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MLS at Week 6: Atlanta meets Toronto in giant East clash

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While many of last year’s top sides continue their reign near the top of the MLS conference tables, newcomers Atlanta United have quickly put themselves on the national spotlight. Here’s a look at this weekend’s action:

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact – 10:30 p.m. ET Friday

Neither side has had the ideal start to 2017, however, it’s the Impact that are still searching for their first win as MLS enters Week 6. The Galaxy are coming off of allowing four goals to the Vancouver Whitecaps, while the Impact look to bounce back quickly after being eliminated in the CONCACAF Champions League against Tigres.

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew – 2 p.m. ET Saturday

Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s debut couldn’t have gone better for the Fire but Veljko Paunovic’s side didn’t get their desired result. The Fire will welcome one of the hottest teams in MLS to start the season in the Crew, who have appeared to find their form from 2015, when the Eastern Conference side finished runners’ up to the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup.

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo – 2 p.m. ET Saturday

The Dynamo have been one of the season’s biggest surprises thus far, and the club’s attack has proven to be among MLS’ best through five weeks with 11 goals. Erick “Cubo” Torres leads the league with six goals of his own, while the Dynamo continue to play without dangerous winter signing Romell Quioto. The Revolution have picked up their act over the last two weeks with a win over Minnesota and draw in Portland.

D.C. United vs. New York City FC – 4 p.m. ET Saturday

D.C. picked up its first win of 2017 last week against the Philadelphia Union, while NYCFC managed to pull off a comeback victory at home against a difficult San Jose Earthquakes side. David Villa’s two goals and three assists thus far have paced the NYCFC attack but it is the team’s backline that has stepped up its game from a season ago.

Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers – 7 p.m. ET Saturday

The Timbers remain atop the West following last weekend’s draw against the Revs. Meanwhile, the Union have struggled out of the gates and are one of three teams in MLS that have gone winless over the first month of competition.

Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

In arguably the game of the weekend, these two Eastern Conference sides will duel at BMO Field in Toronto. Since Atlanta’s opening day defeat against the Red Bulls, the expansion side hasn’t lost and they have looked quite impressive in the process. Even without top goalscorer and March’s Player of the Month, Josef Martinez, Gerardo Martino’s side has quickly become one of MLS’ most dynamic attacks.

FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United – 8 p.m. ET Saturday

Fresh off of the team’s first MLS victory, Minnesota faces a much more challenging test as the Loons head to Toyota Stadium to meet FC Dallas. The Loons are coming off of a four-goal outing against Real Salt Lake, but Dallas presents a stronger foe as Oscar Pareja’s side sits third in the West after playing three matches.

Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Even with an early season coaching change, RSL’s struggles have coupled after falling last week to Minnesota United. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps fell out of the Champions League during the week after losing in the dying moments to Tigres after having scored four goals against the Galaxy last weekend.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders – 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Sounders are unbeaten in this matchup since September 2015, winning once and drawing twice in the last three meetings. Brian Schmetzer’s side will continue to be without Brad Evans defensively, while the Quakes will be missing a number of players, including Victor Bernardez, who is suspended after picking up a red card last week against NYCFC.

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls – 4 p.m. ET Sunday

The Red Bulls have hit a bit of a rough patch after last weekend’s thrashing suffered down in Houston, while the Lions are coming off of their first loss of the season. Jesse Marsch’s side has enjoyed success against Orlando since the club entered the league in 2015, winning three of the last five matchups.

Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids – 7 p.m. ET Sunday

Peter Vermes’ side is now just one of three left unbeaten in MLS, and although Sporting KC’s attack has had some issues finishing off its chances, the Western Conference side’s backline has been among the league’s best, only allowing one goal. The Rapids have been steady as well through three matches with four points.

Five Thirty Eight unveils Top 426 soccer clubs in the world

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Perspective achieved?

Advanced statistical site Five Thirty Eight has put together a weekly ranking of the top and bottom club teams in the world, and its algorithm gives us a theoretical answer into where Major League Soccer fits into the club soccer landscape.

[ MORE: Julian Green back on transfer market ]

At its very base level, the rankings will give reason to check back all season. Can Manchester United break into the Top Three? Will an MLS side leap into the Top 100? Can the worst American club avoid the bottom slot?

Here’s the list of clubs, and Five Thirty Eight has also gone through the trouble of giving its statistical analysis of who’s best set-up to win leagues and even games.

A note on the methodology:

We’re using recent matches played between teams from different leagues, supplemented with league market values (from Transfermarkt), to assign a strength rating to every league that we’re forecasting. Our new league ratings also give us the ability to a calculate a global Soccer Power Index (SPI) rating for each team — a number from 0 to 100 that represents the overall strength of each team.

The Premier League and La Liga combine for six of the Top Ten teams in the world, with Real Madrid No. 1 and Man City, Manchester United, and Chelsea running Nos. 7, 8, and 9.

Brighton and Hove Albion is the lowest ranked Premier League club, 188th in the world. The only PL sides outside the Top 125 are the three promoted clubs. Swansea is 113th, the lowest (or highest) ranked PL side aside from the new promotions.

Brighton is 17 spots below MLS’ top representative: Toronto FC. The same web site ranked MLS as the 28th best league in the world earlier this month, between Denmark and Croatia.

New York City FC shows up next, at 259, then rivals New York Red Bulls at 267. The bulk of MLS clubs fit between 320 and 422, where Minnesota United brings up the rear. The study ranks 426 teams, with three Scottish clubs running 424-426.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

As for some other odds, Five Thirty Eight gives Manchester United the best odds to win the league at 31 percent, with Man City, Chelsea, and Spurs joining them with the best odds to place in the Top Four.

The average simulated season has United besting rivals City by two points, with 80. Tottenham (72) tops Arsenal (68) for fourth by four points, while No. 6 Liverpool finishes 10 points clear of Merseyside rivals Everton (57 points).

It’s no surprise that the three promoted clubs — Huddersfield Town, Newcastle, and Brighton — are the top bets to be relegated, with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Swansea City the next best bets to find life in the Championship.

Other notes:

— Manchester United is the fourth-best defensive team in the Premier League, behind only Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Juventus.

— Spurs are also in the Top Ten amongst defensive teams, a 8.

— Man City is the best offensive team in the PL, seventh in the world.

— Watford is this week’s highest PL riser, up 22 spots.

— MLS side Chicago Fire suffered the fourth biggest drop in the world this week (40 spots).

Five Thirty Eight is one of the best predictive web sites in the world, and one of the only ones who gave more than an outside shot (though still ranking it a long shot) of the 2016 United States presidential election turning out for the winner of the electoral college. So this is certainly food for thought.

Former Dinamo Zagreb boss injured after shooting

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Controversial former Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamic was shot and injured in Bosnia on Monday, police and media reported.

Croatia’s state TV said Mamic was shot in his leg and taken to a local hospital on Monday. It said the injury was not life-threatening.

Police were searching for two possible assailants.

[ MORE: Five PL new boys to watch ]

Bosnian media said Mamic was attending a memorial for his father at a graveyard near the town of Tomislavgrad when two people fired at him from a nearby forest. Another report said it was a drive-by shooting.

Croatia’s TV said Mamic voluntarily left the hospital in Bosnia after doctors managed to stop the bleeding, and he went to the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

Bosnian police declined to confirm the identity of the victim by name, but said a man with the initials ZM and born in 1959 in the Croatian city of Bjelovar, just like Mamic, was shot and injured.

Mamic, known for his fiery temper, has been on a high-profile embezzlement and tax fraud trial in Croatia.

Prosecutors accuse Mamic, his brother, and two others of embezzling 15 million euros of the club’s money since 2008 and not paying 1.6 million euros in taxes.

Mamic, who remains Dinamo’s adviser, is still considered the most powerful man in Croatian football despite the charges.

Dinamo issued a statement, calling the attack a “murder attempt.”

It said the attempted “liquidation” of Mamic was not a surprise amid a “lynching campaign” against him by the Croatian media.

He was recently knocked off his yacht into the sea by an attacker believed to be a fan of rival Hajduk Split.

AP Writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm