Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next two expansion teams (after Don Garber’s Tuesday Q-and-A)

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Among the various topics Don Garber addressed on Tuesday, expansion occupied the most time, with questions about eight different sites garnering responses from MLS’s commissioner. Though we’d previously given our views on the most- (and least-) likely spots for the league’s 23rd and 24th franchises, Tuesday gave us new insight into what Garber’s thinking.

As a result, we have a new list. Here’s where we were. Now, here’s where we are:

1. Atlanta – If Las Vegas has odds on Atlanta as team No. 23 (and if they do, that’s pretty cool), they should take the wager off the board. Atlanta is so far ahead of the field at this point, it would take a major upset to see two other cities get expansion franchises before Arthur Blank’s making his announcement.

Part of that is the long relationship Blank has with Major League Soccer. Part is the value he brings as a potentially stable, committed owner. Geography plays a role here, too, as does showings like last night’s at the Georgia Dome. Add in a new venue in the discussion, and this is a slam dunk. And not the George Tenet kind.

Of the eight locations Garber was asked about on Tuesday, he spoke most glowingly of the ATL, saying, “We’re getting close.”

2. Minneapolis – The big news on Tuesday wasn’t that Minneapolis looks like the favorite for franchise No. 24. It’s that the Minnesota United FC group seems so far ahead of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

Consider what Garber had to say about the NASL team’s ownership group:

“Minneapolis is on the short list. Lots of interest there. We’ve had a high level of activity with the current Minnesota United ownership group … We think they’re smart. We think they’re focused, and they’re great community citizens.”

Do you hear that, Commissioner Garber? That’s NASL commissioner Bill Peterson telling you to get off his lawn. Poor guy.

3. San Antonio – The Scorpions looked like a good bet to compete with Minnesota for the final spot, but when asked about Texas expansion, Garber said “Expanding in Texas, that’s likely going to happen. Where that happens, when that happens, remains to be seen.” Compared to the enthusiast way the commissioner talked about Atlanta and Minneapolis’s prospects, it looks like San Antonio has some catching up to do. Maybe No. 25, if they can hold off Austin?

4. Sacramento – The Republic’s big to jump from USL PRO to the first division looks like a distant fourth in this race. Asked about the potential to expand into the market, Garber said, “Show that there’s a real appetite north of San Jose for professional, high-level soccer, and we’ll see what happens” – the type of noncommittal encouragement he could to any market. Lincoln, Neb. – want a team? Then show there’s a real appetite north of Texas for professional, high-level soccer. Then we’ll see what happens.

5. The Field – Garber also answered questions on four other markets, with deflecting answers ranging from “not … anytime soon” (North Carolina) to recommendations the market support existing teams (Cleveland). Though cities like St. Louis and San Diego — areas of constant interest to fans — didn’t come up in the Q-and-A, lack of potential owners in those markets lump them in with “The Field” – a group that looks increasingly irrelevant for slots 23 and 24.

Right now, are three, maybe four obvious candidates to slide into MLS’s last two expansion spots. On Tuesday, commissioner Garber made Atlanta and Minneapolis the favorite. “We’ll see what happens.”

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.