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Checkatrade Trophy draw: 12 PL clubs enter competition

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The draw for the group stages of the Checkatrade Trophy has taken place with 12 Premier League clubs entering U-21 teams into the competition.

[ MORE: Which striker should Chelsea sign? ]

Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City will all have their young talent in the competition, as 12 PL clubs who possess category one academies have decided to compete in the midweek tournament that sees teams from League One and League Two (third and fourth tiers of English soccer) also compete for the Football League Trophy.

Plenty of PL U-21 teams entered the competition last season as a trial run and now Tottenham, Man City and Newcastle have decided to join in on the fun, although Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United declined to participate.

The main aim is to try and attract bigger crowds for the lower leagues teams and also to give academy age players from PL clubs the chance to fight for a trophy and experience playing against professionals from the lower leagues which may help their development.

For the U-21 teams six of the starting 11 have to be under the age of 21, while the League One and League Two teams have to field at least five first team players in their starting XI.

Below is the draw in full for the groups with the competition regionalized to cut down on travel during the week. The group stage games will take place in August and September, with the tournament then turning into a straight knockout competition.


Checkatrade Trophy draw

Northern Section
Group A: Carlisle, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Leicester City Under-21
Group B: Accrington Blackpool, Wigan, Middlesbrough Under-21
Group C: Blackburn, Bury, Rochdale, Stoke City Under-21
Group D: Crewe, Oldham, Port Vale, Newcastle United Under-21
Group E: Coventry, Shrewsbury, Walsall, West Brom Under-21
Group F: Bradford, Chesterfield, Rotherham, Manchester City Under-21
Group G: Lincoln, Mansfield, Notts County, Everton Under-21
Group H: Doncaster, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Sunderland Under-21

Southern Section
Group A: Charlton, Crawley, Portsmouth, Fulham Under-21
Group B: Colchester, Gillingham, Southend, Reading Under-21
Group C: Bristol Rovers, Swindon, Wycombe, West Ham Under-21
Group D: Exeter, Plymouth, Yeovil, Chelsea Under-21
Group E: Cheltenham, Forest Green, Newport, Swansea Under-21
Group F: AFC Wimbledon, Barnet, Luton, Tottenham Under-21
Group G: MK Dons, Oxford, Stevenage, Brighton Under-21
Group H: Cambridge, Northampton, Peterborough, Southampton Under-21

Van Persie moves back to hometown club Feyenoord

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Former Arsenal and Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie has signed with his boyhood club Feyenoord after being released from his contract at Fenerbahce, the Dutch club confirmed.

The 34-year-old has only made two league appearances this season due to a knee injury, and since returning to full health in early December, he has been left out of the squad. Van Persie’s switch is a free transfer after his Turkish club allowed him to terminate his contract. It was reported back in November that the Dutchman was no longer wanted at Fenerbahce and that they would let him rot on the bench if he did not find a way out himself.

[ MORE: Friday Transfer Rumor Roundup ]

“Nothing stands in the way of a return of the 102-cap international to De Kuip,” Feyenoord wrote in an official statement, “now that he has come to an agreement with his current club Fenerbahce about the dissolution of his contract. The club and the player have reached an agreement regarding personal terms and related details for the move.”

A Rotterdam native, van Persie began his career in Feyenoord’s youth academy and made his first club appearance off the bench in a February, 2001 Eredivisie match against Roda JC. His first professional start, a KNVB-Bekker match against AGOVV Apeldoorn, saw him score an incredible five goals in a 6-1 win. Van Persie would go on to score 21 goals in 76 matches across all competitions for the club before moving to Arsenal in the summer of 2004, where he would spend the next eight seasons, arriving just after the Invincibles season and leaving in 2012 after 131 goals for the Gunners.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Chelsea still pursuing Roma duo, and more

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Chelsea is looking to make a big transfer splash as it searches for potential replacements for Michy Batshuayi and David Luiz.

According to multiple reports, Chelsea is attempting a double signing from AS Roma, forward Edin Dzeko and midfielder Emerson Palmieri. The Brazilian left-back is rated by Roma at $30.5 million but he could join Chelsea on loan. However the interest in Dzeko is much newer, and it’s unclear whether Roma would allow Dzeko to leave, especially in the middle of the season.

[READ: MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker]

With Roma preparing to face Inter Milan this weekend, talks between the two clubs have been put on hold until next week.

Dzeko’s agent confirmed that Conte is interested in the Bosnia and Herzegovina international but stated Dzeko’s desire is to remain at Roma.

After failing to beat out Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup for Manchester City, it would be interesting to see Dzeko give the Premier League another go, although he’d likely play second-fiddle again, this time to Alvaro Morata.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe and the Premier League:

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MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker

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For a few dozen players, hearing their name called up to the big stage will validate all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made since they were children.

Starting at 11:00 a.m. when Los Angeles FC is on the clock at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the 2018 MLS SuperDraft will be underway. Many of the top college prospects will soon find out whether they’ll be headed to the Pacific Northwest, New England, the Southeast, Southern California or anywhere in between.

[MORE: 2018 MLS Mock Draft]

This year’s draft class is loaded with attacking talent, from Generation Adidas trio Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest), Mason Toye (Indiana) and Francis Atuahene (Michigan) to Twumasi’s college teammate Jon Bakero.

But potential No. 1 overall pick is a three-time national champion, Thomas Hilliard-Arce, who could become the anchor of a backline for a decade.

Follow along below as we update the picks live as we hear them:

(more…)

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.