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Bayern wins sixth straight Bundesliga crown – with help from Heynckes

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BERLIN (AP) Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has earned his retirement at the end of the season.

Again.

After returning to the helm in October, Heynckes’ Bayern won its record-extending sixth straight Bundesliga title on Saturday with a 4-1 win at Augsburg.

No other team has come close since Bayern claimed the treble in 2013 under Heynckes, who has said he will go back into retirement at the end of this season – despite Bayern’s attempts to keep him on.

Bayern sealed its record 28th German championship, including the solitary pre-Bundesliga title in 1931-32, with five rounds to spare.

Here’s a look at why Bayern keeps winning in Germany:

HERO HEYNCKES

Bayern’s lackluster start to the season is all but forgotten due to the rapid turnaround instigated by Jupp Heynckes on his return for his fourth stint as coach in October.

Bayern was five points behind Borussia Dortmund after slipping to two draws and a defeat in its opening seven league games, but Heynckes started with a 5-0 win over Freiburg, led the side back to the top and claimed the title with 18 wins in 21 games, including the victory in Augsburg.

A perfect record in the German Cup – four wins from four – and Champions League – seven from seven – sees Bayern well placed in both competitions for a possible repeat of the treble achieved in Heynckes’ previous stint in 2013.

The only issue Bayern has with Heynckes is that he won’t continue. The 72-year-old former striker has long maintained that he will go back into retirement once the season is done.

Bayern coach Heynckes and Franck Ribery (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

TACTICS

Jupp Heynckes reverted to the 4-2-3-1 system he favored in the treble-winning season for most games this time round, but he has also shown willingness to tinker with the system depending on the opponents.

He also coaxed a better work-rate from his players, starting with league top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who pressurizes defenders for the ball and helps to win back possession.

Heynckes returned to the wide areas as key facets of the side’s attack. Franck Ribery, despite celebrating his 35th birthday against Augsburg, has enjoyed a renaissance on the left wing. Kingsley Coman (before his injury) and Arjen Robben have also excelled, helped by overlapping pace from David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich.

IMPROVEMENT

Arturo Vidal was criticized by Jupp Heynckes shortly after returning, saying the combative midfielder wasn’t working hard enough and that others were ahead of him in the pecking order.

But the Chile midfielder, familiar to Heynckes from their days together at Bayer Leverkusen, responded as Heynckes undoubtedly knew he would and has since emerged as one of the team’s key players in fighting for midfield possession. Vidal has also chipped in six goals.

James Rodriguez is another player to have blossomed under Heynckes, returning to the form that prompted Real Madrid to pay a reported 80 million euros for his services in 2014. Madrid could yet regret letting him go.

MONEY

Bayern is by far the richest club in Germany thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals, TV money, ticket sales and other sources of revenue. Last season the club posted a record turnover of 640.5 million euros ($759 million) with profits up 22.2 percent on the season before.

Borussia Dortmund, the next nearest challenger, lags well behind with turnover of 405.7 million euros for 2016-17.

Bayern’s financial clout means it can afford to turn down mega-money advances for its best players. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently ruled out Robert Lewandowski moving to Real Madrid. Bayern can also cherry-pick the best of what the rest of the Bundesliga has to offer.

Schalke’s Leon Goretzka is joining for free next season.

COMPETITION

Bayern had no challengers for the title after Borussia Dortmund’s early promise collapsed. Schalke, the best of the rest, is clearly not at the same level, despite its improvement under new coach Domenico Tedesco. Bayern has scored almost twice as many goals.

Faced with the added strain of European football, last year’s runner-up Leipzig was unable to mount a challenge.

Dortmund faces another summer of rebuilding, while Bayer Leverkusen has been too inconsistent to mount a challenge under new coach Heiko Herrlich.

“It looks like we’ll also be German champions next year,” Heynckes said last month.

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.