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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.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Leicester face Sevilla; Juve head to Porto

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City applauds the crowd in defeat after the Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs take place on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Leicester City of the Premier League head to Spain to face Sevilla in the UCL last 16 despite Claudio Ranieri‘s men battling for survival in the Premier League. The Foxes, as always, are the big underdogs in Spain as Sevilla have won the UEFA Europa League in each of the past three seasons and Jorge Sampaoli’s side are battling for the title in La Liga.

As for Leicester, they’re just two points off the bottom of the PL as they haven’t scored in their last six outings and have lost five on the spin as well as being dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier Millwall at the weekend. So yeah, Sevilla head into this game as the heavy favorites and will hope to take a healthy lead to the King Power Stadium with them in two weeks time.

In the other UCL clash on Wednesday FC Porto host Juventus as the Portuguese and Italian giants collide at the Estadio do Dragao. Porto finished behind Leicester in the group stage, while Juv battled it out with Sevilla and clinched top spot. Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain top of Serie A and will look to Gonzalo Higuain to deliver the goals away from home. It promises to be an intriguing tactical battle in northern Portugal.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Sevilla vs. Leicester City – 2:45 p.m. ET
FC Porto vs. Juventus – 2:45 p.m. ET

Man United’s stroll at Saint-Etienne comes at a cost

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 22:  Jose Mourinho, manager of Manchester United looks on before the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between AS Saint-Etienne and Manchester United at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on February 22, 2017 in Saint-Etienne, France.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Manchester United beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 in their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg clash on Wednesday, but Jose Mourinho will be more concerned by injuries picked up ahead of the EFL Cup final on Sunday.

[ MORE: Mkhitaryan, Carrick injury updates ] 

The Red Devils advanced to the last 16 of Europe’s second-tier club competition after a resounding 4-0 win on aggregate against the Ligue 1 side but with goalscorer Henrikh Mkhitaryan hobbling off in the first half and Michael Carrick removed in the second half, Mourinho will have some injury problems to sort out ahead of this weekends final against Southampton at Wembley.

Eric Bailly was sent off for two quick yellow cards in the second half but that didn’t impact the outcome as United cruised into the Round of 16 which will be drawn on Friday.

United have now lost just one of their last 25 games in all competitions. They are well and truly on a roll.

[ MORE: Europa League scoreboard ] 

United controlled the early stages and went ahead after 15 minutes when Juan Mata picked the ball up on the left flank, drifted inside and picked out Mkhitaryan’s run as the Armenian playmaker flicked home. 1-0 to United on the night as the Red Devils led 4-0 on aggregate.

Mata again got free down the left in the first half and his cross hit two Saint-Etienne defenders and almost went in, while Mkhitaryan hobbled off soon after clutching his hamstring.

With Marcus Rashford coming on for Mkhitaryan, he almost made it 2-0 as Ashley Young‘s cross just evaded him. At the other end Saint-Etienne barely threatened as Loic Perrin sent a tame header in on goal which Sergio Romero saved easily.

In the second half United spurned good chances as Marouane Fellaini fired into the side-netting with teammates wide-open and then Paul Pogba went down in the box easily under a challenge. Zlatan Ibrahimovic then fired a shot just wide after another good break from Rashford as United dominated proceedings with link-up play between Pogba and Ibrahimovic imperious.

Carrick was then taken off with Bastian Schweinsteiger coming on in his place as it appeared that United’s veteran midfielder had a calf issue.

Bailly was then shown two quick yellow cards around the hour mark (he will miss their next European game) which saw United play out the game with 10-men and that buoyed the home side slightly.

However, United coasted through to the last 16 with Rashford and Ibrahimovic going close to doubling their lead late on in front of a raucous home crowd.

Vietnamese players banned for two years after penalty protest

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Flag bearer, Hoang Quy Phuoc of Vietnam arrives during the Opening Ceremony ahead of the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon Asiad Main Stadium on September 19, 2014 in Incheon, South Korea.  (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
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The Vietnamese Football Federation has imposed two-year bans on two players and suspended a coach for three years after their team was involved in a bizarre penalty protest during a league match on the weekend.

[ MORE: China or MLS for Rooney? ]

Long An players were furious at a late penalty awarded by referee Nguyen Tr?ng Thu to Ho Chi Minh City when the score was locked 2-2 late Sunday.

After initially walking off the pitch, the players returned to the field but goalkeeper Nguyen Minh Nhut turned his back as the penalty was taken, conceding a goal.

The whole team then stood motionless and allowed Ho Chi Minh City to score two more goals as the margin blew out to 5-2.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

In a statement, the VFF said that Mimh Nhut and captain Huynh Quang Thanh would banned for 24 months, “Due to disrupting the match, not respecting the decision of the referee and causing damage to the reputation and honor of the Vietnam Football Federation.”

Coach Ngo Quang Sang has been banned for three years, as has club chairman Vo Thanh Nhiem, who quit following the game.

Zaza scores stunning goal for Valencia vs. Real Madrid

TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 23:  Simone Zaza (C) of Juventus FC celebrates after scring the opening goal during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Frosinone Calcio at Juventus Arena on September 23, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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Simone Zaza scored a stunner for Valencia against Real Madrid in La Liga.

Yes, that Simone Zaza.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The Italian international striker, 25, spent the best part of six months on loan at West Ham United this season and just didn’t look interested as he failed to score in 11 appearances in all competitions. That prompted Slaven Bilic and the Hammers to cancel his loan deal from Juventus and the forward then joined Valencia in La Liga in January.

Fans of West Ham will be scratching their heads when watching the video below as Zaza swiveled and smashed home a perfect volley to put Valencia 1-0 up against Real at the Mestalla on Wednesday.

Simply sublime.