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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.

Report: U.S. U-17 midfielder Reyna to sign for Borussia Dortmund academy

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Another top American youngster is set to head for Germany for the crucial development years of his career.

According to Goal USA, U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team midfielder Giovanni Reyna is expected to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy when he turns 16-years old this November. Reyna is able to head to Europe before his 18th-birthday thanks to a Portuguese passport he received by way of his father, former U.S. Men’s National Team captain Claudio Reyna and Claudio’s mother, who was born in Portugal.

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Reyna just finished a tournament in Mexico with the U.S. U-17s, and earlier this summer he led NYCFC’s Under-18/19 team to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy title, despite being just 15 years old. Reyna was also a standout on the U.S. U-15 national team the past couple of years.

While not every American moving to Europe is successful (see: Haji Wright, Junior Flores), there is plenty of good precedent at Dortmund, especially thanks to Christian Pulisic. With Josh Sargent looking strong in the youth ranks and reserves at Werder Bremen and both Pulisic and Weston McKennie (Schalke) starring for the first team for their clubs in Germany, it’s an attractive place for young players – not just Americans – to move to. It’s still much too early to start the hype train on Reyna, but if he impresses in the Dortmund academy over the next two years, he could see a chance to play with the first team by 2020.

One thing to keep in mind is that NYCFC, which has likely spent thousands of dollars investing in coaching and facilities for Reyna’s development – along with other players – is losing him for nothing to Dortmund. And other talented young players, James and Will Sands or Joe Scally, haven’t seen much if any time with the first team.

La Liga plans to play regular-season matches in US

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A regular-season Spanish league game is coming to the United States, possibly as early as this year, but a “clasico” between Real Madrid and Barcelona is pretty much out of the question.

The league said Thursday it is planning to play a match across the Atlantic as part of a new 15-year partnership with sports and entertainment group Relevent to promote soccer in North America.

[READ: Real Madrid players, manager react to UEFA Super Cup defeat]

The group operates the International Champions Cup, the world’s largest summer club tournament. Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other in the tournament in Miami last year.

The league gave few details on the planned regular-season game. League president Javier Tebas, however, dismissed the possibility of taking the “clasico” away from Spain.

The league said it is still making arrangements for the game and there is no timetable for when it will happen, but it could be this season.

The Spanish league has been trying to expand internationally for some time, hoping to grow and keep pace with the powerful Premier League in England.

Tebas last year also talked about the league possibly playing a regular-season match in China, and a few days ago the Spanish Super Cup was held in Tangier, Morocco, marking the first time it was played outside Spain. The league game in the United States would be the first to be played outside of Europe.

“Joining with Relevent to create LaLiga North America is a major milestone in our international expansion strategy,” Oscar Mayo, the league’s international development director, said in a statement. “This agreement ensures not only a bright future for soccer in North America, but also for LaLiga and our clubs.”

The league said “the operation will support the league’s growth in the U.S. and Canada through consumer related activities including youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations, exhibition matches and plans to have an official LaLiga Santander match played in the U.S.”

A decade ago, the Premier League tried to introduce an additional international match but plans for each team to play a 39th game overseas were abandoned amid opposition from FIFA and fan groups.

The Premier League has more exposure than its Spanish counterpart in the United States, in part because of a six-year TV deal with NBC worth about $1 billion.

Since 2012, the Spanish league has been on BeIN Sports, which was received by less than a quarter of American English-language television households even before it recently was dropped by the Comcast Xfinity cable system.

Relevent was founded and is owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who called the partnership “the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America.”

“This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world,” Ross said.

The Spanish league called the agreement “an inflection point for soccer in the U.S. and Canada,” coming in anticipation of the 2026 World Cup that will be hosted in North America.

Ramirez makes instant impact in first start for LAFC

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Christian Ramirez showed Minnesota United FC exactly what it is missing.

Back home in Southern California, Ramirez scored twice in his first start for Los Angeles FC as the expansion side comfortably held on to a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake in mid-week MLS action. It was his first MLS goals since he scored a brace against LAFC four weeks ago.

Once LAFC heard Ramirez was on the market, Bob Bradley and co. quickly snapped him up, and he is already paying dividends.

Playing as a lone striker, Ramirez found himself between two RSL defenders as LAFC took control of the ball off a turnover. Carlos Vela cut inside and delivered a perfect pass to Ramirez, who made a diagonal run away from the nearest defender and then back to the ball. All Ramirez needed was to loop the ball over Nick Rimando’s head in goal to give his side an early lead.

When someone is in good form, the ball seems to just find its way to you, and that’s exactly what happened for Ramirez’s second. Waiting at the far post, Ramirez side-stepped a couple of times to his left before slotting home easily. It showcased solid awareness and anticipation for the 27-year-old striker, who could still have a future with the U.S. Men’s National Team, especially with September friendlies coming up.

Ramirez has always seemed like he was destined to play on a bigger platform, and with LAFC’s impressive first year and numerous placements on national television, Ramirez may finally be getting the respect he’s due.

France is king, USMNT at No. 22 in latest FIFA rankings

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France’s World Cup title has given the nation the coveted No. 1 ranking from FIFA.

In its latest World Rankings, FIFA crowned France as the top team in the world, as well as promoting the U.S. Men’s National Team to  No. 22 in the rankings. The USMNT now sits one spot behind Italy and one place ahead of Austria. England’s semifinal run also boosted the Three Lions to No. 6 in the world.

Both Russia and Croatia earned massive jumps in the rankings based on their excellent World Cup performances. Russia moved an impressive 21 places up to No. 49, while Croatia jumped 16 slots to the top five. Sweden also rose 11 places to No. 13. While Russia and Croatia made big moves up, two nations made moves in the opposite direction. Former World Cup champion Germany fell 14 places to No. 15, Argentina dropped six spots to No. 11 and Iceland and Poland both dropped ten spots. Egypt’s disastrous World Cup cost the national team 20 places, down to No. 65.

Behind France, the rest of the top 10 looks like this: Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Uruguay, England, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Denmark. The latter two are both tied for ninth.

The next World Rankings will be released on September 20 following the September FIFA dates. The USMNT returns to action on September 7 against Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey before heading to Nashville to take on Mexico on September 11. England hosts Spain in UEFA Nations League action on September 8 at Wembley Stadium before heading north to Leicester for a friendly match against Switzerland.