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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.

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.