LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBUARY 08: Tom Ince of Crystal Palace looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park on Febuary 08, 2014 in London, England.

Tom Ince moves to Hull, with tribunal potentially deciding fee

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Since the English season ended in May, Tom Ince had been linked with a move to one of his father’s teams, with Inter Milan reportedly interested in bringing the 22-year-old midfielder to Italy. Today, however, Ince committed to staying in the Premier League, signing a two-year deal that will take him from Blackpool to FA Cup finalists Hull City.

Ince, who had been with the Tangerines for the last three seasons, spent the second half of the 2013-14 campaign on loan at Crystal Palace, where he made eight league appearances as the Eagles fought off relegation from the Premier League.

With his move to Hull, Ince will be joining the fifth club in his young professional career, having spent time with Liverpool and Notts County before joining Blackpool in the summer of 2011.

Now Ince secures a permanent move back into the top-flight, with the relationship Hull manager and former Manchester United star Steve Bruce had with Ince’s father Paul part of the process that put the midfielder in black and orange. From Sky Sports News, via the Press Association and The Guardian:

“I’ve known Steve Bruce on a personal and professional level for quite some years, being in a former team with my old man.

“I also know a lot of the players so it felt like home to me. I didn’t feel like a stranger walking into the dressing room, into the ground …

“To be given an opportunity to play again in the Premier League, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I’m relishing.”

Over two-and-a-half seasons with Blackpool, Ince scored 33 goals in 113 appearances while being named the Football League Young Player of the Year in 2013. During that time, Ince has also made 14 appearances for England’s U-21 national team, though he’s yet to earn a full senior cap.

With a opportunity to win regular time in the Premier League, Ince’s chances of breaking into Roy Hodgson’s team could improve. In fact, a 5-3-2 formation with Ince playing above Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone, behind Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, doesn’t look half bad.  If Ince can build on his strong performances in the Championship, the signing could prove a good fit for both player and club.

How much Hull has to pay to make that happen, however, remains to be seen. Though Ince was out of contract with the Tangerines, his young age means the Tigers will still have to send money to Blackpool. In theory, this compensates Blackpool for investing in Ince’s development, even though in this case, a good deal of that development happened in the Liverpool academy.

Right now, the clubs remain at an impasse, meaning an independent tribunal may have to set the fee. When Daniel Sturridge went through a similar process while moving from Manchester City to Chelsea in 2010, an independent tribunal awarded the Citizens £6.5 million: £3.5 million in initial fees; another £3 million in appearance bonuses.

While Ince is unlikely to draw that type of evaluation, he’ll still be subjected to the same process. If Hull and Blackpool can’t come to an agreement on compensation, an independent panel will decide what the Seasiders get from their investment in Ince.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET