Ahead of Atlanta’s expected MLS entry, are NFL stadium shares the way to go?

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On Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET, Major League Soccer is set to announce that their 23rd franchise will be based in Atlanta.

You can watch that announcement live, right here, and over here at ProSoccerTalk we will be breaking down all of the reaction and analyzing what this means for North America’s top flight.

With New York City FC expected to announce they will play at Yankee Stadium for at least thee years and the Minnesota Vikings aiming to “step up” their pursuit of an MLS franchise in their new downtown stadium, all of this expansion and stadium news got me thinking; is it okay for MLS sides to share their home venues with an NFL or MLB franchise?

Of course in an ideal world, every single MLS team would have their own soccer-specific stadium and we’d all love it and praise the amount of money being pumped into the league, but this isn’t an ideal world, my friends.

(MORE: Report – New York City FC to call Yankee Stadium home for three (!!!) years)

The smart, sensible and slightly less exciting option is to merge with NFL teams when possible. The franchise in Atlanta is an example of that, as well as Minneapolis looking to have an MLS team now that a new precedent has been set. With so many MLS teams struggling from playing in huge NFL stadiums in the past, when attendances levels were much lower and the lack of atmosphere inside the vast stadiums was a huge issue, now MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems to have changed his thinking on new franchises not having their own soccer-specific stadium.

Now, technological improvements have seen these multi-purpose stadiums work quite well.

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The false roof at BC Place encloses the lower bowl and still keeps the atmosphere on a ‘Caps matchday.

Look around MLS with the Seattle Sounders sharing the Seahawks CenturyLink Field, (they may be the exception to the rule, as not every market will have a huge soccer fanbase like Seattle’s) the Vancouver Whitecaps play at BC Place where a false roof is lowered down to enclose the lower-tier and the New England Revolution play at Gillette Stadium owned by the Kraft family who run the Patriots.

That last example will give everyone a worrying reminder that MLS teams playing in NFL stadiums doesn’t always work out that well, but I’m optimistic it will, in the long run.

(MORE: Minnesota Vikings “stepping up” bid for MLS franchise)

With Atlanta’s plans including a similar design to BC Place, the lower tier of the stadium will more than suffice for 25-30,000 Georgians looking to get on the MLS bandwagon. Similar plans are also in place for the Vikings’ stadium downtown, as two of the riskier MLS expansion franchises will take to soccer pragmatically.

It may not be ideal but in terms of costs and sensibility, piggy-backing off of new NFL stadiums is a smart move. You’re basically getting a free stadium which would’ve have otherwise gone empty for most of the year and handing it a franchise in the fastest growing of all the major league’s in North America. Hopefully the owners will spend more money on buying players for their new MLS franchise, rather than having to fork out extra cash to build a soccer-specific stadium. As long as that is the case, it’s a big win for both the league and the teams involved.

The output is relatively low and the income for the league, if Atlanta, New York City and possibly Minneapolis get it right, is sky high. The smart and sensible option for the next wave of MLS expansion franchises is to grow the brand into new markets with relatively low spending. Sharing NFL stadiums means the risks are low and the potential for success is high.

If done correctly, there’s no real reason why MLS-NFL stadium sharing can’t be a success.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham