Michael Bradley-to-Toronto: Take a moment to suspend your whys, consider how far MLS has come

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Michael Bradley may be coming back to Major League Soccer. Even if he doesn’t — if he has some kind of last minute change of course that undermines all the news we’ve heard on Wednesday — just take a moment to consider what’s going on. This is a U.S. international that’s in the undisputed prime of his career – one that has played at the top-level in England, Germany, and Italy. He is fighting for time right now, but he’s fighting for time for the second place team in the Italian Serie A. And despite all of this — despite his earning potential, his stature at a big Italian club, and a World Cup on the horizon — Michael Bradley might be coming back to Major League Soccer.

[UPDATE: Report: Bradley to Toronto done, set to earn $6.5 million per season after $7-$10 million transfer fee]

What is happening with this league? Just five years ago, this circuit was struggling for international relevance ahead of a World Cup that would see only six Major League Soccer players feature in South Africa. The four MLS players Bob Bradley picked for the U.S. squad represented the lowest total since MLS came into existence in 1996. The question of whether the U.S.’s top talent should be playing domestically or in Europe seemed to be resolved (in Europe’s favor), while the league was still struggling to come to grips with the need to fit in the Beckhams and Henrys of the world in financially constrained business model.

Fast forward to 2014, and we have a league willing to pay Tottenham Hotspur $9 million to get Clint Dempsey to Seattle. We see Seattle (and other sources) willing to guarantee the U.S. captain $8 million per year to play in Major League Soccer, with another, younger, even better American set to follow. Add in the commitments to players like Beckham, Henry, Robbie Keane, and Tim Cahill (and nearly every team using the Designated Player rule), and you have a league that looks nothing like it’s pre-South Africa self. Either MLS is spending itself into the ground (unlikely, given the still modest sums going to total payroll) or a new, more financially viable era of Major League Soccer has produced a makeover.

[MORE: Defoe to Toronto FC official… and maybe Michael Bradley, too? (or “How Taylor Twellman broke Twitter”)]

Five years ago, there were serious questions about MLS’s direction. The league had recovered from its post-Florida contraction doldrums, had expanded into places like Salt Lake, Toronto, and Los Angeles, yet before the Pacific Northwest expansion, there were still major questions as to whether the league was capturing hearts and minds. Why those questions still remain, they’ve taken a different form post-Beckham: where market’s like Seattle’s, Portland’s, and Kansas City’s (re-branded) are generating new excitement; where the league is pushing on to a 24-team format that would have sounded foolish a decade ago. Now the question isn’t whether the league is growing. It’s how the league can grow responsibly.

source: AP
Even more than Clint Dempsey’s acquisition by the Seattle Sounders, Michael bradley’s potential returns represents progress from Major League Soccer. (Photo: AP.)

Even more than Clint Dempsey’s move to Seattle, Michael Bradley’s potential switch to Toronto give us reason to appreciate that progress. Bradley is four years younger than Dempsey and isn’t being lured by a situation like Seattle’s. He’s willing to forgo four, maybe six more years in Europe to come back to a relatively struggling team, and while he’ll certainly be handsomely compensated to do so, there are still a number of factors here that force us to reconsider MLS’s new drawing power. Like the Dempsey deal, there’s no way something like this happens four or five years ago.

So as all this Michael Bradley news unfolds (and at this point, it sounds like an inevitability) , it might be worth suspending disbelief and considering the progress. Why is a 26-year-old returning to MLS? Why is he passing on Europe to come back home? Why is he choosing Toronto, and (for that matter) why is Toronto making such a huge commitment to him?

There are good answers to all of these questions, answers that we’ll dive into as news of Bradley’s arrival starts to be confirmed. For now, however, it’s worth putting those curiosities aside for a moment of reelection. Whether the move gets finalized or not, Major League Soccer’s now in a place where a $10 million transfer and $8 million salary can happen under the right circumstances. That those circumstances are even possible is a huge testament to the league’s upward trajectory.

EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan vs Denmark — 9am ET
England vs Ukraine — Noon ET
Liechtenstein vs Iceland — Noon ET
Slovenia vs San Marino — Noon ET
Slovakia vs Bosnia and Herzegovina — 2:45pm ET
Northern Ireland vs Finland — 2:45pm ET
Luxembourg vs Portugal — 2:45pm ET
Malta vs Italy — 2:45pm ET

Monday, March 27

Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain
Scotland
Norway
Georgia
Cyprus

Group B

Netherlands
France
Republic of Ireland
Greece
Gibraltar

Group C

Italy
England
Ukraine
North Macedonia
Malta

Group D

Croatia
Wales
Armenia
Turkey
Latvia

Group E

Poland
Czech Republic
Albania
Faroe Islands
Moldova

Group F

Belgium
Austria
Sweden
Azerbaijan
Estonia

Group G

Hungary
Serbia
Montenegro
Bulgaria
Lithuania

Group H

Denmark
Finland
Slovenia
Kazakhstan
Northern Ireland
San Marino

Group I

Switzerland
Israel
Romania
Kosovo
Belarus
Andorra

Group J

Portugal
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Iceland
Luxembourg
Slovakia
Liechtenstein

USMNT kicks off 2026 World Cup cycle with 7-1 win in Grenada

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The USMNT scored early and often, as they cruised to a 7-1 victory over Grenada in CONCACAF Nations League action in St. George’s on Friday.

[ MORE: Player ratings out of 10 for USMNT ]

The victory puts the USMNT (7 points) atop Group D with one game left to play, against El Salvador (5 points – 2nd place) on Monday.

The Yanks got on the board in the 4th minute, and it was a sensational cross from Christian Pulisic which found Ricardo Pepi atop the six-yard box. Pepi used the considerable pace on Pulisic’s cross to head the ball down and out of goalkeeper Jason Belfon’s reach.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me” ]

Brenden Aaronson made it 2-0 in the 21st minute, as the Leeds attacker received the ball atop the 18-yard box, turned into open space and cut inside before firing a right-footed finish hard and low to the near post.

Weston McKennie made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark, as he smashed an off-balance, left-footed volley home after his initial header on Pulisic’s free kick was blocked. Two minutes after Myles Hippolyte fired a laser past Matt Turner (a minute after McKennie’s first goal), the recently acquired Leeds midfielder struck again to make it 4-1, applying the final touch after Auston Trusty headed the ball down after another free kick from Pulisic.

[ MORE: Three key questions for USMNT in March ]

The USMNT jumped on Grenada just as quickly when the second half began, with Pulisic putting his name on the scoresheet in the 49th minute. Luca de la Torre found Pulisic cutting in from the left wing, and the ball somehow found its way past Belfon for 5-1.

Four minutes later, De la Torre played a slightly trickier through ball to spring Pepi in behind the Grenadine defense, and Pepi made no mistake with his one-on-one chance against Belfon. Pepi, who is currently on loan to Groningen from Augsburg, waited for the goalkeeper to go down one way and coolly slotted the ball the other way.

Alejandro Zendejas, who recently elected to represent the USMNT internationally, became cap-tied to the USMNT when he came off the bench in the 64th minute. Eight minutes later, the 25-year-old winger got his first senior international goal.


Start of a new World Cup cycle = a clean slate

For all intents and purposes, the USMNT kicked off the 2026 World Cup cycle on Friday, with the first team reconvening for the first time since the 2022 tournament in Qatar. A new World Cup cycle means brand new opportunities for new players, and a fresh start for those who didn’t get the starts or appearances that they thought they should have.

The net will be cast far and wide as the rest of 2023 sees the USMNT (likely) head to the finals of the Nations League and then the Gold Cup, with a handful of players seemingly coming from out of nowhere to claim consistent call-ups ahead of Copa America 2024 (on U.S. soil once again). There will be even more opportunities than usual for fringe players to make a case, with the Yanks automatically qualifying for the 2026 tournament as hosts.


What’s next?

The USMNT will host El Salvador in a winner-take-all Group D finale on Monday (7:30 pm ET), at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. The group winner will qualify for the finals (four teams) of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League (June 15-18) as well as the 2023 Gold Cup (June 24-July 16); the group runners-up will also qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup.

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How to watch Grenada vs USMNT live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 8pm ET, Friday (March 24)
Stadium: Kirani James Athletic Stadium, St. George’s
TV in English: TNT
TV/streaming en Español: Universo/Peacock

[ LIVE: CONCACAF Nations League scores – Grenada vs USMNT ]


USMNT squad

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders (8): Sergino Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City)

Midfielders (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Sonora (Juarez), Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar)

Forwards (6): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)

EDIT: Tim Weah (Lille) was originally called up, but exited due to a head injury.

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USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup

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After reaching the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT have a big 2023 coming up as they aim to build off a successful showing on the world’s biggest stage.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson takes temporary charge and both the general manager (Brian McBride) and sporting director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months.

[ MORE: USMNT roster for Nations League features Gio Reyna, no Tyler Adams ]

As for now, here is the USMNT’s upcoming schedule for 2023, with plenty more games to be added based on their potential qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup on home soil.


How to watch USMNT

TV channels in English: HBO Max, TNT
TV channels en Español:
Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT upcoming schedule

* Friendly | ** CONCACAF Nations League | *** 2022 World Cup

2023

vs. Serbia* — Jan. 25, 10 pm ET — Loss 2-1 | Recap & highlights
vs. Colombia* — Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET — Draw 0-0 | Recap & highlights
at Grenada** — March 24, 8 pm ET — Won 7-1 | Recap & highlights + Player ratings
vs El Salvador** — March 27, 7:30pm ET — Orlando, Florida
vs Mexico* — April 19, 10:22pm ET — Glendale, Arizona – More details

2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 (USMNT yet to qualify)


USMNT games in 2022

vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0


USMNT at 2022 World Cup

Group B
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0

Last 16
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1


USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis

at El Salvador — Sept. 2Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0

at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0 
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2 


Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Canada — 28 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +16 – automatic qualification
Mexico — 28 points (QUALIFIED) GD +9 – automatic qualification
USMNT — 25 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +11 – automatic qualification


Costa Rica — 25 points (PLAYOFF) GD +5


Panama — 21 points (ELIMINATED)
Jamaica — 14 points (ELIMINATED)
El Salvador — 10 points (ELIMINATED)
Honduras — 4 points (ELIMINATED)

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Player ratings: USMNT thumps Grenada in Nations League

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The USMNT kicked off the 2026 World Cup cycle as the Yanks reconvened (the first team, at least) for the first time since the 2022 tournament in Qatar, in a 7-1 victory Grenada on Friday.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me” ]

Who stood out (for better and for worse) as the USMNT thumped Grenada?


USMNT player ratings vs Grenada

GK – Matt Turner: 6 – Faced just three shots on target (0.36 xG), made two saves and watched helplessly as a screamer from outside the box hit the back of the net.

RB – Bryan Reynolds: 6.5 – The USMNT focused the vast majority of its attacking play down the left side of the field, making Reynolds the target of a handful of cross-field switches as he played the full 90 minutes.

CB – Mark McKenzie: 7 – Teamed up with his former center back partner from his Philadelphia Union days, McKenzie was tasked with being far and away the senior figure and leader of the defense on Friday (his 10 caps were four more than the rest of the back-four combined).

CB – Auston Trusty: 7 – A solid performance in his USMNT debut for the 24-year-old Arsenal defender (on loan to Birmingham City, where he has appeared in 37 games in the Championship thus far). With nearly 70 percent of possession on the night, there aren’t many better opportunities to get your feet wet at the senior international level.

LB – Joe Scally: 7.5 – Do not get overly excited about a 20-year-old’s performance against Grenada. I repeat, do not get overly excited about a 20-year-old’s performance against Grenada. That said, does the USMNT have… two left backs?


DM – Luca de la Torre: 7 – It would be unwise to assign too much value to a game that finished 7-1 against the no. 173-ranked nation in the world, but one thing is for certain and has been proven on a number of occasions: LdlT is a smooth operator as a ball-playing defensive midfielder, and he showed himself quite capable further up the field, in and around the opposing penalty area, on Friday as well.

CM – Weston McKennie: 8 – Two goals (both off of free kicks) for the newly acquired Leeds midfielder, which would be an incredibly welcome development for a side that hasn’t made enough of its set pieces in recent times.

CM – Gio Reyna: 6.5 – This was the solid, if unspectacular, return that Reyna needed after weeks of off-field controversy surround himself, his family and former (but perhaps future) head coach Gregg Berhalter. There were plenty of fireworks elsewhere in the team on Friday, and Reyna managed to come through the game unscathed.


RW – Brenden Aaronson: 7 – It’s been a tough first season in the Premier League for Aaronson, so his first-half goal will hopefully provide a much-needed boost in confidence (his first goal, for club or country, in any competition, since Aug. 21, his third game for Leeds).

CF – Ricardo Pepi: 8 – Aside from scoring the opening goal, Pepi was active and involved in much of what the USMNT tried to do going forward in the first half. Given how deep Grenada sat defensively to begin the game, the Yanks could have taken the easy way out — staying wide and crossing the ball repeatedly — every time down the field, but there appeared to be a concerted effort to combine through the middle of the field, which meant Pepi had to be sharp and quick with his movement to create space for Reyna, Aaronson and Christian Pulisic. Speaking of building confidence, how about the finish for his second goal…

LW – Christian Pulisic: 8 – Ho hum. Just a one-goal, two-assist performance from Pulisic. As previously discussed, the USMNT found infinite joy down the left side of attack and Pulisic was at the center of most of it (for 64 minutes, at least).

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