Men in Blazers join NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League

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GFOPs, rejoice! Men in Blazers are joining NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League and will offer a full multi-media, cross-platform showcase for their unique talents. The deal makes Men in Blazers exclusive to NBC Universal for all soccer-related content.

News of the comedic duo, made up of television producer Michael Davies and writer/producer Roger Bennett, joining the network broke last night in the Wall Street Journal article written by Will Connors. That article noted the centerpiece of the deal being a 30 minute show to air every Monday of Premier League competition and today, additional details of the group’s input have emerged.

| BPLonNBC TV schedule | Premier League previews | Watch PL live online via Live Extra |

The agreement includes one studio appearance per month by Bennett where he will serve as a special contributor, a single one-hour special show (to be aired during a high point of the Premier League season), various features including four to six pieces from the United Kingdom, as well as video-on-demand previews to be distributed via Pro Soccer Talk, Soccerly and Yahoo. Bennett will also contribute long form pieces to NBCSports.com, where a Men in Blazers section will exist that houses their weekly podcast, headlines and thumbnails for all content.

[VISIT: Men In Blazers website | Get their podcast ]

Over the past three years Davies and Bennett have reached cult status with their weekly podcast on Grantland. “The pod,” as it’s commonly known, is a witty, pop culture-infused show that focuses on the Premier League but also pays homage to the U.S. Men’s National Team (referred to by the duo as “The Von Trapps”), Major League Soccer and other major stories in international football. Recurring topics of discussion include Davies’ love for Chelsea, Bennett’s love for Everton, the growth of soccer in the United States, World War I poetry as well as a smattering array of television series like Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, all of which contribute to the fast-growing lexicon in which Men in Blazers converse.

Followers of the duo are known as ‘Great Friend of the Pod’, or, more commonly, “GFOPs”, an acronym that is frequently hashtagged in Tweets to Men in Blazers and noted in conversation by guests and fans. In recent years the two have taken their podcast to the airwaves where twice a week their show could be heard on Sirius XM FC. Always a favorite among soccer-heads in the US, the group transcended the sport with their coverage of the 2014 World Cup for ESPN where a number of casual watchers were drawn in by their intellect and repartee.

Davies, also known as “Davo” and “Positive”, is a British television producer who produced Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and broke through in the soccer scene when he authored a hugely-entertaining ESPN World Cup diary in 2002. Bennett, also known as “Rog” and, affectionately, “Toilet”, is a journalist, author and filmmaker who recently directed the highly-acclaimed ESPN documentary, Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil. 

In their tagline, Men in Blazers state that they are “driven by the belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.” The irony of the statement is that, of all factors contributing to the rise of soccer in the US, one of the most profound influences is Men in Blazers themselves. They are conversationally relevant, they are social, and they understand the dynamics of the media landscape as well as any talent. The perfect addition to NBC’s extensive coverage of the Barclays Premier League.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard price ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.

MLS roundup: Timbers end road trip with emphatic win in Philly

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in MLS…

[ MORE: USA topped by Ukraine in U-20 World Cup opener ]

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Just when everyone had begun to take the Union seriously — to give them the respect befitting a first-place team — Jim Curtin’s side fell flat on its face and fell out of the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Saturday’s defeat to the suddenly streaking — and homeward bound — Timbers snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten run (four wins).

24-year-old attacker Brian Fernandez, signed as a Designated Player earlier this month, made his first MLS start and marked the occasion with two first-half goals (31st and 36th minutes). Diego Valeri added the third (87th) after Kacper Przybylko pulled the Union back to 2-1 in the 47th.

Now, with 14 points from their 12-game road trip to start the season, Portland heads home for 17 of their final 22 games to be played inside a newly renovated — and expanded — Providence Park. The gap between themselves and a Western Conference playoff place is just four points.

New England Revolution 1-1 D.C. United [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

With the Union slipping up and dropping all three points, D.C. United made the most of their opportunity to return to the top of the East on the back of Wayne Rooney‘s 90th-minute penalty kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with (what will soon be) Bruce Arena’s Revolution.

Juan Agudelo put the home side ahead with a header in the 61st minute, and the lead held firm for nearly the final half-hour. Alas, video review reviewed a handball late in the game, which presented Rooney the chance to play the part of hero. He duly obliged and hammered his spot kick past backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who replaced Matt Turner following his 56th minute red card for cleaning out Rooney.

Arena is expected to take charge of Revs training this week and make his debut as head coach next Sunday, when his new side visits… his old side, the LA Galaxy.

Colorado Rapids 3-2 Columbus Crew SC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Don’t look now, but the Rapids have won two straight games under interim head coach Conor Casey and appear set on clawing their way out of the league’s basement.

Sure, they blew a pair of leads at home, but they also hit back with another goal of their own every time Crew SC drew level, culminating in a stunning winner from Nicolas Mezquida.

The gap between Colorado and 23th place is now just three points, as expansion side FC Cincinnati come closer and closer on the horizon.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 1-1 New York City FC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 FC Dallas [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
FC Cincinnati 0-2 New York Red Bulls [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders — 6 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”