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Ranking the next MLS expansion cities

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After Cincinnati, Ohio was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise on Tuesday, FC Cincinnati will become the 26th MLS team.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber is fast approaching his stated target of having 28 teams in the league, which means the mad scramble for the final two spots is well and truly on.

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Speaking to the local newspaper in Cincinnati on Tuesday, Garber specifically mentioned to the Enquirer that cities such as Sacramento, Detroit, San Antonio, San Diego and Las Vegas are in the mix but didn’t set out a specific date for further expansion.

“Very productive discussions with Sacramento, as well as in Detroit where we’re working with that ownership group on possible modifications of Ford Field that could, perhaps, make that city more MLS ready than it is today,” Garber said. “There’s a lot of engagement going on in San Diego. Recent news out of Las Vegas, who has a thriving USL team and their mayor reached out to us very recently. San Antonio remains on our list and we have great respect for what the NBA ownership team has done there.”

With two of the 12 cities, Nashville and Cincinnati, who applied for MLS franchises back at the start of 2017 now awarded franchises, plus David Beckham’s Miami franchise unveiled (again) in a glitzy ceremony, now seems like a good time to take a look at the remaining cities.

Detroit and Sacramento were finalists alongside Nashville and Cincinnati to get a franchise last time out, so, naturally, they have a very good chance of arriving in MLS next time around.

Of course, all of this is made a little more complicated by Columbus Crew potentially being moved to Austin, Texas by owner Anthony Precourt in the coming months, but let’s take a look at things as they stand.

Here is how we rank the current race for MLS expansion for teams 27 and 28.


  1. Detroit – The bid did appear to be hurt substantially when a deal for a stadium downtown collapsed. Yet Garber has mentioned the possibility of Ford Field being redeveloped and look how successful Atlanta United have been in an NFL stadium. If it’s done properly, it can work well. The Ford family have no problem coming up with the reported $150 million franchise fee, plus lower-tier Detroit City FC get big crowds and so too do international friendlies played at nearby Michigan Stadium. Something seems to be brewing in Motor City…
  2. Sacramento – Okay, so they should have really arrived in MLS a few years ago but Sacramento Republic continue to have problems with their ownership group and are still searching for a lead investor. They said on Tuesday that they remain in talks with MLS. USL success and big crowds are all well and good but they need a new investor to take them to the next level. If they get that then they’re in.
  3. Las Vegas – Well, Vegas weren’t one of the 12 cities to submit a formal bid for an MLS franchise but it appears they could well be moving to the top of the list after failed plans for a team in the past. The Las Vegas Lights drawing big crowds (close to a 8,300 average) in their debut season in USL is promising. Given the success of Vegas’ first-ever Major League Sports franchise, the Golden Knights of the NHL, it appears MLS want a slice of the pie in Sin City.
  4. San Diego – Again, another city mentioned specifically by Garber on Tuesday which is always a good sign that they’re heading in the right direction. Plenty of big names are involved in the MLS bid (hello, Landon Donovan with plenty of his friends getting involved to promote Soccer City too) but it all hinges on the Mission Valley stadium site. With LAFC arriving, SoCal may be a little congested but creating another local rivalry for MLS would be very special.
  5. San Antonio – Garber mentioning San Antonio could push them up the list but with Columbus potentially moving to Austin, that impacts this bid. Toyota Field is ready and big crowds for international games are impressive but it’s all about the Crew and what happens to them.
  6. Phoenix – Financial backing is there, Didier Drogba remains on board (and scoring goals) and stadium plans are in place. Phoenix remain an outsider but are an intriguing possibility.
  7. Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg – Expensive redevelopment of Al Lang Stadium key to this bid. The Rowdies have a strong, loyal fanbase and the move from NASL to USL has solidified that. An outside chance, especially given MLS heading to Miami soon. Can Florida sustain three MLS franchises?
  8. Raleigh/Durham – NASL’s problems mean NCFC moved to USL and although Garber didn’t mention them in his comments, they remain hopeful of a franchise. On Tuesday they released a statement in which they said “MLS has indicated that North Carolina Football Club continues to be in consideration for one of the two remaining expansion spots.”
  9. St. Louis – If they can get a stadium deal one day, you feel like MLS beckons but nothing has really changed in STL.
  10. Charlotte – No public financing or funding for a stadium deal has seen this bid stall. Competing with Raleigh/Durham was ill advised.
  11. Indianapolis – Indy Eleven have moved to the USL too and despite a loyal following, they lack the funds to support an MLS expansion franchise. Bit of a pipe dream, as things stand, especially with Cincy and Nashville getting teams not too far away in the Midwest.

Bolt unlikely to agree to terms with Australian club

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Usain Bolt’s search for a professional contract may go on a bit longer.

According to the Central Coast Mariners, the Australian club he’s been training with, they have extended Bolt a contract, but conceded a deal is “unlikely” “without the financial contribution of an external third-party,”

Reports across Europe state that Bolt is looking for a $3 million contract from any team he signs with, and the Mariners appear unable to meet those demands. “We are looking at ways to do this as the club does not have the luxury to be able to do this in the Hyundai A-League,” the club said in a statement. According to a report by the Guardian, the Australian football governing body has contributed $100,000 from its marketing fund for the contract, but would add no more than that.

Bolt scored twice in a friendly last week, and he’s been training with the club for the past few weeks, but the club announced that while talks are ongoing, Bolt will not travel with the team or attend training “to ensure that there is no distraction to the Hyundai A-League squad in preparing for this weekend’s match versus Melbourne City.”

The A-League side said in the statement that while Bolt is improving, the former sprinter requires further training to become a viable professional player. “Usain has made great progression during his time on the Central Coast and we feel that he will improve further with more individual intensive training and competitive game time.”

However, the club’s head coach wasn’t so complimentary. “Do you think he’ll get in our front three? We’ve got a very good front third,” Mike Mulvey said. Central Coast sports former Leeds United, Fulham, and Aston Villa striker Ross McCormack up front, alongside 26-year-old Australian international Tommy Oar and 24-year-old Connor Pain who has one cap for the international side.

Bolt doesn’t exactly have a ton of time to improve his game, already at 32 years of age and with a full Olympic-medal-winning professional sprinting career on his legs.

Man United hosts Juventus to headline Champions League Tuesday

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The stars align at Old Trafford on Tuesday as Manchester United hosts Juventus at the forefront of the Champions League slate.

Cristiano Ronaldo returns to face his old club and his old manager, while Paul Pogba also takes on his former team as the top spot in Group H is on the line. Ronaldo is back in Champions League action since September 19 when he was controversially sent off, earning a one-match suspension he served in a 3-0 win over Young Boys.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho told the players after throwing away a late lead against Chelsea to “use the anger to motivate ourselves to play a big match.” They’ll take on a Juventus team that’s slightly banged up, missing Mario Mandzukic, Emre Can and Sami Khedira all out injured. Manchester United also has its own issues, with Alexis Sanchez unavailable with Mourinho confirming he’s “not fit” although no other injury information was given.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Manchester City travels east to take on Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Group F is crowded through two matches, with City in second a point behind Olympique Lyon at the top. Kevin De Bruyne is in the squad after returning from injury over the weekend, coming off the bench for 32 minutes of Premier League play against Burnley. They’ll look to attack a Shakhtar defense that choked away a 2-0 lead against Lyon last time out. City has Kyle Walker available as well, announced as part of the matchday squad.

Bayern Munich visits AEK Athens having returned to winning ways over the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg. It’s a welcome sight for Niko Kovac, who was under fire for a terrible stretch of games, but now the Bavarians have a positive result to take with them on the road. Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez were both on the scoresheet, with the Polish international grabbing a brace.

Ajax takes on Benfica in Amsterdam as the Dutch side looks to extend its lead at the top of Group E. They’re tied with Bayern on points, but hold a slightly superior goal differential. Since falling to PSV Eindhoven in Eredivisie play, they have blown out Fortuna Sittard, AZ Alkmaar, and Heerenveen 11-0 over their last three games. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar already has 10 goals this season across all competitions, and former Southampton attacker Dusan Tadic is right behind him with 9.

Real Madrid has its best chance to turn around the poor run of play as they host Czech club Viktoria Plzen. Madrid has not won since September 22, a run of five matches that consists of four defeats. The club broke a scoreless streak of over 450 minutes last time out in a 2-1 loss to Levante, but the pressure has only increased on head coach Julen Lopetegui.

Other matches

Young Boys vs Valencia
AS Roma vs CSKA Moscow
Hoffenheim vs Lyon

Puel, Schmeichel fume at referee after Leicester loss to Arsenal

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While the world looked on at the performance by Mesut Ozil in awe, Leicester City manager Claude Puel and Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were left stewing after the match at a first-half decision which they believed changed the game completely.

Had the referee awarded a penalty for a Rob Holding handball in the first half with Leicester City up 1-0, the game would likely have turned out very differently. Holding, already on a yellow card, would have likely been sent off and Leicester City would have a chance from the spot to go up 2-0.

“I think [the first half was] our best half since the beginning of the season,” Puel said after the match. “We deserved to score more goals and make the difference in the first half. I didn’t understand why the referee didn’t whistle for the penalty, because in this moment it was a penalty, it was a second yellow card and so a sending off for the Arsenal player. This situation can change the finality of the game.”

Puel said that once the call was not made, and Arsenal was able to equalize before the break, Leicester City’s level of play dropped enough for the Gunners to pounce.

“I regret a little our beginning of the second half. We lost a lot of balls and we gave them the ball too easily to put us under pressure, but we have had the chances to score and to be leading in the game with the header from Ndidi. A lot of regret in this game because we showed a lot of quality and we were not lucky with the refereeing decision.”

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was in agreement with his manager about the key first-half decision. “We got no help from the official,” Schmeichel said. “I’ve never seen a clearer penalty. It’s tough to take because we were so good in the first half but in the second we’ve got to do a lot better than we did.”

At halftime, the replay showed the ball clearly hitting Holding’s forearm while above his head. However, the NBC studio crew argued that the penalty was not called because Holding’s arm was hit into the ball by the Leicester City attacker who attempted a header, and that although his arm was above his head, it was not in an unnatural position due to the natural human instinct to balance the body while jumping into the air.

Emery still searching for improvement after Arsenal win

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Arsenal won its 10th match in a row across all competitions with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City, with Mesut Ozil playing the starring role.

Still, Unai Emery isn’t fully pleased with the performance.

[ WATCH: Ozil sets up 2 beautiful goals in Arsenal win over Leicester City ]

Arsenal fell behind 1-0 thanks to a Hector Bellerin own-goal, and the Gunners boss is concerned about his assessment of the 90 minute performance. “Different halves, every match is difficult,” Emery said after the match. “First half we didn’t control the match with possession and positioning.”

Ben Chillwell got behind Bellerin and sent in a cross to the middle of the box, to which goalkeeper Bernd Leno reacted, but the cross clipped off Bellerin’s foot and past the wrong-footed goalkeeper. Arsenal responded with a 3-goal wave, as Ozil scored the first and set the next two up in brilliant fashion.

“We are happy because we are progressing. We need to play with organization but also with heart. We are beginning to play with heart. When you continue to improve your demands are very high. We need to control the matches more than we are doing now.”

The win pushed the Gunners to fourth in the Premier League table, above rivals Tottenham on goal differential. Emery said in order to have success long-term and maintain their Champions League positioning, the players need to be flexible.

“First half we didn’t play well but then we played with quality and heart. This feeling together is very good. We need the number 10 position sometimes with Mesut Ozil and sometimes with Aaron Ramsey. We can’t play with both sometimes. Last match was away and we played it with two strikers. Today Mesut was very good but I believe in every player and different positions for the players.”