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Sounders add Russell Wilson, Ciara, Macklemore to ownership group

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SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Sounders are adding Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and recording artist (and wife) Ciara, hip-hop artist Macklemore and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to the MLS club’s ownership group.

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Other investors are also coming aboard while current majority owner Adrian Hanauer is increasing his investment stake in the club. Hollywood producer Joe Roth, who helped bring the MLS to Seattle, is leaving the franchise.

Wilson has been attempting to get into sports ownership. He was previously a partner in an effort to build a new basketball arena in Seattle and has also been part of the project in Portland, Oregon, to build a baseball stadium in the hopes of luring an MLB team to the city.

“When I got here in 2012, Seattle was a place that I felt I could call home forever. And obviously because of the Seahawks, and now because of the Sounders, it makes that really come to life,” Wilson said in a statement. “We’re really excited about building that winning culture. This city is a special place. The Pacific Northwest is a place we love and we get to raise our kids here and have a lot of fun while doing it.”

While the addition of Wilson and Macklemore will grab attention, other new additions to the ownership group have deep ties to Microsoft. Nadella is the most notable, but former Microsoft executive Terry Myerson and his wife, Katie, are the leaders of the new investment group.

“He quickly put together this rock star, literally and figuratively, group of owners and I had known several of them over time and met some new ones, and I guess it was humbling to know how much passion there was, how much connection there was to the club that we all have built together,” Hanauer said. “People were enthusiastic for all the right reasons.”

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In a lengthy post on social media, Myerson described the process of starting to bring new investors together more than a year ago. Pulling together 11 families and finalizing the purchase took longer than anyone expected.

“What motivated so many of us to come together was to make sure the Sounders were owned here in Seattle for our kids and for our community,” Myerson said.

Hanauer previously had a 35 percent stake in the franchise with Roth holding 32.5 percent, Vulcan Sports and Entertainment — headed by the late Paul Allen — holding 25 percent and actor Drew Carey holding 7.5 percent. Hanauer and Carey have upped their investment in the franchise, although Hanauer declined to specify by how much. The new owners have picked up the remainder of Roth’s investment. While the new investors are important, Hanauer made it clear the new structure didn’t immediately mean the club was flush with new money.

“The new money comes in the form of continuing to run a better and better business,” Hanauer said.

Roth spearheaded the effort that led to Seattle being awarded an MLS expansion franchise in 2007. He served as the majority owner for several years before Hanauer took over the majority share. There had been rumblings Roth was looking to sell his share of the franchise.

“When MLS gave me permission to look at the Pacific Northwest to start a soccer franchise, there was no question that Seattle was the place,” Roth said. “The last ten years watching our Sounders grow with their incredible fan support beat any hit movie I ever created.”

USWNT Olympic Qualifying preview: Avoiding a historic hiccup

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The United States women’s national team is a World Cup monster, but it’s would like to put its Olympic standing back on a perch.

The U.S. didn’t find the podium in 2016, finishing in fifth place at the Games in Rio. The USWNT has four gold medals and a silver in the previous five tournaments.

The path to putting another bullet point on the Yanks’ incredible run begins Tuesday with what should be a comfortable if not audacious defeat of Haiti.

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Vlatko Andonovski’s first serious fixtures as USWNT boss include group stage dates against Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica. All matches take place in Houston and it would be stunning if the Yanks lost any of them.

The USWNT hasn’t lost in over a year, their last set back coming in a 3-1 loss to France in Le Havre on Jan. 19, 2019.

Andonovski oversaw a 6-0 defeat of Costa Rica in November. The other opponents are far off the pace of Costa Rica, the No. 34 team in the FIFA Rankings. Haiti is No. 63, Panama No. 69.

The top two teams in each group make the knockout rounds. Should the U.S. follow the script, it’ll meet Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, or Saint Kitts and Nevis in the semifinal. The winner of each semifinal qualifies for the summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Ego aside, the challenge of following this tournament is that it’s about how the U.S. looks more than any mystery of result. Are the players bought into Andonovski’s style and tactics? How effective is his plan to keep the U.S. on top of the women’s game?

Andonovski left five World Cup winners off his roster for qualifying: Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson. Morgan is pregnant while Davidson is carrying an injury.

The USWNT will have one more meaningful tournament before the Olympics, March’s SheBelieves Cup.

Arteta praises Saka, Willock, speaks on transfers, Mustafi injury

Mikel Arteta
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Arsenal’s day got a little dicey in stoppage time of a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the FA Cup’s fourth round, but it was mostly very comfortable at the Vitality Stadium.

A lot of that comes down to Bukayo Saka‘s exceptional day on the left flank. The 18-year-old had a goal and an assist, and is proving a big part of Mikel Arteta‘s plans to return Arsenal to glory.

“Mikel is trying to bring back the philosophy of the Arsenal way,” Saka said after the win, via the BBC. “We did that well in the first half, not so much in the second half.”

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Saka took a lay-off from fellow teen Gabriel Martinelli to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute, then crossed for Eddie Nketiah‘s 26th-minute insurance goal.

A Sam Surridge stoppage-time marker for Bournemouth made an otherwise easy day feel a bit tricky at the end.

Arteta had praise for his youngsters, especially Saka and midfielder Joe Willock.

“They were terrific,” he said, via Football.London. “Their courage to play and make big decisions. I think Joe can be an outstanding player in that position.”

Saka came through the system as a left winger, but Arteta has asked him to help fill in at left back.

“What I like is that he put his head down and he is very willing to learn the defensive principles.”

Arteta also admitted that a Cup run would be great for the team, adding that Shkrodan Mustafi’s injury is a big cause for concern. He said the club has a clear plan for the rest of the transfer window, and that he wants Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in London.

“We will have to assess him but normally it is not good,” he said of Mustafi. “We had a clear intention of what we want to do in the market and if we can do it, fine.”

Arsenal moves past Bournemouth to reach FA Cup fifth round

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Bukayo Saka had a goal and an assist as Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-1 in FA Cup fourth round action on Monday.

The result seals another trip to the South Coast, as the Gunners will visit Portsmouth in the fifth round.

Saka and Eddie Nketiah were the goal scorers as Arsenal did the job without Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and David Luiz in the Starting XI.

Sam Surrridge scored for Bournemouth in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time. That gave a tension to the other four minutes of stoppage which did not exist in the rest of the match.

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Saka drifted into the 18 to wallop a Gabriel Martinelli layoff into the upper reaches of the goal, the ball zipping from post-to-post with fury.

The 18-year-old Saka picked up an assist on Arsenal’s second goal, his cross seeing its way to Nketiah for a straight-forward finish in the heart of the 18.

Saka now has three goals and six assists in 23 appearances for Arsenal this season.

It wasn’t strictly positives for the Gunners, as Shkrodan Mustafi was stretchered off with an injury in the 62nd minute.

Bournemouth got one back when Simon Francis‘ cross was dummied by Dan Gosling, Surridge using a clever touch to set up his shot past Emiliano Martinez.

It’s Surridge’s first senior goal for Bournemouth, though the 21-year-old has managed 29 goals between Yeovil Town, Swansea City, and Oldham Athletic.

Ten possible transfers to monitor this week

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It’s been an active-enough transfer window from a wide perspective. Manchester United, Chelsea, and fans of other contenders may still be waiting for their breakthrough, but there’s been a lot to see world wide.

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Erling Haaland has a new home, and his housewarming party has been spectacular. Javier Hernandez headed from Sevilla to Major League Soccer.

Takumi Minamino joined Liverpool from Salzburg, and Gedson Fernandes found a home at Tottenham.

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So what’s still (possibly) to come before the transfer window slams shut at 6 p.m. ET Friday?

Aaron Long from New York Red Bulls to West HamA loan-to-buy bid’s been rejected, but could David Moyes skip the trial period. USMNT center back Long wants to go the Premier League, and RBNY are not in the CONCACAF Champions League so there’s time to replace him.

Antonee Robinson from Wigan Athletic to AC Milan — Speaking of USMNT-related transfers, could-be left back of the future has become a fixture at the DW Stadium but reports of his replacing Ricardo Rodriguez at Milan are many.

Paco Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund to Newcastle — The Magpies need another striker with Joelinton struggling to find form, and the BVB man is open to leaving on account of Haaland’s arrival.

Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United — A difference of $12 million seems likely to be made up by Friday.

Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Chelsea — He’s thrived at Fulham in the Championship, Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, and Lyon in Ligue 1, so the Premier League may finally get to see a mature Dembele. He made two appearances for Fulham in 2013/14.

Mykola Matviyenko from Shakhtar Donetsk to Arsenal — Twenty-two years old with 26 caps for Ukraine, reports of a try-it-before-you-buy-it with the Gunners seem very friendly to Arsenal.

Boubakary Soumare from Lille to Chelsea or Manchester United — Sixty-six senior appearances for a Ligue 1 side at age 20 is an eye-popper, and Soumare’s ceiling as a defensive midfielder is high.

Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Gerrmain to Atletico Madrid or Chelsea — The reports have all said Atleti is the front-runner, but the longer is takes the more you wonder…

Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli to Manchester United — Not in January with Napoli a month away from Barcelona in the UCL, right? Right?

Gareth Bale,  Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Mario Gotze, Steven Bergwijn, Alcacer, pretty much forward to Spurs — Self-explanatory. Spurs are transfer rumor bait as much as anyone not called Manchester United thanks to the injury to Harry Kane and the clear need for refreshment.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.