After brave battle, Rangers’ top-flight return can help Scotland prosper

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After four years in exile, Rangers returned to the top-flight of Scottish soccer on Tuesday with a win over Dumbarton in front of nearly 50,000 fans at their famous Ibrox Stadium.

Now, a new journey begins.

[ MORE: Rangers finish long trip back to the top ]

After being demoted to the fourth and lowest tier of Scottish soccer in 2012 after going into administration and then liquidation, the great Scottish club was reduced to ruins amid severe mismanagement from Craig Whyte and Charles Green who are both currently embroiled in a criminal investigation with regards to alleged fraudulent acquisition of the club in 2012.

The Rangers Football Club PLC were liquidated and a new club rose from the ashes: The Rangers Football Club Ltd.

After three promotions in the last four years, they are now back where they belong after overcoming severe financial restrictions and battling their way through the lower leagues of the Scottish pyramid. There have been plenty of mistakes made along the way and tough times off the pitch still lie ahead when it comes to finances, but this is a fresh start for Rangers. 

We are talking about a team who has more league titles (54) than any team in Scottish history and were perennially in the UEFA Champions League alongside bitter rivals Glasgow Celtic. It’s like demoting Real Madrid or Barcelona to the fourth tier of Spanish soccer, then tying one arm behind their back.

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The fact that the Old Firm rivalry will return to Scottish Premiership next season is another reason for celebration, but Rangers’ return to the big time will also help the whole of Scotland.

Celtic have won the Premiership title in each of the four seasons Rangers were out of the top-flight but now they’ll have a real rival again as Aberdeen, Motherwell and Hearts have failed to provide sustained resistance. Under Mark Warburton, Rangers will be very competitive in their first season back in the top-flight and already their players are focusing on challenging for the title next season.

Anyone who has ever visited Ibrox will tell you how passionate their fanbase is and their fans will expect instant success back in the top tier of Scottish soccer.

But a word on the fans: they’ve been alongside their team all along.

PETERHEAD, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 11: A view into the stadium during the IRN-BRU Scottish Third Division match between Peterhead and Glasgow Rangers at Balmoor Stadium on August 11, 2012 in Peterhead, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Since Peterhead away in the fourth tier in 2012 in their first league game after the humiliating demotion, to last night at Ibrox against Dumbarton, Rangers’ fans have traveled the length and breadth of Scotland supporting their team. They’ve rolled into tiny coastal towns in their thousands and must be commended for the way most of them have shrugged their shoulders and got on with the punishment handed out to them by the Scottish Football Association.

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You’d rarely hear Rangers fans, players or management complain about the situation they found themselves in. Many times they’ve had financial hiccups along the way with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley investing in the parent company who owns Rangers and plenty of other financial travails, but the fans stuck by the team and rather enjoyed traveling to Montrose, Stenhousemuir and Alloa Athletic. Their loyalty should be rewarded in the coming years.

Rangers’ return to the top-flight restores order in Scotland. With Gordon Strachan leading the Scottish national team in the right direction and Rangers back in the Premiership, a brighter future awaits.

Assuming Rangers challenge Celtic for the title next season, potentially having two teams challenging in Europe will be a great thing for Scotland. Celtic didn’t even make the UCL last season and crashed out of the Europa League at the group stage. The lack of proper competition in Scotland’s top-flight has hurt them. After losing their two UEFA Champions League spots due to poor performances in European club competitions, with a strong Celtic and Rangers — that will happen now as Celtic can’t take things for granted and Rangers will be desperate to usurp their crosstown rivals immediately — there’s a chance Scotland’s coefficient will climb and they’ll at least grab two UCL qualification spots back.

Right now they only have three Europa League spots and one UCL spot for the champions as they sit 25th in UEFA’s coefficient rankings and need to get into the top 15 to gain a second UCL spot.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 5 : Rangers players celebrate on the pitch as Rangers beat Dumbarton 1-0 to clinch the Scottish Championship title during the match between Glasgow Rangers FC and Dumbarton FC at Ibrox Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

It will take time for Scotland to get anywhere close to replicating the heady days of Celtic and Rangers being in the Champions League together plus managers — Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Kenny Dalglish to name a few — and players starring in the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe, but Rangers’ arrival back in the top-flight should open up a new chapter for the passionate soccer nation of just over five million people.

Next season Rangers will be hoping they can continue their climb back to the summit of Scottish soccer by winning the Premiership title.

For now, they should revel in the tough climb they had up through the league’s in the last four years. After consecutive promotions from the fourth and third tiers, they’ve taken two years to get out of the second tier so maybe we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and presume they’ll be challenging for the title next season. That said, it’s Rangers. It is what we expect.

Speaking as someone who has spent time in Scotland slugging away in the lower leagues, what they’ve achieved is no mean feat. They’ve gone through three management teams, countless players and had many ups and downs as financial turmoil threatened to derail the club once again in 2014.

Captain Lee Wallace has been part of this journey throughout and he’s best equipped to explain exactly what this promotion means to Rangers.

“The fact of the matter is, we are back where we belong,” Wallace said. “Every singe player associated with Rangers, every single fan can be proud of what we have done over the last four years and we are finally there.”

Nashville signs Mexican striker for MLS 2020 debut, loans him to USL

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Nashville has its first official Major League Soccer signing, and it’s raided a USL rival to land him for the 2020 season.

[ REPORT: New Chelsea deal for Kante? ]

Daniel Rios is the debut member of their MLS side, and the 23-year-old Mexican striker will spend the 2019 season on loan to USL side Nashville SC.

Rios is bringing an outstanding 2018 season west from North Carolina, where he scored 20 goals and 13 assists for NCFC.

A former Mexico U-20 player, Rios was on loan to NCFC from Chivas Guadalajara.

LIVE: USMNT vs. Italy – Pulisic wearing captain’s armband

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Christian Pulisic may be only 20-years old, but he’ll have to take a big step up in leadership on Tuesday evening.

Pulisic has been given the captain’s armband for the first time as the youth-laden U.S. Men’s National Team side finishes the 2018 calendar slate facing an experimental Italy side. The U.S. Starting XI has an average age of just 22-years and 71 days, making it the youngest lineup in the modern era.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Joe Prince-Wright reporting LIVE from Genk, Belgium ]

It’s also a chance for fans to see Josh Sargent play alongside Pulisic, while two members of the New York Red Bulls, Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, both make starts on this cool Tuesday evening. Reggie Cannon and Shaq Moore earn the nods at wing back and Cameron Carter-Vickers also makes his return to the field, after Dave Sarachan went with Matt Miazga and John Anthony Brooks against England in central defense. The USMNT will play with a three-man backline against Italy.

Stay tuned to PST for wall-to-wall coverage, reaction and analysis of Thursday’s game as soon as the final whistle blows.

Report: Chelsea to double Kante’s wages

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Count Chelsea’s ownership and coaching staff among the many who value N'Golo Kante‘s talents, and are willing to pay big bucks for them.

According to a report in The Telegraph, Chelsea and Kante have agreed on a new five-year contract, worth $19.9 million per season. If true, Kante’s new contract doubles the French World Cup winner’s wages as he continues to prove his mettle as the top holding midfielder in the Premier League.

[READ: U.S. U-20s to face Mexico in CONCACAF U-20 Championship]

Kante’s so far scored one goal in 18 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea under new manager Maurizio Sarri, who has paired Kante in midfield with Jorginho. The Brazilian-born Italian serves as the deep-lying playmaker while Kante is the destroyer, winning the ball back before it gets into the final third.

The new contract is significant because in the past, mainly attackers have been given large contracts while defensive-minded players have had to settle for smaller wages. However, nearly $20 million per season is no small chunk of change, and this could raise the rest of the tide of holding midfielders across the Premier League.

For Chelsea, the club needed to re-sign Kante and keep him happy, in part because their title ambitions rest with him. The lure of playing for Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid can be strong, but with Chelsea paying his wages, he now has almost $20 million reasons not to leave Stamford Bridge.

UEFA to introduce VAR in Champions League knockout stage

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Following a successful run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, UEFA is finally getting on board with adopting video assistant refereeing.

VAR will be in use during the Champions League’s knockout stage in 2019, according to a report from the Times of London, which states that UEFA’s executive committee is expected to approve VAR for this season at an upcoming meeting on Dec. 3 in Dublin. Video review was reportedly not supposed to be approved until the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign but recent refereeing errors in the face of successful trials of VAR changed UEFA’s mind.

[READ: Ibrahimovic back to AC Milan?]

Video review at the World Cup proved that VAR could be conducted in a speedy and accurate manner, ensuring the integrity of the game while adding some new drama to the game. Raheem Sterling‘s penalty kick in Man City’s match against Shakhtar Donetsk, when video replay showed he tripped over his own feet, only renewed calls from fans and the media for video assistant referees to be used in these big-time events.

Technology has improved to the point where it is imperative that referees are given all the help they can receive. Players are moving quicker than ever, and the human eye can only watch so much. The fact that referees get nearly every decision correct is in it of itself, an impressive feat. Hopefully, with VAR coming to the Champions League and the Premier League, referees can return to getting game-changing decisions correct.