MLS expansion deal good as done: Major League Soccer about to announce Miami as franchise No. 22

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If there is a worse kept secret around Major League Soccer, someone will have to point it out to us. At this point, it’s only a surprise if Major League Soccer does not announce Miami expansion on Wednesday.

Here’s the latest as Major League Soccer aggressive expansion push continues, as as the league dives into South Florida for a second go-round: (An under-funded Miami team, playing up the road in in Fort Lauderdale, came and went in MLS more than a decade back.)

The Miami Herald reported Monday that Beckham has exercised his heavily discounted MLS expansion option, which was always a centerpiece in this deal. This isn’t really newsy news, just more of a technical point, but an important one, that this thing has been legally consummated. The deal does, according to the Herald’s story, remain contingent on Beckham and his ownership group finalizing plans on a privately-funded stadium.

Some good reporting in the Herald story details on Beckham’s plans around Miami this week, Tuesday receptions with Miami city leaders, a planned press conference for Wednesday morning, etc.

And now pretty much everyone is reporting that Beckham will take part in the press conference, which MLS commissioner Don Garber will also attend.

So, is there any mystery left here?

Besides, we’ve been talking about this thing since December. No, wait, check that … since October! No, wait … for darn near a year now.

According to the Miami Herald story, negotiations are ongoing for potential stadium sites for a 25,000-seat stadium, including splashy waterfront lot at PortMiami.

Beckham and his group of investors will pay just $25 million for the franchise; that rate was worked into Beckham’s original agreement with league back in 2007. And it’s quite a discount considering New York City FC’s group paid $100 million to join up just last summer. It cost Montreal owners $40 million to come aboard three years ago, and Columbus Crew (a much smaller, less glamorous market) changed hands for a reported $60 million last summer.

This will be franchise No. 22 – a little weird considering Major League Soccer is about to launch its 19th season with 19 teams. New York City FC and the Orlando City Lions are signed up to come aboard in 2015.

This report says the team could begin passing and trapping in MLS as early as 2016, while others have indicated 2017 would be the start date. Given the history of Major League Soccer grounds and the hoops that must be jumped to get these facilities off the ground, put your money on the back half of that window.

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.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

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.