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Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

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When we went live with our post on Atlanta being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, we originally called it the league’s 23rd team. Technically, Miami doesn’t have a team yet; David Beckham has merely exercised his option. Particularly after MLS called Atlanta No. 22, we made the change. Twenty-three teams are being planned, put one is still theoretical.

As it concerns the bigger “24 by 2020” picture, however, you have to include Beckham United, meaning there’s probably only one slot open in this round of expansion. If the feelings Garber conveyed in last month’s teleconference are as accurate regarding No. 24 as they were about Atlanta, there’s a huge favorite in the quest to grab that final expansion slot.

Last month, our ranking went five deep. This time, we don’t need to go beyond two:

1. Minneapolis – The picture in Minnesota is complex, with Garber speaking favorably of Bill McGuire’s Minnesota United FC group last month. But as we learned earlier today, the Vikings are “stepping up” their pursuit. With Garber having said the league would like another team in the midwest, everything is lining up to go to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The choice seems to be whether to go with the promotion model (ala Seattle, Portland, Orlando, and Vancouver) or the big partner route (ala New York City FC, Atlanta, and … oh yeah, Seattle).

2. The Field – Places like San Antonio and Sacramento might have better claims than others, but perceived hot spots like St. Louis and San Diego have some superficial national appeal. With that in mind, we could blow out this list, but what’s the point? There no other market nearly as attractive as Minneapolis in terms of ownership, interest, and potential venues, a disparity that has lumped every other candidate into a big “not Minnesota” pile.

That there’s some inner-market competition ensures all bidders will continue to push each other, making it even more difficult to other cities to catch up. Though the scarcity of spots means another bid could develop a sense of urgency, right now, there’s Minneapolis and there’s everything else.

Report: Manchester City makes final bid for John Stones

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and John Stones of Everton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on January 16, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Take it or leave it.

Manchester City has made a final push for Everton defender John Stones, and has set its last offer at $52 million. Last month, the Citizens made the same exact bid for the 22-year-old, which was rejected by Everton.

[ MORE: Italian legend Christian Vieri looks to join Chinese Super League ]

City is said to be looking to avoid overpaying for Stones, after compensating Porto over $55 million for centerback Eliaquim Mangala two years ago.

While Stones has gone on record saying that he wants to play for manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, it remains to be seen if Everton will part ways with its prized defender.

NASL weekend preview: Rayo OKC faces stiff test against Minnesota

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Following a midweek loss against FC Edmonton, the New York Cosmos will try to rebound at home against Puerto Rico FC.

The Cosmos currently have two losses during the Fall Season, having conceded 10 goals in six matches, which is the second-most in NASL.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview ]

With no unbeatens remaining, Spring Season champion Indy Eleven looks to keep its place near the top of the table against Miami FC.

Minnesota United looks to build off of its strong start against league leaders Rayo OKC, with the two teams separated by a mere two points.

Meanwhile, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers continue to search for their first win of the Fall Season against the struggling Jacksonville Armada.

Saturday

New York Cosmos vs. Puerto Rico FC

Ottawa Fury vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Jacksonville Armada

Miami FC vs. Indy Eleven

Rayo OKC vs. Minnesota United

Sunday

FC Edmonton vs. Carolina RailHawks

Liverpool keeper Karius to miss two months

MEYRIN, SWITZERLAND - JULY 22:   Loris Karius of 1. FSV Mainz 05 in action during the pre-season friendly match between 1. FSV Mainz 05 and AS Monaco at Stade des Arberes on July 22, 2015 in Meyrin, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
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He was tabbed to be Liverpool’s opening day starter in goal, but Loris Karius could now miss the first two months of the Premier League season after suffering a hand injury in Wednesday’s International Champions Cup loss against Chelsea.

[ MORE: Real looking at Sissoko, Verratti as midfield options ]

The 23-year-old was brought to the Reds this summer from Bundesliga side Mainz for over $6 million.

Karius opted not to represent Germany at next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in order to avoid missing any game action with Liverpool. Unfortunately, the young keeper will now likely miss between eight and 10 weeks.

Italian legend Christian Vieri looks to make comeback

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 19:  Christian Vieri poses with the UEFA Champions League Trophy during the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour 2012/13 on October 19, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images for UEFA)
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His career ended over seven years ago, but former Italy international Christian Vieri is looking to make an improbable comeback in a country that continues to attract big stars.

The 43-year-old Vieri is reportedly coming out of retirement to join the Chinese Super League, and posted a video on Twitter confirming his plans.

Last playing in 2009, Vieri finished his career where it began — in Italy — with Atalanta. During his career, the striker played for 10 clubs in his native country, while also spending time in Spain and France with Atletico Madrid and Monaco, respectively.

Vieri made his name with Inter Milan, where he recorded six straight seasons with double-digit goals. At the height of his career with Internazionale, Vieri netted 27 times across all competitions during the 2002/03 season.