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Don Garber issues latest update on MLS expansion

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber has been speaking about Major League Soccer expansion once again.

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Garber attended the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Panama in the 2017 Gold Cup on Saturday, with the game hosted in Nashville, Tennessee, a city bidding to have an MLS team.

With a crowd of 47,662 watching the U.S. at Nissan Stadium, Garber couldn’t hide how impressed he was with Nashville and admitted they’ve climbed high among the 12 cities pushing for the two expansion franchises (number 25 and 26, which will be announced in 2017), with a further two expansion teams planned but no time frame given on their arrival.

Speaking in a Q&A with USA Today over the weekend, Garber admitted that Nashville’s chances of getting a franchise have improved with stadium deals in St. Louis, Charlotte and San Diego stalling.

“I think there is an opportunity for Nashville to rise higher on the list because there appears to be a more streamlined process to have the third leg of the stool (needed to get an expansion team), which is the stadium,” Garber explained.

With Nashville recently hosting the Stanley Cup finals for the first-time ever, the energy in the city for sports soared to new levels. Garber was impressed as the NHL’s Predators captured the imagination of Nashville’s citizens.

“I think it’s one of the great recent success stories in the sports industry. The industry is very connected,” Garber said. “And we want to see great stories, whether it’s in the NFL, the NHL, NBA, MLB. I like seeing success. We saw that here in Nashville with the crowds outside the stadium and just the civic pride around a sports team.”

Although Nashville has the smallest market size from the 12 competing cities for a franchise, Garber went on to say that having an “engaged owners and passionate fan base” is more important than market size.

“Market sizes matters because it can help, logically, grow your national television audience. But success in markets and engaged owners and a passionate fan base are probably more important than market size,” Garber said. “You also have to look at growth. It’s important to go to growing cities. And growth isn’t just  about population size — it’s about, what’s the vision for the city? Where do they want to be?

“There just seems to be a desire to take this city and just make it bigger and more international and to provide value to the people who live here. It’s part of why there’s such a disparate group of people to come together to try to bring MLS here.”

Garber was hosted by the Governor of Tennessee for dinner during his trip and the close connection with the investors and the public sector have certainly suggested a stadium deal won’t be too hard to arrange if Nashville is chosen to house an expansion franchise.

Nashville’s MLS bid is led by businessman John Ingram — who is in talks with Mayor Megan Barry’s office about a deal to finance a new stadium with a mixture of public and private funds — and Nashville will get another chance to show off its love for soccer later this month as Manchester City clash with Tottenham Hotspur in an International Champions Cup game at Nissan Stadium on July 29.

The Ingram family also bought a USL side, Nashville Soccer Club, which will begin play in 2018 and Garber called that “really smart” for the bid.

Right now the likes of Phoenix, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Cincinnati, Sacramento and San Antonio appear to be at the front of the queue for Garber and MLS, but judging by the success of this weekend and Garber’s words you can slot Nashville in towards the top.

La Liga & Serie A: Bale leads Real to seven-goal outburst and more

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

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Real Madrid 7-1 Deportivo La Coruna

Now, this is more like it from the defending European champions. Zinedine Zidane’s side went behind on Sunday when Adrian put the visitors in front, however, Real Madrid woke up and scored seven unanswered goals at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale was the star on the day with a brilliant curler that kicked off the first of his two goals (below). After Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to go down inside the penalty area, Bale carried on and put the ball onto his left foot before sliding his shot in off the inside of the far post.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo picked up a brace of his own on the day, both of which came off of headers for the Portuguese international. The veteran goalscorer also got bloodied on the day, but that didn’t stop him from adding to his impressive goal total.

Real Betis 0-5 Barcelona

A slow start to the match was aided by a Barcelona team that came out for blood in the second stanza. Ivan Rakitic and braces from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi paced the road side in the second half, keeping their unbeaten La Liga record in tacked.

Although Rakitic was the first to find his name on the scoresheet, it was his assist to Suarez that later on that proved to be a thing of excellence from both parties.

The first half was mildly uneventful for the Blaugrana, however, the Catalonians suffered another injury blow as Thomas Vermaelen left the match after pulling up in the first half with what appeared to be a hamstring pull.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Alaves 2-2 Leganes
Real Sociedad 1-2 Celta Vigo


Lazio 5-1 Chievo Verona

Lazio moved into third place in Serie A after a convincing victory at the Stadio Olimpico. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s double for the hosts helped propel them to the win, after Luis Alberto kicked off the scoring in the 23rd minute.

Chievo found a brief response two minutes later, but from there it was all Lazio as they closed to within 11 points of league leaders Napoli.

Cagliari 1-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessié scored twice in six minutes to pull Milan back into the match on the day, and that was exactly what they needed to secure three points at the Sardegna Arena. AC Milan sits seventh in Italy’s top flight through 21 matches, 23 points behind Napoli.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 1-1 Roma
Udinese 1-1 SPAL
Sassuolo 1-1 Torino
Sampdoria 3-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 3-0 Benevento
Hellas Verona 0-3 Crotone
Atalanta 0-1 Napoli

Video: Kurzawa silences Lyon with spectacular volley

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Lyon went ahead inside the opening two minutes, but then Layvin Kurzawa had his say for the visitors on the stroke of halftime.

[ MORE: Fekir’s free kick stuns PSG in opening two minutes]

Dani Alves set up the defender for one of the best volleys you’ll see in first-half stoppage time on Sunday to level the match at 1-1.

Watch below as PSG ties things up with just seconds remaining before the halftime whistle.

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…