Daniel Smith/Getty Images

State of the League: Garber addresses expansion, Beckham Miami and more

1 Comment

As Major League Soccer gears up for Saturday night’s massive final in Toronto, league commissioner Don Garber addressed the media in the buildup with his annual State of the League address on Friday.

[ MORE: 3 key battles to watch in Saturday’s MLS Cup final ]

Among the topics discussed were expansion, the demise of NASL and what MLS is doing to attract younger players to United States.

[ MORE: Copa America trip helped convince Lodeiro to make MLS move ]

As it has been in the past, expansion was the biggest discussion on the docket, with Garber stating that next week will likely determine a timeline for the league’s next entries.

“As you probably know it is strategic expansion,” Garber said during Friday’s MLS State of the League address. “Following our board meeting on Thursday in New York, we will announce a process and a timeline for our next round of expansion, which will add clubs 25, 26, 27 and 28 to Major League Soccer.”

David Beckham’s Miami franchise is currently tabbed as the league’s 24th entry, following Minnesota and Atlanta in 2017 and Los Angeles FC in 2018, however, the future of Beckham’s project remains very much up in the air.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In the event that Miami is passed over, there are plenty of teams waiting in the wings to claim its spot. Sacramento, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Detroit and San Diego are among the many destinations currently vying for entry into MLS, however, Sacramento and Cincinnati remain very high on the list after seeing recent success and growth in USL.

“There is a deadline on the Miami deal. I am not going to share that deadline, it is an agreement we have with David and (his business partner) Simon Fuller,” Garber said in regards to the Miami plans.

“But … we need to resolve the Miami situation so that we can go forward with our expansion plans for (expansion) teams 25-28 because they are team 24 and if they are not going to be 24 there are going to be a lot of things that need to move around and it is something we will discuss at our board meeting.”

When Garber was asked about the decline of NASL and particularly the status of the New York Cosmos and whether MLS would ever consider allowing the franchise to join, he stated that the league has no intentions of adding a third New York/New Jersey team.

“As it relates to the Cosmos, it’s a great brand,” said Garber. “We have two teams in MLS in New York. We are not going to have a third team.”

Additionally, Garber also noted that the league has no intentions of changing the MLS playoff format or adding an additional Designated Player spot for each club’s disposal. However, the commissioner did confirm that teams will see an increase of $400,000 each in target allocation money (TAM) in 2017, bringing the total per club up to $1.2 million.

USWNT star Kelley O’Hara on NWSL restart, launching podcast

Kelley O'Hara
Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When USWNT star Kelley O’Hara launched her own podcast, she didn’t mess around with the star power of her guests.

Launched in July, the “Just Women’s Sports” podcast has hosted three incredible guests including the first post-pregnancy interview with USWNT teammate Alex Morgan as well as talks with Olympic star Chloe Kim and WNBA hero Candace Parker.

A Stanford connection with fellow alum Haley Rosen put the two-time World Cup winner on the path to hosting the show, and O’Hara admits that she was driven by the chance to lift the lid on athletes’ true feelings beyond the shield that comes up while talking to reporters.

[ MORE: Champions League favorites ranked ]

“Even as an athlete I know that I have a little of my guard up when I’m talking to a reporter because sometimes they’ll take it and use it for their own narrative or agenda,” she said in a conversation with ProSoccerTalk. “There’s an ability to be vulnerable and be safe because you’re talking to someone who has a general idea of what it feels like to be an athlete. Nothing about it is trying to catch them.”

Part of that comes with O’Hara realizing she has a massive stage on account of her accomplishments. The USWNT is one of the most-watched teams in the world, on-and-off the pitch.

While she felt more like someone achieving a life goal when she first became a pro, the simultaneous life under a microscope and on a platform has inspired her to take advantage of her role model status.

“You come to realize that with the success that we have had, individually and with the national team, you do influence people,” O’Hara said. “You have an impact. You have this ability to be a role model and do good things in the world. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast; I have the ability to lend my platform to other athletes and give people a voice and a space.”

O’Hara was speaking as the National Women’s Soccer League put a bow on its return to the pitch with the NWSL Challenge Cup.

O’Hara’s Utah Royals fell to eventual champions Houston Dash in the quarterfinals, but the completion of the tournament in itself was a bright spot to a dark summer.

“I’m really proud about what the NWSL was able to create there,” O’Hara said. “There was a lot of uncertainty around the Challenge Cup because of COVID, but the fact that the NWSL was able to create an environment to get back on the field has been fantastic. Obviously you have Orlando that wasn’t able to come but since every team has arrived, not one player has tested positive so the NWSL deserves a lot of credit for designing this whole set-up.”

PST asked the 32-year-old how much credit should go to the players, considering how many other leagues have been thwarted by the negligence of athletes or staffers around COVID-19.

“When the NWSL was proposing everything, they told us it was built on trust. If players weren’t going to be responsible, it wasn’t going to work. It’s great that we all want to be competing, I feel we’re very lucky to be able to compete, but that’s contributed to people following the rules. You didn’t want to be the one person who ruins it.”

Learn more about the Just Women’s Sports crew, which includes Olympic heroes Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Hilary Knight, and Maggie Steffens as well as former WNBA No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike, at their official web site.

Champions League favorites ranked from eight to one

Leave a comment

Eight teams remain in the UEFA Champions League’s rapid-fire return, with one-legged ties promising high drama in Portugal.

The quarterfinals begin Wednesday, the bracket distinctly split into one deadly half and another with upset potential.

Because of this set-up, there’s a massive challenge in divining the true favorites to win the Aug. 23 in Lisbon.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

If you were assembling a bottom-up power rankings in terms of the talent and toughness assembled by the eight remaining clubs, it might look something like this:

Longshots: Atalanta, Lyon
Puncher’s chance: Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig
History-weighted powers: Man City, Paris Saint-Germain
Favorites: Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Here’s the rub: Three of the four biggest favorites will have to get through each other to get to the final, including the two top dogs. Barcelona and Bayern Munich will scrap Friday, and Man City’s slight advantage in facing Lyon is mitigated by one day’s less rest for a Bayern-Barca winner.

[ MORE: Man Utd – Copenhagen preview ]

Man City is the bookies’ favorites to win the whole thing. Do we see it that way? Spoiler alert: Nope.

And, by the way, despite changes to both outfits this is a Lyon that took four of six points from City in the 2018-19 UCL group stage. We don’t see an upset at that stage but it’s a way to note that anything is, indeed, possible.


8. Lyon

Seventh-place in Ligue 1 this season, Rudi Garcia’s men already have the beating of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus on their resume. Moussa Dembele, Houssem Aouar, and Memphis Depay are all exciting attacking talents, but the bracket’s demands to take down Man City, then either Bayern and Barcelona just to get to the final sinks them to eighth.

7. RB Leipzig

Julian Nagelsmann is building a reputation as a man who can outwit anyone in a one-off — see two draws with Bayern in Bundesliga play this season — so it’s fitting that he’ll go tete-a-tete with Simeone in the next round. The absence of Timo Werner, who’s off to Chelsea, is a huge problem given the occasion(s). Asking three wins seems a lot, though there will be plenty of Americans pulling for Tyler Adams’ team.

Bayern Munich v. RB Leipzig recap and video highlights
09 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich: American midfielder Tyler Adams duels with Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)

6. Atalanta

The Bergamo-based side will have the support of many neutrals. For one thing, Atalanta is on a historic run for their club before taking into account their city’s status as one of the early epicenters of the coronavirus. For another, they are super fun. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men scored 98 goals in Serie A, 19 more than next-best Lazio, and lost the second-fewest games in Italy. They’ve lost once since January 25, a final day defeat to Inter Milan. Five players have scored double-digit goals in all comps this season.

5. Atletico Madrid

Ask Liverpool: Diego Simeone and Jan Oblak in knockout round football is reason to doubt anyone. Still, there’s an argument to be made that Atleti has punched well above its weight this season, even relative to El Cholo’s standards.

4. Barcelona

Lionel Messi means the club should be even higher on this list, and Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez are plenty battle-hardened in this spot. But Barca has made a mess of their last few ventures into the latter rounds of this tournament, and those ghosts combined with having to beat Bayern and perhaps Man City in consecutive weeks is brutal with several u’s.

Messi new contract
SEVILLA, SPAIN – JUNE 19: He’s good (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

3. Paris Saint-Germain

There’s a good argument to be made that PSG might hold the top spot on this list. Thomas Tuchel’s men are better rested and have a more straight-forward path to Lisbon, plus the Ligue 1 champs have played and won two Cup finals in the past three weeks. There are two reasons we’re keeping them below Man City and Bayern. One is the UCL-challenged history that has us as well as surely them seeing ghosts, and the other is the uncertain status of Kylian Mbappe. He’s in the squad, but at what percent?

2. Manchester City

The reason to consider putting City above Bayern is the men in charge. Hansi Flick has done oh-so-well at Bayern but is certainly not Pep Guardiola in terms of big-game acumen or reputation. But City’s defense has proven suspect, with John Stones falling off a cliff and Nicolas Otamendi not at the levels of previous seasons. Relying on Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, and Eric Garcia to shut down three top attacks in two weeks is a big ask, and left back is also a huge concern with the talented wingers set to test City.

1. Bayern Munich

No weaknesses aside from potentially having to beat Barcelona and Man City inside of six days. Boasting one of the only double-double men in Europe’s top leagues in Serge Gnabry, a played who doesn’t get mentioned as often as history-chasing Robert Lewandowski and history-making Thomas Muller. A midfield duo of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich which is just plain stupid. Speed and composure to spare with Manuel Neuer at the back. The German keeper may no longer be the undoubted 1 or 2 in the world, but he’s still a monster.

Leipzig’s Nagelsmann: Real Madrid can call if I’m available

Nagelsmann to Real Madrid
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Julian Nagelsmann turned down Real Madrid two years ago, but don’t sleep on him becoming the boss of La Liga’s champions in the future.

Offered the job before Zinedine Zidane returned to Madrid, Nagelsmann says it was too big of a jump for him from Hoffenheim to Real.

[ MORE: Man Utd – Copenhagen preview ]

But again, as he makes plain below, tomorrow’s another day (and just a couple of days away from Real’s ouster from the Champions League).

From Marca:

“We had calls, but I was the one who decided in the end. I didn’t think it was the right step to go to Real Madrid. I was one of the candidates and that was important for me. I had a good chat with Jose Angel Sanchez and we agreed that it wasn’t yet the right move. We agreed that we could speak again in the future if Real Madrid were to need a coach and if I were available.”

Instead, he opted for RB Leipzig, where he’s certainly continued his collecting of bona fides. Now there could be little doubt that he’s ready for, well, whatever.

That said, Zidane’s as safe as he wants to be considering Real’s constant state of unsteadiness. Real took back La Liga this season and was missing suspended Ballon d’Or (in any other year) candidate Sergio Ramos for its second leg at Man City.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

And Nagelsmann is a candidate for any opening in the world given what he’s done at the age of 33.

A couple other things: Beating Atletico Madrid in a knockout round match after Real fell to City will get more Real tongues wagging at the prospect of Nagelsmann, however unlikely the timing. And if Nagelsmann leaves, might Leipzig promote American boss Jesse Marsch from Red Bull Salzburg? And will Marsch still be in Austria?

Transfer news: Liverpool linked with left back, Guendouzi to PSG

Tsimikas to Liverpool
Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Look out, world: There is a lot of transfer gossip this Sunday morning.

[ MORE: Man Utd – Copenhagen preview ]

For one thing, the Matteo Guendouzi exit strategy from Arsenal is a bit wild, as another one of Unai Emery’s former clubs is joining the current Villarreal boss in pursuing the French midfielder.

Also in the news is a PL-to-PL transfer involving two interesting managers, plus Liverpool moving onto a new target to cover Andy Robertson.


White to Leeds

How much is Ben White worth to Brighton?

The 23-year-old center back has reportedly turned down two new contracts from the Seagulls, who in turn have rejected transfer bids of $24 million and $28 million from Leeds United.

White starred for Leeds in their promotion push last season, making 49 appearances with a goal and two assists.

He’s yet to make his Premier League bow for Brighton, his lone senior outings coming in the 2016-17 League Cup versus lower league oppositon.

That said, the Seagulls have been stacked at center back for some time and remain quite deep at the position.

Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy have been key pieces for some time and at 28 are in their prime for their positions, with Dan Burn also 28 and Adam Webster 25. The club also just signed Joel Veltman from Ajax.

White led Leeds in interceptions per game (2.5) and was second on the team in clearances with 2.7.

White to Leeds
HULL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 29: Ben White of Brighton is wanted back by loan club Leeds (Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Tsimikas to Liverpool

Liverpool’s quest to find cover for Andy Robertson has moved to Greece, where Olympiacos left back Kostas Tsimikas is under consideration for the Premier League champions.

The BBC says that Jurgen Klopp and his Anfield set have moved on from Norwich City youngster Jamal Lewis following a bailed $13 million bid.

Tsimikas, 24, is thrice-capped by Greece and has 86 appearances for Olympiacos with 12 assists.

He played 384 minutes over four appearances versus PL sides in the Europa League, helping Olympiacos beat Arsenal before falling to Wolves last week.


Guendouzi to PSG

The list of clubs lining up for Arsenal youngster Matteo Guendouzi is growing, and that will be music to the ears of Mikel Arteta.

The 21-year-old is in Arteta’s doghouse but the list of suitors will help drive his transfer price tag close to what it should be for a player of his success at his age.

Football.London says Guendouzi is drawing interest from Paris Saint-Germain, joining a list of big clubs including Juventus, Barcelona, and Villarreal.

That last stop may make the most sense given the chance to reunite with Unai Emery, but money is going to drive this one as Arteta looks to the transfer market to renew Arsenal’s top four finishing skills and make a run through the Europa League.