Zlatan Ibrahimovic calls time on remarkable playing career


There are very few unicorns in sports, but one of them announced their retirement on Sunday as Zlatan Ibrahimovic called time on a legendary playing career at the end of AC Milan’s season.

Ibrahimovic scored more than 500 goals between club and country, and had nearly as many headline-making moments with eyebrow-raising quotes and gestures.

Many of his comments were self-aggrandizing — he called himself “Benjamin Button” and “Indiana Jones” and “bigger than all of MLS“– and often viewed with humor, though he earned sincere criticism for speaking against athletes like LeBron James being involved in political discussions.

He was also involved in humanitarian efforts, raising money for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic and putting on temporary tattoos to raise awareness of childhood hunger.

[ MORE: Zlatan scores early, late as Man United win thrilling League Cup ]

Ibrahimovic, 41, was limited to just four games this season due to injuries to his knee, calf, and hamstring, scoring one goal over 144 minutes. His last appearance goes down as a 17-minute cameo for Sweden in a EURO qualifier loss to Belgium on March 24.

Nominated for 11 Ballons d’Or and finishing fourth once, Ibrahimovic was named to four UEFA Teams of the Year and was honored thrice as the Serie A Footballer of the Year and three more times as Ligue 1 Player of the Year. Ibrahimovic was four-times the Swedish Male Athlete of the Year.

He’s also the only player to score in the UEFA Champions League for six different teams, and the only player to win the Capocannoniere — Serie A’s Golden Boot — for two clubs (AC Milan and Inter Milan).

Ibrahimovic claimed trophies at virtually every stop of his career besides childhood club Malmo and Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, where he set the MLS single-season goals record with 30.

He won two Eredivisie crowns at Ajax, Serie A scudetti with Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan, a La Liga title with Barcelona, four Ligue 1 victories with PSG, and the League Cup and Europa League for Manchester United. He also scored the 25,000th goal in Premier League history.

Ibrahimovic retires a Swedish centurion, scoring 62 times in 122 caps including six goals in 13 EURO appearances. He failed to score in five appearances for Sweden between the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

His star lost some shine in Sweden when he purchased a stake in Hammarby, a rival to his boyhood club of Malmo: Fans sawed his statue off at the ankles.

Maybe now we’ll get the 10 “Rambo”-styled movies about Zlatan he once mentioned in a press conference.

Surely we’ll hear more from Ibra in the future.

Lionel Messi’s father: Player ‘would like to return’ to Barcelona


Barcelona has not given up hope of seeing Lionel Messi returning to the club despite increasing speculation about a pending move to Saudi Arabia, and his father said Monday that his son prefers to go back to the Catalan club.

Jorge Messi was in Barcelona and briefly answered questions from reporters after reportedly meeting with club president Joan Laporta.

The player’s father sidestepped most questions but acknowledged that Messi “would like to return” to the club where he spent most of his career. When asked if he believed his son could be back, he said “yes.”

“It depends on lots of things. I don’t know anything,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

[ MORE: How many times has a team won the treble? ]

Barcelona has continued to restructure its finances to make sure it can afford Messi’s return in case the Argentina star decides to come back to the Spanish league after his stint with Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG announced this past weekend that Messi will not stay at the club for another season, and the player was reportedly mulling lucrative offers from Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia and Inter Miami in the United States.

Barcelona was always an option since it’s the club where he grew up and thrived for nearly two decades before leaving to join PSG in 2021 amid the Catalan club’s financial struggles.

Barcelona’s finances are in better shape now, but adding Messi to the squad would make it more difficult for the club to meet the Spanish league’s strict financial fair play rules.

“It’s not easy, but we’ll see,” Laporta said this weekend.

The club was working with the league to make sure it could get an adequate salary cap approved ahead of the new season. It still has to add some players who were registered with the youth squads, including playmaker Gavi, but it gained some important salary cap space with the departure of veterans such as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

“I would really like to have Leo back. He knows it, I’ve spoken to him,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “It would be spectacular, not only for me as a coach, but as a fan as well. He is a spectacular player who could help us in so many different areas. But it’s his decision and I will understand it no matter what happens.”

Laporta has said the club would do everything possible to try to bring Messi back.

After not being able to keep the playmaker and seeing the team struggle, Laporta and his board had to take action and sold off 25% of the club’s Spanish league TV rights for the next 25 years, along with other assets. The cash was used to revamp the squad with the signings of players such as Robert Lewandowski, Jules Koundé and Raphinha. The team won the league title this season for the first time since 2019, but it still struggled in the Champions League and the Europa League.

The team’s first title since Messi’s departure had been the Spanish Super Cup in January, when it defeated rival Real Madrid in the final in Saudi Arabia.

The 35-year-old Messi left Barcelona after 17 successful seasons in which he helped the Catalan club win 35 titles, including four Champions Leagues, 10 Spanish leagues and seven Copa del Reys.

While with Barcelona, Messi earned himself a record six Ballon d’Or awards as the world’s top player. He remains the team’s all-time scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances, and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.

Messi was the top scorer in the Spanish league in eight seasons, and the top scorer in the Champions League on six occasions. His 26 goals against Real Madrid are a record for the “clasico” matches against Barcelona’s fiercest rival.

Messi arrived at Barcelona at age 13, when he and his family came to Spain to try his luck at Barcelona’s youth academy. He made his official debut on Oct. 16, 2004, and two years later helped the club win its first Champions League title in a squad led by Ronaldinho.

Major League Soccer 2023 season: How to watch MLS, schedule


Major League Soccer launched its latest campaign on the world in February, and there were plenty of changes to watch for the 28th season of MLS.

For one thing, there’s a new way to watch (see below) and it’s going to take some time before it settles in as the new norm for Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: NBC Sports’ MLS hub — Stats, schedule, more ]

The league has also launched a brand new team, as St. Louis City SC acquired a spot in MLS and met the ceremony with substance, winning its first five (5?!?) games and sitting in first place our West.

What else is going on early in the season? Seattle, LAFC, and FC Dallas have continued their history of riding high in the West, while the LA Galaxy , Sporting KC, and Portland are surprising struggles.

Bruce Arena has New England atop the East with FC Cincinnati right there and familiar faces Atlanta, NYCFC, and Columbus in the discussion for prime position in the massive, open playoff race to come once Fall arrives in Major League Soccer.

Jordan Morris of Seattle is leading the Golden Boot chase, followed closely by LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, while Thiago Almada continues to impress in the playmaking department and has posted a league-best five assists.

Read on below for information on how to watch the games, as well as the schedule for the 2023 season.

Major League Soccer schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Feb. 25 – Oct. 21 (regular season)
Online: Live updates via
How to watch: Apple TV

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 1

Saturday, February 25 – Monday, Feb. 27

Nashville 2-0 NYCFC
Philadelphia 4-1 Columbus
FC Cincinnati 2-1 Houston
Atlanta United 2-1 San Jose
Charlotte FC 0-1 New England
Orlando City 1-0 New York Red Bulls
DC United 3-2 Toronto FC
Inter Miami 2-0 Montreal
Austin FC 2-3 St. Louis City FC
FC Dallas 0-1 Minnesota United
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 Real Salt Lake
Seattle Sounders 2-0 Colorado Rapids
Portland Timbers 2-1 Sporting KC

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 2

Saturday, March 4

LAFC 3-2 Portland
New York Red Bulls 0-0 Nashville
New England 3-0 Houston
Orlando City 0-0 FC Cincinnati
Atlanta United 1-1 Toronto FC
Columbus 2-0 DC United
Inter Miami 2-0 Philadelphia
Chicago 1-1 NYCFC
St. Louis City 3-1 Charlotte FC
Austin FC 1-0 Montreal
FC Dallas 3-1 LA Galaxy
Colorado 0-0 Sporting KC
Seattle Sounders 2-0 Real Salt Lake
San Jose 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 3

Saturday, March 11

Charlotte 0-3 Atlanta
Vancouver 1-1 FC Dallas
NYCFC 1-0 Inter Miami
Philadelphia 1-0 Chicago
FC Cincinnati 1-0 Seattle Sounders
DC United 1-1 Orlando City
Toronto FC 1-1 Columbus
Sporting KC 0-0 LA Galaxy
Minnesota United 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Nashville 2-0 Montreal
Real Salt Lake 1-2 Austin
San Jose 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Portland Timbers 1-2 St Louis City

Sunday, March 12

LAFC 4-0 New England

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 4

Saturday, March 18

Seattle Sounders 0-0 LAFC
Montreal 3-2 Philadelphia
Atlanta 5-1 Portland Timbers
New England 1-0 Nashville
Orlando City 1-2 Charlotte
Toronto FC 2-0 Inter Miami
New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus
NYCFC 3-2 DC United
FC Dallas 2-1 Sporting KC
Houston 2-0 Austin
St Louis City 3-0 San Jose
Chicago 3-3 FC Cincinnati
Colorado Rapids 1-2 Minnesota United
LA Galaxy 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 5

Saturday, March 25

Portland 0-0 LA Galaxy
Charlotte 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia 1-2 Orlando City
DC United 1-2 New England
Columbus 6-1 Atlanta
Inter Miami 2-3 Chicago
Nashville 0-1 Cincinnati
Sporting KC 1-4 Seattle Sounders
Austin 1-1 Colorado
Houston 1-0 NYCFC
Minnesota United 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Real Salt Lake 0-4 St Louis City
LAFC 2-1 FC Dallas
San Jose 0-0 Toronto

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 6

Saturday, April 1

Toronto 2-2 Charlotte
LA Galaxy 1-2 Seattle Sounders
New England 1-1 NYCFC
Philadelphia Union 0-0 Sporting KC
Orlando City 0-2 Nashville
Columbus 4-0 Real Salt Lake
Cincinnati 1-0 Inter Miami
Atlanta 1-0 New York Red Bulls
FC Dallas 1-1 Portland Timbers
St. Louis City 0-1 Minnesota United
Chicago 0-0 DC United
Colorado Rapids 0-0 LAFC
Vancouver Whitecaps 5-0 Montreal Impact
San Jose 2-1 Houston

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 7

Saturday, April 8

DC United 0-2 Columbus
Inter Miami 0-1 FC Dallas
NYCFC 1-1 Atlanta United
FC Cincinnati 1-0 Philadelphia
LAFC 3-0 Austin
New England 4-0 Montreal Impact
New York Red Bulls 1-1 San Jose
Sporting KC 0-1 Colorado Rapids
Houston 3-0 LA Galaxy
Nashville SC 0-0 Toronto FC
Chicago 2-1 Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake 3-1 Charlotte
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders 3-0 St. Louis City

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 8

Saturday, April 15

Toronto FC 2-2 Atlanta United
Montreal Impact 0-1 DC United
NYCFC 2-1 Nashville SC
Columbus 1-1 New England
New York Red Bulls 1-1 Houston
Charlotte 2-2 Colorado
Chicago 2-2 Philadelphia
Minnesota 1-2 Orlando City
FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake
St Louis City 5-1 Cincinnati
Austin 0-0 Vancouver
Portland Timbers 4-1 Seattle Sounders
San Jose 3-0 Sporting KC

Sunday, April 16

LA Galaxy 2-3 LAFC

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 9

Saturday, April 22

Philadelphia 4-2 Toronto FC
FC Cincinnati 2-1 Portland Timbers
Orlando City 1-3 DC United
NYCFC 3-1 FC Dallas
Charlotte 1-0 Columbus
New England 2-1 Sporting KC
Montreal Impact 2-0 New York Red Bulls
Nashville SC 1-1 LAFC
Houston 1-0 Inter Miami
Real Salt Lake 3-1 San Jose
Colorado Rapids 1-1 St. Louis City
Seattle Sounders 1-0 Minnesota United
LA Galaxy 2-0 Austin FC

Sunday, April 23

Atlanta United 2-1 Chicago Fire

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 10

Saturday, April 29

Nashville 3-1 Atlanta United
Columbus 1-2 Inter Miami
Orlando City 2-0 LA Galaxy
New England 1-1 Cincinnati
DC United 3-0 Charlotte
Toronto FC 1-0 NYCFC
Chicago Fire 1-1 New York Red Bulls
St. Louis City 1-2 Portland Timbers
Austin FC 2-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting KC 0-2 Montreal Impact
Real Salt Lake 0-0 Seattle Sounders
Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 Colorado Rapids

Sunday, April 30

Minnesota United 0-0 FC Dallas

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 11

Saturday, May 6

Toronto FC 0-2 New England
Cincinnati 2-1 DC United
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 LAFC
Inter Miami 2-1 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 0-1 Philadelphia
Montreal Impact 2-0 Orlando City
Charlotte FC 3-2 NYCFC
Houston Dynamo 0-0 Real Salt Lake
FC Dallas vs St Louis City — suspended
Nashville 3-0 Chicago
Portland Timbers 2-2 Austin FC
LA Galaxy 1-3 Colorado Rapids
Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 Minnesota United

Sunday, May 7

Seattle 1-2 Sporting KC

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 12

Saturday, May 13

Chicago 1-0 St Louis City
Montreal 2-0 Toronto
Atlanta United 1-3 Charlotte
DC United 1-1 Nashville
Columbus 2-2 Orlando City
New York Red Bulls 1-0 NYCFC
Inter Miami 2-1 New England
Sporting KC 3-0 Minnesota United
Austin FC 0-1 FC Dallas
Houston 0-1 Seattle Sounders
Real Salt Lake 0-3 LAFC
Colorado 1-2 Philadelphia
Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Sunday, May 7

LA Galaxy 2-1 San Jose

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 13

Wednesday, May 17

Atlanta United 4-0 Colorado
Philadelphia 0-0 DC United
Toronto FC 0-0 New York Red Bulls
Orlando City 1-1 NYCFC
Columbus Crew 2-0 LA Galaxy
FC Cincinnati 3-0 Montreal Impact
Charlotte FC 2-1 Chicago Fire
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo
FC Dallas 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Nashville SC 2-1 Inter Miami
Real Salt Lake 0-0 Portland Timbers
LAFC 1-1 Sporting KC
Seattle Sounders 1-2 Austin FC

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 14

Saturday, May 20

New York Red Bulls 2-1 Montreal — 7:30pm ET
Inter Miami 1-3 Orlando City
Philadelphia 3-0 New England
DC United 3-0 LA Galaxy
FC Cincinnati 3-2 Columbus Crew
Charlotte FC 1-2 Nashville SC
Austin FC 1-0 Toronto FC
Chicago Fire 3-3 Atlanta United
FC Dallas 1-1 Houston Dynamo
Colorado 2-3 Real Salt Lake
St. Louis City FC 4-0 Sporting KC
LAFC 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers 0-1 Minnesota United
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Seattle Sounders

Major League Soccer schedule: Week 15

Saturday, May 27

Montreal Impact vs Inter Miami — 7:30pm ET
New England vs Chicago — 7:30pm ET
NYCFC vs Philadelphia — 7:30pm ET
Orlando City vs Atlanta United — 7:30pm ET
Toronto FC vs DC United — 7:30pm ET
St Louis City vs Vancouver Whitecaps — 8:30pm ET
Houston Dynamo vs Austin FC — 8:30pm ET
Minnesota United vs Real Salt Lake — 8:30pm ET
Colorado Rapids vs FC Cincinnati — 9:30pm ET
Seattle Sounders vs New York Red Bulls — 10:30pm ET
San Jose vs FC Dallas — 10:30pm ET
LA Galaxy vs Charlotte — 10:30pm ET

Sunday, May 28

Sporting KC vs Portland Timbers — 3pm ET
Nashville SC vs Columbus Crew — 8:30pm ET

MLS Eastern Conference Standings (Start of Week 15)

MLS Standings

NBC Sports’ scoreboard page

MLS Western Conference Standings (Start of Week 15)

MLS Standings

NBC Sports’ scoreboard page

San Diego awarded MLS franchise after reported $500 million fee


Major League Soccer has awarded an expansion franchise to San Diego, the league announced Thursday, after the ownership group paid a staggering $500 million fee to start a club in Southern California.

The club will be owned by Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour as well as the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation, an ethnic group indigenous to San Diego County.

The Athletic reports that Mansour also has a stake in Danish club Nordsjaelland as well as ownership of the famous Right To Dream Academy in Ghana. The same report says Mansour’s son was part of a failed bid to buy Chelsea.

[ MORE: Major League Soccer 2023 schedule ]

The club will play in 2025 at Snapdragon Stadium on the campus of San Diego State, a 35,000-plus seat venue it’ll share with NWSL club San Diego Wave.

Former LAFC owner Tom Penn will run the club as CEO, and San Diego Padres star Manny Machado is being touted as a minority investor.

San Diego has a USL Championship club in Landon Donovan-owned San Diego Loyal. Loyal plays on the campus of the University of San Diego in 6,000-seat Torero Stadium and has made the playoffs in two of its three seasons.

Barcelona vice president makes contact with Lionel Messi about return


The future of Lionel Messi has largely been linked with another season at Paris Saint-Germain or a move to Major League Soccer, but his former club is an option and no longer just lurking in the weeds.

Barcelona vice president Rafael Yuste said Friday that the club has been in contact with Messi’s camp regarding next season.

[ MORE: Watch Premier League live | Peacock Premium details ]

“If we talk about La Masia academy and youth players, we are talking about Leo,” Yuste said. “He arrived here when he was 12 years old. Of course, I would love to have him back. I say it personally. But I think that many of our supporters would love that too.

“For everything he would represent if he came back. Not only talking about a sportive, economic, and social levels, among other issues.

“But also because I think that all beautiful stories must have a happy ending. And answering your question, my answer is yes. We are in contact with them (referring to Messi and his father and agent Jorge Messi).”

What’s the future of Lionel Messi: PSG, Barcelona, MLS?

Messi authored an unparalleled career at Barcelona and is widely considered the best playmaker of his generation, but had to leave the club due to financial problems in Spain.

He joined PSG in 2021 on a two-year deal and there have been plenty of reports that Les Parisiens and Messi were discussing a new short-term deal. But there have been nearly as many reports that he’s in line for a move to Inter Miami or another MLS club.

Barcelona beat Real Madrid last month to virtually assure a return to La Liga’s champions circle. Xavi’s side has only allowed nine goals in La Liga play, but it’s scoring totals are down and a Messi and Robert Lewandowski pairing remains terrifying despite their advanced age (and don’t forget Raphinha).

As for Messi, he’s far removed from his days of threatening to score 100 goals in a calendar year but he’s still the most prolific player in Ligue 1. Messi has 26 goal contributions this season including a league-best 13 assists. FotMob’s player rating system has him as far-and-away the best player this Ligue 1 season.

Does Barcelona or PSG offer him a better chance to win another European Cup, and would that even matter if the alternative provided by MLS is generationally lucrative in how it sets up his already potential-filled future.