Sacramento Republic FC

MLS Commissioner to visit Sacramento, talk MLS expansion

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber is heading to Sacramento in April to discuss the California capital’s chances of getting an MLS expansion franchise.

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The league and club announced the trip on Thursday, as Sacramento Republic FC will host Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott on Apr. 14 to discuss their plans to enter MLS.

Republic’s managing partner, Kevin Nagle, will tour the MLS executives around the proposed new MLS stadium for Sacramento incorporated in the Railyards district.

Back in December Garber announced plans to expand MLS to 28 teams and with 20 teams currently in the league, plus Atlanta United, Minnesota, LAFC and Miami set to arrive in the coming years, that only leaves four spots open.

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Sacramento Republic have been a roaring success throughout their first two years as a club in the USL Pro. They have set USL attendance records in each campaign after averaging crowds of 11,293 in the 2014 regular season and then in 2015 broke that record with an average of 11,329 at Booney Field.

Adding to that thriving fanbase is the fact that Mayor Kevin Johnson fully supports the club and the Sacramento City Council has already approved the $224 million plans to build a 25,000 capacity MLS stadium if they get the green light from Garber and Co.

Over the past two years Sacramento has added a huge number of investors as part owners in the club, with Sacramento Professional Soccer, LLC owning the club and fronted by Warren Smith. Investors include owners of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and their model of including a large pool of owners is hugely similar to the approach taken by new MLS club Los Angeles FC who will join the league in 2018.

So, how do we rate Sacramento’s chances? They seem pretty good.

The fact that Garber is going their to visit is a really good sign and unlike other potential expansion cities like San Antonio, St. Louis and Las Vegas, the City of Sacramento has already signed off a new soccer-specific stadium to host Sacramento Republic. That has always been a deal-breaker for MLS, having a stadium ready to roll, but even in recent years we’ve seen in Vancouver, Montreal, Orlando and New York City FC they are willing to allow teams to enter the league before their new soccer-specific venue is ready. Sacramento say the stadium could be ready for the 2018 MLS season.

Sacramento’s fanbase seems reminiscent of Orlando City’s in the USL and it would be beneficial to add another California team to compete with the San Jose Earthquakes and both the LA Galaxy and LAFC. With Miami (David Beckham is getting there, slowly) and Atlanta arriving in the Eastern Conference soon, MLS needs to even things up so searching for new clubs out west now seems to be a priority for Garber. Sacramento, at least right now, ticks all the right boxes.

Now, the all-important expansion fee will need to be negotiated and knowing how much Sacramento wants into MLS, Garber is likely to ask in excess of the $100 million. It is reported that LAFC paid $110 million to get into MLS, which is the highest expansion fee in history.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

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Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.

From News3LV.com:

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”

Bayern Munich kicking the tires on big Zaha bid

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A sensational report is linking Wilfried Zaha not just with a move away from Crystal Palace, but a move clear of the Premier League altogether.

90min.com says that Bayern Munich has turned to Zaha, having been rebuffed in their pursuit of Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.

Palace wants $100 million for Zaha, but so far has only received a $50 million offer from Arsenal for his services. Reports Monday said Arsenal is upping its bid, and offering a loan of Reiss Nelson as a make-good. Palace has had good Fortune with loans from the big boys of the PL, in particular with Ruben Loftus-Cheek two seasons ago.

A lot of this makes sense for all parties, apart from Sane, and it will be interesting to see if the report brings a bigger bid from the Gunners.

Zaha is a sensational player, and has created chances year-after-year for the Eagles. He wants to taste the Champions League, but Palace is not willing to let him go for (much) less than its asking price given its sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United.

Bayern will spend less on Zaha than it would on Gareth Bale or Sane, and get a determined player who is very much in his prime. Zaha would also get the chance to showcase himself with actual breathing room on the pitch, thanks to Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and others.

And Palace, of course, will end up with between $80-100 million and the knowledge that it won’t need to mark Zaha on a Premier League pitch. More importantly, the money raised from Zaha and Wan-Bissaka will allow them to strengthen at nearly every position (above what they have now, not above AWB and Zaha).