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.

stl
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.

detroitformatted
Detroit’s MLS bid

Transfer rumor wrap: Messi to Man City; Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Manchester City are said to have “stepped up” their interest in Lionel Messi.

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A report from the Daily Record claims Man City met with representatives of Messi, 30, last week with the Argentine superstar reportedly unhappy with life at Barcelona after watching Neymar leave, plus legend Andres Iniesta yet to agree to a new contract.

The report goes on to claim that Messi’s new contract last month was announced before it was signed and it has yet to be formalized with Barca offering him wages over $1.4 million per week.

With Neymar leaving Barca for PSG, anything now seems possible and Man City certainly hold the ace if Messi was to ever leave Barcelona with Pep Guardiola on board.

Would the deal for Messi be a new world-record transfer deal, surpassing Neymar’s move to PSG? It is mooted that the deal could be a free transfer if Messi doesn’t sign the new deal and he could join for free ahead of the 2018-19 Premier League season.

After Barcelona lost 5-1 to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup to open up this season and they continue to struggle to bring in Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele to replace Neymar.

Will Messi leave Barcelona? It always seems highly-unlikely. Yet, with Pep around and Man City able to afford to pay him whatever he wants, if he leaves Barca they seem like the most likely club he will join.


In what could be another big-money move to the Premier League, Chelsea target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted he is still thinking about leaving Borussia Dortmund.

Earlier this summer it appeared that Aubameyang, 28, was heading to the Chinese Super League while Chelsea and AC Milan were both reportedly interested.

However he remained at Dortmund and the Bundesliga’s golden boot winner last season scored in their opening day win against Wolfsburg on Saturday and has five goals in three official games for BVB to kick off 2017-18.

Speaking to Radio Montecarlo Italy, the Gabon international said the following about his future.

“I am still reflecting on whether I should leave or not. This club and these fans are incredible, but if I want to grow, I feel I need to leave,” Aubameyang said.

Intriguing.

With Chelsea still trying to offload Diego Costa, who is currently exiled in Brazil and staying away from the club, they will soon have an open slot up front. Costa is likely to join Atletico Madrid before the transfer deadline on Aug. 31, with a loan move elsewhere to be arranged until January when Atleti’s transfer ban ends.

Judging by Alvaro Morata’s rusty display for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, plus only having Michy Batshuayi in reserve, Antonio Conte will want to strengthen his forward options considerably. Aubameyang ticks all the boxes and it is expected Dortmund would accept an offer of around $90 million for the forward.

Burnley sign Chris Wood; Swansea reportedly agree Clucas fee

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Burnley have signed New Zealand striker Chris Wood from Leeds United in a club-record deal believed to be worth $19.4 million

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The Clarets announced on Monday that Wood, 25, has arrived at Turf Moor from Leeds on a four-year deal after he scored 27 goals in 44 games for the Elland Road club in England’s second-tier last season and 44 goals in 86 appearances in all competitions for Leeds over the past two seasons.

Wood’s arrival will be seen as a direct replacement for Andre Gray after Burnley sold him to Watford for $24 million last week.

“My ambition has been to play in the Premier League for years,” Wood said. “I’ve had tastes of being in there but I’ve never had the chance to give it a proper bash. Coming here I feel I’ve got a proper opportunity to do that. I’ve never started a Premier League game and this what I want to do.”

Alongside Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes Burnley boss Sean Dyche now has a bruising trio of strikers to choose from as Wood’s main attributes are his aerial ability, powerful shot and hold up play.

Wood has previous PL experience with West Brom and Leicester City in the past, scoring twice in 13 appearances across his spells with those two clubs.


Elsewhere Swansea City have started to splash some of the Gylfi Sigurdsson cash (he signed for Everton for $62 million last week) with multiple reports stating the Welsh outfit agreeing a fee with Hull City for midfielder Sam Clucas.

Clucas, 26, impressed throughout last season in Hull’s midfield and it is believed the two-way central midfielder will cost Swansea around $20 million.

After losing Sigurdsson and Jack Cork, Swansea boss Paul Clement has now added some extra steel to central midfield as the Swans look to bounce back from their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United over the weekend.

The deal is expected to be announced in the next 24 hours.

Preview: New-look teams collide as Man City host Everton

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Manchester City welcome Everton to the Etihad Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with two Barcelona legends colliding on the sidelines.

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Both Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman have spent big this summer to rebuild their respective teams and both Man City and Everton secured shutout wins on opening weekend.

For City it has been all about strengthening their defense with Kyle Walker, Ederson, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo all arriving this summer. Everton have added Gylfi Sigurdssson, Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez to share around the goalscoring responsibility after Romelu Lukaku‘s departure.

In team news Man City have both Ilkay Gundogan and Mendy fit, while Everton will be without Ross Barkley who is recovering from a groin injury ahead of his expected departure from the Toffees in the next 10 days. New club-record signing Sigurdsson will play at Man City, Koeman confirmed.


What they’re saying…

Pep Guardiola on Man City being favorites: “It’s the same expectation as last season. But after 4-0 for Manchester United, we are less favorites. And when we lose one game, we are not definitely favorites. When we lose three games in a row, we are not favorites. So it’s simple.”

Ronald Koeman on getting a shutout: “If we get a clean sheet on Monday I don’t know if it will be a miracle. Maybe it will but we do know we are strong defensively, our defensive organisation is strong. The key to getting a good result is what we do when we have the ball and that’s what our preparation will be about. You have different ways to play, we will look at the best way to get a good result.”


Prediction

Expect an open, entertaining game with City doing most of the pressing. Everton will take a while to click in attack, while City have no problem in that department. 2-0 to Man City.

Neymar slams Barcelona; Mbappe kicked out of Monaco training

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It is all happening in Ligue 1.

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Fresh from dazzling on his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday Neymar — he scored twice, had two assists and generally pulled of some ridiculous skill, especially for his second goal — has launched a scathing attack on those in charge of Barcelona.

Speaking to reporters after the game the Brazilian superstar, who joined PSG from Barca in a world-record $262 million 10 days ago, revealed that many of his former teammates are not happy with the way the Catalan club is being run.

“I spent four beautiful years there and parted happy But with them [the board], no. For me, they are not the people who should be there, for the direction of Barca. Barca deserve much better,” Neymar said. “I cannot speak now I am in another team. I don’t know what’s going on there, but I see my old team-mates sad, and it’s that which makes me sad because I have a lot of friends there. I hope that things will improve for Barca and that they will become a team that can rival others.”

Intriguing from Neymar, especially with reports Lionel Messi’s representatives met with Manchester City as the 30-year-old is reportedly becoming disillusioned with life at the Nou Camp following Neymar’s departure and Andres Iniesta yet to agree a new deal.


Down at Monaco 18-year-old star Kylian Mbappe is in a bit of trouble.

Mbappe, rumored to be heading to Real Madrid or PSG in a huge $210 million deal, was kicked off the training field after clashing with teammate Andrea Raggi in training last week.

The French international striker was sent home from training and did not feature in their victory over Metz last Friday.

Mbappe has yet to play in Ligue 1 with his future with the French champions in jeopardy and although Real Madrid remain interested, PSG are the frontrunners to sign Mbappe.

It seems like incidents such as this could speed up any potential move with the teenager set to become the second-most expensive player in history.