USL, Twitter

USL announce deal for expansion franchise in Memphis

Leave a comment

Memphis will have a USL team in 2019.

[ MORE: Ranking MLS expansion chances ]

Speaking to Memphis Business Journal, USL President Jake Edwards confirmed the second-tier of North American soccer has agreed a deal with an ownership group for a second team in Tennessee which will debut in the 2019 season.

Tennessee’s first USL team, Nashville SC, will debut in the 2018 season but the future of that team is a little uncertain given Nashville steaming ahead with its plans for an Major League Soccer expansion franchise which could be announced next month.

Anyway, back to Memphis, where a group put together named the Memphis Redbirds are behind the bid.

“We have approved an ownership group,” Edwards said of the Memphis bid. “We have approved the stadium plan they have presented to us, and we have now approved moving forward with Memphis to have a USL club starting for the 2019 season.”

Memphis Redbirds president, general manager and minority owner, Craig Unger, added that “Memphis is a tremendous sports city with passionate fans and supporters. Coupled with the continued revitalization of Downtown, the time has never been better for investment in the city and its people.”

It remains to be seen if this USL franchise in Memphis would become an affiliated team with Nashville if they were successful with their MLS bid, or if Nashville SC’s USL side would simply become their reserve squad (Nashville SC II, if you will). Either way, having a regional rival in Tennessee is a great idea and we’ve seen how meaningful local rivalries have helped the growth of key American soccer markets in the past few years, especially with the Cascadia region.

USL will also have a team debuting nearby in Birmingham, Alabama in 2019, plus a new USL team is planned for Austin, Texas after previous forays in that market. However, it remains unclear if that USL team will still go ahead ifMajor League Soccer franchise the Columbus Crew relocate from Columbus, Ohio to Texas.

With NASL locked into a lengthy legal battle with U.S. Soccer about losing its Division II status and the league’s future in jeopardy, the USL continues to go form strength-to-strength. Having MLS on board certainly helps and the partnerships between MLS clubs and either having their own reserve squads in the USL or an affiliated team have definitely led to more security and stability and played a big part in USL being sanctioned as a second-tier league.

With the arrival of Memphis, Austin and Birmingham in 2019, plus Nashville, Las Vegas, Gwinnett County and Fresno in 2018 it is expected USL will grow to 37 teams. However, with the threat of losing FC Cincinnati, Nashville SC and Sacramento Republic to MLS as they bid for MLS expansion, there will likely be outgoings too.

Still, to grow from 14 teams in 2014 to 30 in 2017 has been an incredible amount of growth for USL and they’ve been very smart in targeting connected soccer communities across the USA and Canada. That was further showcased by a raucous crowd in Louisville, Kentucky on Monday to see Louisville City FC beat Swope Park Rangers and become the 2017 USL champs.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

Twitter/@brfootball
Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

Twitter/@GGFN_
Leave a comment

With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

Twitter/@ManCity
Leave a comment

The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

Twitter/@MLSCentral_
Leave a comment

New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.