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MLS expansion rankings: Who are the favorites?

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The big news in the MLS expansion world this week was the City Council of Nashville, Tennessee granting public funds for a soccer-specific stadium in Music City.

[ MORE: Garber gives expansion update ]

That leaves Nashville Soccer Club with a huge advantage over the rest of the MLS expansion field with their $275 million stadium plan ready to roll. The likes of Detroit, St. Louis and San Diego have all struggled in securing public funds for a stadium, so far, and their hopes hang in the balance.

With that in mind, now seems like a good time to speculate on how the 12 cities vying for MLS expansion stack up, especially with an announcement expected in the new few weeks.

Two cities will be announced as the winners of the next two MLS expansion franchises by the end of December, with a further two from this list of 12 at a yet to be announced date. Add into all of this LAFC kicking off in 2018, David Beckham still trying to bring a franchise to Miami and the uncertain future of the Columbus Crew in Columbus as their owner weighs up a move to Austin, Texas, and there is plenty to sort out.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, and his expansion committee have been traveling around and seeing the bids of multiple cities up close and personal in recent months and various interviews along the way have both complicated and cleared the expansion picture a little.

Below you will find our rankings of the 12 cities fighting for MLS expansion.

  1. Nashville – Stadium deal in place close to downtown and a growing sports market. Huge crowds for international games and friendlies. Seems nailed on
  2. Sacramento – Stadium deal in place, Sacramento Republic have had success and big crowds in USL. Past ownership issues over MLS deal sorted
  3. Cincinnati – Huge crowds in USL but stadium plan a stumbling block. Plans ongoing. Nippert a ready-made venue. Biggest losers from Nashville’s rise
  4. Phoenix – Financial backing is there, Drogba’s on board and stadium plans are in place. Phoenix the real dark horse?
  5. Detroit – Bid hurt by the deal for a stadium downtown collapsing. Will Ford Field as an alternate home put MLS off?
  6. San Antonio – Columbus potentially moving to Austin impacts this bid but Toyota Field is ready and big crowds for international games impressive
  7. Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg – Expensive redevelopment of Al Lang Stadium key to this bid but Rowdies have a strong, loyal fanbase
  8. Raleigh/Durham – NASL’s problems mean NCFC likely to move to USL soon, but will the crowds be big enough to woo MLS?
  9. San Diego – Lots of big names on board but the Soccer City development at Qualcomm has stalled. A big ask now
  10. St. Louis – See above. Such a shame too given STL’s soccer heritage. If they can get a stadium deal one day, you feel like MLS beckons
  11. Charlotte – No public financing or funding for a stadium deal has seen this bid stall. Competing with Raleigh/Durham was ill advised
  12. Indianapolis – NASL’s Indy Eleven have a loyal following but lack of funds to support an MLS expansion franchise mean this bid is a pipe dream

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.


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.