New report kicks off another round of Las Vegas expansion talk for MLS

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Is Las Vegas a legitimate contender for MLS expansion? According to the man trying to bring professional soccer to the Nevada desert, the answer is yes – an answer that came straight from the horse’s mouth.

According to Justin Findlay, the person behind Findlay Sports and Entertainment Group, Las Vegas is not on MLS’s “short list,” something he learned after MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott visited the city last week.

Abbott toured downtown Las Vegas and met with city officials about potential expansion into the world’s gambling capital, but for the move to work, the city will have to approve a financing plan for a new $150 to $200 million facility, one that would have air conditioning ducts every three rows of its stands to offset the Mojave Desert heat.

Though the proposal will require a sales tax district around the 24,000-seat stadium for financing, Findlay remains hopeful, almost evangelical:

“The best sport in the world is available. We can get a team right here,” Findlay told a group of potential supporters at a local bar. “Guys, this is possible. It is really, really possible.”

“Hearing right from the horse’s mouth, this is really a possibility,” Findlay would later tell the Las Vegas Sun, who adopted its own evangelical view on Saturday. “We just have to convert on our plan. There are no reasons why these big, big dreams can’t happen.”

There are actually a couple of reasons, starting with the stadium. But even if that happens, Minneapolis might have something to say about it. San Antonio and Sacramento are in this game, too. Las Vegas is an attractive option, but it’s one of many that may be at Major League Soccer’s disposal.

There’s also MLS’s comment on the matter, published to the league’s website:

“We are in preliminary discussions with a potential ownership group for an expansion team in Las Vegas,” the spokesman said. “Also, there is no short list of potential expansion cities. There are many cities interested in bringing a future MLS expansion team to their market.”

No short list? Mr. Lindsay may be getting a little ahead of himself.

Still, for a league that asked $100 million for it’s 20th franchise (back in the days before 24 was the new number), it’s a perfect situation. It’s also why Abbott’s unlikely to discourage any suitor. You’re wealthy and like us? Great! We like you, too! But we there are others we like, too, and boy do they have some great things going on! Just keep driving that price.

Before worrying about where Las Vegas sits compared to, say, Minneapolis let’s consider the positives:

• There’s a clear, passionate ownership group;
• a route to an acceptable facility; and,
• Las Vegas is an attractive market.

Add in a long history of consuming soccer (on television or otherwise) and you have Miami, though tells you how far Vegas has to go. If they build it, will people come? Without a lower-level team (above the PDL) or any significant history in the sport, Vegas is a gamble.

Still, Findlay’s project looks better than places like San Diego or St. Louis, which can’t check all of those boxes (most importantly, number one). Because of the market, it may be more attractive to MLS than Sacramento or San Antonio.

But compared to Minneapolis? Without an established fan base, a track record of lower-level success, or being closer to a stadium, Vegas seems far behind. And whereas we’ve heard commissioner Don Garber speak positively about Minnesota, Las Vegas is just now entering the discussion.

There may be a long way to go MLS announces its next team. That gives Lindsay a chance to catch up. Until we hear something from somebody outside of Las Vegas, though, this looks like a long shot, albeit an attractive one.

Mane undergoes hand surgery

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The “FIFA virus” is hitting Liverpool hard this month.

Sadio Mane, who reportedly broke his left thumb on international duty for Senegal, underwent surgery on Wednesday, Liverpool confirmed. The club did not include a timetable for Mane’s return in its press release, only saying, “Mane’s recovery will be monitored over the next couple of days ahead of the Reds’ return to action at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.”

With the injury, Mane joins Mo Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk as Reds to be injured during the international break.

As an attacker, it’s unlikely Mane really needs the use of his left hand other than to protect himself on aerial challenges on bumps from defenders, but depending on the recovery, it may just be a decision of how much pain Mane could tolerate. With matches against Huddersfield, Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City to come, maybe this is a good time for Jurgen Klopp to rest some of his starters, including the walking wounded like Mane.

Fulham owner withdraws offer to purchase Wembley Stadium

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Wembley Stadium is set to stay in the FA’s hands.

[READ: USMNT 1-1 Peru: Player Ratings]

The FA announced in a press release Wednesday that Fulham owner Shahid Kahn had withdrawn his offer of $790 million to purchase Wembley Stadium. Kahn first became interested in buying the stadium in February 2017, when he and FA CEO Martin Glenn met at the Superbowl. What followed was an informal offer to the FA Board of Directors before a formal offer was made.

The offer has been valued at anywhere from nearly $800 million to nearly $1.2 billion. In a statement, Kahn said that his goal to purchase the stadium was to provide the FA with a large amount of capital which it could use to improve grassroots soccer around the country.

“The intent of my efforts was, and is, to do right by everyone in a manner that strengthens the English game and brings people together, not divides them,” Khan said. “Unfortunately, given where we are today, I’ve concluded that the outcome of a vote next week would be far from sufficient in expressing the broad support favored by the FA chairman to sell Wembley Stadium.”

The FA council was set to vote on the sale next week.

Although it cost the FA and British government more than $1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation) to renovate and rebuild Wembley Stadium, the arena hosted 33 events between July 2016 and June 2017 and in its latest published financial records, the FA recorded an after-tax profit of $21 million. So it seems that along with the sponsorships and broadcast deals, Wembley Stadium is a money maker, which makes it important for the FA to hold on to.

That being said, it’s hard to turn down a deal worth close to $1 billion, even if that’s a lump sum and they won’t receive further investments from stadium revenues in the future. In the future, maybe Kahn or another owner may make another offer, one that the FA council could accept.

Report: La Liga chief going to court to compel U.S. based games to happen

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The head of La Liga is considering taking extraordinary action to ensure that a planned match this year in the U.S. goes off as expected.

[READ: What did we learn about the USMNT?]

According to Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to bring a lawsuit against the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and its chief, Luis Rubiales to compel the federation to approve Barcelona’s match against Girona on January 26, which has been scheduled to be moved to Miami, Fla.’s Hard Rock Stadium.

In a way, it makes sense that Tebas and the Spanish league is considering every possible avenue to ensure that their 15-year marketing rights agreement with Relevant Sports, including league matches played abroad, can move forward as expected. However, it was clear after the announcement in August that all parties involved – especially La Liga, had not thought this through. FIFA, the RFEF, local fans and the Spanish league’s player’s union have all opposed the news, and on Wednesday Real Madrid formally sent a letter of it’s disapproval in moving La Liga matches abroad.

Tebas and La Liga would prefer for this to be resolved legally sooner rather than later, so they can market the Barcelona match in Miami and begin negotiating with the other federations that need to approve. But there’s a decent chance that the other parties – FIFA, and U.S. Soccer – could fail to rubber stamp what would be a first-of-its-kind event. In any case, watch this space.

What did we learn about USMNT during international break

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The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the October FIFA international slate with a somewhat demoralizing loss and an uplifting draw, if there is such a thing.

The young U.S. core continues to show flashes of great talent, but overall the team still seems to be stuttering along under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, who just managed his 10th game and could likely finish out the calendar year as USMNT boss.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways from the USMNT’s October friendlies:


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