Which US cities are next for MLS expansion?

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After the fanfare in New York City this week, we now know were Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise will be based.

But what about the future? Just look at St. Louis last night for the friendly between Manchester City and Chelsea. 48,263 fans turned up. Officials said they could have sold at Busch Stadium twice over.

Wow. That is something to think about. And MLS Commish Don Garber said he is doing just that. “There’s still a lot of activity going on in a lot of different markets.”

So many cities across the USA are scrambling to try and grab a piece of the MLS pie. Some more deserving than others, some more likely to be successful than others and some cities are just finding out their potential status as a staunch soccer city.

Why don’t we take a quick scan across the nation, to see which cities could be future MLS destinations.

San Antonio

Only in their second season in the NASL, the San Antonio Scorpions have a beautiful new soccer-specific stadium that is the jewel in the crown of US soccer’s second-tier. Toyota Field has seen tremendous attendance figures so far, can San Antonio surpass their impressive figures of 9,317 in the 2012 season? And can Texas handle another MLS side? Of course they can.

Orlando

We know how close they are to building a new soccer-specific venue downtown, with Mayor Buddy Dyer on board and pushing hard for USL Pro side Orlando City to become an MLS franchise. They’ve had to recently modify their new stadium plans after a bill in the Florida Senate giving money to upgrade sports facilities wasn’t passed. Average attendances are rising this season, with huge financial backing in place to see Orlando become an MLS side. Favorites to become the next MLS expansion franchise.

Atlanta

This city has produced plenty of soccer players over the years, with several USMNT players hailing from ATL. The NASL Silverbacks have recently been re-branded and their new stadium is currently set at 5,000 but can expand to 15,000 over the next few years. Soccer is on the rise in the Southeast, with Florida also pushing for a new side. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is planning to get an MLS franchise to play in the Falcons’ new stadium.

Minneapolis

Much like Atlanta, the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium is set to include plans for an MLS side to play in. That would involve lowering the roof and/or covering up the top bowl of the stadium to create a more intimate and lively atmosphere. Minnesota United are the reigning NASL Champions, and they were also re-branded this season. A new logo, name and ambitions surround the Northern city. Could MLS come calling soon? Maybe not, but watch this space.

St. Louis

As we mentioned, St. Louis put on a great show for soccer last night. As Taylor Twellman mentioned in commentary, how could a businessman not see potential in the St. Louis region? Over 48,000 for a friendly at a baseball stadium? Surely they could attract more than 20,000 for an MLS side? We wait and see, but STL showcased just how big of a soccer city it could become.

Phoenix

A new USL Pro franchise has arrived in Arizona this season, as Phoenix FC is on the scene. Currently they play at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, and a standing room only crowd of 4,198 saw them win their home opener. I know some of their players have been blown away with the level of support for soccer in Phoenix and as one of the fastest growing cities in the US, population wise, it’s hard not to see soccer getting bigger in PHX in the years to come. Also the huge number of Hispanic residents well help Phoenix and San Antonio with building a solid and stable fanbase. Exciting times in the Southwest for soccer.

Miami

Miami of course had an MLS franchise. Based in Ft. Lauderdale, the Miami Fusion were disbanded along with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001 due to a multitude of problems. But with David Beckham rumored to be on board and helping Miami grab an expansion franchise, could soccer return to South Beach? Locals from soccer loving nations in the Caribbean and South America would give any potential side a huge boost in attendance figures. Expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

You tell us: Obviously there are plenty of other cities not on this list, so where should MLS look to expand? There are plenty of worthy regions across the US and Canada.

The halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world (video)

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco “very proud” of its unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one “match point” left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.