Now that it’s happening, MLS’s 20th season is sure to be the best one yet

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Now that the 2015 Major League Soccer season is officially happening and starting on time — yes, they worked out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement — you no longer have to temper your excitement for the 20th season of MLS.

What’s that? You say you’re not excited for the upcoming MLS season? First off, shame on you. Secondly, let’s see if we can give you a few reasons to get excited and really give the idea of becoming an MLS fan a shot this year.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]

More. New. Stars.

David Villa, Kaka, Sebastian Giovinco, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard all join the league this year. While Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry may have left the game for good after the 2014 season, MLS finds itself with no shortage of names to display in bright lights upon the marquee every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from March to December.

A North American league has North American stars.

It’s one thing to spend big money on foreign stars just to create a buzz and garner attention in other parts of the world, but only so many players of that caliber are willing to come to MLS. The rest of the league, outside the 10 or so world-class players, needs to not be roster-fillers, but possess a certain level of star power themselves. And so many do.

Could, say, Clint Dempsey, Lee Nguyen, Graham Zusi, Gyasi Zardes or Chris Wondolowski be considered world-class to a fan of most any European giant? Of course not, but they’re legitimate MLS stars. And whatever you think that means — I’m talking to you, the MLS sucks crowd — they put star performances week in and week out, leaving fans and unbiased onlookers alike, saying, “Wow.”

Oh yeah, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, Brek Shea and Sacha Kljestan are all part of the league, too, joining the likes of Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, to name a few.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

The league is growing. Still.

Without New York City FC and Orlando City SC, 2015’s expansion duo, we wouldn’t be able to watch Villa, Lampard, Diskerud or Kaka play on these here shores every week. So, thanks to you, newbies.

source:  There’s also Atlanta and a second team in Los Angeles set to join in 2017, and they’ll surely splash the cash on superstars of their own, adding to the embarrassment of riches MLS currently claims. If David Beckham can ever get his Miami project off the ground, look out, because he’s probably still got a few friends in the game.

The rest of the world is taking notice.

Just last month, MLS and British broadcast behemoth Sky Sports announced a four-year deal to air a number of MLS games in the UK each week. On Thursday, MLS and European broadcast company Eurosport announced a similar four-year deal to show MLS games across Europe.

Not only are European countries sending MLS their players, but they’re also consuming the product, while will only raise MLS’s profile abroad, which will only draw more players to the league. It’s a not-so-vicious circle of soccer.

If it’s good enough for the rest of the world to take notice, then it’s good enough for all of us, too. Besides, if you live in the United States or Canada, it’s your domestic league. If you care about the sport in either country, the best thing you can do is support the local product.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.