Houston Dynamo accepting refundable deposits for potential NWSL expansion team, and why it’s a no-brainer for the league

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Late last fall, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati revealed the then-debuting National Women’s Soccer League was unlikely to expand for the 2014 season. The same eight teams which began the latest attempt at North American women’s professional soccer would continue carrying the torch in year two. With rumored interest from multiple Major League Soccer teams having persisted throughout the season, the decision was looked at by some as a missed opportunity, by most as opting toward stability. Regardless, the issue was thought to be settled, for now.

But that ‘now’ lasted far shorter than expected thanks to Chris Canetti, the president of MLS’s Houston Dynamo. This week, Canetti confirmed Houston’s interest in emulating the Portland Timbers and starting a sister team in the NWSL. Today, the Dynamo executive took another step, taking to his Twitter account to announce the team was ready to start gauging interest:

[tweet https://twitter.com/ChrisCanetti/status/403657526282973184 width=450 align=center] [tweet https://twitter.com/ChrisCanetti/status/403657639176859648 width=450 align=center]

Canetti went on to say the deposit is only $25 per ticket, the team presumed to be playing at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Dynamo. The league’s ninth franchise would also be its most southern geographically, with the league’s only other team outside the country’s northern half being FC Kansas City.

But what of Gulati’s declaration about expansion? The league’s stance now seems to be a never say never policy. If an opportunity like Houston came up — a stable organization that presents a unique opportunity to add another MLS partner — why would you say no? Portland was by far and away the league’s most successful franchise last season (not only winning the league title but drawing 13,320 per game), largely because they were able to build on the foundation laid by the Timbers. Who wouldn’t want another team that could utilize that recipe?

Of course, that’s what people were asking last season. The general response: Stability was more important, a view that didn’t quite make sense. If the goal is to establish a league that can survive the dreaded three-year curse (WUSA and WPS never playing a fourth season), why wouldn’t you want a partner that’s unlike to fold any time soon? Whereas multiple NWSL teams are struggling to prove their semi-pro viability can translate to professional stability, a organization like the Dynamo would strengthen the ranks. More teams with a better chance at long-term survival shouldn’t be ignored in favor of year-to-year consistency.

There are a number of players overseas looking for opportunities at home, whether you’re talking about U.S. national team-caliber players like Christen Press or Meghan Klingenberg or the myriad journey-women players hopping around, trying to make a living. With the popularity of women’s college soccer, the NCAA ranks are producing enough players to stock these teams. And with a lower salary base augmented by subsidies from U.S. and Canadian soccer, it’s not hard to take a franchise from zero to playing in a few months times.

At one point, though, those subsidies are going to go away. It may happen after the 2016 Summer Olympics. Right now, this league wouldn’t survive without the federations paying for each squad’s best talent. If there were more teams like the Portland Thorns, however, the NWSL would have a better chance at survival come 2017.

The big question is whether Houston would be in it for the long run, but that’s what this test is about. If the Dynamo get enough commitments to mitigate the costs of running the team, it sounds like they’ll push forward. We’ll get a chance to see if Texas is truly ready for women’s professional soccer.

And if the response is light? The NWSL gets that low-risk, low-reward consistency people seemed to want.

Live, Europa League: Wolves, Celtic, Rangers all in action

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round has arrived and it is crunch time for three British teams hoping to reach the group stage of the competition.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers have negotiated the second and third qualifying rounds to reach this stage, as the Premier League side have made light work of Crusaders and Pyunik but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men now have a really tough challenge. They play Serie A side Torino in Turin on Thursday in the first leg, and after Wolves drew against Man United on Monday they’ve had little time to rest.

Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic and Rangers are also in action, with Neil Lennon’s Celtic disappointed to crash out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds as they now have to dust themselves off and get past Swedish side AIK.

Steven Gerrard and Rangers have had to battle through three rounds of qualifying to get to this stage and they head to Legia Warsaw knowing they will be up against it. The Polish giants finished second in their top-flight last season and Rangers will be relying heavily on top goalscorer Alfredo Morales to come up with the goods once again.

Feyenoord host Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Daniel Sturridge‘s Trabzonspor head to AEK Athens and Northern Irish side Linfield host Qarabag in some of the other intriguing clashes, as the first legs are set to be tight and tense with group stage qualification on the line.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while below is the schedule for the Europa League playoff games on Thursday. We will have you covered on Wolves’ European adventure here on Pro Soccer Talk with reaction and analysis.


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana 3-0 BATE Borisov
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET

AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 3 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, with a massive encounter at Anfield headlining the games and a chance for the new boys to cause some upsets.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Everton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Newcastle – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

How will Liverpool, Arsenal line up?

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The big game of the weekend is at Anfield as Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s only teams who remain perfect collide.

[ MORE: Biggest surprise PL players

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have beaten Norwich and Southampton to start the season, while Unai Emery‘s Arsenal beat Newcastle and Burnley but both have had some defensive issues to deal with early in the campaign.

If previous battles between these two giants are anything to go by (see the video above for more on that) we are in for a real treat on Saturday.

Here’s a look at our projected lineups for both teams, with some analysis on why we think Klopp and Emery will start off this way.


Liverpool

—– Adrian —–

—- Alexander-Arnold —- Matip —- Van Dijk —- Robertson —-

—- Henderson —- Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —- 

—- Mane —- Firmino —- Salah —-


Arsenal

—– Leno —–

—- Maitland-Niles —- Sokratis —- Luiz —- Monreal —-

—– Guendouzi —– Torreira —–

—– Ceballos —–

—- Pepe —- Lacazette —- Aubameyang —-


Analysis

Adrian will continue in goal for Liverpool with Alisson out injured and after his howler against Saints last week, plus several other shaky moments and a wonderful save to deny Maya Yoshida, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from the Spanish goalkeeper. Arsenal will look to press him high early and often. Liverpool’s back four should revert back to what it looked like for most of last season with Joel Matip alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center back, with Joe Gomez missing out. In midfield it wouldn’t be surprising if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started but in big games against top six rivals, Klopp has gone a little more conservative over the past 12 months and it is likely Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho will start with Milner coming off the bench as needed. Up top, the famed trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino will look to rip the Gunners apart just like they did at Anfield last season.

Arsenal’s back four is a work in progress, with Monreal and Kolasinac fighting for the left back spot, while Holding is back in training but not yet fit enough to battle with Sokratis and David Luiz for a starting spot. Maitland-Niles is playing well at right back but Hector Bellerin will soon return to give Emery yet another option. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock both started against Burnley last week but the youngsters could be replaced in the lineup. Lucas Torreira will add extra bite in midfield, while Nicolas Pepe looks ready to make his first start out wide but he could come off the bench in favor of playing Nelson who is more defensive minded. Dani Ceballos will look to build on his early promise in an Arsenal shirt, while Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are both fit again but this game may come too soon for them to feature.

Junior Agogo dies aged 40

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Ghanian striker Junior Agogo has died at the age of 40.

The former Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Colorado Rapids striker played for over 15 teams across the globe in his career and represented Ghana 27 times and scored 12 goals.

Agogo suffered a stroke in 2015 which impacted his speech and he revealed to the BBC how he was suffering from anxiety over not being able to express himself.

It was announced that he died in London, England on Thursday.

Several of Agogo’s former clubs have paid tribute to the striker, as he played for Colorado, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire in MLS.