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Tech exec Whitman joins Sacramento MLS expansion bid

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NEW YORK (AP) Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., joined the bid of Sacramento, California, for a Major League Soccer franchise on Wednesday as the four finalists made presentations to the league’s expansion committee.

Sacramento and Nashville, Tennessee, are considered the favorites to be awarded teams next month. Cincinnati and Detroit also are bidding.

Sacramento’s bid includes Kevin Nagle, a minority owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and Jed York, CEO of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The group said in July it was starting pre-construction activity for a 19,621-seat downtown stadium.

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“The committee asked very tough questions, and we’ll come back with all the answers,” Nagle said. “We never take anything for granted.”

Nashville’s group includes John Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., and the Wilf family, owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The Metro Nashville City Council on Nov. 7 approved $225 million in revenue bonds to construct a 27,500-seat soccer stadium and an additional $50 million in bonds for renovations and improvements around the site at the current fairgrounds.

“People all across our city, from elected officials to business and civic leaders, soccer fans and the public, have joined together in support of this bid,” Ingram said. “We believe MLS and Nashville are a perfect match and are ready to prove that Music City is Soccer City.”

Cincinnati’s group includes Carl H. Lindner III, co-CEO of American Financial Group and owner of FC Cincinnati in the second-tier United Soccer League. The Cincinnati City Council approved a plan for the city to invest up to $36 million in infrastructure such as roads around a privately funded stadium. The community council in the Oakley neighborhood where the stadium would be built voted against the proposal.

Detroit’s group is seen as having the poorest chance after announcing Nov. 1 it would use Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Lions. The group includes Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., and Tom Gores, owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and chairman of Platinum Equity.

MLS owners plan to discuss expansion when they meet in New York on Dec. 14.

The league has 22 teams this season and Los Angeles FC is to start play in March at a new stadium under construction near the Coliseum. Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star David Beckham was tentatively awarded a Miami team in 2014, but that is contingent on a stadium site he has thus far failed to secure.

The league in 2015 announced plans to expand to 28 teams and said last December that teams 25 and 26 will start play by 2020.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

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For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

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Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

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“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”