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What’s next for growing American would-be pro soccer clubs like Detroit City?

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As our attention switches from international football back to the club game, a new article coming out of Michigan recalls where American soccer was when the American soccer world hit pause for the World Cup in June.

That’s when the United States Soccer Federation rejected billionaire businessman Rocco Commisso’s plea for a 10-year runway to bring the North American Soccer League to Division 1 league status by virtue of a $500 million investment proposal.

As if on cue, a John Niyo article in The Detroit News drags the so-called “closed system” back to the forefront, and his writing on National Premier Soccer League side Detroit City FC makes an interesting case.

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DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further, it’s important to note I operate a club in the same league as Detroit City, and very much admire how they’ve built what they’ve built there. That said, my opinions may be buttressed by that fact but are not birthed by bias.

The would-be Cliffs Notes go something like this: Detroit City FC wants to move from the short-season, semi-pro National Premier Soccer League to a fully professional league with a longer season. The rub is that DCFC currently only has one path and it’s one neither they nor the lion’s share of their supporters would support at the given time.

That’s largely because the U.S. Soccer Federation has only sanctioned two options above the NPSL: The United Soccer League and Major League Soccer. If DCFC doesn’t want to play a part in either of those organizations, it has no other current option. And while Detroit City has continued to bring huge crowds to its restored Keyworth Stadium whether NPSL matches or friendlies against the likes of FC St. Pauli, Necaxa, or Venezia, its next step is currently stuck in a holding pattern despite the club’s achievements.

And — and this is where Commisso’s offer comes back into play — the USSF has no reason to sanction any league that doesn’t go by its current divisional guidelines, which demand a very wealthy owner and specific stadium requirements amongst other things. Infrastructure and fan support can be built, but asking these clubs to hand themselves over to someone with deeper pockets simply to meet a standard is a real 2×4 to the gut.

“What you’re doing is awesome, but imagine if instead of you owning all of your success, you found a wealthier person to help you meet our standards?”

As we saw when MLS had its Detroit press conference without DCFC, there is no longer the ability to pretend soccer wasn’t already in town. DCFC may seem like an outlier, and may well be one, having had massive success with big crowds in a stadium they renovated themselves. Yet there’s little doubt there are myriad markets in this giant country that wouldn’t mind trying their hands with something new.

Put plainly, there are 172 clubs in the NPSL and Premier Development League alone, few of whom are in markets with MLS teams. Even eliminating the PDL teams with close relationships to MLS and the USL (The USL owns the PDL), and there are still well over 100 teams in play. Sure, some of those may not have the ambition to grow higher, but they are also currently also shackled by having to compete against the former NASL teams who had no alternative outside of the USL once their Division 2 league shut down last winter.

So Niyo’s article asks a question many have posited in the realms of social media: Why not go outside the structure of FIFA?

From The Detroit News:

Building a league outside the constraints of U.S. Soccer’s “Professional League Standards” could be one option for remaining NASL owners — New York, Miami and Jacksonville — and NPSL teams that are looking to grow pro. Detroit City FC was one of at least a half-dozen NPSL teams — clubs from Boston, Phoenix, Virginia Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. among them — poised to join the NASL with letters of intent last fall. But whatever path a new league pursues, it’ll require strength in numbers — at least 10 or 12 teams — and a geography that makes sense.

It’s a major risk, one that certainly is lined with the hopes that the influencers and money people behind the USSF might blink at significant competition.

But it still requires significant salesmanship: Getting top-notch players to commit to a league which severely hampers their international aspirations is a hard sell (The NASL had capped players from 27 countries heading into the 2016 season).

[ MORE: LAFC 0-0 Portland ]

So, too, is convincing deep-pocketed investors that they are capable of slaying, or at least denting, a big machine which has grown in a dramatic way in the last two decades. If a guy like Commisso, who has since went deep into discussions for a takeover of AC-freaking-Milan, sees the value and necessity of USSF sanctioning, lawsuits or not, certainly most would have the same questions.

Are there enough of the renegade rich to self-sustain a league outside of the MLS-USL set-up, and even get to sanctioning? Probably, as evidenced by Commisso’s belief that he’d be able to go from multi-club ownership of a D-1 NASL to 10 owners within a decade.

And there’s no denying the allure of safety for new markets. NISA founder Peter Wilt left his nascent D-3 league to helm USL soccer in Madison, and it’s easy to envision his safer new venture an almost automatic success.

So would that same group of risk takers be willing to do it outside of USSF sanctioning, without name players?

That’s where DCFC’s status as an outlier might really come into play. For everyone tooting the proverbial horn of MLS’ rapid and impressive evolution in quality — academies and foreign recruitment alike have made the league very entertaining — there’s no doubt that players with the name quality of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Carlos Vela still puts butts in seats.

Consider this: For all its growth, MLS’ top performing players remain almost overwhelmingly foreign-developed. Using an advanced rating site like WhoScored, the Top 20 finds only two players with any sort of U.S. or Canadian development in their lockers (and that’s being gracious with Kei Kamara, who came to U.S. for college at the age of 20).

You get to No. 23 before another U.S. developed player, Sean Davis, hits the list. It only gets to seven by No. 40 if you allow foreign-born players who largely grew their games in college soccer (including Mark-Anthony Kaye from TFC’s Academy and York University in Ontario).

Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of quality American and foreign talent which would benefit from more jobs.

As DCFC CEO Sean Mann says in The Detroit News piece: “It was frustrating: Why are there so many obstacles? We’re not zealots. We’re not crusaders to reform American soccer. We just want to play at a higher level. We want to naturally grow. And U.S. soccer doesn’t allow that.”

This nation is gigantic, and there are few fans out there who genuinely believe MLS will stop expanding any time soon. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the long play is to one day announce a knockoff of promotion and relegation within the confines of the Major League Soccer umbrella.

The question isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong. Let’s face it: the answers seem likely to fall along the lines of one’s political alliances. Those who fear the risks of the new and unusual will worry about short-circuiting the current path, while the other side will beg to give ideals and theories a chance at practice in the name of something better.

But something does have to change. Soon, more and more major success stories are going to be held short of their goals because of the current structure. Whether that’s Detroit City or Chattanooga seeking a next level and not finding it, or the Sacramento Republic not getting its shot at MLS, or a fan base and market like Columbus getting waylaid by a slimy contract and inaction from on high, they will keep coming into your news feed.

chattanoogafc.com

And if we keep making the mistake of letting these conversations regress to simple “pro-rel” banter, then we’re all going to lose. And it’s going to take a bunch of risk takers who put aside their egos to find common ground.

Here’s a quick way to put the American soccer landscape in perspective: Look at a map. As this sport continues to grow, and the country’s young players are coached and encouraged by generations of fans who were coached and encouraged by fans themselves, the markets for summer sporting entertainment will continue to explode in the United States (with only baseball to compete with them thanks to the given calendar implemented by the USSF).

Are there more than 26 markets fit to host a top-tier side? Yep. Are there more than the 60-plus when tossing in USL (but subtracting MLS reserve sides)? Yep.

And if Commisso’s offer tells us anything, anything at all, it’s that there are figures out there who love the game and have an appetite for something not currently satisfied by the current structure. So either MLS or the USSF is going to announce its plan for a much bigger league with more than a couple dozen markets, or someone is going to challenge from the outside (Of course, both could happen and that would be very intriguing).

Either way, let’s hope it happens before the next guys who want to take up Detroit City’s example decide they’d rather not rattle their skulls against an unnecessary ceiling.

What’s the solution given the current power and success of the USSF? Your takes are welcome.

PSG signs defender Thilo Kehrer from Schalke

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PARIS (AP) French champion Paris Saint-Germain has signed defender Thilo Kehrer from German club Schalke on a five-year contract.

PSG gave no financial details but Kehrer reportedly cost 37 million euros ($42 million).

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

The 21-year-old German helped Schalke finish second in the Bundesliga last season. He also helped Germany’s under-21 team win last year’s European Championship.

Kehrer is seen as an eventual replacement for 33-year-old central defender Thiago Silva, who has been with PSG since 2012.

He will be working under German coach Thomas Tuchel, who is bringing more young players into the team.

Kehrer says “I am going to meet some extraordinary teammates and work with a coach that has done a great job in Germany in recent years.”

NDOYE RETURNS

Cheikh Ndoye has returned to his former club Angers on loan from second-tier English side Birmingham.

The 32-year-old midfielder, who has made 27 international appearances for Senegal, joined Birmingham last year on a three-year deal.

He played 40 games last season, but with Birmingham reportedly under pressure to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations, he was loaned out and thus reduced the club’s wage bill.

Ndoye captained Angers from 2015-2017.

Last weekend, Angers opened its first-division campaign with a 4-3 home loss to Nimes.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Dyche: “Strength of character” got Burnley past Istanbul Basaksehir

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Burnley manager Sean Dyche has his team one round from the Europa League group stage after another clutch goal from Jack Cork.

And the intense Clarets boss knows its down to their dogged work.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

“The strength of character of the players is so important and before extra time I was talking to my group and they were all focused on me,” Dyche said. “I looked at theirs and there were bodies everywhere and two players catching eyes with their manager.”

“We have to do what we have to do to win games and we’ve never hidden from that. But in extra time I thought we were running all over them fitness-wise and therefore our play improved.”

Burnley moves onto play Olympiacos in the playoff round, and advancing past the Greek side would give them six more matches including three home dates at Turf Moor.

The Clarets bought Matej Vydra, Joe Hart, and Ben Gibson this summer. Ex-Middlesbrough defender Gibson made his Burnley debut on Thursday and  Hart has been sensational in posting three clean sheets in as many matches. Vydra is yet to debut.

Burnley’s status as a Europa League qualifier through Premier League play is about as impressive as anything this side of Leicester City’s miracle title run. The longer this goes on, the more strain it puts on their season, but it’s improbable to root against them.

Burnley drew Saints in its Premier League opener, and hosts Watford on Sunday.

Americans Abroad in 2.Bundesliga: Parker joins Green on Furth

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When it comes to Americans Abroad, few leagues have as many active USMNT-eligible players than Germany’s second tier.

Maybe it’s a knock-on effect of Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT tenure, but seven players with American blood have taken part in matches over the first two weekends in 2.Bundesliga (four with U.S. connections have not).

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

Julian Green has yet to find the goal for Greuther Fuerth, but not for lack of trying. Only one player in the league is averaging more than his four shots per game.

U.S. eligible forward Shawn Parker signed with Greuther Fuerth on Wednesday.

Like Green, American-born goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm has collected four points with club Holstein Keil this season, keeping a clean sheet.

U.S. U-19 midfielder Kevin Lankford is in his third season with Heidenheim, and has made a start and a sub appearance in his two appearances.

2.Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Fuerth — 2 matches, 153 minutes, eight shots
Next: Saturday vs. Paderborn

Joe Gyau, Duisburg — 1 appearance, 10 minutes
Next: Friday at Darmstadt

Terrence Boyd, Darmstadt — 2 appearances, 10 minutes
Next: Friday vs. Duisburg

Ken Gipson, Sandhausen — 1 appearance, 26 minutes
Next: Friday at Bochum

Kenneth Kronholm, Holstein Keil — 2 appearances, 180 minutes, clean sheet
Next: Sunday at Jahn Regensburg

Kevin Lankford, Heidenheim — 2 appearances, 1 start, 83 minutes
Next: Sunday at Dresden Dynamo

Jann George, Jahn Regensburg — 2 starts, 175 minutes
Next: Sunday vs. Holstein Keil

Yet to appear: McKinze Gaines, Darmstadt; Lennard Maloney, Union Berlin; Mario Rodriguez, Dynamo Dresden; Andrew Wooten, Sandhausen; Shawn Parker, Greuther Fuerth.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 2

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Week 2 of the Premier League season brings another gigantic match-up, with Arsenal following up its visit from Manchester City by traveling across London to face lively foe Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

All that and four more things to watch closely this weekend in England and Wales.

New managers Emery, Sarri helm big London rivalry
Chelsea vs. Arsenal — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Antonio Conte‘s probable hopes that Chelsea would be a shambles without him didn’t look true when the Blues bashed Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on opening weekend, while some extreme Arsenal fan hopes that their stumbles were simply down to Arsene Wenger were washed away in a haze of Man City ball possession.

Now Chelsea has a chance to soak the Gunners’ early season in misery, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal will know they can make opening weekend a thing of the past by joining the Blues on three points with a big away win.

London Derby tests Kane’s August record
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Harry Kane still hasn’t scored in August, and Fulham allowed a pair of goals in their return to the Premier League last weekend against Palace. The Cottagers have enjoyed Wembley recently in earning promotion through the playoffs, and new player Jean Michael Seri — a reported Spurs target before joining Fulham — looked exceptional in the loss to Palace.

Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham battles with Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur during an FA Cup fifth round match in 2017 (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Will Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds keep roaring at Selhurst Park?
Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Liverpool has won four-straight matches at Selhurst Park, but its record against Palace overall isn’t phenomenal over the last half-decade. That said, Jurgen Klopp’s men are clearly favorite to catch Manchester City if anyone can, and getting wins from matches like this is what contenders do along the way to Titletown.

Take two for Leicester and Wolves
Leicester City vs. Wolves — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold
 [ STREAM ]

Ruben Neves of Wolves announced his entry into the Premier League with a super performance in Wolves’ 2-2 home draw with 10-man Everton at the Molineux, but the one point gained somehow feel less than expected from the newly-promoted side. Leicester was outplayed by Manchester United in its opener, and will hope the King Power Stadium is what will kickstart their season… and maybe help save Claude Puel‘s job as Foxes’ manager.

The Premier League returns to Cardiff with a perceived six-pointer
Cardiff City vs. Newcastle United — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds couldn’t get the job done at Bournemouth in Week One and their “doable” three-match stretch to restart life in the Premier League will feel really rough if they cannot land a point or better against Rafa Benitez‘s Newcastle.

This is Newcastle’s best chance at three points over the first month, and the Magpies could be staring at zero points through four matches if they fail to get the job done in Wales (which is a long way from St. James’ Park).