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End of season Premier League grades: Who failed? Who excelled?

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2015-16 Premier League season.

From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, we dish out the grades. Who finished top of the class? Who got a big fat F?

Now the 2015-16 Premier League season is done and dusted it is time to reflect on everything that happened and give each club an overall grade for their performances.


TEAM GRADE
source:  A+ Leicester City:  If I could give them a higher mark I would. Every single player performed to 100 percent of their potential, Ranieri managed the situation marvelously and they are worthy champs.
source:  A Southampton: Koeman delivered a record points tally and highest-ever points tally as Saints qualified for Europe. Only Leicester won more points than them in second half of the season. Sublime finish.
source:  A West Ham United: Slaven Billic’s side pushed for the top four all season long and a late season slip up saw them finish seventh. Still, a wonderful season to cap off the final year at Upton Park. Now, Payet & Co. head to the Olympic Stadium.
source:  A-
Tottenham: For so long it seemed like this young Spurs squad would pip Leicester to the title, then things unraveled. Still, a third place finish is something for the PL’s youngest squad to be proud of. Pochettino is building something special… even if they didn’t finish above Arsenal.
source:  B+
Bournemouth: If you would’ve offered the Cherries survival at start of the season they would’ve taken it. They’ve played with style and racked up big wins as well as staying up.
source:  B+
Arsenal: Second place finish may be a little flattering when all is said and done, but 20 straight years of finishing top four and 21 years of finishing ahead of Spurs sounds pretty darn good.
source:  B- Man City: Did the bare minimum in sealing a top four spot for next season. There will be a lot of changes under new manager Pep Guardiola this summer.
source:  B- Watford: After securing their first-ever back-to-back seasons in the PL you’d think everything would be rosy at Vicarage Road. Think again. Quique Sanchez Flores is out as manager. They struggled in the second half of season but did superbly up until December.
source:  B- Stoke City: Strangely Stoke will be very upset with a third-straight ninth place finish. For most of the campaign they were flirting with the top six but injuries cost them dear. Mark Hughes must add some key men this summer.
source:  C+ Swansea City: The season started brightly for the Swans but then Garry Monk got the sack and things were looking dodgy. Guidolin arrived to steer them to safety and 12th place. The Italian will look to build on this.
source:  C+ Liverpool: Things are starting to take shape but you still can’t get over the fact that two years ago this club almost won the title. They spent most of this season in midtable.
source:  C+ Crystal Palace: A season which promised so much has slightly under delivered. If they win the FA Cup it is a success, but PL form faded badly Alan Pardew.
source:  C- Sunderland: Once again it was a monumental struggle for the Black Cats but once again they stayed up with one game to spare. They look solid and reliable under Big Sam Allardyce. Now, can they get the recruitment right?
source:  C- Manchester United: After money they spent last summer finishing outside the top four is unthinkable. Yes, they had injuries but Van Gaal didn’t deliver the minimum of top four. Fresh impetus needed.
source:  D Everton: A season where they should have really challenged for the top six, given players at their disposal, turned into a farce. Martinez simply didn’t learn from his mistakes and paid the ultimate price.
source:  D Norwich City: They hardly spent any money and in the end the lack of quality proved costly. Alex Neil‘s side battled hard but defensive frailties and a lock of goals cost them. That’s never a good combo. Straight back down.
source:  D West Brom: What else did we expect from Tony Pulis? The Baggies ground out points wherever they could to stay up but didn’t inspire anybody along the way. Big summer to see what direction they’re going in.
source:  D Chelsea: The worst title defense in PL history as Chelsea collapsed and it cost Mourinho his job. The players simply weren’t prepared and now Antonio Conte has arrived to whip them into shape.
source:  F Newcastle: Steve McClaren‘s experiment went badly wrong and Rafael Benitez almost saved Newcastle. He ran out of time and they’ve been relegated. Will the Spaniard steer them back to the PL? Poor management at every level of the club.
source:  F Aston Villa: Probably don’t even deserve this. First-ever relegation from PL, equaled a club record of 11-straight defeats as they were relegated. Woeful and new owner has lots to sort out.

Report: Sacramento finally gets MLS expansion franchise

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After years of trying, it appears that Major League Soccer is finally heading to Sacramento.

Sacramento Republic FC have long been one of the best runs franchises in the lower leagues in the United States of America and both city officials and their new ownership group have backed this push to join MLS.

It seemed certain that Sacramento would get a team in 2016 and 2017, but they’ve been left behind as plenty of other cities have been awarded expansion franchises.

A report from the Sacramento Bee states that the franchise will be announced on Monday in a ceremony in downtown Sacramento.

“Sources said league officials will hold a press conference in downtown Monday followed by a fan event in the afternoon, celebrating the franchise award. The announcement will mark the successful conclusion of a laborious five-year effort by Sacramento community leaders and various investors to secure a franchise in MLS.”

New majority owners LA billionaire Ron Burkle (who also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Hollywood producer Matt Alvarez joined Sacramento businessman Kevin Nagle this spring to get the finances in line for a new soccer-specific stadium and to pay the expansion fee which is close to $200 million.

Sacramento released a statement on the speculation, after Burkle, Alvarez and Nagle had been working closely with MLS in recent months to iron out the details of arriving in North America’s top-flight.

“We share the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer. We will continue to respect the MLS expansion process and remain confident about the future of our club and our city. We look forward to sharing more information in the days ahead.”

Nagle and Warren Smith set up Sacramento Republic FC, who began play in the United Soccer Leagues in 2014, and have built an impressive fanbase.

Burkle and Alvarez were the final pieces of the jigsaw as their cash investment will allow the construction of a $250 million 20,000 capacity stadium long planned in the Railyards district of downtown Sacramento, while the city will also add funding to the effort as they add their second major league franchise.

Sacramento Republic will have an instant rival in MLS too, as the San Jose Earthquakes are located just 120 miles south-west.

With St. Louis awarded an expansion franchise in August and to begin play in 2022, MLS is now up to 29 teams with Nashville and Miami joining for the 2020 season, plus Austin FC arriving in 2021.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems keen to get the number of teams to 30, with Charlotte, Phoenix, Detroit and Las Vegas all pushing hard to become the 30th franchise in the coming years.

Sacramento’s journey to MLS has been a long one, but now they are about to celebrate.

Bulgaria detains four fans following racist acts

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) The Bulgarian government says it has detained four soccer fans linked to making racist gestures, including Nazi salutes, during a European Championship qualifying match against England.

[ MORE: Bulgarian FA chief resigns ]

Bulgarian fans also directed monkey noises at England’s black players during the match, which was halted twice in an effort to stop the racist abuse. England won the match 6-0.

The Ministry of Interior says police have “detained four people, whose involvement in what happened is being clarified.”

The ministry says any evidence collected will be handed over to prosecutors.

In the fallout from Monday’s game, the president of the country’s soccer federation has resigned and the Bulgarian special police forces have raided the federation offices.

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

Berhalter slams USMNT after Canada defeat. What now?

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Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT hit a new low on Tuesday as they lost 2-0 to Canada in Toronto and it could have been worse.

Much worse.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Totally outplayed in their CONCACAF Nations League game, pressure is mounting on Berhalter as the U.S. men’s national team perhaps haven’t even hit rock bottom yet. Two years after their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as they lost at Trinidad & Tobago, in many ways the performance against Canada was worse.

What progress has been made since that fateful night in Couva in 2017?

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Speaking to reporters after the damaging defeat at BMO Field, Berhalter threw his players under the bus. Big time.

“The first thing that stands out to me, was desire; desire of Canada,” Berhalter said. “Give them credit. But having said that, the minimum we expect is to match that. We need to compete on every single play in games like this, and that’s important. I don’t think it was a lack of effort. I don’t think it was purposeful. But I wasn’t happy with the desire that we displayed tonight to win the soccer game. Too many 50-50 balls we lost, and that hurt us.”

USMNT fans are calling for Berhalter to be fired just 10 months into his reign, and his possession-based style isn’t sinking in with his young, hard-working squad. Berhalter wants the USMNT to play like Barcelona but right now they look more like Burton Albion. And that’s being kind.

The youngsters coming through are being asked to overcomplicate things and aren’t playing to their strengths. After a heavy defeat to Mexico last month and a damaging loss to Canada, qualifying for the 2022 World Cup would now be a huge achievement for the USMNT. It should be a given.

Where do we go from here?

The fact USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart may well have to get the thumbs up from Berhalter’s brother, Jay, who is the expected incoming new CEO of U.S. Soccer, adds to the anger from U.S. fans.

It is unlikely Berhalter will be removed anytime soon and that U.S. Soccer will stick with him after waiting a year for him to take charge.

Former interim coach Dave Sarachan did the best job he could do from November 2017 to November 2018, but that lost year waiting for Berhalter has sent this young group of players spiralling backwards.

The lack of progression is clear for all to see, but Berhalter doesn’t want anyone pointing to the shocking defeat in Canada as a true reflection of where this team is at.

“I wouldn’t make a statement about the program based on this game,” Berhalter said. “The reason why is that these games are difficult. It was never going to be easy and come here and win the game. There was no way. When you look at their team, when at their quality, when you look at where they are right now, it wasn’t going to be an easy game. We have to accept that. I think all of us have to accept that. We wanted to win the game, and hopefully we’re going to keep improving and hopefully we’re going to start winning games on the road, but tonight wasn’t the night to do it.”

Berhalter is under pressure and things have got worse for the USMNT since their embarrassing World Cup qualifying failure two years ago.

Is it time to pull the plug on Berhalter? After the performance against Canada his players appear to think so, and so too do the fans.

U.S. Soccer have a big decision to make, as things look like they will get a lot worse before they get any better.

State of play in CONCACAF Nations League

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Well, well, well…

Canada’s controlling 2-0 defeat of the USMNT on Tuesday adding some intrigue to the final two match days of the CONCACAF Nations League next month

[ USMNT-CANADA: Time for change? | Player ratings ]

Mexico nearly provided another shock at Azteca thanks to a relative inability to break down Panama, but young stunner Jose Juan Macias scored for the fourth time in three caps to lead El Tri to a 3-1 win on the night.

Roberto Alvarado saw his 28th minute goal canceled out by pre-halftime own goal, and Mexico had better than 75 percent possession when Macias bagged his winner. Rodolfo Pizarro rounded out the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s where we sit in the battle for four semifinal spots. The semifinals and finals will be staged in June.

Group A

Canada’s defeat of the USMNT means the Yanks need to make the most of the Canucks visit to the Orlando next month and smash Cuba in the Cayman Islands. Overall goal difference is the second tie breaker, and the Yanks are four behind Canada. A two-goal win in Florida would mean the Yanks would simply need a victory over Cuba to advance to the semifinals. Canada advances with a draw against the U.S., while Cuba has already be relegated to League B.

Group B

Mexico now has six points to Panama’s three and Bermuda’s three. El Tri will visit Panama next and can clinch a spot in the semifinals with a draw or better. Even if Panama beats Mexico, Tata Martino’s men would need to get nothing from Bermuda at Azteca to fail to make the semifinals. Bermuda needs Panama to beat Mexico before getting a blowout win at Azteca. Not looking good.

Group C

Honduras is onto the semifinals. Whether Martinique or Trinidad and Tobago, both on two points, can avoid relegation by getting a superior result against Honduras in November. Honduras heads to Martinique before hosting T&T.

Group D

Curacao had five points compared to its rivals two each and can advance to the semifinals with a home defeat of Costa Rica. If Los Ticos claims the three points, then it will have at least a two-goal advantage on Haiti heading into a home finale.