Nuremberg's Mike Frantz, right, and Bayern's Mario Goetze challenge for the ball during a German first division Bundesliga soccer match between 1.FC Nuremberg and Bayern Munich in Nuremberg, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Bundesliga Wrap: Bottom sides failing to pull themselves up

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With the Bundesliga title pretty much all sewn up (Bayern Munich are likely planning their parade route already), attention focuses on two places in Germany: the race for Europe and the struggle to avoid the drop. Both are pretty tight, but with none of the bottom three able to get a point this weekend, it’s starting to look like we already know who’s headed down.

Friday’s Results

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
That’s three losses in a row for Gladbach, and five games without a win, with the Champions League is looking but a distant dream now. Meanwhile, Leverkusen look content in second – with Bayern 13 points ahead, there’s no need to fight for first, while Dortmund’s struggles probably give Leverkusen more comfort than the four-point cushion should provide.

Saturday’s Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 Braunschweig
Frankfurt hardly played nice with the Bundesliga’s bottom side, but when you’re starting the day just a couple points above the drop, it’s likely emphatic wins are exactly what you’re after. Johannes Flum opened the scoring after just seven minutes, with Alexander Meier and and Stefan Aigner adding two more before the first half finished.

Freiburg 1-1 Hoffenheim
Freiburg, now a point above the relegation places, must’ve been devastated when Anthony Modesto got on the end of a ball from Sven Schipplock. The 85th minute equalizer canceled out Jonathan Schmid’s 68th minute opener. Hoffenheim’s point makes little difference, as they remain in 11th.

Nurnberg 0-2 Bayern Munich
USMNT defender Timothy Chandler left the match early with a suspected hamstring injury, with forward Daniel Ginczek following barely ten minutes later. In that context, it’s remarkable that relegation-threatened Nurnberg held on as long as they could against table-toppers Bayern. Mario Mandžukić scored between the injuries, but Nurnberg looked like they just might get back in it – until Philipp Lahm doubled Bayern’s lead early in the second half.

Werder Bremen 1-5 Borussia Dortmund
Well. If ever there’s a way to break out of your slump, scoring five goals is it. Dortmund had just one win in their five previous matches and went to Werder Bremen just two points above Schalke, three above rivals Gladbach. Then Robert Lewandowski happened. And Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Both scored a goal apiece in each half. They were also kind enough to give a goal to Manuel Friedrich, a defender signed in November to provide cover for Dortmund’s many injuries. Werder did manage to get a goal in the 89th minute, but Levent Aycicek’s shot was nothing but a consolation.

Wolfsburg 3-0 Mainz
The two sides started Saturday even on points, but Wolfsburg’s stronger squad ran out the winners, keeping them in Germany’s final Europa league position. Ricardo Rodriguez started the scoring in the 59th minute by converting a penalty. Bas Dost put in another seven minutes later, and Luiz Gustavo finished it all up with a header from close range.

Hamburg 0-3 Hertha Berlin
Hertha will be thrilled to finally secure another win, after a string of poor results saw them slip out of the European spots. Now they’re knocking on the door of sixth again, thanks mostly to Adrián Ramos who, despite having a penalty saved, scored two and provide the assist to Sami Allagui, who opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

Sunday’s Fixtures

Stuttgart vs. Augsburg
Stuttgart may be playing Europa League football, but they’ve lost their last four in a row, and are sitting just two points above the relegation zone. Augsburg, meanwhile, look like they’re considering making a late play for the European positions, with an unbeaten run of seven, including four wins.

Schalke vs. Hannover
The week ends with Schalke trying to re-close the gap on Dortmund, but with Hannover having won their last two matches 3-1, it might not be so easy to inch closer to third. Still, the hosts are undefeated through four and don’t have to worry about the Champions League for another couple of weeks, so it should be a routine home victory for them.

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

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The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT
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FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.

Beckham group abandons latest plans for Miami MLS stadium

David Beckham
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All signs seemed to point toward an all-too-familiar outcome for the David Beckham-led investment group hoping to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the city of Miami: another failed plan in their bid to build a brand new stadium.

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Earlier this month, newly-joined all-world sports executive Tim Leiweke warned that groups or individuals currently owning the various parcels of land surrounding the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium, the latest site Miami Beckham United (MBU) had chosen, were making “unrealistic” demands and threatened to derail the project at that location.

Today, it’s been reported across South Florida that the group has altogether abandoned plans to build their stadium at that particular site. Miami city commissioner Francis Suarez confirmed that MBU were “moving in a different direction” — quotes from Local 10 News:

“It’s going to be withdrawn from the next agenda because the Beckham group has not acquired the private properties that are needed to construct the stadium on that site.”

“The residents expect us to hold these teams to the fire,” Suarez said. “A lot of times they’re financed by wealthy people and they want some sort of a public subsidy, which is very controversial as well, which is why we were going to take it to referendum.”

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

On Sunday, during halftime of the league’s Eastern Conference final, MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked about the Miami stadium situation, to which he responded, “We think Miami will be a great market. We found a reasonably good site. I’m confident that we’ll get something done there.”

MBU is reportedly being held to something of a deadline by the MLS board of governors, which meets every year ahead of MLS Cup, with this weekend’s sit-down thought of as a target date to have something concrete going forward. Meanwhile, Sacramento Republic FC, an MLS expansion hopeful currently playing in the USL (third division), announced last week they would be moving forward with building their brand new MLS-sized stadium, expansion bid or not.