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Miami ready to arrive as global soccer city

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This weekend the Premier League on NBC Sports crew are heading to Miami Beach to host the second Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest of the season.

And Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino, along with several high-profile guests, will be arriving in a city which is primed to re-enter the discussion as a truly global soccer city.

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With David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF franchise arriving in Major League Soccer for March 2020, CONCACAF’s HQ in Miami, plus many of the biggest clubs in the world visiting Miami to play in friendly games each summer — and of course the USMNT and USWNT both playing regularly in South Florida — Miami is already well on its way to becoming a key U.S. hub for the global game.

But things are changing. Rapidly.

After the Miami Fusion folded in early 2002 and the heyday of the NASL long gone, there was a soccer void in MIA, but now teams are popping up in both MLS and USL, and if you wander around Miami you will spot jerseys from just about every club on the planet.

Peter Smith (who played for the U.S. Futsal Team in the 1989 world championships) is involved in soccer in the Miami area where he runs his company, Smash Soccer, a consultancy agency.

He has seen a huge upturn in the popularity of the sport in and around Miami in recent years.

“There will be a big turnout and a great atmosphere at the Clevelander because their is such a passion for the sport in Miami and South Florida,” Smith said. “Miami is more of an international city than an American city. You always see Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus, Boca Juniors, River Plate and Flamengo jerseys, as well as plenty of Liverpool, Man United, Man City and Chelsea shirts and there is so much interest in the global game.

“Miami has such a mix of tourists and residents that you will always have PL interest in and around the bars and on the streets and there really is a growing interest in the Premier League. There are plenty of fan bars on gamedays, and in particular areas of Miami where you have specific bars for fans supporting clubs in South America and Europe. It’s a real mix and it is wonderful.”

[ MORE: How to attend the Miami Fan Fest ]

When you start to ask around the Miami area, it is clear soccer is on the minds of many.

Mike Ryan Ruiz is the Executive Producer for The Dan Le Batard Show and Host of Chelsea’s new U.S. focused podcast, “Chelsea Mike’d Up.” 

Aside from his focus on all things Premier League with the Blues, Ruiz believes the arrival of Inter Miami CF will be a key part of the puzzle in soccer getting back on the map in Miami.

“The soccer community is really buzzing down here for Inter Miami, even though it’s in Fort Lauderdale initially. Our supporters groups, I think, are going to be the talk of MLS. There are three main groups but the wildest is Vice City,” Ruiz explained. “I really think Inter is going to be a success story. The town is desperate for a winner and I think they’re well positioned even as an expansion team. We’ve been waiting on this for so long. It felt like the day might never come… but we’re here.”

It is sure to be one heck of a party at the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach this weekend as Miami continues to grow as a worldwide soccer destination.

All the details for our Fan Fest can be found right here.

Aston Villa gets its man in prolific Tanzanian captain Samatta

Aston Villa signs Tanzanian captain
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Aston Villa has captured its center forward, signing Tanzanian national team captain Mbwana Samatta in its bid for Premier League safety.

Samatta turned 27 last month and has 51 caps with 18 goals for Tanzania. He’s ineligible to play for Villa when it hosts Watford on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online on NBCSports.com).

The fee is reported as $13 million.

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“I’m so excited. It’s a huge step for me and my career. For all the people from Tanzania, it’s a big step for the country as well. Everybody is so on it, they are looking to see one Tanzanian guy who can play in the Premier League. Here today I’m him, and I’m so happy.”

The striker scored 26 times last season for Genk, and has 76 goals for the club since arriving in 2015. He scored against Liverpool and twice versus Red Bull Salzburg in this season’s Champions League group stage.

He spent time with Congolese club TP Mazembe and Tanzanian side Simba SC before that.

Villa’s 22 points are back of the Premier League’s safe spaces, and the Midlands club is a win away from the League Cup final. The semifinal second leg at Leicester City takes place Jan. 28.

Real Madrid adds Brazilian teen phenom Reinier Jesus

Real Madrid adds Reinier Jesus
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Barcelona and Real Madrid may be neck-and-neck in the short-term, but the Madrid side keeps landing stars for the bigger picture.

The latest add is Reinier Jesus, a $33 million price affixed to the teenage phenom from Brazilian side Flamengo. As Joel Soria wrote earlier this month, the victorious fee is around half of Reinier’s reported release clause.

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Marca brands the kid a physically-gifted player in the Kaka mold, which is lofty praise given the latter won a Ballon d’Or.

Reinier, an attacking midfielder, joins wingers Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior in forming a young Brazilian heart of the squad’s future.

Renieir, no relation to Man City forward Gabriel Jesus, turned 18 on Sunday. He is coming off six goals and two assists in 17 senior appearances for Flamengo and is expected to be one of the stars of Brazil’s Olympic qualifying fight, which is currently underway in Colombia.

That team, should they qualify, would be terrifying at full strength. Brazil could utilize Douglas Luiz, Rodrygo, Thiago Maia, Wendel, and Renan Lodi.

 

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Here are the latest Prince-Wright‘s Premier League picks ahead of Matchweek 24 in the Premier League, the midweek slate of games.

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If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Everton 2-0 Newcastle– (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 0-2 Watford – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 3-1 Norwich – (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Bournemouth 2-1 Brighton – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Leicester 1-1 West Ham – (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Wolves 1-2 Liverpool – (Thursday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 1-1 Southampton – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-2 Burnley – (Wednesday 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Sheffield United 2-1 Man City – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal – (Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

USMNT’s Bradley suffers serious ankle injury; Altidore hits out

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USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley will reportedly be out for up to four months due to an ankle injury he suffered playing for Toronto FC in the 2019 MLS Cup final against Seattle. That was the MLS Cup final, in November.

The TFC skipper, 32, suffered the serious ankle injury during the game and per reports he has been rehabbing the ankle over the past two months. However, that hasn’t had the desired effect and now ankle surgery is his only option.

Via Joshua Kloke from The Athletic, TFC’s General Manager Ali Curtis confirmed that Bradley will have ankle surgery in New York City on Tuesday. Curtis added that “surgery was a last resort and club believed they could rehab injury.”

Bradley’s teammates with Toronto and USMNT, Jozy Altidore, then hit out at the handling of the situation as Toronto will be without their leader for almost half of thee MLS season.

“Make no mistake. In my opinion, for me, it was handled poorly,” Altidore told reporters as TFC returned to practice on Monday, as he insinuated that Bradley was put in a tough position by the club over his injury.

The injury will reportedly keep him out for at least four months, meaning he will miss a huge chunk of the MLS season and also the USMNT’s friendlies against the Netherlands (March 26) and Wales (March 30).

This is a hammer blow for Toronto as Bradley led the organization on and off the pitch since he arrived in 2014, reaching three MLS Cup finals in the last four seasons. He only signed a new contract with Toronto FC over the offseason as his previous deal expired but it will be intriguing to see how this all plays out as Altidore obviously believes this situation could have been handled a lot better.

USMNT fans will now focus on having some of their younger players take the lead in central midfield in March and maybe beyond, with Tyler Adams now back to full fitness as he looks set to become Gregg Berhalter’s go-to guy in midfield.

Bradley’s displays in recent seasons have been lamented by USMNT fans but Berhalter has made him an integral part of his plans and he is one of the few players who survived the massive cull from the 2018 World Cup qualifying debacle. Losing Bradley for this amount of time is a big blow for club and country.