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Did Don Garber hint towards next MLS expansion markets?

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke to Yahoo about the Columbus Crew’s ongoing situation where owner Anthony Precourt is considering moving the franchise to Austin, Texas in 2019.

[ MORE: RBNY hammer Chicago in playoffs ]

Garber spoke at length about the Crew’s record as one of the most successful teams in MLS over the past few years and about Precourt’s drastic approach in trying to force a new stadium deal in downtown Columbus, Ohio with talk of possible relocation.

With the MLS commish stating talks about the Crew’s future were lined up in the coming days, something very interesting cropped up.

However, perhaps the most interesting nugget was that Garber mentioned the same four MLS expansion cities as he did during his address at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game in Chicago back in August.

Of course, Garber has mentioned multiple expansion cities in various media appearances in 2017 but it seems quite significant that the same four cities keep cropping up.

“We will make the decision to add two [expansion teams] this December. We have 12 cities who have submitted bids to be in the final four. We are going through a very comprehensive process. Just the other day the City of Nashville has been very supportive and has gotten both the elected folks as well as the people in the community to get behind public support for a stadium very close to downtown. Cincinnati is doing a similarly great job. Great progress in Sacramento and Detroit. Lot of activity and over the next years we will become a 28-team league.”

With 12 cities vying for the next four expansion places in MLS (the contenders, in no particular order are Cincinnati, San Antonio, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, St. Louis, Detroit, Sacramento, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Phoenix and Indianapolis) the fact that Garber has mentioned the same four cities on multiple occasions may give some locations hope over others.

Reports have suggested that Nashville has jumped right to the top of the list in recent months after MLS’ visit to Tennessee’s capital city, but with trips lined up in the next few months to other potential expansion cities there will likely be similar positive vibes around their chances.

Looking at it from the outside, the four cities Garber mentioned appear to be right at the top of the list of expansion cities.

Cincinnati has FC Cincinnati behind the bid who are breaking attendance records all over the place in USL and have a solid owner, fanbase and everything is set up for them to step right into MLS. Sacramento has the same and an awesome soccer specific stadium site lined up, while Detroit is also working hard on a stadium deal and Nashville’s growing reputation as a sports town (helped largely by the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup finals) has seen their strong ownership group work closely with the mayors office to negotiate a stadium plan.

Between now and December it will be intriguing to see the two cities who arrive in MLS but if I had to select two right now it would be Cincinnati and Sacramento due to their large fanbases, success in USL and their geographic locations to link up several current MLS cities with new regional rivals.

That’s just my take.

Report: Bristol City offers $4m for USMNT GK Steffen

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Championship side Bristol City has lodged a $4 million bid for Columbus Crew and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen, according to MLS insider Sam Stejskal.

Viewed as a potential long-term American No. 1 for his country, Steffen has thrived at Columbus since returning from a stint at Freiburg in Germany.

[ USMNT: More accolades for Pulisic ]

Stejskal reached Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter, who said multiple teams are interested in Steffen but did not confirm the Bristol City bid. Berhalter said, “We want to be a place where we get players and we develop them and we help them advance in their careers, wherever that may be.”

Steffen, 23, starred at Maryland before making the move abroad. He’s proven a fantastic young pro with a knack for stopping penalty kicks.

Bristol City finished 11th in the Championship last season with 30-year-old goalkeeper Frank Fielding, who had played 153 league matches for the club since 2013 and led the club to promotion from League One in 2015.

Some have openly questioned whether the Championship is a clear upgrade from MLS — don’t count this typer in that group — but this does seem like win-win for Columbus and Steffen if the player wants the move. The Championship has been good for the development of several American players including Tim Ream, DeAndre Yedlin (on loan from a Premier League club), and Lynden Gooch.

USMNT’s $72m Pulisic amongst Top 8 U-21 values in world

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USMNT and Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic is among the most valuable U21 players in the world, according to a new study.

Pulisic’s value of $71.7m is eighth-highest in the world, and he is the first American to be named to the list.

[ MORE: Adam takes shot at Shaqiri ]

The group SoccerEx uses data driven by Prime Time Sport’s Football Value Index, and it has issued U21 value reports for about a half decade. Previous winners are Dele Alli, Anthony Martial, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling.

The report deals with players born after Jan. 1, 1997, and claims to account for “personal attributes and pitch performances, using player’s current personal information and the performance of both current season and the previous one.”

That does answer the question of whether being American and carrying interest from a massive country might bump up the value a bit, though there’s little doubt Pulisic is a star (though media value is just a small part of their formula).

It comes as little surprise that PSG’s Kylian Mbappe is No. 1, coming off an amazing season for club and country which could see him win the Ballon d’Or.

Pulisic is ahead of Top 20 players Cenzig Under (Roma), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan), Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid), and Premier Leaguers Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham).

The seven ahead of Pulisic: Gianluigi Donnarumma (7, AC Milan), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Malcom (Bordeaux), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), and Mbappe.

This is not meant to be the latest in an eternal list of shouts at the USMNT, but imagine how high Pulisic could’ve ranked had he been able to take the stage at the World Cup in Russia.

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke suspended, fined

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NEW YORK (AP) Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke has been suspended an additional game and fined $10,000 by Major League Soccer for on-field misconduct during a game against Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]

The suspension announced Wednesday follows an automatic one-game game ban for being ejected from the Utah club’s 3-1 road loss Saturday night.

Petke was fined for abusive and profane language directed at officials, uncontrollable behavior when he was ejected and public criticism of officials during a postgame press conference. Real Salt Lake also was fined $10,000 fine for social media posts.

Petke will miss games Saturday night against Colorado and July 28 against San Jose.

Adam takes shot at Shaqiri as example of Stoke rot

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Xherdan Shaqiri has left relegated Stoke City for the greener Premier League pastures of Liverpool, labeling it a move in search of silverware.

Former teammate Charlie Adam thinks that’s pretty rich.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]

The 32-year-old Adam, a former Red himself, says Shaqiri was among the group of players he criticized for shrinking in big moments and not caring enough about the relegation fight.

Here’s what Adam said in May:

“I’ll be honest for the supporters, I think some players have been getting away with murder for a long time and it’s difficult for supporters. It’s not just one or two, I think there are four or five that could be counted.”

Offensively, Shaqiri had the best season of his career. The 26-year-old Swiss international scored eight goals in the Premier League, but was absent from the score sheet from March 3-April 28. Stoke collected just four points during that eight-match span, all draws.

But Shaqiri did score Stoke’s lone goal in the match which saw them officially relegated, a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace in which there’s no question the stakes were incredibly high.

Asked about Shaqiri on Thursday, Adam did not hold back.

“Was he one of them? Oh, definitely. When the chips are down you look at your big players, you want your big players to bring magic in one moment in the season, and at times we felt like the so-called big players in the squad never turned up for us and never performed.

“Yeah, everybody else could help, but for all the plaudits to so-called bigger players we getting from certain members of the management staff last season – they weren’t producing.”

Shaqiri scored in three-straight February matches, of which Stoke won exactly zero, and pitched in seven assists this season. Huh.

While we don’t know what his attitude was like around the Potteries, it’s very difficult to consider labeling his season a big reason for Stoke’s downfall.

He’s an easy man to scapegoat now, being out the door, but Shaqiri had a decent season for sure. Adam is a strong servant of Stoke, but played in less than a dozen games. This truly seems like the wrong messenger picking the wrong target, though it could help build a bit of momentum for a new season.