Report: Bradley to Toronto done, set to earn $6.5 million per season after $7-$10 million transfer fee

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Within a matter of hours, Michael Bradley’s switch to Toronto FC has gone from Twitter sensation to verified move, with sources confirming to ESPN that the 26-year-old midfielder is on his way back to Major League Soccer. For a fee of between $7 and $10 million, the Reds are set to acquire the 82-time U.S. international from Italy’s AS Roma, with Bradley set to earn near-$6.5 million per season at BMO Field.

As with anything that hasn’t been officially announced, the exact numbers are still blurry. Reports have Bradley’s contract in Toronto as either a five- or six-year deal. While one source is telling ESPN that Roma will get $7 million to allow Bradley to return to MLS, league sources are saying Roma will get “in excess of $10 million” for a player they bought from Chievo in the summer of 2012.

[MORE: Michael Bradley-to-Toronto: Take a moment to suspend your whys, consider how far MLS has come]

Bradley’s reported salary would be a huge step up from the wages he garnered at Roma. Paid €800,000 after tax in Italy (roughly $1.1 million), the former Metro Stars midfielder would be making between five- and six-times more money to shift back to Major League Soccer. While they’ll certainly be questions about the motives of a 26-year-old midfielder swapping Serie A for Toronto FC, the pure financial motivation makes it difficult to argue with Bradley’s move.

One lingering question with the deal is who will pay the transfer fee, though if the Clint Dempsey example is any indication, Major League Soccer may have again broken out the checkbook. While it was initially assumed the Seattle Sounders had paid the price of Dempsey’s summer acquisition from Tottenham, reporting by Sports Illustrated later revealed the league had paid the former Spur’s transfer fee. As the 2013 season progressed, it was revealed other teams had benefitted from new policies allowing the league to pay part or all of certain players’ transfer fees.

One remaining snag for Toronto is their Designated Player situation. With the acquisition of Jermain Defoe, Toronto have used up their allotment of DP slots, with the former Spurs striker joining Matias Laba and Gilberto on the Reds’ books. Laba, an Argentine midfielder brought in under Kevin Payne, appears to be the on his way out, with Toronto looking for a  home for the 22-year-old former Argentinos Juniors midfielder. If he can’t be traded, Laba’s contract will have to be renegotiated (or, its salary cap hit paid down by allocation money) to make room for Bradley.

source: AP
Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA’s 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.)

It’s an unfortunate externality of the Bradley transaction, but with the former Heerenveen, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Aston Villa midfielder returning to Major League Soccer for the first time since 2005, it’s a small price to play to add a marquee name. Bradley not only becomes a focal point in midfield for Ryan Nelsen’s team, but he also represents a huge acquisition for Tim Leiweke – the Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chief executive who is overseeing the revitalization of TFC.

Today, Leiweke’s taken two huge steps toward replicating the star power he accumulated in Los Angeles, where he served a similar, architect’s role. With the Galaxy, Leiweke was crucial to the acquisitions of David Beckham and Robbie Keane, and while Bradley and Defoe may not carry the same star power, their signings represent an instant credibility boost to a team that’s never made the playoffs.

[MORE: Defoe to Toronto FC official… and maybe Michael Bradley, too? (or “How Taylor Twellman broke Twitter”)]

That lack of success has translated into only 17 wins in the last three years, something that’s led to a major hit at BMO’s turnstiles. A team that regularly sold out their park over its first five years has seen a near-10 percent drop in attendance over the last two, with average crowds at Toronto games hitting an all-time low of 18,131 last season.

The acquisitions of Bradley and Defoe give Leiweke ammunition to reverse that trend. Not only has he given Toronto the type of talents they’ve never had in the franchise’s five-year history, but he’s also given supporters reason to halt the exodus from BMO Field.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.