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Wild day in American soccer: Crew relocation, NASL LOIs, USL reserves

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The top three soccer leagues in the United States of America are dealing with varying bits of turmoil this Tuesday in October.

It began late Monday with reports that Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt aims to take the MLS founding member to Texas, seemingly only paying lip service to the idea of investment keeping the team in Ohio.

[ MORE: Leicester sacks Shakespeare ]

Some have said Precourt’s goals have always been to find a way out of Ohio, and the Crew owner was asked what has changed in the four years he’s owned the club (From ColumbusCrewSC.com):

Q:When we read your story about your purchase of the team, this was back in 2013, part of that was that it was very important to the Hunt family that the Crew remained in Columbus and you said at the time that you were committed to that. So what’s changed?

AP: I was committed to that and I believe that I demonstrated my commitment through significant investment in infrastructure, in personnel, in the quality of our product on the field. What has changed? Our League has grown leaps and bounds, it’s been unprecedented the improvement we’ve seen year over year and new markets that have come in the League have shown dramatic attendance. Let’s look at Atlanta with over 70,000 fans over their last few games, with Orlando building a new facility and averaging over 30,000 fans a game, with New York City FC. The list goes on and on. Our peers get stronger and stronger, year in and year out and I have to get back to our ambition as a club. This is key: our ambition as a club is to be a standard bearer in Major League Soccer, to be respected on and off the field in terms of our soccer operations and our business operations and to operate world-class, soccer-specific infrastructure. We’re going through growing pains now. It’s time for us to explore building a world-class, soccer-specific stadium so that we can be celebrated and successful and sustainable.

So, yes, barring a king’s ransom — word use intended — from the Ohio business community, it’s not being cynical to read Precourt’s intention to leave Ohio as very strong. The idea is very sad for the league, and makes every pro/rel honk’s argument against the closed model.

Then there’s the NASL, where it’s almost head-spinning to keep abreast of the future of the league. New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has taken the wheel in an attempt to not only see the NASL rise, but remove Sunil Gulati from power at the United States Soccer Federation in the hopes of a complete overhaul. In what should not be read as a footnote, the NASL is currently suing the USSF.

There are reports that the league could have as many as 17 teams next season in a bid to regain sanctioning from the Unites States Soccer Federation, including a series of teams from the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.

According to SocTakes.com, the NASL has letters of intent from NPSL clubs in Boca Raton, Boston, Detroit, Arizona, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach. Additionally, there’s interest in Hartford and it may not be the NPSL club.

Then came this Tweet:

Now here’s a league, the USL, whose only issues have been perception-related. Growing well and instituting a D-3 companion, the biggest concern has been the mentioned MLS Reserve sides creating a minor league feel for the league.

All of this is manageable, and you could argue that the disappearance or at least rebranding of most of these reserve sides would be a boon for the league.

Taken in a vacuum, any of these stories has the potential to carry a day’s news. Together, and in the wake of the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, they give Tuesday one of those Soccer-USApocalyptic feelings.

Columbus Crew owner may move soccer team to Austin, Texas

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The owner of the Crew SC says the team is no longer sustainable and will move to Austin, Texas, unless a new, privately-financed stadium is built in downtown Columbus.

Anthony Precourt, whose Precourt Sports Ventures has owned the Major League Soccer club since 2013, said Tuesday the Crew need more fan and financial support to compete in the growing league, and a new stadium in the urban center is the only way to make it work. The Crew currently play in 17-year-old Mapfre Stadium, about 4 miles north of downtown Columbus.

[ MORE: Leicester sacks Shakespeare ]

The team will be back in Ohio’s capital city for 2018, Precourt said, but its future beyond that depends on which city steps up first.

“Despite all the efforts to move the needle beyond on-the-field success, our business is struggling to keep pace with the rising standards of major league soccer,” Precourt said in a conference call with reporters. “The club historically and presently has challenges with match-day attendance, with growing our season-ticket base, with demand for corporate sponsorship and with relevance. The stadium and site are challenges in Columbus.”

The Crew is 20th in attendance this season out of 22 MLS teams with an average of 15,439, despite making the playoffs. The capacity is 19,968.

Austin is the largest market in North America without a major league sports franchise, and the city is receptive. Precourt declined to comment about any talks that could result in a new downtown soccer-specific stadium there. He dispelled rumors that the team has an agreement to play temporarily at the University of Texas stadium in 2019 while a new stadium is built.

Precourt called Austin “the most attractive untapped market in the United States for MLS soccer.” The city already has submitted a bid for an MLS expansion team.

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Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said he had met with team ownership about solutions to keep the team in the city but complained that he didn’t get “full engagement.” City officials didn’t know about a potential move until the public announcement Tuesday, he said.

“We were surprised to learn of their decision in this way,” Ginther said in a statement. “Losing the Crew to another city would be a huge disappointment to their loyal and growing fan base in Columbus.”

Alex Fischer of the Columbus Partnership, a consortium of CEOs and business leaders, told The Columbus Dispatch that a group of business leaders approached Precourt with offers to buy Crew SC outright and to go into a 50-50 partnership, both of which were rejected. But Precourt said Tuesday that his discussions with potential investors in the team were all attached to a plan for a new stadium.

Precourt said he approached Columbus business leaders last year and was clear about the problems.

“We have engaged the community privately since the beginning of 2016 about our business issues, and made it clear that we would potentially start to explore strategic alternatives if the business didn’t improve,” he said.

He said three potential stadium sites have been identified in Columbus, but he declined to comment on them.

“We are not asking for public tax dollars, and we are not asking either city to build a stadium for us,” he said.

What could USMNT look like for November friendlies?

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Bruce Arena is out, and the United States men’s national team could look very different the next time a ball is kicked by the men in red, white, and blue.

Tab Ramos is expected to take over on an interim basis, or at least be the prime candidate, before the Yanks play November friendlies in Europe next month (President Sunil Gulati said one is confirmed, and the second should be overseas).

[ VIDEO: Jermaine Jones’ fiery USMNT diatribe ]

Those will be the first of many friendlies, as the U.S. is not scheduled to play serious competitions until the Copa America and Gold Cup in the Summer of 2019. That’s what happens when you miss a World Cup, something that American soccer hasn’t experienced since the mid-1980s.

The U.S. could assemble a summer tournament this summer, but the twin tourneys in 2019 mean it has plenty of time to experiment seriously in search of a huge depth pool needed for a wild couple months.

That Gold Cup will be an important ask of the team’s depth, too, and it will be interesting to see how a new manager prioritizes his roster considering a title is needed to clinch a place in the 2021 Confederations Cup and avoid another CONCACAF Cup playoff.

Considering the wealth of promising domestic and overseas U-20 prospects and the fact that the United States has used more than 75 players in recent history, just about anything is possible for Ramos (or whoever takes over).

November’s call-ups are especially tricky. For one thing, they are in Europe and could be against very good competition as sides angle for form before the World Cup. Expect it to be heavily-based in overseas players and a sprinkling of MLS players who have been eliminated from the postseason.

The second legs of the MLS Conference semifinals will be held Nov. 5, one day before the international break. While we suppose Toronto FC leaders Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore could set some sort of standard by demanding to be part of the phoenix rising from these disastrous Hex ashes, but it’s almost certain the following USMNT mainstays will have played in those Nov. 5 matches and will not be heading to Europe: Bradley, Altidore, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi. Based on current seeding, the Americans will also be without Clint Dempsey, Dax McCarty, and Darlington Nagbe.

Bobby Wood (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

It seems likely guys like Christian Pulisic and Geoff Cameron will get a break, though there could also be “farewells” for some of the old guard (this seems more of a January thing given the MLS Playoffs).

We imagine guys like Alejandro Bedoya, Tim Ream, and Bobby Wood are going to be called in to help show guys the ropes

Hopefully, young Schalke star Weston McKennie is back from his thigh injury and fit for 90. Might U-17 and U-20 World Cup star Josh Sargent get a chance to dip his toes into an international break?

We’ll let you build you lineups from this corps, also expecting some surprises, and we’ll probably wind up going down a rabbit hole to build some of our own.

Who are we missing? Hit us up with your names, thoughts, and XIs in the comment section.


MLS-based, will miss playoffs, called up in October: Tim Howard, Alejandro Bedoya, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes.

MLS-based, will miss playoffs, called up in last year: Bill Hamid, Joe Bendik, Brian Rowe, Steve Birnbaum, Jonathan Spector, Taylor Kemp, Keegan Roseberry, Chris Pontius, Kelyn Rowe, Jermaine Jones, Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer, CJ Sapong, Alan Gordon.

Europe- or Mexico-based, called up in October: Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana, Geoff Cameron, Christian Pulisic, Michael Orozco.

Europe- or Mexico-based, called up in last year: Ethan Horvath, William Yarbrough, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, John Brooks (injured), Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Joe Corona, Kenny Saief (injured), Lynden Gooch, Julian Green, Caleb Stanko, Aron Johannsson.

MLS-based, will miss playoffs, not called up in last year: Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, Lee Nguyen, Ethan Finlay, Tommy Redding, Patrick Mullins, Russell Canouse, Derrick Jones, Andrew Farrell, Kyle Fisher, Chris Tierney.

Europe- or Mexico-based, not called up in last year: Danny Williams, Terrence Boyd, Mix Diskerud, Emerson Hyndman, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, Antonee Robinson.

Top U.S. youth prospects: Weston McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josh Sargent, Jonathan Gonzalez, Haji Wright.

Top U.S. youth prospects, could have MLS playoffs:  Justen Glad, Erik Palmer-Brown, Tyler Adams, Brooks Lennon, Jonathan Lewis, Jesse Gonzalez.


Some far-fetched potential lineups (Remember – Anything is possible):

Serious Future XI

Horvath

 Carter-Vickers – Cameron – Miazga

Yedlin – Williams – McKennie – Pulisic

Arriola – Wood – Gooch

All-Europe XI

Horvath

Yedlin – Carter-Vickers – Miazga – Villafana

Chandler – Williams – McKennie – Pulisic

Wood – Johannsson

(Mostly) Farewell Tour XI

Howard

 Lichaj – Cameron – Ream – Beasley

Arriola – Williams – Bedoya – Johnson

Wondolowski – Wood

Few to no caps XI

Horvath

Farrell – Miazga – Carter-Vickers – Tierney

Rowe – Gonzalez – Morales – McKennie – Gooch

Ramirez

Orlando City coach Kreis hits out at MLS

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Jason Kreis is not a fan of Major League Soccer’s decision to only fine FC Dallas, and not declare their scoreless draw with Orlando City SC a forfeit.

During Kreis’ media availability on Monday, the Orlando City boss lashed out at the league, saying its decision to just fine FC Dallas $100,000 in allocation money was “embarrassing.” MLS fined FC Dallas $75,000 in General Allocation Money and $25,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.

The controversy surrounds FC Dallas’ decision to move Michael Barrios out of its starting lineup and bring in Tesho Akindele after the lineups had been announced. Barrios, who arguably should have been ineligible because he had been “subbed out”, then substituted in for Maxi Urruti in the 84th minute.

MLS does not have rules on its books for starting lineups and potential violations.

“FIFA delegates management of roster rules and sanctions for violations to the respective leagues throughout the world,” read the last sentence of MLS’ press release on the FC Dallas fine. “There is no international rule for changes to a match day roster.”

In the past, situations such as this in FIFA competitions would have likely resulted in a forfeit for the team playing the ineligible player. But MLS decided to blame it on referee error for allowing it not change the final outcome.

By keeping the result as it is, Orlando City was mathematically eliminated from MLS playoff contention while FC Dallas remained one point ahead of Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes, who both have 42 points and sit outside the playoff places. FC Dallas currently occupies the sixth and final playoff spot with 43 points.

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke also said “this was a clear-cut violation” and expressed his shock that it wasn’t forfeited.

Atlanta United draws crowds, signs Bocanegra to 4-year deal

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ATLANTA (AP) Atlanta United has signed technical director Carlos Bocanegra to a four-year contract extension through 2022 and added the title of vice president.

Bocanegra was rewarded Monday for building a high-scoring roster that already qualified for the playoffs in United’s debut season. The team will set a Major League Soccer season attendance record, averaging more than 46,000.

[ MORE: Inter, Arsenal after Atlanta’s Almiron ]

Atlanta is the first expansion team to qualify for the playoffs since 2009 and only the second since 1998.

A longtime member of the U.S. national team, Bocanegra retired as a player in 2014. He was hired by United the following year and assembled a roster that includes Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba, who have combined to score 40 goals – more than four MLS teams.