Major League Soccer

MLS Expansion update: 12 cities apply for a franchise

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“Come one, come all. Welcome to the Major League Soccer lottery!”

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That’s what it feels like as Jan. 31 was the deadline for cities hoping to secure an MLS franchise in the next round of expansion with the expansion fee reported to be over $150 million for each team.

12 cities from across the U.S. have now put in their formal application, with the league office confirming on Tuesday that the following cities have all submitted their bids.

  • Sacramento
  • Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg
  • Phoenix
  • San Diego
  • St. Louis
  • Detroit
  • Nashville
  • Charlotte
  • Raleigh/Durham
  • San Antonio
  • Cincinnati
  • Indianapolis

Now, the waiting game begins.

With MLS growing to 22 teams for the upcoming 2017 season with the addition of Atlanta United and Minnesota United, LAFC will arrive in 2018 to take the number of teams to 23. David Beckham’s team in Miami is currently on hold as they continue their search for a stadium site which puts their status as team number 24 in some doubt.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has stated his goal of adding four more teams in the coming years to expand the league to 28, but more specifically two more teams will be added for the 2020 season to take the league to 26 teams. The decision on who those two expansion franchises will be will be made midway through 2017 and will come from these 12 candidates who have submitted applications.

With the 12 cities formally submitting their bids, who seems nailed on for the next round of expansion to become MLS’ 25th and 26th franchises?

St. Louis appears to be at the top of the list with their plans to house an impressive stadium downtown from ownership group SC STL which is headed by Paul Edgerley who is part owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Considering the huge success of club friendlies and U.S. national team games in STL in recent years, plus the relocation of the NFL’s Rams to LA, their ownership group is extremely confident of getting the deal done.

Sacramento Republic
Sacramento Republic’s plans for a new downtown stadium

Another Midwest city is also near the top of the list, with second-year team FC Cincinnati showing there is a real hunger for the sport in the southern Ohio city. Average crowds of over 17,500 in the third-tier USL smashed all records in their first-ever season as a franchise in 2016. Surely they’re right at the top but they could come in the second wave of expansion.

The impressive ownership group behind USL side Sacramento Republic FC has also seemed highly likely to get a franchise with investors of the Sacramento Kings and San Francisco 49ers on board. However, there is some confusion around the MLS bid for Sacramento with rumors suggesting it does not involve the Republic and instead a separate bid by a group of investors led by Kevin Nagle and including Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman and her husband Dr. Griff Harsh. Is Sacramento’s bid in jeopardy? Still, Garber is adamant Sacramento will have a team in MLS by the time it has 28 franchises.

San Diego also appears to be favored by Garber as he collected their bid in a ceremony on Monday, the day after the city hosted the USMNT’s friendly against Serbia. With Landon Donovan, Stu Holden and other big names in the U.S. soccer community on board, San Diego’s location next to the Mexican border and soccer mad Tijuana is also an intriguing opportunity. It may have to wait for the next window of expansion but there’s no doubting the appetite for a team, especially after the NFL moved the Chargers to LA.

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St. Louis’ downtown stadium

Plenty of other intriguing sites also stick out for the expansion committee with Detroit and San Antonio showing strong fanbases for lower-tier teams in recent years, while the likes of Tampa Bay, Phoenix and Indianapolis also have strong bids in place.

Making the decision about all of this, Garber’s MLS’ expansion committee is made up of New England Revolution’s Jonathan Kraft, Orlando City’s Phil Rawlins, the Philadelphia Union’s Jay Sugarman, Chicago Fire’s Andrew Hauptman and Columbus Crew SC’s Anthony Precourt. These guys will be very busy in the months to come as MLS’ impressive growth continues.

One thing is for sure, the plan to expand to only 28 teams by 2026 could be scrapped because plenty of these cities have extremely strong bids to house an MLS franchise in the next few years.

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Detroit’s MLS bid

LIVE, UCL – Chelsea vs. Barcelona; Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas

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Two can’t-miss matchups are on display as the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs continue on Tuesday afternoon.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Chelsea and Barcelona continue its terrific recently rivalry over the past two decades with Ernesto Valverde’s side traveling to Stamford Bridge to face Antonio Conte and co. At the same time, Bayern Munich hosts Turkish giant Besiktas at the Allianz Arena.

Lionel Messi, who has yet to score against Chelsea in eight games, will be looking to break his own five-game goal drought while also keep Barcelona’s Champions League hopes alive against one of his club’s toughest opponents. Messi will be playing up top alongside Luis Suarez, with both Paulinho and Sergio Busquets sitting deep behind them to keep Chelsea from posing too much of a threat on the counter attack.

For Chelsea, the Champions League remains the last trophy the club can theoretically win, and Conte has named a strong side, though without a recognizable No. 9, with Eden Hazard playing as a false nine.

Bayern Munich is looking to reach the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in the last nine years, and they’re facing a side who’s in the knockout stage for the first time. Vagner Love leads the line for Besiktas with Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca looking to create behind. Former Real Madrid centerback Pepe starts on the backline, and will look to stop Robert Lewandowski.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary of the two UCL last 16 games, while we will have you covered for analysis and reaction from both games right here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Chelsea vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas – 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Tottenham prepare $70 million summer bid for Zaha

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In a statement of intent, Tottenham is reportedly preparing to bring in one of the Premier League’s most electrifying wingers.

The Times in London reports that Spurs are set to offer Crystal Palace a $70 million transfer fee to sign Wilfried Zaha, bringing the Ivory Coast international back to a big six club for the first time since 2014. Zaha famously was the last signing of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but by the time the now-25-year-old arrived, David Moyes was the manager and Zaha never found a place in the Man United first team.

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Since returning, Zaha has found his form and this season has four goals and an assist for Crystal Palace in 20 Premier League matches as the club is now treading water above the relegation zone. Last season, Zaha scored seven goals and dished out nine assists in 34 starts in the league.

Zaha’s potential signing likely means either a change in formation or the departure of either or both Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela, both who play on Zaha’s preferred left side regularly.

The report states that the signing could be a way to galvanize some of the supporters for next season in which the club will play in the re-built White Hart Lane.

Sargent signs first professional contract on his 18th birthday

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Josh Sargent’s 18th birthday is one he’ll never forget.

The young American phenom was finally able to sign his first professional contract on Tuesday after turning 18-years old, passing the FIFA threshold for when a foreigner can sign a pro contract. Sargent has been training with Werder Bremen’s youth teams for the last few months and has even trained with the first team and featured for the Werder Bremen U23s.

“We’ve gone over all the formalities and Josh signed his professional contract with us earlier,” Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann said on Tuesday afternoon. “Again, we’re delighted he decided to join us. He’s settled in brilliantly since the turn of the year.”

[READ: UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas]

Sargent will continue to train with the youth teams and reserves, and will be eligible to feature for the Werder Bremen first team for the 2018-2019 season.

Orlando City sign defender Sane from Werder Bremen

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After making a number of moves to improve its attack this offseason, Orlando City SC is now splashing the cash to improve its backline.

The club announced on Tuesday the signing of veteran centerback Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on a permanent deal. It appears that with less than six months left on his contract and Sane not in Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt’s plans, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer.

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“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”

Sane started 27 times for Werder Bremen during a struggling 2016-2017 season, but had made just 11 appearances this season for the Bundesliga side. He’s also made 25 caps for Senegal, but the French-born defender hasn’t appeared for them since 2015. Perhaps a good start to the season in MLS could get him a surprise spot in the World Cup squad.

The 30-year-old joins a rebuilt starting lineup featuring other veterans as Orlando City looks to win in the near term, after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.

While the team lost Cyle Larin and Kaka in the offseason, Jason Kreis and co. brought in Dom Dwyer late in the 2017 season, Justin Meram, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason.  Along with a couple of new outside backs, Sane is the first signing to shore up the leaky middle of the park for Orlando, one that the club’s fans hope will lead Orlando City to a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference in the least in 2018.