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FC Cincinnati switches crest ahead of MLS debut

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FC Cincinnati has unveiled its crest for 2019’s maiden voyage in Major League Soccer.

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Sticking with the orange and blue color combination which has served them since inception, the shield has FC in the top left corner, Cincinnati running diagonally left-to-right in blue script on white, and a winged lion holding a sword as the primary icon.

FCC will draft up to five current MLS players in the Expansion Draft on Dec. 11. Teams will announce their protected lists on Dec. 10.

Cincinnati will play in the Eastern Conference. It won the USL regular season championship under coach Alan Koch in 2018.

USL Playoffs: FC Cincinnati, Phoenix’s Drogba stage farewell tours

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The last three clubs to participate in the USL Cup Final are still alive in the 2018 edition of the USL Cup Playoffs, but all eyes are a fourth club.

FC Cincinnati hasn’t lost a match since May 26, the soon-to-be MLS club kickoff off a 24-match unbeaten run with a win over New York Red Bulls II a week later.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day ]

Those two sides meet in the quarterfinals on Saturday, a match-up of the top team in the league and a Red Bulls side which won the cup in 2016.

The winner will meet either No. 2 seed Louisville City or No. 6 Bethlehem Steel. Louisville is led by USL Golden Boot winner Cameron Lancaster, a 25-year-old Londoner who made a single 12-minute appearance for Tottenham Hotspur against Wigan in 2014.

Out West, there’s another Premier League experienced player who plenty more neutrals have known for some time. Didier Drogba returned after four months off to play three of Phoenix Rising’s final four regular season matches, turning on the juice with a goal in the first round of the playoffs as Phoenix blew out Portland Timbers 2.

Phoenix faces No. 7 seed Swope Park Rangers, which has lost the past two USL Cup finals and should not be overlooked.

The fourth quarterfinal sees Orange County SC and Reno 1868 FC meeting in Irvine. OC is paced by former Akron University standout Aodhan Quinn, who has 11 goals and 15 assists. Former Southampton man Jos Hooiveld is also on the squad, and may be tasked with shutting down Jamaican striker Brian Brown.

Clubs trying to raise money for player who fell into coma

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This summer, Moises Martinez’s biggest challenge was making Fresno FC’s first team.

Now he’s in an entirely different battle.

[ MLS: How to solve the Best XI? ]

The 24-year-old player fell into a coma last week, the result of a “serious genetic condition” described as a “tangle of veins in the back of his head” and a “bomb waiting to go off.”

Martinez is on life support, engaged to be married, and his fiancee is two months pregnant. A GoFundMe page is the “only source of income” for the family since his father has taken off of work from his job at a collision shop to be with his son. From The Fresno Bee:

“(Martinez’s fiancee) said there was a malformation in his head that caused an aneurism and ruptured vein. Doctors drilled holes in his head to remove blood and fluid, and removed the bottom half of his skull. His ruptured vein was repaired, but his brain stem was damaged. Surgeons told his family they did everything they could to help him.”

The page is nearing its $15,000 goal.

Martinez went to West Hills College and has six goals and six assists as a sophomore in 2015. He played PDL with Fresno FC’s U-23 side.

Tampa Bay Rowdies, stadium contract sold to MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays

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Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays have added their town’s soccer club, purchasing the USL Championship’s Tampa Bay Rowdies from owner Bill Edwards for an undisclosed amount.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The Rays will also get the Rowdies’ stadium contract for Al Lang Stadium, and the story has stoked interest in Major League Soccer potentially coming to Tampa and the Rays building a new stadium.

The Rowdies began as an NASL club in 1975, playing in several leagues before folding in 1993. The club was reborn in 2008, and purchased by Edwards in 2013. This past season was its second in the USL. From RowdiesSoccer.com:

“We are committed to continuing the upward trajectory that the Rowdies have been experiencing under Bill’s visionary leadership,” said Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman. “The Tampa Bay Rowdies are a legendary soccer team, and we look forward to extending their legacy and prominence. We are eager to get to know Ralph’s Mob and all the Rowdies fans, to growing soccer in St. Petersburg and throughout Tampa Bay, and of course, bringing home a championship, which could be imminent!”

USL rebrands divisions as Championship, League One, League Two

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The United Soccer Leagues have rebranded all three of its divisions with a very English feel under the United Soccer League banner.

The USL’s D-2 side is now the USL Championship, USL D-3 is now USL League One, and the Premier Development League is USL League Two.

[ MORE: U.S. Open Cup Final preview ]

If you’re thinking the structure melds itself nicely to the idea of promotion and relegation in American soccer, the USL has a handy FAQ for you:

Currently the United Soccer League is focused on establishing a successful new third division in USL League One to help fill out the professional U.S. soccer structure, which is a necessary precursor to any implementation of a promotion and relegation system. That said, the new structure does lend itself well to some form of promotion and relegation in the future.

That’s not a no, though USL would still not be an open system and it’s hard to see how the PDL (now League Two) could make that jump considering the majority of its current players are bound by the current NCAA window.

The naming of the divisions along the Football League model met with some derision online, but it’s a familiar tune for soccer fans around the globe.

“We are repositioning the competition under MLS with a new strategy, new names and logos,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “As we look to the future, the USL is ready to put its fingerprints on U.S. Soccer’s drive toward becoming the best in the world, and its pursuit of winning a FIFA Men’s World Cup.”