Major League Soccer releases 2014 schedule, Sporting KC vs. Seattle to kick things off live on NBCSN

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On Monday Major League Soccer announced the schedule for the 2014 season as fans across MLS start to plan for this season.

In the lead up to the 2013 MLS Cup between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park, MLS revealed their entire schedule for the 2014 season — the last year in which 19 teams will compete for MLS Cup as NYC FC and Orlando City will join in 2015 — and some mouth-watering match ups are already sticking out.

The league’s 19th regular season will begin on March 8 from CenturyLink field as SKC travel to the Seattle Sounders, 3pm ET, live on NBCSN.

To see the entire 2014 MLS schedule, click here.

NBC Sports Network will now have a dedicated Friday night slot from June 27 through October 24 and in the third year of the network’s coverage MLS fans will have even more to look forward to. In total NBC Sports will show 38 regular season games on NBCSN and three on NBC. Plus the hugely popular MLS Breakaway will also return on NBCSN on August 2 and September 20.

As widely expected MLS will take a two-week break during the group phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, just like it did back in 2010 when the World Cup was in South Africa. The last MLS matches before the break are on June 11, one day before the start of the World Cup.

Some intriguing rivalry matches adorn the must see matches, here are a quick list of 10 you shouldn’t miss:

  • LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, Sat., March 8
  • Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York Red Bulls, Sat., March 8
  • Houston Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact, Sat., March 15
  • Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake, Sat., April 5
  • Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, Sat., April 19
  • Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy, Sun., June 1
  • San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire, Weds., July 23
  • San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders, Sat., August 2
  • Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy, Sat., August 16
  • New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew, Sun., October 19

A here’s a snippet of history for you here too, as MLS’s very own Dan Courtemanche reveals this fixture release is indeed the earliest in league history. Thanks, Dan.

From MLS’ release, this is just some of the MLS action you can look forward to exclusively in 2014 live on NBC Sports Network:

In the third season of its partnership, NBC Sports Group will open its coverage of the MLS season with six back-to-back Saturday afternoon matches, aligning with NBC Sports Group’s Barclays Premier League coverage. The broadcast package will feature MLS matches on Friday night slots on NBCSN from June 27 through October 24. All told, NBC Sports Group will broadcast 38 regular season games, plus three on NBC. Some of the highlights include two Fourth of July matches, LA vs. Portland and Houston vs. New York Red Bulls, and the California Clasico between San Jose and LA on June 28 at Stanford Stadium, all on NBCSN.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.