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West vs. East: Has MLS power shifted?

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Major League Soccer’s Western Conference has widely been considered better than its rival for more than a few seasons.

The West has claimed seven of eight MLS Cup Finals, with the eighth nestled in the hands of a team that no longer resides in the East (Sporting KC). Take away the Red Bulls, and the West has five of seven Supporters’ Shields.

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Things feel a little different this season. The LA Galaxy has questions, with legendary coach Bruce Arena leaving for the U.S. men’s national team and is no longer a juggernaut. Seattle won MLS Cup and, along with FC Dallas, looks the class of the conference, but the East appears to be the beast.

Could a case be made for more Eastern or Western teams as potential champions?

Consider that Toronto returns almost every key piece from its MLS Cup Finalist season, with Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore complemented by players already familiar with their roles.

Consider that New York City FC lost Frank Lampard but has buttressed its stars and has a manager in Patrick Vieira who has a year in the league under his belt. The Red Bulls sent Dax McCarty away to Chicago but has a stable of Academy stars including Sean Davis ready made for the stage.

Oh, and the new boys. Atlanta United has a world class manager in Tata Martino, a batch of elite Designated Players still in their prime, a defensive midfielder with heavy international experience and a youngster in Andrew Carleton some believe could be the Stateside version of Christian Pulisic.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atl Utd architect Eales ]

Earnie Stewart has Philadelphia looking for real, and Chicago has rebuilt itself with vigor. Montreal, DC, Orlando, New England, even Columbus. Each could consider itself positioned for the penthouse or the proverbial poorhouse.

Is it certain that the East has risen above the West? Of course not. Seattle looks fierce and Romain Alessandrini may just arrive in LA and dominate a la Giovinco. But for now, it’s easy to project a prime season for the East. Whether that leads to an MLS Cup winner is another story.

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.

Everton announce lifetime ban for fan involved in altercation with Lyon player

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On a night when UEFA unveiled a new campaign for respect, there wasn’t enough of it shown both on and off the field.

Everton has followed up on UEFA opening up disciplinary proceedings against them by banning a fan from Everton matches after the fan was seen to punch at an Olympique Lyon player in the second half of Lyon’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.

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“Club Officials have reviewed the footage of an incident that occurred in the 64th minute of the game against Olympique Lyonnais where supporters towards the front of the lower Gwladys Street End became involved in a confrontation between players,” Everton said in a statement. “We have identified one individual whom action will now be taken against. This will include a ban from attending future Everton fixtures and the Club registering a formal complaint with Merseyside Police.”

The video below shows a fan – amazingly, holding onto a small boy in one arm – throwing some punches at Lyon players after a fracas on the field.

The punch and ban is yet another dark moment for Everton, which has just one point from its first three Europa League matches and sits in 16th place in the Premier League with eight points from eight games.