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What will Besler and Zusi’s DP deals mean for Major League Soccer?

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On Saturday evening at half time of the Seattle Sounders vs. Tottenham Hotspur friendly at CenturyLink, Major League Soccer received a huge boost.

Sporting Kansas City announced that both of their U.S. internationals, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, had agreed long-term Designated Player contracts and will remain in KC. That is massive.

[RELATED: Besler, Zusi sign new SKC deals]

First off, Besler had up to 10 European clubs chasing his signature after a stellar World Cup at the heart of the USA’s defense. Speaking earlier this week, Besler confirmed that Sunderland and Fulham had bid for him, while the likes of Aston Villa, Stuttgart and QPR were linked. Zusi had also been linked with a foreign switch, as training stints overseas has made people aware of the Floridians talent. As Dorothy once said famously in the Wizard of Oz: there’s no place like home.

Besler and Zusi have grown up in KC. They have been the shining lights in the clubs resurgence. They are stars of MLS.

To lose both of them overseas this summer would have been what many SKC fans would’ve expected. When you look around the U.S. national team, guys likes Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley plus others, they all hopped off the MLS train after a few seasons for the riches and fame of Europe. Besler and Zusi aren’t following them down that route.

Why should they dispose of the stardom, success and familiarity they enjoy in KC for a new challenge abroad? After all, KC are the reigning MLS champions and the club is one of the major success stories in the league. Some will question both players’ ambition and sat they should head to Europe to test themselves at a higher level, but if it isn’t the right situation for them to move… why would they?

Yes, they would likely make more money playing in Europe. However they are getting bumper DP deals to stay in the league and help MLS’ progression. If they head to a top-flight team in England or Germany, were they going to play regularly or be cast aside like many other Americans who have fled overseas? Who knows. We know that in KC they will be playing week in, week out and from the amount of MLS players who shone for the U.S. at the World Cup, we now know Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t afraid to throw players from the domestic league into the team. That likely had a huge part in both players’ decision.

Both players arrived as rookies together in 2009. Besler is a hometown boy who now captains SKC and his family took in Zusi when he made the move from Florida. The two have remained best buds since and have surged into the national team together from the top-class foundation given to them by Sporting. They are a package. A glimmering, glamorous and majestic package who are blazing a trail that future MLS stars to follow.

Sure, plenty of American youngsters will spurn MLS and head to Europe, these deals may not change that. However it does show plenty out there that you don’t have to go overseas to play for the U.S. national team. You don’t have to go overseas to gain the fortune. With the increased revenue from sold-out stadiums, TV moneys and sponsorship deals, it’s right here in MLS. Years from now, we may look back on Besler and Zusi’s decision to stay in MLS as one of the biggest moments in the league’s modern history.

Trailblazers. Trendsetters… Besler and Zusi are two dudes who are getting paid big bucks to become stars for a team they love, in a city they love.

You can’t put a price on that.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.