Don Garber

Atlanta’s new MLS franchise has already sold 14,000 season tickets

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There’s still three years until they will kick a ball in Major League Soccer but the league’s newest expansion franchise to arrive is already making waves. Atlanta’s MLS franchise, operated by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, has seen an incredible surge of interest in soccer in ATL.

[RELATED: Atlanta is MLS’ newest franchise]

So far over 14,000 season ticket applications have been submitted by soccer fans in the city, as Atlanta’s new 29,000 capacity soccer stadium is already half full. Those applications are in place after $50 deposits were made by fans towards securing seats in the brand new stadium.

From the 2017 season the franchise will share their home with the Falcons, as a roof divider will cover the top tier of the 70,000 capacity venue to make it a more intimate setting for soccer matches. For further reference on similar soccer configurations in MLS, see BC Place, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Here is a video of how that will work in Atlanta.

From the franchises information website, owner Arthur Blank spoke at a breakfast on Wednesday and has urged more fans to get on board by the end of 2014.

Speaking at a breakfast presented by Atlanta Magazine Wednesday morning, MLS Atlanta Owner Arthur Blank challenged soccer fans to fill the remaining 11,000 seats for MLS Atlanta games in the new Atlanta stadium by the end of the year.

Thus far over 14,000 seats have been committed by fans who put down a $50 deposit to become members of the MLS Atlanta Founder’s Club, which affords fans recognition in the new stadium, priority seating choices and other benefits. Founder’s Club members are able to reserve up to 8 seats in the new Atlanta Stadium.

The MLS Atlanta franchise will begin play in 2017.

With a real supporters culture growing in Atlanta over two seasons before the team even arrives, news like this is a huge boost for MLS. We all know that interest in Orlando and Miami as expansion franchises has been through the roof in recent months, but news surrounding the league’s new venture in Atlanta has kind of dissolved into the background. With a NASL side already present in the city, it is intriguing to see if Atlanta can become a true hub for the sport in the U.S. It has long been listed as a potential hotbed for soccer and we are beginning to see why.

However, with 14,000 people handing over $50 for season tickets deposits two years before the team is around, how many of those will disappear between now and then? Anyway, that’s the cynic in me.

This large number of season ticket sales, without the franchise having a name, a manager of any players, proves soccer can thrive in the South. Comparing it to rumored season ticket sales from the last few years around MLS, ATL is faring well.

Here are some approximate numbers from the past few seasons to give you an idea how impressive this is.

Total season ticket holders, per club, in MLS

Seattle Sounders FC – 32,000 (2010)

Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 15,500-16,500 (2011)

Toronto FC – 16,000 (2011)

Portland Timbers FC – 14,750 (2012)

Philadelphia Union – 12,000-13,000 (2011)

Sporting Kansas City – 11,000 (2011)

Real Salt Lake – 7,000-8,000 (2011)

Montreal Impact – 5,000+ (2012)

John Terry still hopes to remain at Chelsea beyond this season

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John Terry is a Chelsea legend.

It is the only team he’s every played for and even at the age of 35 the legendary captain of the Blues looks better than ever.

[ MORE: Wenger reveals bank talks ]

That’s why when he announced in January that the club wasn’t going to offer him a new deal and he’d likely be on his way this summer, fans of Chelsea reacted angrily and jumped to the support of Terry. He’s won four Premier League titles with Chelsea, a UEFA Champions League trophy, five FA Cup and three League Cups.

He is the most successful player in club history and despite his off-the-field issues, he is one of the greatest defenders England has ever produced.

Speaking to Soccer AM on Sky Sports in the UK, Terry revealed that he still believes he has a few years left in the tank and that he hopes it’s with Chelsea.

“I’ve got a couple of years left. Definitely I intend to keep playing, hopefully that’s at Chelsea, but if not it will be somewhere else,” Terry said. “I am definitely feeling good physically and I intend to play as long as I can. As a professional footballer you’re a long time retired, so I think not only for myself but for all of us we should get the most out of it and enjoy it while it’s there.”

With talk of a move to China, MLS or elsewhere in Europe, it seems like Terry still has his heart set on remaining on Chelsea.

The fact that he’s toned down his rhetoric in this interview suggests perhaps some headway has been made behind-the-scenes as Antonio Conte will arrive as Chelsea’s new manager in July following the 2016 European Championships where he coaches Italy.

Should Conte push for Terry to get a new one-year deal at Stamford Bridge?

Right now, Terry is still the best central defender Chelsea has. Despite his age and many believing it may be good for both parties to move on and for Conte to not have to worry about Terry’s huge influence in the dressing room, surely the Blues can’t just let a top-class center back walk free this summer?

Luke Shaw aiming to make Manchester United return this season

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 30: Luke Shaw of Manchester United warms up with Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Luke Shaw has been out-of-action for a half-year, dating back to a horrible injury in Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven in September.

[ MORE: LVG says Leicester will have to earn title ]

Shaw, 20, is hoping that spell on the club sidelines will end before the end of this Premier League season, as the $45 million buy from Southampton continues to progress toward match fitness.

From ManUtd.com:

“I am back outside now, still with the physio but, day by day, I am getting better and fitter. I am just going to keep pushing now until the end of the season and see what happens. At the moment, my leg feels really great every time I go outside. There was a bit of aching at the start but now they are all gone. It is just back to hard work now and hopefully I will see the fans before the end of the season.”

It’s a good goal for the youngster, but there’s obviously zero need to rush things. With the FA Cup surely a tempting proposition as well, Shaw will also need to be reintroduced to playing in matches. Would Louis Van Gaal want to risk that during some pivotal encounters in the race for a Top Four place?

Red Bulls acquired defender Aurelien Collin from Orlando City

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 15:  Aurelien Collin #78 of Orlando City SC heads the ball during an International friendly soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on July 15, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Orlando won the match 3-1. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The New York Red Bulls have acquired veteran center back Aurelien Collin from Orlando City SC in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The Red Bulls announced the deal for the 30-year-old Collin on Friday.

[ MLS: Red Bulls 4-0 FC Dallas ]

Collin, who is from France, was acquired by Orlando City ahead of its inaugural MLS campaign last season. Before that, he spent four years with Sporting Kansas City, where he won the 2013 MLS Cup and was named the MVP of the game.

Collin was named MLS Best XI in 2012 and earned three consecutive MLS All-Star appearances from 2012-2014. He has played professionally in France, Greece, England, Scotland and Portugal.

USMNT’s Tim Howard starts for Everton

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard smiles during practice Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in St. Louis. The U.S. men's team is scheduled to play a World Cup soccer qualifying match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Tim Howard is back in goal for Everton.

[ WATCH: Stream PL games via Live Extra

The U.S. national team legend, 37, returns for the Toffees and is named captain by under-fire manager Roberto Martinez.

Howard hasn’t played in a Premier League game for Everton since January 24 when the Toffees lost 2-1 against Swansea at Goodison.

Since then he has struggled with a calf injury and has been replaced by Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles as Everton’s starting goalkeeper. In the past few months Everton’s manager Martinez has come under increasing pressure from the fans as they’ve continued to coast along in midtable and were beaten in the FA Cup semifinal by Manchester United last weekend.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up this summer? ]

The New Jersey native has signed a deal with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids — a contract which makes him the best-paid goalkeeper in MLS history — who he will join on July 1 as he return to the U.S. to finish out his career.

After spending 13 years in England with Manchester United and Everton, it seems like Howard will get a final chance to say farewell to Everton’s fans in the last three weeks of the season.

Despite criticism from sections of Everton’s supporters this season, Howard has been a fans favorite for most of his decade on Merseyside.

Below is the starting lineup for Everton as they face Bournemouth on Saturday at Goodison (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra).