Camerlo Anthony,

Carmelo Anthony on NASL over MLS; thoughts on Promotion/Relegation

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When Carmelo Anthony decided to buy NASL club Puerto Rico FC in 2015, many wondered why the New York Knicks star didn’t invest in Major League Soccer — the top league in the U.S. and Canada.

[ MORE: Melo on USMNT, Copa America ]

The small forward, who is a nine-time NBA All-Star, admitted that he did consider partially investing in an MLS club, but ultimately decided to go with NASL because he wanted full control of a club. Anthony subtlety hinted that MLS’ single-entity structure factored in his decision making.

“Well I like the actual business plan. I like that in the NASL, everyone runs their own business,” Anthony told NBCSports.com in an interview last Thursday. “You build your business up in the way you want to. Not being told by someone else how to build it. That was one of the keys that kind of intrigued me when I was thinking about NASL or MLS.”

He added, “It was just an opportunity from a business side, and being able to make my own rules and my own team. Run my own club and build it the way that I want to. Having 100 percent ownership of it. Whether that’s marketing or sponsors, the kicks [that players wear], concessions. Whatever it might be, I own all of it.”

Anthony’s comments suggest that MLS’s single-entity structure deterred him from deciding to join the league.

MLS declined to comment but the league is similar to other major American leagues like the NFL, NBA or MLB that the league ultimately has the final say in matters ranging from apparel makers to trades and transfers.

That is different from England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, where all 20 clubs are independent businesses who can make their own decisions on those issues.  For example, all MLS clubs use Adidas as their kit makers, whereas Premiership clubs constantly negotiate for deals independently on jerseys, warm-up outfits, etc.

The NASL is similar to the England’s top flight in that sense. Anthony’s Puerto Rico FC wears Nike, the same brand that he has a sneaker deal with for the NBA whereas the New York Cosmos’ kits are made by Under Armour.  There is also no salary cap in NASL, whereas MLS has a small salary cap of $3.66 million with exceptions against that number in the form of Designated Players and Targeted Allocation Money.

While NASL’s setup may allow owners more liberties, there are some drawbacks.

Spanish soccer star Raul (R holding trophy) celebrates with his teammates after the NASL Championship Final match between the NY Cosmos and the Ottawa Fury November 15, 2015 in Hempstead, NY. Raul has planned to retire after the match. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo credit DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

For one, MLS’s single-entity structure has made the league more financially stable as clubs have revenue sharing and better sponsorship options. NASL famously folded in the 1980s due to the financial imbalance of the league. MLS is also recognized by U.S. Soccer as the top division of soccer in America, an issue that NASL has publicly criticized

It is the combination of those factors have made MLS clubs significantly worth more than NASL’s clubs, with the Seattle Sounders being the most valuable soccer club in the U.S. at $245 million. MLS franchise fees recently peaked at $100 million with NYCFC and continue to rise, whereas NASL’s fees are in single-digit millions. 

Anthony even hinted that he would be open to one day seeing his club in MLS.

“I just want to put something great together, a great product,” he said. “Not be labeled as just a NASL team, MLS team or whatever. I think if in the future or something, if that conversion were to start…and I think that may happen at some point soon….Right now, I’m trying to build this up with NASL and I see so much growth there.”

Anthony also weighed in on another big debate in the American soccer landscape; should there be a promotion/relegation system in the U.S.?

The 32-year-old, who is friends with European soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Thierry Henry among others, admits he’d love to see the system come stateside – as long as it’s done in a way that works for all involved.

“I’m not against Pro/Rel, and in some instances, I’m all for it…if it’s done right. If it’s planned out right, I’m all for it. If it’s all one big division one, I’m all for it. I’m not against at all, but it has to make sense…If it helps the sport for the whole country, I’m all for it and I support it.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber has repeatedly said that his league doesn’t need Promotion/Relegation to be considered a real soccer competition. 

There are obvious reasons for that. Imagine if a team like the LA Galaxy got relegated and replaced by NASL team that’s worth $3-7 million. Less owners would be inclined to spend the huge amounts needed for franchise fees in MLS. Anthony understands those concerns, which is why despite the fact that his own club would stand to benefit financially if there was a MLS/NASL promotion setup, he thinks the system should first be experimented with the NASL and USL leagues.

“Imagine if NASL was Division 1, and USL was Division 2? Like you told teams from USL, hey you have a shot of playing in the NASL next year…So I think it what it comes to is things like stadium size and fan bases,” He said. “Because it’s like you can’t take like a big team, I don’t want to name cities, and see them get relegated to a division where they are playing teams that have like 2,000 fans a game. And obviously, you’ve got to think about that as well.”

Considering that in the NBA, there are several teams that are accused of tanking to get high draft picks, would the concept work in basketball?

“You can’t use it in a basketball sense, it only works in soccer,” Anthony quickly replied.

Wolfsburg’s Mbabu out of Europa League after virus positive

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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) Wolfsburg defender Kevin Mbabu will miss his team’s Europa League last-16 game against Shakhtar Donetsk after he tested positive for the coronavirus last month, the club said Monday.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Wolfsburg coach Oliver Glasner said the Switzerland defender would “definitely” not travel with the team to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to play Shakhtar on Wednesday. He has not been training with the team, Glasner added.

Wolfsburg said July 25 that Mbabu had tested positive and was in isolation at home. He was not displaying symptoms, the club said at the time.

The right back played 20 games for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga this season, including 90 minutes in all nine games after the league resumed in May amid the pandemic.

The Europa League restarts Wednesday after a break of nearly five months. The second legs of last-16 matchups will be played at the original venues.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Two fixtures where the first leg wasn’t played before the season was suspended – Inter Milan against Getafe and Roma against Sevilla – will be played as single-leg contests in Germany.

From the quarterfinals onward all games will be played in a tournament format in Germany.

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

Transfer news: Thiago to Liverpool; Gabriel to Man United

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool
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In transfer news there’s an update on Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool, while Gabriel to Manchester United seems to be moving to the next stage.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in Liverpool, talk of Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool has been gathering steam over the last few weeks and a new report states that Jurgen Klopp’s men are now the favorites to sign him.

Bayern Munich expect the 29-year-old Spanish international to leave this summer and according to Mundo Deportivo Liverpool have jumped ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and are ‘very likely’ to sign the former Barcelona star.

Bayern want $35 million for Thiago who has one year left on his current contract.

The deep-lying playmaker is a totally different central midfielder to what Liverpool currently have as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all hard-working more defensive minded players. And then there’s Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provide a bit more attacking intent with forward runs from central midfield.

Thiago Alcantara would help Liverpool control games better when opponents sit back and don’t allow them space to operate in-behind. He is a silky pass-master who is wanted by PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and others, but it appears he will be heading to Anfield to give Liverpool a totally new dimension to their play. If this happens, it will make an already strong Liverpool side stronger.

Gabriel to Manchester United
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Switching to Manchester, a report in France states that Gabriel Magalhaes could be heading to Manchester United.

The Brazilian defender, 22, has been a star for Lille over the past few seasons but has been linked with Arsenal, Chelsea, Napoli, Everton and Man United consistently in recent months.

A report from French outlet RMC states that Man United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has met with Gabriel’s agents about his availability.

Lille want $35 million for Gabriel and although the report says that Man United haven’t made an offer directly to the Ligue 1 club, it is believed talks are ongoing.

Man United are said to be in the market for a winger, center back and central midfielder this summer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to be given cash to spend after securing Champions League qualification for next season.

It is believed Solskjaer wants a left-footed center back, which Gabriel is, as Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire are often too similar at center back. Those two have developed a decent enough partnership but it appears that Solskjaer wants to replace Lindelof and adding Gabriel will also give him an option to switch to a 3-4-3 system which he likes to do to match up against  more attack-minded opponents.

Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are very much on the outside looking in at Man United in terms of their other center back options.

With Jadon Sancho reportedly on his way to Old Trafford, Solskjaer needs to bolster his center back and holding midfield options and then he is good to go for next season.

Gabriel is a young, talented center back and seems ready to make the next step and this is a good price for a player who can develop over the next few seasons.

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get?

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How long of a break will Premier League clubs get? That is the big question during the significantly shortened offseason between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season.

In short: not long.

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When Premier League clubs all agreed that the 2020-21 season would kick off on September 12, there was an understanding that clubs in European action will be handed extra time off and could start the season late.

Manchester City and Chelsea are in Champions League action and if they reach the quarterfinal stage (Man City are looking a lot more likely to do that than Chelsea) it is expected they will start next season one week late and if they reach the semifinals and final they will start two weeks late.

The same rule is in place for Manchester United and Wolves who are in Europa League and are both in Round of 16 action this week.

If Chelsea lose to Bayern Munich on Saturday, their season will be over and they will have a 35-day break before the 2020-21 season. That is longer than the 30-day limit but Frank Lampard wants longer.

As for the other 16 Premier League teams for the 2020-21 season, the clubs who finished on the final day of the  2019-20 Premier League season on July 26 will have had 47 days off until the new season begins.

So, there you have it.

A staggered start to the 2020-21 season seems likely as the domestic campaign begins in a few weeks with the Community Shield final at Wembley between Liverpool and Arsenal on Aug. 29.

Premier League teams will have shorter, more intense preseason campaigns and are unlikely to travel for friendly games, so it will be interesting to see how much rest players actually get over the summer and if teams who get a 2-3 week longer break benefit compared to those clubs in European action.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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‘Pulisic injury news’ is probably trending worldwide at this point, and Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has an injury update after he damaged his right hamstring in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Pulisic, 21, scored a superb goal early on and was arguably the man of the match even though he pulled up abruptly in the 46th minute when sprinting free (once again) of the Arsenal attack and then hitting a shot wide.

After being helped off the pitch while clearly in pain, Pulisic was seen hanging around the tunnel area after the FA Cup final and was at least walking on his own.

Posting a message on Instagram following the final, here’s what Pulisic had to say:

“Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time,” Pulisic said.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The fact Pulisic went off injured early in the second half of the FA Cup final severely hampered Chelsea and gave Arsenal the impetus to go on and win the final at Wembley. He has become that important to Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard previously confirmed that Pulisic would not be fit enough to play at Bayern Munich on Saturday in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg (Chelsea trail 3-0 from the first leg) and would have a scan to assess the damage.

Pulisic’s 2019-20 season is now done and both Chelsea and USMNT fans will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update as hamstring injuries can be a nasty thing and reoccur easily.

The USMNT star had a few of them at Borussia Dortmund and given his incredible pace it is clear he will be more susceptible to hamstring and upper leg injuries.

Previously Lampard revealed that Pulisic had been working hard with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coaches in recent months to build up his strength in order to adapt to the Premier League. We’ve certainly seen the results of that work in recent week as he took the Premier League by storm during the restart.

This latest update from Pulisic seems to be very good news as many had feared a lengthy injury layoff for the USMNT star but it seems like he may be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season for Chelsea.