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STL voters to decide on stadium funding, future of MLS expansion

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ST. LOUIS (AP) A year after the NFL’s Rams abandoned St. Louis for Los Angeles, the city has a chance to again become a three-sport town if voters agree to help pay for a stadium for a new Major League Soccer franchise.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to designate $60 million from an existing business use tax for the construction of a 22,000-seat soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis. The ownership group SC STL would invest $95 million in the project and cover the league’s $150 million expansion fee, and they have asked the state to donate 24 acres of unused land.

The league is expected to announce two new expansion teams in the fall that would begin play in 2020. St. Louis would be a favorite among the 12 applicants if the stadium funding is approved.

At a rally in St. Louis on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber talked about the city’s historical ties to the world’s most popular sport. The region has long been a hotbed for youth and collegiate soccer, and many members of the 1950 U.S. World Cup team that beat England 1-0 in one of the sports’ biggest upsets were from The Hill area of St. Louis. St. Louis University won 10 NCAA men’s soccer championships from the 1950s through the 1970s.

[ MORE: Bastian Schweinsteiger scored 17 minutes into his MLS debut ]

Garber said the departure of the NFL’s Rams to Los Angeles was a blow to St. Louis, but it helped open the door to an MLS team.

“Where there was a void left by the Rams leaving, it clearly put more energy behind this,” he said.

But Garber made it clear that the project rests with voters.

“Without that vote being positive, this project’s not going forward,” he said.

SC STL chairman Paul Edgerley said soccer is a good fit for the growing number of young people working in the St. Louis area’s burgeoning tech industry. An MLS team would add to “this positive momentum in the community that St. Louis has already started,” he said.

There is plenty of opposition to the proposal, too. St. Louis’ schools and police force are underfunded and its streets and infrastructure are in disrepair, and many city leaders believe it would be wrong to spend money on a stadium when basic needs aren’t being met.

[ MORE: Sporting KC rookie got GOT by Vermes, teammates’ April Fools’ prank ]

“These types of deals are never good economic development strategies for cities,” said Alderwoman Megan Green, one of many members of the board of aldermen who oppose the ballot measure.

St. Louis, she said, has “much greater needs than a soccer stadium.”

The city’s biggest newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, also opposes the use of public funds to pay for a stadium. In a recent editorial, it wrote that a city of 311,000 with a 90,000 people living at or below the federal poverty line “can’t carry the burden of a sports facility that would benefit surrounding county residents who aren’t being asked to pay their fair share.”

It took months of negotiations before aldermen agreed to put the measure up for a vote. Funding would come from a half-cent increase in a use tax on out-of-town purchases by St. Louis businesses. Residential taxes would be unaffected.

Public funding for stadiums has increasingly become a difficult sell in many places. Still, St. Louis aldermen agreed in late 2015 to provide up to $400 million toward a $1 billion stadium for the Rams. The NFL said the project and the funding were inadequate. League owners in January 2016 approved Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s request to move.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT closes out group v. Panama

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It’s a fully-changed starting XI for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it closes out the group stage against Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Miazga start together in the backline, Jozy Altidore returns to the starting lineup up top, and Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis feature on the wings alongside Altidore. Ten of the 11 players now ply their trade in MLS, including the Gonzalez, who recently moved to Toronto FC.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Panama in Kansas City]

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Must-See Goal: Wayne Rooney v. Orlando City

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Wayne Rooney just scored the most amazing goal in Audi Field’s young history.

In the 10th minute of D.C. United’s match against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening, Rooney noticed Orlando’s Brian Rowe straying way off his line. And so, with an audacious but accurate attempt, Rooney let fly from 65 yards and SCORED. Just check this goal out below.

[FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Panama]

Rooney took advantage of a crazy bounce and with his literal first touch, unleashed a thunderbolt that Rowe couldn’t catch up to. It automatically becomes one of the top contenders for the MLS Goal of the Year, and should make it on every top ten countdown this evening and tomorrow.

Benfica: Atletico Madrid make $143 million bid for Felix

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The legend of Joao Felix appears to have reached full market value potential.

The 19-year-old Portuguese striker is coming off a breakout year for Benfica, and now the Portuguese giants have received an impressive $143 million offer from Atletico Madrid for Felix. The club confirmed the offer in a statement on its website, stating it was analyzing the deal. Felix has a $136.5 million release clause in his contract, but it appears the additional $7 million is in processing costs.

[READ: Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid]

Felix was outstanding at Benfica last year, scoring 15 goals with seven assists in 26 league games and three goals and one assist in five Europa League game. Felix has already made his international debut for Portugal.

If confirmed, Felix would become the fifth-most expensive transfer in world history, and the second-most expensive transfer for a teenager behind Kylian Mbappe.

AFCON: Nigeria 1st team through to round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.