Talks surrounding Major League Soccer’s 24th franchise are beginning to heat up considerably, as the mad scramble for a slice of MLS’ pie is reaching fever-pitch.
With Atlanta set to be announced as MLS’ 23rd franchise on Wednesday afternoon now other markets wanting to become the 24th franchise, which MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously said would be the limit for the foreseeable future, Minneapolis-St. Paul seems to be right at the front of the list.
According to reports out of the Twin Cities, the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings are “stepping up” their bid to bring MLS to the land of 10,000 lakes.
The Vikings’ vice president of public affairs, Lester Bagley, said the team are working to secure an MLS expansion franchise to play in their new downtown Minneapolis stadium, which is set to open in 2016.
“We’ve been stepping up our conversations with the MLS,” Bagley said. “There are definitely others interested in the market.”
Other interested parties include Bill McGuire, owner of the NASL’s Minnesota United and the Minnesota Twins ownership group who have teamed up to try and bring MLS to Minnesota, in a separate bid to the one proposed by the Vikings.
However with New York City FC and Atlanta both expected to play in large venues scaled down for soccer, it seems as though having an MLS team play in the Vikings’ new home wouldn’t be an issue for the league.
The race for franchise number 24 is well and truly on and Minnesota looks to be way ahead of the rest.
In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.
Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.
[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]
Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 [ ARCHIVE ]
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)
Score one for the Midlands.
In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.
[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]
It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.
Premier League Players of the Week
Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City
Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton
Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton
Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United
Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United
Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford
Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton
Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.
[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]
The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.
At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.
A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”
[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]
Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.
Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.
Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.
[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]
While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.
Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.
I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.
He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.
But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.
I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…
[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]
Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.