Everton, Tottenham, Hull City into next year’s Europa League

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Manchester United misses out entirely on European play as Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa dumps the Red Devils out of Europa League contention.

Everton joins Spurs as qualifiers through table position in fifth and sixth respectively.

The FA Cup final often decides whether the 7th-place finisher gets to play in the Europa League, but in this case Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League, so the runners-up get the place automatically. Those runners-up are Hull City, so Steve Bruce will have to navigate the depths of the Europa League next year.

MORE: Final Premier League standings

The fixture congestion coming from Europa League play is always a concern for mid-table clubs, and Bruce addressed the issue, adding that the draw of European play will bring players to the club.

“There’s a huge complication with Europe,” said Bruce. “However, let’s not derail it before we get into it. When the draw comes out in mid-July then to see our name in amongst it is fantastic. That’s when it will grab hold of people. Big clubs with huge traditions and histories. To be part of it is great.”

European play can be fatal for teams that aren’t equipped to cope with yet another competition, and Bruce will have to weigh an improbable run to the Europa League later stages with securing Premier League safety for yet another year.

It can be done, as Fulham showed a number of years ago with their incredible run to the competition’s final, just losing in extra time.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are no newcomers to the rigors of the competition, having played in the tournament for the last few years.  They fell to Benfica in the Round of 16 this past season, a decent run having beaten clubs like Dnipro and Anzhi.

Spurs manager Tim Sherwood insisted the competition was coveted by the club, saying,

“I think that is hugely important for a club like Tottenham,” Sherwood told Sky Sports. “Everyone aspires to be in the Champions League, but we know how difficult it is to actually achieve that. We’ve got a big squad of players and when they’re all fit… they need a games programme and I think the Europa League gives them opportunities to play games, keep themselves mentally prepared and physically ready.”

For Everton, they will be upset at missing out on a chance at the Champions League, which would have been a big boost to the club.

However, Roberto Martinez will no doubt relish his chance in the competition, making the playoff round through their 5th place finish.

The draw of European play will be most benficial to the Toffees, who have the most holes to fill following the expiry of a number of important loan deals. Europa League play along with the promise of a fight towards Champions League qualification would go a long way in convincing players like Romelu Lukaku to stick around.

The double-edged sword of European play rolls on, but ultimately the achievement is a mark of a successful season for these three clubs.

NFL’s 49ers purchase minority stake in Leeds United

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One of England’s most famous clubs is receiving investment and strategic business connections from one of the NFL’s most famous brands.

Leeds United and the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the 49ers ownership, has purchased a minority stake in the Championship club. Multiple reports state that the 49ers now own 10-15 percent of the club, but current Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner.

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As part of the deal, 49ers President Paraag Marathe gets a seat on the Leeds United board of directors. Per Leeds, the money invested will stay with the club and be used for the first team, as Leeds looks again to make its way back to the Premier League in next season’s campaign.

An American ownership group investing in England is nothing new, but to identify and purchase a stake in a club with history and a decent chance at making it to the Premier League is impressive. In addition, the York Family, who owns the 49ers, has a net worth in the billions, which could help fund Leeds’ push back into the Premier League.

For the 49ers, this is also a savvy business decision. By investing low in a club in the Championship, they hope that they can experience the financial windfall of playing in the Premier League. This season, clubs made a combined $3.2 billion (with a capital B) thanks to revenue sharing, international and domestic TV rights, and other sponsorship deals.

With even the relegated sides taking home nine figures in revenues from the league, who wouldn’t want to invest and take a cut of that?

Now, only time will tell how long it is before the 49ers influence helps – or hinders, based on the 49ers current state of affairs in the U.S. – Leeds reach the pinnacle of English football.

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.