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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.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS coverage ]

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.

Klinsmann to be World Cup TV pundit

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Some will say he should be coaching the U.S. national team in Russia this summer, but Jurgen Klinsmann will instead be a pundit on the 2018 World Cup for the BBC in England.

The BBC announced on Tuesday that Klinsmann will be alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Alan Shearer, Pablo Zabaleta and Rio Ferdinand to give his analysis on the tournament, one he may way feel he should be at as a coach had things worked out differently 18 months ago.

Klinsmann, 53, was fired by the U.S. men’s national team after losing the opening two games of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying against Mexico and Costa Rica.

By now we all know, of course, that Klinsmann’s successor, Bruce Arena, wasn’t able to salvage a slow start to the Hexagonal round of qualifying as the USMNT lost at Trinidad & Tobago in their final qualifier to not make the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Klinsmann has largely been a bystander since the USA’s World Cup debacle, appearing here and there at coaching seminars or spotted watching his son Jonathan, a goalkeeper with Hertha Berlin and the U.S. youth teams, play.

The German legend was in charge of the USMNT for five years from 2011-16 and led the Stars and Stripes to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Klinsmann’s insight into not only the teams at the tournament but also what happened with the USMNT will be intriguing, especially as he could be more relaxed on the subject of the U.S. considering he will be talking to a UK audience.

This will also be a great chance for Klinsmann to put himself back in the shop window as the managerial merry-go-round swings into overdrive following a World Cup tournament…

Still, there will be a nagging feeling among most USMNT fans that had Klinsmann not been fired back in November 2016 and trusted to get the U.S. back on track, they’d be cheering on their team this summer at the World Cup instead of twiddling their thumbs and being somewhat of a World Cup third wheel.

The best (and worst) valued MLS players

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Sometimes it’s difficult to remember all the rules and regulations that Major League Soccer has implemented, particularly when it comes to TAM and GAM, but one area that has become more transparent over the years is player contracts, courtesy of the league’s Players Union.

The MLS PA once again released its list of contracts for every active player in the league, as well as several free agents, earlier this week, which made us think: which players are the best and worst values based on their current salaries?

Pro Soccer Talk took a deeper look at each team’s current crop of players, and picked the 10 best and 10 worst contracts.

So, here we go.

In the typical good-bad news situation we usually like to get the bad out of the way first, so that’s where we will start.


WORST CONTRACTS

LA Galaxy attacker Giovani dos Santos ($6 million)

To say that the El Tri forward hasn’t lived up to his billing in MLS is an understatement. His underperformance with the club can be overshadowed a bit by the production of players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini, but Dos Santos’ goal output since the end of 2016 has been at a bare minimum (eight goals).

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder/defender Brek Shea ($745,000)

It’s fair to make the claim that Shea hasn’t lived up to the hype after leaving Dallas in 2012, and the fact that the Texas-native is currently the second-highest Whitecaps player speaks to that. Deployed primarily as a winger, Shea has scored just 10 goals since returning to MLS in 2015, and has completely fall out of the U.S. Men’s National Team picture.

Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya ($1.2 million)

To put Bedoya’s contract into perspective, the USMNT midfielder earns more than Federico Higuain, Sacha Kljestan and Alberth Elis. It’s been a rocky road for the third-year Union player.

D.C. United’s Zoltan Stieber ($999,000)

The Hungarian has been underwhelming thus far in a D.C. kit despite being the club’s top-earning player. Two goals and two assists since last summer is one of the reasons why D.C. has struggled so mightily.

FC Dallas forward Cristian Colman ($585,000)

Dallas has lost several important players in the attack over the years, but the addition of Colman was supposed to ease the blow for the Western Conference power. Instead, the Paraguayan has three goals to show in 33 appearances for the club.

Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu ($719,000)

The former Bologna man has been underwhelming since joining the Impact, which hasn’t helped the team’s willingness to find a legitimate replacement for Didier Drogba.

Portland Timbers midfielder Lucas Melano ($1 million)

The Argentine player is currently in his native country on loan at Estudiantes, but still bringing in over $1 million. Since joining the Timbers in 2015, Melano has scored just four goals for the Western Conference side.

New York City FC forward Jo Inge Berget ($816,000)

This is another player who is early into their MLS career, but the early signs aren’t very promising for an NYCFC side that has desperately searched for a second front option for the instances when David Villa isn’t available. Berget thrived in Europe, but he has struggled to make an impact in the Bronx.

Real Salt Lake’s Alfredo Ortuno ($1.1 million)

In three appearances this season, Ortuno has zero goals and no shots to speak of. Mike Petke’s side hasn’t had good luck with forwards over recent years, and unless Ortuno picks up his form, it could be another Yura Movsisyan situation.

Colorado Rapids keeper Tim Howard ($2.4 million)

It’s not to say that Howard isn’t still a capable goalkeeper, which he is, but the Rapids severely overspent on a position where you simply don’t have to shell out that sort of money. Goalkeepers like Tim Melia, Luis Robles, Zach Steffen and Stefan Frei could have all four of their contracts combined, and still come up significantly short of Howard’s salary.


BEST CONTRACTS

Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron & Josef Martinez ($2.2 million, $1.3 million)

We’ll start off with a pair from the same team. It would be shocking if one, if not both, players end up in Europe in the very future, so the fact that these players aren’t even in the top 10 Designated Player salaries is a sign of some very good business from Atlanta. The duo have combined for 41 goals in less than two full seasons with the Five Stripes.

Sporting KC winger Johnny Russell ($699,000)

It’s been a small sample size, but Sporting KC has to be very, very happy with its addition of Russell this winter. Five goals and two assists for the former Derby County midfielder, Russell has brought another creative influence to Peter Vermes’ attack.

NY Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams & Aaron Long ($153,000, $73,000)

In a way, it’s almost unfair to pick just two players from the Red Bulls because manager Jesse Marsch and technical director Dennis Hamlett have done such a tremendous job building this roster. Adams and Long stand out though because of what they have done in controlling the center of the park. For Long, in particular, he’s quickly become one of the best central defenders in MLS, making Matt Miazga an afterthought for Red Bulls supporters.

Colorado Rapids forward Dominique Badji ($168,000)

It’s hard to imagine that Badji has been in MLS for four seasons already, but the Rapids striker has proven to be one of the few consistent attacking pieces for the club. After tallying nine goals in 2017, Badji is alright more than halfway to that total, and should shatter his personal best this season.

Vancouver Whitecaps winger Alphonso Davies ($72,000)

At 17, Davies has the makings of a special talent. The Canada international doesn’t light up the score sheet, but Davies is one of the most exciting wingers in MLS and is the type of player you want out wide to provide great service into the box. Any team would sign up for his contract in a heartbeat.

D.C. United’s Yamil Asad ($520,000)

Asad was often overshadowed in Atlanta last year due to the star power on that squad, and now he’s still a bit under appreciated because of D.C.’s lack of success, but make no mistake that he is one of the top wingers in MLS. D.C. did well to keep him in the U.S., but now Ben Olsen needs to go out and support Asad with more talented players.

Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis ($650,000)

The 22-year-old is on pace to break into double-digit goals for his second consecutive season in MLS, and is a natural fit to replace the departed Erick “Cubo’ Torres. Elis played a big role in the Dynamo making the playoffs last season, and he likely will be a driving force again in 2018 if Houston qualifies.

Los Angeles FC defender Laurent Ciman ($661,000)

It was a steal when the expansion side managed to pull him away from the Montreal Impact, and the league’s most consistent center back has proven to be worth every penny for Bob Bradley‘s side. LA FC has dazzled with its many exciting attacking pieces, but Ciman has held down the fort defensively.

Salah’s sensational season in context

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Mohamed Salah is having a season on the same level as Lionel Messi.

Some* will even say it’s better.

[ MORE: LFC 2-1 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

There are few ways to overstate how well the Egyptian has performed for Liverpool this season, and few matches have been as strong as Tuesday’s destruction of AS Roma.

Make no mistake about it: Destruction is the right word. I Lupi isn’t dead thanks to the Reds right side of the defense and James Milner‘s arm, but it was fading out of consciousness when Salah departed the game.

It’s not crazy to draw the connection. Just ask Jurgen Klopp:

“If anyone wants to say it is my mistake that we concede the two goals because I change the striker, I have no problem with that,” he said. “Mo was running all the time and it would not have helped us if he gets an injury. What a player. If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it. He is in outstandingly good shape, world-class shape, but to be the best in the world you need to do it over a longer period, I think. The other two are not bad.”

No, no they are not, but Salah is on their level.

The aesthetics of his first goal were first-class, dinging off the bottom of the cross bar like a vicious swish of a Steph Curry three. When the night ended, Salah had two more goals and two more assists to bring his total to 43 goals and 15 assists in 47 matches. In three more matches, the best player on the planet has 40 and 18 (Ronaldo has 42 and 7 in 39).

[ MORE: LFC supporter in critical condition after Roma attack ]

The reason not to overreact is Luis Suarez’s 2013-14, in which he posted posted 31 goals and 24 assists in 37 games and would’ve arguably made Salah’s season look just “pretty great” if the Reds were in European football (or, one could argue, Suarez wasn’t slowed by the demands of a more congested adventure).

And we also won’t know Salah’s path next season. Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2007-08 season, the closest thing we have to Suarez or Salah in this generation. The then-23-year-old posted 42+8 in 49, but took a step back the next season before exploding into space upon debut with Madrid the following season (His second Real campaign, 2010-11, was the first real otherworldly CR7 campaign, with 53+18 in 54).

Salah is the Premier League Player of the Year, and he’s the front-runner for the Ballon d’Or (which is likely to be determined by this summer’s World Cup in Russia, with Argentina and Portugal possibly on a quarterfinal collision course and Egypt in an very winnable Group A with Russia, Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia).

Jurgen Klopp deserves much credit for Salah’s explosion. Even if the Egyptian began his ascent in Italy, there’s been nothing like this. And if he can do it a few more years, he has the chance to land amongst the generational names in soccer (perhaps as the best African player in Premier League history with Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba).

He’ll almost certainly become the all-time single-season Liverpool league goal scorer this season barring rest for the UCL, and he’ll be their top all-time according to Opta if he nabs four or more goals across 4-5 matches (Roma again, Stoke, Chelsea, Brighton, and probably Real Madrid or Bayern Munich).

The Reds were unbelievably good for 80 minutes on Tuesday — 75 of which were Salah-led — and the praise would’ve been flowing like a waterfall had they not switched off for 10 (in which it must be said Liverpool was fortunate to only concede twice!).

*By the way, Messi fans, you’ll be relieved to count me as not one of those who’d say Salah is having a better season. It’s closer than you think. Messi is better than Salah in league play, while Salah is having a superior UCL campaign. Given the general consensus top-to-bottom on Premier League vs. La Liga and Barca’s UCL competition vs. Liverpool’s opponents — which is drawing level now — we’d say it’s even.

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Messi 0.4-0.31
Key passes: Messi, 2.16-1.63
Chances created: Messi, 2.56-1.94
Attack score: Messi, 73.04-54.5
Possession score: Messi, 5.6 to minus-5.12
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-77
Shot accuracy: Even (62%)
Tackles won: Salah, 0.24-0.2
Take-ons won (%): Messi, 69.47-64.96

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Salah, 0.45-0.23
Key passes: Salah, 2.13-1.72
Chances created: Salah, 2.58-1.95
Attack score: Salah, 70.89-55.69
Possession score: Messi, 2.71 to minus-3.34
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-73
Shot accuracy(%): Salah, 73-69
Tackles won: Messi, 0.69-.45
Take-ons won (%): Salah, 76.4-61.4

Mourinho: Zlatan move “probably very good for American football”

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is not happy to see his friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic skip town, but such is life in the Premier League.

The big Swede, of course, is off to Major League Soccer, where he may debut for the LA Galaxy on Saturday in the first derby between the established LA side and new club LAFC.

[ MORE: Man Utd-Liverpool in USA ]

Mostly, Mourinho says, he’s glad Ibrahimovic isn’t hanging up the boots. From the BBC:

“He’s a huge, big player that top football, European football, is losing now – and will lose forever because he will not be back to this level of football,” Mourinho said. “But it’s fantastic for him in this period, I think it is a fantastic way for him not to go from being a player to being a former player. I think this period with Galaxy, these couple of years, probably will be very good for him and American football.”

If possible, Ibrahimovic’s MLS move is being under-hyped in what it could mean for the league.

Yes, there’s a chance that Zlatan could never fully find fitness, but the man is going to be a terror if he’s even half of what he was last season at Manchester United.

Considering what Didier Drogba was able to do at a similar age for the Montreal Impact and Zlatan’s higher status and better supporting cast, this has a chance to be the most spectacular foreign import not named David Beckham.

And frankly, if Becks wasn’t the first to come over and a borderline super model, this could be bigger.