Southampton

Premier League 2014-15 preview: Southampton

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Southampton’s summer has been riddled with uncertainty as one of the largest and most shocking fire sale’s in Premier League history has taken place at St. Mary’s. Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Rickie Lambert have all left the South Coast club, as they followed manager Mauricio Pochettino out of the exit door. Those incredible sales raised over $175 million and the rebuild is well and truly underway.

A new era is on the horizon for Saints with Dutch legend Ronald Koeman their new manager and the the club will once again look to its famed academy to churn out players for the future. Southampton’s odds to be relegated have been slashed from 40-1 to 4-1 by the bookmakers and there is a real sense of doom and gloom when it comes to how Saints have been ruthlessly broken up. One of the PL’s most attractive teams in 2013-14 may be fighting for survival this season.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, $19 million), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, $14 million), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Loan)

Transfers Out: Luke Shaw (Manchester United, $55 million), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, $45 million), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, $9 million), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, $19 million), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, $35 million), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Loan)

Full PL schedule | Watch Saints live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: The Saints enjoyed their best-ever finish in the Premier League in eighth place and recorded their best ever points tally. Under former boss Pochettino they played a high-pressure game and talented English youngsters such as Shaw, Lallana and Jay Rodriguez stole the show. The South Coast club were third after the first few months of the season and there was serious talk about a top-six finish however a spate of injuries around the festive period but that to bed. Overall, one of the most successful seasons in club history, hence why so many of their players were cherry picked by England’s top clubs.

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Source: Southampton FC

Star player: Dusan Tadic

Tadic, 25, has been signed from Twente with big boots to fill but the Serbian international is more than capable of doing so. With Lallana off to Liverpool, Tadic is tasked with being Saints’ chief creator from midfield and he’s already has a promising preseason under his belt. He has scored 16 goals in each of his last two seasons in Holland and also led the Eredivisie in assists last year. If Saints deal with the players they’ve lost smoothly, Tadic’s play will be a big reason for that. If Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin remain at Saints, they will also be hugely important.

Coaches’ Corner: Ronald Koeman

Getting Koeman to leave Dutch giants Feyenoord was something of a coup for the ambitious club as the former FC Barcelona star has ushered in “Ronald’s Revolution” with wholesale changes. Koeman led Feyenoord to Champions League qualification last season and turned the Rotterdam club around after their were left in financial ruin. His status as one of the most respected defenders in European soccer during his playing days is undoubted and his high-profile should see plenty more new signings arrive between now and the end of August at St. Mary’s. Plus, his new assistant coach is his brother, Erwin, so there’s that. And he loves to Tweet.

PST predictsIt what has been an offseason of turmoil for the Saints it is very hard to predict how this will go. In many people’s eyes the dramatic exodus sees the club as one of the favorites for relegation but in truth they still have plenty of top class internationals on the books. If players like Schneiderlin and Rodriguez stick around and the $175 million they raised by selling players is spent wisely, they should be midtable at worst. That said, the dreaded “R” word is being whispered at St. Mary’s.

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.