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Commisso, USSF at impasse over $500m meeting

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New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso tells ProSoccerTalk that he pulled out of a Wednesday meeting with U.S. Soccer regarding his nine-figure offer to fund an American soccer league due to the federation’s unwillingness to send what the NASL deemed the proper decision-makers.

Commisso and several North American Soccer League owners were set to meet with U.S. Soccer in Chicago, but changed their plans when the federation’s delegation was limited to CEO Dan Flynn and legal counsel.

He says the NASL has since proposed a meeting under New York State not-for-profit law which would have the league meet with USSF board members who do not have direct ties to MLS, USL, or SUM.

The Cosmos owner promised $250 million of his own money as well as fundraising of an additional $250 million from other investors.

A spokesman for U.S. Soccer tells ProSoccerTalk that it has responded to Commisso’s latest letter regarding the meeting, and remains open to meeting in the future, noting that it initially proposed the dates and location for a meeting.

And Commisso says the federation’s latest communication says a meeting cannot happen with any board members, as they may be tainted by being subjects of NASL lawsuits. Commisso points out that he’s suing Flynn and Cordeiro as well.

Commisso — who has rallied against conflicts of interest between the USSF, Major League Soccer, and Soccer United Marketing — says he wanted to work out a deal with the federation and its board members, but his conditions were not met and the USSF’s conditions were a non-starter.

On the NASL side, Commisso did not wish to share what he deems “proprietary information” with board members, noting that several members of the USSF’s board of directors were his competitors due to ties with MLS and the USL. In the NASL’s view, meetings like this have led to almost instant competitive reactions from direct competitors to torpedo their plans and trigger competitive imbalance from what Commisso calls “monopoly galore.”

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U.S. Soccer says it’s protecting his information. He’s not so sure.

“The latest from my end,” Commisso said. “We’re gonna make it public one of these days. It’s not true that they are protecting my information. According to my email, they say they have to bring it up to the board. Garber may not vote on it, but they are gonna talk about it. We asked for a special committee of non-conflicted board members, and they won’t give it.”

He essentially views the federation’s request to get his plan for the league and investment as a fact-finding mission. With Carlos Cordeiro unavailable due to campaigning for the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup, the two sides would not be able to leave the meeting with a plan that would not require further, higher approval. His priority is the bid, a critical moment for his new administration.

The federation wants a plan before a meeting. The league doesn’t believe the plan won’t be shared with its competitors, but requires USSF sanctioning for one because Commisso wants to continue to recruit players of national team caliber and playing in a non-FIFA recognized “Division Zero” league would prohibit that.

And time is on the USSF’s side, not the NASL. While Commisso and other owners have the money to restart their teams at any time, other markets necessary to the league’s reclamation need time.

Commisso says U.S. Soccer told him that a meeting was not necessary for the NASL to apply for division sanctioning before an August deadline for any league.

Commisso’s main requests were a 10-year “runway” to meeting Professional League Standards, and the ability to own multiple teams. He’s also a proponent of promotion and relegation, rules against leagues “poaching” teams, and several measures of transparency and open bidding.

He admits he was stung that after investing millions of dollars to keep the NASL alive, the USSF removed its second division status “five and a half months after my first game,” while the rival USL got more time to fulfill Professional League Standards.

He also rejects the close relationship between MLS and the USL.

“It’s monopoly galore,” he said. “The USL is largely farm teams for MLS. B Teams.”

So what happens if U.S. Soccer doesn’t meet the conditions for a meeting?

“I can’t disclose that,” Commisso said. “But there’s a second part. The law suits continue, and no one gets me to shut my mouth. I will do all I can to represent all the shareholders in United States Soccer.”

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.

FA Cup: Sheffield Wednesday into 5th round; Derby headed for replay

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Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to reach the fifth round of the 2019-20 FA Cup by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Friday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

The Owls took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Morgan Fox squeezed his shot past the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and Sam Winnall put the EFL Championship side 2-0 up by slotting the ball home just before full-time. QPR pulled a goal back through Nahki Wells just moments later, but it wasn’t enough and the game finished 2-1.

It’s the second time in three seasons that Wednesday has reached the fifth round after doing so just twice in their previous 17 seasons.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

Elsewhere, fellow Championship side Derby County, featuring Wayne Rooney who played all 90 minutes, couldn’t see off League Two side Northampton Town and will be forced into the dreaded replay after struggling to a scoreless draw away from home.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.