Graham Zusi Matt Besler

Watch Live: Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders (Lineups and discussion)

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Defending Major League Soccer champions Sporting Kansas City begin their second title defense today in Seattle, with the Sounders hosting the first game to MLS’s 19th season. With coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET, the game will be broadcast on NBCSN, with a live stream available a NBC Sports Live Extra.

Having only lost starting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen during the offseason (retirement), Sporting return 10 starters from a team that claimed MLS Cup last December in a 10-round shootout win over Real Salt Lake – a group that includes U.S. internationals Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. After three straight seasons near the top of the Eastern Conference, Peter Vermes’ squad brings as much certainty as any team into the 2014 regular season. We know Sporting will be good.

WATCH: NBCSN Major League Soccer coverage available on NBC Sports Live Extra

Though they’ve made the playoffs every season since joining MLS in 2009, Seattle has become a wild card. As talented as team in the league, the Sounders could ride the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso, and Marco Pappa to their first league title. After a terrible finish to the 2013 season that nearly cost head coach Sigi Schmid his job, the Sounders still have to find the right configuration for all their new parts. With title expectations clashing with last year’s humbling, the stakes have never been higher for Seattle.

Win on Saturday, and lingering doubts will be assuaged. A loss at home in the opener — even to a team as talented as Sporting — will immediately rekindle memories of last fall.

Dempsey, just returning from international duty, misses out on Schmid’s starting XI, as does first-choice left back Leo Gonzalez. For Sporting, Vermes is without his starting fullbacks (Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic), with Kevin Ellis and Josh Gardner getting opening day stars. Midfielder Lawrence Olum also gets the call, at Oriol Rosell’s expense, with the absence of Paolo Nagamura meaning Zusi will join Benny Feilhaber in midfield.

Lineups

Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; DeAndre Yedlin; Chad Marshall; Djimi Traoré; Dylan Remick; Marco Pappa, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle; Kenny Cooper, Obafemi Martins

Subs: 

Sporting Kansas City: Eric Kronberg; Mark Ellis, Aurélien Collin, Matt Besler, Josh Gardner; Lawrence Olum, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi; Jacob Peterson, Dom Dwyer, C.J. Sapong

England’s Fabian Delph to miss out on EURO 2016 through injury

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Fabian Delph of Manchester City looks on during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Fabian Delph will not be playing for England at EURO 2016 after picking up a groin injury in training.

Delph did not travel to Sunderland for England’s friendly against Australia on Friday, with manager Roy Hodgson saying he “probably won’t be in the 23 [final roster spots].”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

Delph’s inclusion in the provisional 30-man roster was met with some criticism, as the Manchester City midfielder managed just eight Premier League starts this season and made only nine appearances off the bench.

This news will now boost the hopes of Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, who are also battling to make the final roster in the center of midfield.

In his press conference on Thursday, Hodgson stated that Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has not trained with the team yet, as his fitness will be closely monitored leading up to EURO 2016. Hodgson also confirmed that Manchester United’s 18-year-old Marcus Rashford will make his international debut against Australia.

Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders

Copa America trophy — 2015 Copa America
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Sixteen teams enter next month’s Copa America Centenario tournament, and only one emerges as the champion of North, South and Central America.

Will it be Chile who continues its reign? Will Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay find revenge? Can a CONCACAF side thrive with the tourney in the United States?

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

There a varying degrees of likelihood that a country rises above the field to win this year’s competition. In this post, we’ll rank the sides from 16 to 1, unlikeliest to likeliest.

16. Haiti — Happy to be there? Circling the Peru match on its calendar.

15. Venezuela — If Salomon Rondon can make things happen, who knows?

14. Bolivia — Lots of work to be done here.

13. Jamaica — Winfried Schaefer’s team has struggled since its strong Gold Cup.

12. Peru — Inexperience will be a problem.

11. Paraguay — Wins have been hard to come by for Los Guaraníes.

10. Panama — Are they primed for a run, or too old to outlast its group opponents?

9. Ecuador — Dangerous but inconsistent, La Tricolor has an easier group from which to advance than most.

8. Costa Rica — If the USMNT falters under the pressure of hosts, Los Ticos will be most likely to benefit in Group A.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

7. United States — Hosting is a big deal, and Jurgen Klinsmann seems ready to take a more orthodox approach to his lineups. The Yanks will run more than a few teams ragged, depending on how the chips fall.

6. Uruguay — Navigating the absence of Luis Suarez, which could last the group stage or longer, knocks them down a peg.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

5. Mexico — It’s another golden generation for El Tri, and it’s not far-fetched to imagine Mexico makes a run at everything.

4. Colombia — James Rodriguez goes back to being the focal point of an attack, and will remind us just how good he is while under the spotlight.

3. Chile — Repeating is hard, and Chile had a lot of home cooking good fortune in its hosted run to a first title.

2. Brazil — No the side won’t be fully loaded, but Dunga has shown he knows how to run a side with or without Neymar.

  1. Argentina — This could be Lionel Messi’s year to lift hardware for club and country.

Ferdinand lauds Mourinho hiring: “This winner is now a wounded animal”

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Rio Ferdinand isn’t waiting for Manchester United to make it official, lauding the hiring of Jose Mourinho as his former club’s latest manager.

Ferdinand said Mourinho’s personality is “made for this great club”, as the longtime Red Devils defender took to Facebook to hail the Special One.

[ MORE: Five things United must do under Mourinho ]

Ferdinand, 37, made 455 appearances for United in a 19-year career that included stops at West Ham, QPR, Bournemouth and Leeds.

He says Mourinho will be a motivated and dangerous boss when he takes control in place of fired manager Louis Van Gaal.

“After his recent unsuccessful time at Chelsea in the final year, I can assure you this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouthwatering appointment. Jose went from winning the League Cup & Premier League to a season of disappointment at Chelsea and I am certain he will want to restore all of that very quickly.”

LISTEN: Copa America drops official song “Superstar” (Pitbull warning)

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Pitbull has joined forces with Becky G to make the official song of the Copa America Centenario, “Superstar”, which they will perform before the final.

I know Pitbull for liking light beer, and Becky G for going on dates with Sebastian Lletget of the L.A. Galaxy.

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

This, in all its pop glory, has a catchy-enough hook and a stadium-like chant that hopes to catch on like “Seven Nation Army”. The kids should dig it.

That’s all I got. Enjoy the jammage.