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

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire

Late action (10:30 p.m. ET kick off)

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.