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MLS Week 1: LA-Dallas showdown; New boys debut

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Major League Soccer begins its 22nd season on Friday when Portland hosts one of the league’s two new squads: Minnesota United.

United as expansion teams and in nickname, Minnesota and Atlanta United are the shiny new toys for MLS fans (even if the former has a strong history in another league, the NASL).

[ MORE: Atlanta United architect Eales talks club ]

The focus will definitely be on the new boys this weekend, though the bevy of new players in the league will put a glimmer on most of the matches.

Also on tap? A crazy early litmus test for two of the top teams in the West. Here’s one line for each of the 10 matches on Opening Weekend.

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United — 9:30 p.m. EDT Friday

Minnesota’s welcome to MLS happens in one of the rowdiest joints in all the land, as Caleb Porter and the Timbers attempt to get some of the egg of their playoff-less face.

Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire — 2 p.m. EDT Saturday

The league’s other major disappointment last season, Columbus, hopes that the widely-expected resurrection of Chicago under striker Nemanja Nikolic and midfielder Dax McCarty needs a few weeks to take shape.

LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas — 4 p.m. EDT Saturday

Romain Alessandrini and the new-look Galaxy hope the home crowd helps LA to a win over last season’s powerful Supporters’ Shield winners.

Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC — 4:30 p.m. EDT Saturday

The MLS Cup finalists begin on the road at Rio Tinto, where Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Michael Bradley lead TFC against a renewed RSL.

Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. EDT Saturday

The Rapids posted one of the best defensive performances in MLS history last season, and will aim to prove it no fluke against a New England side which could be a beast or a bust under Jay Heaps.

DC United vs. Sporting KC — 7 p.m. EDT Saturday

Perhaps no club finished the regular season as hot as Patrick Nyarko and DC, and they’ll be the first to test Gelso Fernandes and deep SKC.

September 24 2016: Orlando City FC defender Kevin Alston (12) defends against D.C. United forward Patrick Nyarko (12) during a MLS match at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. DC United defeated Orlando City SC. 4-1. (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)
Nyarko (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday

Wilmer Cabrera has a flashy Honduran pair in Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis, and they’ll attempt to break down the champs’ defense.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. EDT Saturday

One of the longest road trips in MLS pits the steady Impact against a Quakes side with more questions than answers in its XI.

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC — 5 p.m. EDT Sunday

Now with two each seasons under their belts, Orlando and New York City hope to get their seasons started the right way as OCSC manager Jason Kreis faces his former side.

Atlanta United FC vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. EDT Sunday

ATL UTD makes its much-anticipated debut against an RBNY side which will have played a late CONCACAF Champions League match in Vancouver on Thursday night.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union — 9:30 p.m. EDT Sunday

The ‘Caps will hope their depth and home field is enough to deal with two matches in four days, as Philadelphia continues the Earnie Stewart revolution.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.