the right flank — slotted home to make it 1-1 and send the game to penalty kicks.

Young goalkeeper Angus Gunn saved three spot kicks as City eventually won 7-6 on penalties.

City now have just one more preseason game before they being Guardiola’s debut season in the Premier League, as they play Arsenal in a friendly in Sweden on Aug. 7.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in Chelsea’s win over Liverpool ]

A shaky start for City saw goalkeeper Willy Caballero give the ball away and Ousmane Dembele was clean through but Nicolas Otamendi blocked his shot brilliantly.

Jesus Navas then raced up the other end and picked out Fabian Delph but he scuffed his shot wide. Emre Mor curled a shot just wide and Dembele blasted an effort miles over the bar after another bad giveaway by City as Dortmund’s high-pressing was catching out their defense.

During a first half water break Guardiola barked orders at several of his players including Ukrainian winger Oleksandr Zinchenko who looked bright in spots. Despite looking more dangerous, Dortmund couldn’t break through and right on half time Kelechi Iheanacho had a great chance after good build up play but Roman Burki saved well from close range.

Wholesale changes took place at half time with U.S. national team starlet Christian Pulisic coming on for Dortmund who made a host of changes. Man City brought on Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva at half time with some of their big-hitters getting some minutes under their belts.

With all the changes the game was disjointed but City looked the more likely to take the lead.

Wilfried Bony, another half time sub, looked bright as he turned and hit a shot on goal which was saved and then cleared. Aguero then smashed an effort over the bar as City pushed hard for their first win, and goal, of preseason so far.

Silva then set up Bony on the edge of the box but he smashed another effort just over the bar, while late on Gonzalo Castro went clean through but drilled his effort over.

Aguero’s goal then arrived and it was a beautifully worked team goal.

Young center back Tosin Adarabioyo sprayed a long ball out to former New York City FC left back Bersant Celina and then Aleix Garcia combined with Silva on the edge of the box and the latter slotted the ball across to Aguero to tap home.

Dortmund had a strong shout for a penalty kick in stoppage time as Shinji Kagawa went down but then Pulisic popped up to slot home with the last kick of regulation after City switched off from a short corner.

In penalty kicks Gunn was the hero as he saved three penalty kicks.

VIDEO: USMNT’s Pulisic nets late equalizer for Dortmund vs. Man City

Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, left, celebrates with Felix Passlack, right, after scoring the opening goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Hamburger SV in Dortmund, Germany, Sunday, April 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Christian Pulisic is making quite a name for himself.

The 17-year-old U.S. international came on at half time of Borussia Dortmund’s International Champions Cup game against Manchester City in Shenzhen, China on Thursday.

[ MORE: City beat Dortmund on PKs ]

He looked bright on the right flank, giving Jason Denayer plenty of problems, and he saved his best moment until last.

Pulisic popped up to slot home with the last kick of regulation after City switched off from a short corner.

He also scored his spot kick in the shootout but Dortmund ended up losing to City on penalty kicks 6-5.

Watch the goal below as Pulisic popped up at the right time to squeeze the ball home.