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RESULT: Aston Villa escape relegation in March Madness playoff

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In an alternate, not-at-all-made-up universe where fan voting determines the outcome of the currently suspended 2019-20 Premier League season, #19 Aston Villa escaped relegation by topping #20 Norwich City in the relegation final on Monday.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Villa rode the equivalent of two early goals, followed by a late insurance tally, to a comfortable victory by taking 68.57 percent of the vote between 1:30 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET.

Given that Villa beat Norwich in each of their real-life meeting this season, it’s a fitting result after a pair of upsets in the relegation semifinals earlier on Monday. Villa reached the final by taking 62.14 percent of the vote against #18 Bournemouth, while Norwich edged out #17 Watford with 50.48 percent of the vote.

[ MORE: Former US TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

VOTE: Premier League March Madness playoff semifinals

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Our Premier League March Madness 2020 tournament has officially kicked off and here’s an explainer on how you can vote all week long.

Before we get to the Sweet 16 which kicks tips off on Tuesday, we have the small matter of the relegation playoffs which take center stage on Monday.

Two relegation playoff semifinals will take place with #17 Watford hosting #20 Norwich City and #18 Bournemouth hosting #19 Aston Villa for a place in the relegation playoff final.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub

What do the winners get? If you win the relegation playoff final you are exempt from relegation, while the runner up and two semifinal losers are relegated.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct that they will pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Okay, vote below (until 12:45 p.m. ET) for the two semifinal winners who will meet in the relegation playoff final later today as our Premier League March Madness tournament begins!

Premier League to restart ‘when safe,’ will financially assist lower league clubs

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The Premier League issued a statement Friday morning confirming the league has suspended play indefinitely, returning to action “only…when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

The statement comes in the wake of a meeting between Premier League leadership and all 20 clubs to discuss various points of interest during the coronavirus shutdown. A date for return has not yet been set, with the league saying amid a fluid situation, “the restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution. With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition. However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows.”

The league also confirmed it will financially assist lower league clubs during the shutdown, committing $153 million towards that will “immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.”

“The League unanimously voted to advance funds…to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time,” the statement read.

The Premier League also announced $24.5 million of aid would be sent to the National Health Service that would go “to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances,” the statement read.

Finally, the Premier League announced it will enter into discussions with players about the possibility of “conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.” The league announced it will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter further.

NBC Group Chat: ‘World Cup’ style Premier League return?

NBC Group Chat
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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe welcome the all-stars of the NBC Sports broadcast crew into a roundtable (via web) discussion of all things soccer in a socially-responsible social distance podcast.

Wednesday’s NBC Group Chat talks on reported plans for the Premier League’s return as well as staffs and players taking pay cuts for the health of their clubs.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Lee Dixon, Graeme Le Saux, and Kyle Martino join The 2 Robbies to discuss reports of the Premier League’s potential plans to resume the season, including one which involves “World Cup-style” camps over June and July (1:00).

The team also shares their thoughts on players taking pay cuts to help clubs deal with financial problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (30:32).

Elsewhere, Rebecca takes center stage with a new show of sorts.

The PL morning hero takes a walk through the world of Premier League social media this week.

Check the video above, and the audio below:

 

MLS still plans to play full 34-game season

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Atlanta United President Darren Eales says MLS still intends to play a full 34-game schedule this season, even though the league will be shuttered for at least two months because of the new coronavirus.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Eales says Major League Soccer is more fortunate than other leagues around the world that play the traditional fall-to-spring schedule and may have trouble completing their seasons in such a compressed time frame.

MLS was just two weeks into its season when play was halted March 12 because of the pandemic. The league has set a tentative return date of May 10, though the growing death toll in the United States could force that date to be pushed back.

Eales says everything is on the table, including the possibility of resuming league play in empty stadiums.

“We’re fortunate that we had just started our season,” he said Monday during a teleconference with Atlanta media. “We have the whole calendar year to reschedule the games we missed. The emphasis is on playing all 34 games plus the playoffs.”

MLS will likely schedule more midweek games and push back its MLS Cup championship game into mid-December in a bid to play a full season, according to Eales. He added that the playoffs could begin in mid-November – around the time MLS had been planning its title game.

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