8/3/18 MLS Heats Up, Indy 11 on TV Sun 5 pm, EPL Community Shield, WORLD CUP WRAP-UP

So we had an absolute blast at EL TRAFFICO – LAFA vs the LA Galaxy in the new LAFC home next to USC’s Coliseum.  The crowd was electric as we stood in the supporters section for LAFC.  LAFC got off to a tremendous start with a goal off a header in the 5th minute then another just 30 minutes in.  But the Galaxy behind my man Ibra came to life late as he assisted one goal, nearly scored twice and nearly set up another down the stretch before the Galaxy tied it in the 90th minute.  Talk about drama!!  It was up and down football – both teams attacking at breakneck speed in the last 30 minutes.  A great comeback for the Galaxy and a disappointment for the home fans but man what an atmosphere – I was repping my Indy 11 – as you can see in the pics below.  Great times at EL Traffico in LA!  Check out some of these videos from the stands – like I was in Europe!

lafc

So with the world Cup wrapped up its time to turn our attention to MLS, here are the midseason grades as the MLS Allstar Game is just wrapped up. Some surprising teams on top of the divisions as defending champs Toronto and Seattle sit near the bottom in each division and teams like the NY Red Bulls and Philly Union battle amongst the top teams.  Of course as surprising as anyone is new expansion team LAFC lead by former US boss Bob Bradley and the guy who I still think is the best soccer coach the US has produced.  His LAFC is battling for first along with Dallas (Carmel High Matt Hedges) and Sporting Kansas City.  In the east its last season’s expansion surprise Atlanta United – at the top with NYCF and the Columbus Crew.  This weekend we get Atlanta United vs Toronto Sat on ESPN at 4 pm, while Sunday gives us New York Red Bulls vs LAFC Sun at 6 pm on Fox Sports 1 and both coaches Bob Bradley and Chris Armas appreciate each other.

INDY 11

The Indy 11 will travel to Louisville FC on Sunday at 5 pm on MyIndy TV 23 in 1 of their rare road game coverages and of course on ESPN+ or join the BYB in Broad Ripple at Union Jack. Congrats to GK Fon Williams as his steady play in the win at Bethlehem led to his making the USL team of the week.  Our Boys in Blue return home Wed Aug 15 and of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.

USA

Huge Congrats to the US Ladies who bring home the Tournament of Nations Cup with their huge win over Brazil 4-1 Thursday in Chicago.  The ladies finished 2-0-1 overall and outscored Australia in overall goals to win the trophy.  Next up on the ladies side – the U20 Girls are in the U20 World Cup starting next week on Fox Sports 2. (see schedule below on the OBC).  Speaking of US Soccer – the US Men are playing Mexico in Nashville on Sept 11 Tues 7:30 pm – anyone interested in going down that night – I have access to American Outlaw Tickets behind the Goal.

ICC – on ESPN

Ah with about a month until the European Season’s kick-off its time for the International Champions Cup here in the states on ESPN.  This is always a fun way to see the best teams in the world as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool, Man United, Man City, Dortmund (with US star Christian Pulisic), Bayern Munich, PSG and more all come to the states on the ESPN networks.  (See the full TV schedule below on the oleballcoach). Of course with the World Cup break for many players – not sure how many starters will get 1st half minutes –but still fun to tune in and see your favorite European team.  ICC Notes

WORLD CUP

So Croatia ran out of both luck and energy in the final as France showed their young but true class in a 4-2 win.  The final had it all – a VAR call, a PK, goals off set pieces and more, but in the end France and that midfield held steady in limiting Luka Modric and company.  Of coure Modric still rightful won the Best Player award, while Mbappe took home the Silver Ball for young player of the tourney.  Cortouis (SP) won the golden glove in a close one over the finals GKs.  That dribbling gaff may have cost Loris the Golden Gloves – fortunately for him it didn’t cost him the game.  In the 3rd place game – Belgium’s Golden Generation of course overpowered a VASTLY OVERATED English team that could only score on set pieces and PKs.  Congrats to Harry Kane for winning the Golden Boot for scoring no goals with his feet in the run of play.  In fact 3 of his tourney leading 6 goals were PKs.  I was all about the feel good of England but lets be real they backed into the Semi-Finals and got beaten by the only 2 decent teams they played there.  Still it was a young team and Southgate did a fine job coaching up the set pieces.  Let’s see if they get out of the group stage of the Euro’s in 2 years before we crown this team just yet however.  Man the Euro’s should be good in 2 years by the way – a pissed Italy, Dutch, Germany, Spain along with England, Croatia, France, and Belgium WOW!

I meant to include this last week – this was my favorite World Cup Song-One World the one with RedOne, Adelina & Now United – BeIN Sports has been using it all month – much better than the official 1 I think than the Official Live It Up with Will Smith and Era Istrefi.  Overall I thought Fox did a fine job of covering the World Cup in this first go round.  Too bad of course the US was not in it which cost them ratings for sure – but the coverage with 1 hour pre-games, often 30 minute post games, a 1 hour late night show each night along with a highlights show and multiple replays on Fox Sports 1, 2 and Fox Soccer.  The US watched in droves – especially the final 8 on.  Of course having exciting soccer with goals scored in Extra time and shootout, no nil-nil ties, and a 4-2 Final don’t hurt.

So how about the official announcement that World Cup 2022 in Qatar will be from Nov 21 – Dec 18 – or right in the middle of football season.  Interesting how that will do in the US – one of the great things about the World Cup is it takes place during the DEAD Sports Summer Time – no football, no hoops, just boring baseball and WORLD CUP.  Also how will that affect the major European Leagues – they can’t be happy about this – as that will shut down the leagues from early Nov – till the end of December. Should be interesting.  Start saving up now for the US games in 2026 – tickets are expected to cost between  $400-$600 each.

EPL KICKS OFF NEXT WEEK

Wait it seems like just yesterday that the EPL Season ended but its back- with the Community Shield Kicking things off this Sunday at 10 am on ESPN+ maybe? I can’t believe this isn’t on cable TV somewhere?  Of course the full season kicks off next weekend with Man United facing Leicester City next Friday 3 pm on NBCSN, Newcastle hosting Tottenham next Sat at 7:30 am, Liverpool vs West Ham on Sun 8 am, and Arsenal facing Man City to follow at 11 am all on NBCSN.  (see some previews below – full preview next week)

CONGRATS HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS

Finally congrats to all those making their respective high school teams across the area – Carmel FC is proud to be so well represented on High School rosters across town including the 11 boys who made the Freshman boys team, 2 on JV and 1 on Varsity at Carmel High and the many who made the CHS Ladies teams, Guerin High, University and more.  For those who did not make it – please don’t give up on soccer – its soooo hard to make the Carmel teams with so very many students trying out.  Carmel FC with Travel and Select Teams – and of course Carmel Dad’s Club with Rec Soccer is still here to help you play the game you grew up loving!!

Indy 11

Painting Success On and Off the Field – GK

Indy 11 GK named to USL Team of the Week 20

Indy 11 beat Bethehem

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Wednesday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Indy 11 Game Schedule

USL League Standings

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

USA  

US Ladies Defeat Brazil 4-1 in Chicago to Win Tournament of Champions!

US Youngsters You Haven’t Heard of

The World Cup is Coming to America – Indy 11

US Players to Watch on TV this Weekend

MLS

Juve Wins MLS Allstar Game in Penalty’s

Garber “hopeful” Crew will stay in Columbus 

Stejskal: Cincy lay out ambitious vision for 2019

Long Term Plans for US Soccer Leagues MLS/USL/USL 3 ? Nick Mendola –NBC

Atlanta United vs Toronto Sat ESPN 4 pm Preview

New York Red Bulls vs LAFC Sun 6 pm FS1 Preview

Parkhurst: “Goal is definitely Supporters’ Shield”

Rooney gives DC United hope with first win at home

Toronto to Face Tigres in UANL Campeones Cup

Atlanta Uniteds DP Approach is Changing the Game in MLS – Fast Company

Zlatan Does it All – Including Sales Calls

EPL + World

Can Arsenal Return to Top 4 – NBC

Can Liverpool Win the League? – NBC

Way Too Early EPL Predictions

Bonucci back to Juve, Higuaine to AC Milan in Swap

Chelsea Looks at Pulisic from Dortmund

Legue 1 Season Info

Goalies

Alison’s Tough Road to Liverpool as a #1

World Cup GK Ratings

Best Saves Rounds 1 & 2 World Cup

Save of the Week – NWSL –

MLS Top Saves of Week

Saves of the Week – USL

WORLD CUP

World Cup Tourney Top 11?

Ogden: Belgium ease past England to claim third
Ogden: Hazard’s value, reputation have never been higher

Vickery: Questions for South American nations

Project Russia: Has VAR been a success at the World Cup?
Photos: How the World Cup is made

The World Cup of Set Pieces: How Teams Are Living Off Dead-Ball Plays

Englands World Cup Run, Southgate represent More for a Nation in Political Upheaval  SI

GAMES ON TV This Week

Saturday, Aug 4

8 am beIN Sport          PSG (Tim Weah)  vs Monaco – Legue 1 Super Cup

International Champions Cup 
2:05pm Internazionale vs Olympique Lyonnais ESPNESPN Deportes,
6:05pm Real Madrid vs Juventus ESPN2ESPN Deportes,
8:05pm Milan vs Barcelona ESPN News/Deportes,

4 pm ESPN      Atlanta United vs Toronto FC

8pm Yes Network   NYFC vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Sun, Aug 5th

10 am ESPN +??    Chelsea vs Manchester City

5 pm MyIndy TV         Indy ll @ Louisville FC

6pm  FS1       NY Red Bulls vs LAFC

Mon, Aug 6               

7:30 am Fox Sport2   Nigeria U20 Ladies vs Germany U20

10:30 am FS2                 Paraguay U20 ladies vs Spain U20

1:30 pm Fox Sport 2     USA U20 Ladies vs Japan U20  

Wed, Aug 7         

7 pm Ussoccer.com     Philly Union vs Chicago Fire – US Open Cup

9:30pmUssoccer.com  Houston Dynamo vs LAFC– US Open

Thur, Aug 8                

7:30 am Fox Sport2   China U20 Ladies vs Germany U20

10:30 am FS2                 Japan U20 Ladies vs Spain U20

1:30 pm Fox Sport 2   USA U20 Ladies vs Uraguay U20  

Fri, Aug 9     EPL Starts

3 pm NBCSN              Manchester United vs Leicester City      

Sat, Aug 10                 EPL Starts

7:30 am NBCSN            Newcastle United vs Tottenham

10 am NBCSN                Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea

12:30 pm NBCSN        Wolverhampton vs Everton

Sun, Aug 11     EPL Starts

8 am NBCSN                   Liverpool vs West Ham United

11 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Man City

2:30 pm FS2                   Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich  Super Cup

3 pm bein Sport          PSG vs Caen

4 pm ESPN Des/+        Barcelona vs Seville – SUPER CUP

4 pm ESPN                   Toronto vs NYCFC

8 pm Fox Sport1          DC United (Rooney) vs Orlando City (Cam Lindley)

10 pm FS1                      Seattle Sounders vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Mon, Aug 13            

7:30 am Fox Sport 2 USA U20 WC Ladies vs Spain U20  

7:30 am Fox Soccer Japan U20 Ladies vs Uraguay U20

10:30 am FS 2               Germany vs Haiti

Wed,  Aug 15

3 pm TNT?                     Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid UEFA Super Cup

7 pm myindytv             Indy 11 vs North Carolina   

10 pm ESPN2                 LAFC vs Real Salt Lake      

Thurs, Aug 16           

10 am                                U20 Womens WC

1:30 pm                            U20 Womens WC

 Indy 11 Game Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

The “Boys in Blue” head south to take on the 2017 USL Champions

WEEK 21: BEST OUT OF 3 – GAME TWO AGAINST LOUISVILLE CITY FC

Indy Eleven face Louisville City FC for the second time in the 2018 USL campaign on August 5. The first meeting between the two rivals took place in Week 8 when the “Boys in Blue” defeated Louisville 1-0, at Lucas Oil Stadium.Indy Eleven (9W-7L-4D) are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference with 31 points. The “Boys in Blue” downed Bethlehem Steel FC in their previous outing on the road, 1-0. The match seemed destined for a draw until Zach Steinberger’s 86th minute corner kick found an unmarked Jack McInerney who headed the ball home. The goal is McInerney’s fourth of the season, placing him in a three way tie for top scorer with defender Ayoze and forward Soony Saad. Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams also recorded his eighth clean sheet in 2018, earning him a spot in the USL Team of Week in Week 20. The victory marks Indy Eleven’s second win in their last five matches, three of which have been on the road.Louisville City FC (10W-4L-5D) is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference with 35 points, just four points in front of sixth placed Indy. Louisville defeated struggling Ottawa Fury FC, 3-0, in their last fixture. Louisville captain and midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo opened the scoring in the 13th minute after he finished a corner played into the box with a diving header. Defender Paco Craig scored the second in the 47th minute and midfielder Devon Williams scored the third of the match and his first of the season 10 minutes later. Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh recorded his sixth clean sheet of the season in the shutout. Louisville defender Alexis Souahy will be unavailable for the fixture against Indy Eleven as a result of a red card received in the 77th minute.The “Boys in Blue’s” match at Louisville will be the last of a stretch of four games on the road. Indy head coach Martin Rennie will hope to return to Indy with at least half of the available points from the four-game stint away from home.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF MATT WATSON

Indy Eleven midfielder and captain Matt Watson influenced the match against Bethlehem Steel FC for a full 90 minutes, arguably having his best performance of the season despite not directly influencing the scoreline. The Englishman’s dominance in the midfield can easily be accredited as a key reason “Indiana’s Team” brought back three points from Pennsylvania.Watson completed over 90 percent of his passes throughout the game and created two opportunities for teammates. The 33-year old veteran midfielder displayed his defensive abilities, netting four interceptions and a tackle. Indy will need another dominant midfield performance from Watson in order to hand Louisville only their second loss at home.

LOUISVILLE CITY FC PLAYER TO WATCH: MF OSCAR JIMENEZ

Louisville City FC midfielder Oscar Jimenez currently leads the team in assists with six. Two of those assists came in the previous fixture against Ottawa Fury FC. The 28-year old has only averaged a 72 percent passing accuracy so far in 2018, which lived up to the billing against Ottawa as he averaged 71 percent, but what makes Jimenez dangerous is his set piece ability.Jimenez’s assists against Ottawa both came from dead ball situations. The first was an in-swinging corner kick played right into the edge of the six yard box that left the goalkeeper stranded in no man’s land. The second was an in-swinging free kick from near half field that found the feet of defender Paco Craig near the penalty marker. Indy defenders will need to be weary of Jimenez’s perfectly weighted passes from set pieces in order to defeat Louisville.

MATCHUP TO MARK: INDY GK OWAIN FON WILLIAMS VS. LOUISVILLE FW CAMERON LANCASTER

The “Boys in Blue” shut out Louisville City FC the first time the two teams played in Indianapolis. Now, Indy travels to Kentucky to face a LCFC side that has scored the fourth most goals and possesses the third best goal scorer in the Eastern Conference. Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams kept another clean sheet in Indy’s previous match against Bethlehem Steel FC. The 31-year-old recorded four saves on his way to shutting out the third highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference with a stellar record at home. Now in Week 21, Fon Williams faces Louisville City FC, another team with an incredible home record and high powered offense. The Welshman tallied two saves and a punch against the Kentucky based team the first time around. He’ll need to repeat his Team of the Week performance from Bethlehem against a Louisville side that has scored 20 goals at home this season.In order to add his ninth clean sheet to his 2018 USL season total, Fon Williams will have to stop the power house that leads the Louisville City offense, forward Cameron Lancaster, from finding the back of the net. Lancaster wasn’t able to net against Indy in Week 8 or against Ottawa Fury FC last time out, but has tallied 10 on the season so far. That tally sees him as joint owner of third most goals scored in the Eastern Conference and sole owner of most goals scored on Louisville City FC. Lancaster came on as a sub in the fixture against Ottawa, but expect the 25-year-old Englishman to play the full 90 minutes as he did in Week 8 against Indy Eleven.

2018 MLS All-Star Game breaks ASG attendance record with 72,000

August 1, 20189:25PM EDTMLSsoccer staff

UPDATE: The official announced attendance was 72,317, breaking the record for the highest attendance at a standalone MLS All-Star Game and becoming the second-largest attendance of any All-Star Game across North American sport leagues.Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday afternoon that the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is sold out. Some standing-only tickets were still available through Ticketmasterat the time of the announcement for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium-hosted event, pitting the squad representing MLS against defending Serie A champions Juventus. This means that the 2018 edition of the annual match is expected to surpass the prior attendance record, set in 2010, for a standalone MLS All-Star Game. The 2010 match in Houston, which pitted the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United, drew 70,728 fans. The record for MLS All-Star Game attendance remains 78,416, set at the inaugural edition of the match in 1996 — part of a doubleheader that also featured Brazil’s national team vs. the FIFA World Stars. Atlanta United already has hosted the top five single-game crowds in regular season MLS history, most-recently breaking their own record for largest such crowd when 72,243 watched their 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders on July 15.

MLS All-Stars leave Juventus impressed with physical, technical quality

August 2, 201812:06AM EDTNick RosanoSenior Editor

ATLANTA – Wednesday evening’s 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target left a strong impression on the visiting Juventus players and coaching staff, and not just because of the atmosphere created by the 70,000-plus fans packed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but also because of the quality of opposition they faced.The MLS All-Stars held their own against Juventus, the seven-time defending Serie A champions and one of Europe’s most successful clubs, playing them to a 1-1 draw in regulation before falling, 5-3, in a penalty shootout. The All-Stars created plenty of quality scoring chances, forcing Juventus starting golakeeper Wojciech Szczesny into a couple of quality saves in the first half and forcing a clearance off the line of a Diego Valeri shot in the second. Afterwards, the Juventus players asked were very complimentary of their opposition.“I think there’s quite a lot of good players,” said Juventus midfielder Emre Can after the game. “As a team they were just good and you could see in the game that they are in good shape. It was a good game.”Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri also came away impressed with the quality of his team’s opponents, even with the constantly rotating substitutions providing him only a brief glimpse of the opposition players.“It’s hard to say, only seeing most of them for 30 minutes, but I’ve seen some very good players, some very fast ones, very technically well prepared,” Allegri told reporters when asked which players had impressed him. “I think that they can have a future in Europe.”All-Star goalscorer and MVP Josef Martinez, formerly of Juve’s city rivals Torino, left a lasting impression despite playing just under a half-hour in the game, showing off the tenacity and hunger to score that has made him the runaway Golden Boot leader and left him poised to shatter MLS single-season scoring records.“He played 20 minutes, but within 20 minutes he showed that he is very good, Martinez,” said Juve’s Dutch youth international Leandro Fernandes. “I think [Alphonso] Davies is a good player. All are good, but especially those two for me.”

USA wins the Tournament of Nations: four things we learned

After a long time in the wilderness, the US is finally starting to play like the best team in the world

By Charles Olney@olneyce  Aug 3, 2018, 1:00pm PDT

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The United States concluding the Tournament of Nations last night in resounding fashion with a 4-1 victory over Brazil that secured a first place finish in the event. Here are four things we learned from these matches.

Jill Ellis is finally playing to her strengths, and it’s producing much better results

The US spent some time in the weeds over the past couple years, in a period of ‘experimentation’ that often felt ill-considered and poorly executed. During that period, the players often appeared lost, playing well below their intrinsic ability, and struggling to impose themselves on games. The offense in particular was far more stagnant than it had any right to be considering the personnel available. And whatever stability was occasionally found was quickly disrupted as key players fell to injuries or loss of form. The results weren’t terrible, but the performances were far below what US fans have come to expect. Despite endless promises of a new, silkier, more possession-oriented style of play, success always seemed to be just beyond the horizon, with old habits dying hard: play getting shuttled around the midfield, and offensive buildup remaining stagnant. In the last year, however, they’ve generally settled into a system—a relatively straightforward 4-3-3, with a defensively-minded holding player at the pivot of the midfield, and with attacks generally being led by quick movement down the wings. This system is hardly the most innovative, but when you have the best players in the world, innovation can be less important than simple effectiveness. That’s particularly true when your head coach is a good player manager, and tolerable when it comes to broad themes, but not particularly strong on intricate design.Moreover, by settling the style of play, this new approach finally seems to have created some space for the creativity of the players to shine through. The US is still relying on speed and athleticism, but it’s also increasingly giving its more technical players opportunities to shine. This is still not Guardiola’s Man City or Sasaki’s Japan, but the US is now dominating not just by force by also sometimes by style. They’re controlling possession, creating channels with off-the-ball movement, and moving the ball quickly through tight spaces. Witness the interplay between Heath and Lavelle against Brazil or the emerging relationship between Dunn and Rapinoe on the left.This is still very much a Jill Ellis team, which means intense focus on racing up and down the wings and a midfield that’s more focused on disruption than possession. But it’s far more successful iteration of the model.

The defense is shakier, but they’re more than making up for it

Through eleven games in 2018, the US has only managed to keep three clean sheets. But it’s hard to get too upset about this new defensive frailty, given the accompanying offensive explosion. After all, conceding one but scoring four creates a greater margin for error than those narrow 1-0s results they spent so many years eking out.This is not to say that there is no reason for concern. The US was shockingly exposed on a number of counterattacks during the tournament, in games they were otherwise dominating. That is a real problem, and certainly something that the team will be working on in future training camps. But to a certain extent, this is simply a feature of their high-pressing, aggressive tactics, which push the game heavily into their opponent’s half and create those spaces that can occasionally be exploited.It’s a tradeoff worth accepting, but they’ll need to get better at executing if they want to protect those leads they plan to acquire. That means:

  1. Dropping to shield space rather than attack the ball when their opponents are coming at them, at least until you reach the vicinity of the goal (see the Brazil goal)
  2. Greater willingness to give away tactical fouls where necessary to break up plays before they become truly dangerous (see the Australiagoal)
  3. Getting better at setting up the counterpress for when possession is lost. Too often the team overcommits to the attack, leaving holes exposed which opponents can quickly punch through

Each of these is achievable. And while they won’t prevent this sort of attack entirely, they’ll do a bit more to manage the risk.

The midfield is alright, mostly

Many followers of this team (including your truly) have spent years fixated on the broken midfield. Those problems persist, but finally seem to at least be under control. In this 4-3-3, Ellis generally designates one player to serve as the pivot, in more of a traditional holding role, asking the others to move more horizontaly to link with the wide attack. At times, this can make building through the middle quite difficult. But Ellis has never cared much about that sort of development, and at least this system grants its midfielders more options to shield possession where needed, and then link with their wide support further upfield.That means that while the midfield remains a weak point, it’s only weak in relative terms. The structure enables more fluidity than the old double-pivot that so often stagnated in previous years. By sacrificing a bit of defensive solidity, the US has gained quite a bit more flexibility.It also helps that the midfield options have expanded significantly. Installing Julie Ertz as the #6 at this tournament last year made a huge difference, and she continues to be a critical contributor. Meanwhile, Lindsey Horan is in the midst of a breakout season—very impressive considering the quality of performance she was already offering before this year—and offers more physicality and insightful movement to the midfield. Absent significant developments, Ertz and Horan seem like locks for the World Cup next summer.But the US is blessed with a wealth of other options, who provide different skills, giving Ellis tools to tweak her team’s play without fundamentally shifting the structure.There’s Rose Lavelle, finally finding her way back into form after a year spent on injury walkabout, reminding us of just how exciting she was last spring. She made an immediate impact against Japan when she entered as a sub, but her true potential was made clear in the Brazil game, where her combinations with Tobin Heath on the right were wonderful—the sort of intricate play the US has so long been missing.Then consider McCall Zerboni, who is busy proving that her 2017 performance was anything but a fluke. She picked right back up in 2018, and showed over the course of several appearances here that she can be a valuable contributor: offering bite, aggression, and flexibility to the US midfield. Against Brazil, Zerboni allowed Ertz to push further upfield, to excellent results. Against Japan, she offered vertical movement that put the defense under serious pressure   Morgan Brian also seems to have finally turned a corner in her recovery. She’s still a step or two off her peak, but is far closer than she’s been over the past 24 months. The acceleration still isn’t quite there, and the touch still seems a little rusty. But the vision and awareness remains off the charts. In the past couple years, she’s been in and out of national team camps based primarily on talent and potential, rather than on form. At this point, the performances are good enough to say that she deserves a spot in the rotation even if there’s no further improvement. And if she canmake that next step back, she could return to being one of the world’s elite midfielders.Finally, remember that the US barely used Sam Mewis in this tournament—arguably their best player in 2017. When she completes her recovery, it will be hard to argue against her inclusion.For a team that spent so long struggling to build a coherent and sustainable midfield, the US suddenly finds itself with a wealth of options. There are still plenty of question marks here (will Lavelle and Brian be able to return to their absolute peak? Will Zerboni be able to maintain her form? Will Mewis get healthy enough to play a full consistent 90?) but the future seems a lot rosier here than it did even a few months ago.The competition is fierce, but the US should be considered favorites to retain the World Cup next summer

After a difficult season in 2017, the US women were teetering on the edge. The gap between them and the rest of the world seemed to have closed entirely, or maybe even shifted to the other side. They had sputtered in She Believes and the Tournament of Nations and seen some of their key rivals expose their frailty in the process. The mystique of the US was gone.One year later, things seem to have settle back into familiar patterns. At this point, it would be exceptionally hard to argue for anyone besides the US as the world’s top team—after a year in which they have gone undefeated while running a gauntlet of matches against virtually every serious competitor.The performances haven’t always been pretty, but the results have been good. And increasingly the style seems to be filling in behind the results. The US decisively outplayed their opposition this week, exposing Brazil and Japan as far weaker teams than one might have guessed from their rankings, and putting Australia under serious pressure as well.The level of parity in women’s soccer has never been higher, and it would be foolish to treat success as a foregone conclusion, especially in a single-elimination tournament. After all, the US nearly lost to Australia this week, in a game that they actually played quite well. But all things considered, the US remains the team to beat.

USWNT defeats Brazil 4-1 to clinch Tournament of Nations title

Associated PressAug 3, 2018, 7:30 AM EDT

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan scored second-half goals and the United States took control to beat Brazil 4-1 on Thursday night for the Tournament of Nations title.Heath’s curling goal in the 62nd minute put the United States up 3-1 and gave the team the margin it needed to edge defending tournament champion Australia. The Matildas edged Japan 2-0 earlier in the day at Toyota Park, putting pressure on the Americans to beat Brazil by two goals to finish atop the table.Morgan helped secure the title with her 90th international goal in the 77th minute and the Americans extended their undefeated streak to 19 matches. The United States has not dropped a match since losing 1-0 to Australia in the Tournament of Nations last year.There was concern in the final moments when Morgan was stretched off with an apparent injury, but she was on her feet for the trophy ceremony following the game. Morgan had four goals in the tournament.“Brazil’s so technical, so we knew that they were going to bring it. There’s a lot of things that we can learn as well,” Ertz said. “This tournament was huge for use in terms of progress, obviously with qualifying coming up. We’re got to tweak a few things but I’m just so proud of this team and how hard we work for each other.”The United States, ranked No. 1 in the world, is gearing up for World Cup qualifying in October. The Americans hope to defend their title next summer at the World Cup in France.Brazil, ranked No. 7 in the world and led by five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, has already qualified for France.The Brazilians struck first with an own goal that hit Tierna Davidson in the 16th minute. But Lavelle tied it with her third international goal in the 33rd minute.“I think we knew we couldn’t take our foot off the pedal, even though they got that goal. We knew we still had to keep being aggressive and be on our front foot and attacking and not let it get to us,” said Lavelle, who started. “Thankfully it worked.”Ertz pulled the United States in front with a sliding goal off Heath’s cross to the far post in the 53rd minute before Heath added her own goal.Alanna Kennedy and Sam Kerr each scored for Australia in the opening game at Toyota Park. The eight-ranked Matildas have a secured a spot in the World Cup.Japan, ranked sixth, has also qualified from France.

Watch US youngster Tim Weah for – Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco – 8a on bein Deportes

The French Super Cup pits the Ligue 1 winners against the Coupe de France winners. Because PSG won both competitions last year they will face off with Monaco, who finished 2nd in League 1, for the Super Cup trophy Saturday morning.With several PSG players, including Angel Di Maria returning for availability in their last International Champions Cup match Timothy Weah did not get the start on Monday but he did come off the bench in the 45th minute as PSG held on to defeat Atletico Madrid for their first win in the tournament.Weah has made a good impression on manager Thomas Tuchel this preseason:

“The build-up to Timothy’s goal against Bayern was remarkable. Now he must use this quality not just for himself, but also for the team in order to become a dangerous, confident and professional player: these are the next steps for Timothy to take. ”He is intelligent and wants to learn, so Timothy holds all of the cards here.”However, with a number of stars, including Neymar and Kylian Mbappe still making their way back to the team Weah will have his work cut out for him if he’s going to see the field for PSG this season. He may have another opportunity to impress on Saturday with Neymar’s status unknown and Mbappe still away from the team.

 

Liverpool confident of challenging for title

By Joe Prince-WrightAug 2, 2018, 9:31 AM EDT

Adam Lallana believes “the signs are really good” for Liverpool to “get to the next step” and win a trophy under Jurgen Klopp.Liverpool have reached three major finals since Klopp took charge in October 2015 and although they’ve lost all three they’ve made major strides forward over the past 12 months with back-to-back top four finishes in the Premier League and finishing runners up in the UEFA Champions League in 2017/18.So what’s the goal for this season? Lallana was asked if Liverpool are the biggest contenders to reigning champs Manchester City for the PL crown in 2018/19.That’s not for us to say, that’s for other people to speculate. But, of course, we are going to be in the pack who want to chase down City,” Lallana said. “Hopefully, Liverpool and three or four of the other top teams can squeeze a few more points out of City this year. That would make it more interesting.”Lallana’s optimism is certainly shared by neutrals, pundits and supporters of the Anfield club, with Liverpool’s impressive summer spending set to give them a whole new dimension this season.With Alisson arriving in goal, Fabinho in holding midfield, Naby Keita in central midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri as a back-up attacking midfielder, Klopp has upgraded in key areas and added plenty of strength in-depth.Sure, it’s cost him $325 million over the past 12 months (if you count Virgil Van Dijk‘s $100 million arrival in January) but Liverpool now look like genuine title contenders and they certainly gave Man City plenty of problems in their record-breaking title campaign last season.The pressing and pace of Sadio ManeMohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino totally threw off City in a 4-3 defeat at Anfield in the league, while Liverpool beat them 5-1 on aggregate over two legs in the UCL quarterfinals to assert their dominance.Although Lallana is correct to hope for help from the other title contenders in taking points off City, Liverpool must take care of business against bottom feeders in the PL. Last season they lost against Swansea and drew with fellow-relegated teams West Brom (twice) and Stoke.For all of their high-pressing and speedy forward play, Liverpool must develop a Plan B this season if they’re going to chase down City. With Keita, Shaqiri and Fabinho on board, their options in midfield have been bolstered and with Alisson (the most expensive goalkeeper in history) in goal they should eradicate costly errors.

Season Preview: Arsenal to return to top-4?

By Daniel KarellAug 3, 2018, 9:00 AM EDT

Arsenal at a Glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 13 – last in 2003/2004 season.

FA Cups: 13 times, last in 2016/2017.

League Cups: 2

FA Community Shield: 15 (last in 2017).

Top Four Finishes: 20-in-a-row between 1997 and 2017.

It’s a new era at Arsenal.

After 20 years at the club, Arsene Wenger stepped down at the end of last season, in which Arsenal failed to break into the top four for a second consecutive season, allowing for a fresh set of eyes to come in and manage the side. In comes veteran Spaniard Unai Emery, who perhaps couldn’t live up to expectations in France but certainly beat the odds over and over again with Sevilla and Valencia in Spain.

Emery’s attention to detail and defensive focus could pair well with Arsenal’s wonderful abundance of creative, playmaking midfielders. But based on Arsenal’s preseason performances, there’s still plenty of work to be done at both ends of the pitch.

Arsenal will finish top four because….the new signings gel and add strength in depth to what is an already very strong squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits the ground running in his first full-season at the club with 20 or more goals, partnering at times with Alexandre Lacazette or trading spots with him between the heavy workload of matches. More importantly, the summer signings of Sokratis, Lucas TorreiraMatteo Guendouziand Stephan Lichtsteiner help shore up Arsenal’s leaky defense after a few months of struggles to start the season. Torreira, affectionately called “pac-man” for his ability to eat up attackers all over the field, morphs into the best defensive midfielder Arsenal has seen since the days of Patrick Vieira.

Arsenal will miss out on the UEFA Champions League because….defensive problems remain. While the team is beautiful in its attack, Emery is left pulling all the hairs out of his head wondering why Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis can’t figure out how to play together and defend as a unit. With Laurent Koscielny set to miss a large chunk of the season coming back from his torn Achilles injury, Arsenal miss his defensive leadership. In addition, both Lacazette and Aubameyang struggle to score in the big games, making Arsenal fans continue to suffer as the team fails to live up to expectations.

Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit

———————Leno———————-

—-Bellerin—-Mustafi—Sokratis——Kolasinac

—————Torreira——-Xhaka——————

——-Mkhitaryan——Ramsey———-Ozil——

———————Aubameyang———————

Transfers In: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient, $9.1 million), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria, $34.4 million), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen, $25 million), Sokratis (Borussia Dortmund, $23 million)

Transfers Out: Per Mertesacker (retired), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal, free), Jack Wilshere(West Ham, free), Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Angers, undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: A-

Arsenal found itself outside the Champions League for the second straight season, and with a new manager entering, the club could have been in for a rough summer. Instead, it’s been very good so far by all accounts. Arsenal spent strategically and already, Guendouzi looks like a strong signing, having performed well as a holding midfielder in multiple preseason matches. Leno looks like the future goalkeeper the Gunners have been wanting with Torreira and Sokratis shore up a creaky defense. In addition, the Gunners were able to hold on to Aubameyang, Lacazette, and though his future is still up in the air, Aaron Ramsey so far. Through preseason, it’s clear that Arsenal needs to work more defensively, but in terms of the attacking side they’re looking good enough to start the season.

Star player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The French-born Gabon International was a star both domestically and in Europe for Borussia Dortmund. If he can produce at his old level, Arsenal will be just fine.

Coaches’ Corner: Unai Emery: The 48-year-old manager comes from Paris Saint-Germain, where he gained valuable experience coaching some of the biggest names in world football. But the majority of his coaching success has come in Spain. With Valencia and Sevilla, Emery constantly beat expectations and helped his side play better than the sum of its parts. If he can pull that off for Arsenal, he will quickly win over fans.

PST predicts: After a strong offseason, Arsenal look set to return to the club’s old glory as a regular top-four team. The spine of the squad was improved, which should give players like Mesut Ozil, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi the freedom to attack down the wings and through the heart of the opponent’s defense. The new manager should refresh the player’s attitudes and deliver a fitter, more defensively-sound squad, which will help in terms of getting back in the Champions League. Arsenal may still be a bit away from challenging for a league title, but they’re not that far off.

Alisson a boost for Liverpool but Premier League title talk is premature

7:29 AM ET blogger

Liverpool’s move for Alisson Becker triggered a massive reaction among supporters. This was the clearest indication to them that Liverpool meant business at last, perhaps even enough to end a 28-year league title drought.That seems presumptuous, though, completely ignoring the reigning champions and their 100 points. And Manchester City haven’t stood still either, signing Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez. They’ve sold nobody and can look forward to a full season from Benjamin Mendy this time around. Liverpool already have a fair amount of ground to make up.The Reds’ latest big move will add around £60 million to what was already a significant increase in Jurgen Klopp’s spending at the club. It’s almost like he’s served his apprenticeship. Even his success at Borussia Dortmund and two cup finals for Liverpool in his first eight months weren’t enough to prise open each club’s coffers.Having significantly improved Liverpool since the cup final, it’s now been deemed time to cut loose and spend whatever it takes so Klopp can make the crucial next step forward. Before Alisson, the ambition might still have been consolidation. It was unlikely they’d get to the Champions League final again but reaching another knockout stage would’ve been acceptable. Remaining in the top four of the Premier League would have been the priority, assuming Chelsea and Arsenal would make serious attempts to clamber above the Reds.Without challenging for the title yet, Klopp has moved Liverpool into a similar position to Gerard Houllier in 2002, Rafa Benitez in 2009 and Brendan Rodgers in 2014; runners-up who were spoken of as future title winners. That’s why some supporters will hold fire on the supercharged optimism, for now at least.Liverpool’s spending indicates a seismic shift in ambition, but it’s wiser to reflect on what they also lost in 2018. As team carried on performing well for the second half of last season, it’s almost forgotten they sold Philippe Coutinho in January. As the squad looked tired and depleted by May, his absence was felt more. There were also times Liverpool found themselves deadlocked in matches and looked around in vain for some Brazilian magic from outside the area.They’ve also lost Klopp’s trusted assistant Zeljko Buvac, and no-one knows how much that will influence the team in the future. Emre Can left for Juventus and there’s been sad news about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’s now expected to miss virtually all of the coming season because of injury. Adam Lallana had a poor, injury-ravaged campaign in 2017-18 and it wasn’t a given he would return to his previous excellent form under Klopp.Loris Karius’ mistakes against Real Madrid in the Champions League final pretty much demanded a change of goalkeeper anyway. If it hadn’t been Alisson, it must surely would be somebody else.Given all these departures, absences and failures Liverpool couldn’t afford to do nothing. Football is unforgiving and you need to keep spending just to remain at par. Progress requires much more.There is also the theory that their amazing forwards dragged Liverpool beyond their true level last season. A huge 91 goals were scored collectively by Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. It’s so rare that people were bound to speculate on whether the Reds could count upon it again. Salah may re-join the ranks of the mortals next season, although that was often predicted throughout his miracle debut year and he was only eventually stopped by Sergio Ramos’ wrestling hold.It’s great to see fans bumptious and optimistic, but a calmer more clinical analysis on what’s happened in 2018 may avoid disappointment further down the line. Of course, if Liverpool aren’t done spending yet and Lyon’s Nabil Fekir also came, forget trying to stifle optimism. It would gain express-train momentum by then and probably couldn’t be stopped anyway.Liverpool’s ability to keep opponents from scoring was the biggest headache last year. Record fees for a centre-back and goalkeeper are real statements of intent. Is simple expenditure enough? Last season, Klopp needed to affect minor change in game management, where Liverpool were a few goals ahead but still clung desperately to victory before the final whistle — not always successfully. Meddling with a working formula has its dangers. Klopp may just opt out, claiming superior footballers in positions once considered weak improves matters anyway.But whether you’re preaching caution or telling Liverpool to make more space in their trophy cabinet, you can’t deny how exciting the new season looks. The manager has been backed properly and few can complain about lack of spending now. It’s not Manchester City levels certainly, but there was never a chance of that happening.Gradual improvement, the sale of Coutinho and a lucrative Champions League run brought all this about and Klopp deserves this belated acknowledgement of his excellent efforts.

If he does not have another good season, it will come as a major shock. In fact, much more than “good” will be expected.

Liverpool’s Alisson travelled a hard road to world’s most expensive goalkeeper

With Alisson’s move from Roma to Liverpool now official, the ESPN FC guys discuss where the club will finish with the Brazil goalkeeper on board. (2:37)

Jul 20, 2018

  • Marcelo Gomes, Rafael Valente and Vladimir Bianchini, ESPN Brazil

There were plenty of obstacles that almost took Alisson, starting goalkeeper for Brazil, off the pitch. Now 25, he has dealt with issues regarding his weight, height and his family’s finances, while also challenging his initial choice as a player, in order to become the player he is today. This is his story, as told by those who saw him as a child, rising in the football world.Alisson was born in Novo Hamburgo, in the Porto Alegre metropolitan region. Alisson Becker carries German genes in his DNA. His grandparents even live on a street named after his great grandfather: Gustavo Becker.That last name, which actually means “Baker” in Portuguese, became a symbol for the family, which proudly took on the tradition of producing (and tasting) lots of baked goods. And that’s where Alisson’s first big challenge started.”Alisson was a glutton,” Antonia, Alisson’s grandmother, says with a laugh. “As soon as he went home, he was headed straight to the kitchen. He asked me to bake some sweet bread for him. I prepared those with cinnamon, sweet herbs and the like. It was so delicious, and he loved it all.”Alisson had a sweet tooth and all of his grandmother’s recipes became a real temptation.”He loved to taste homemade dough, and he asked me to do it for him,” Antonia continued. “However, he loved to eat everything fried; whether it was dough, cheese, rice, everything. He also loved candy. During his vacations, I used to take him and [his brother] Muriel to the market. I bought chocolate and I told him: ‘Alisson, that’s not for you to eat!’ To which he said: ‘Oh, Grandma, please let me have a taste here, since mom’s not around!'”The problem was that the eating habit he developed as a small kid was also present when he started to play football. He already had an issue with his height; despite the fact he was actually taller than other kids defending the posts on the field, he was shorter than the rest of the keepers. Considering he was also struggling with the scale, it was logical that he would end up being relegated when he started to play at Internacional.

Let’s forget for a second about that calm and composed Alisson we are used to seeing between the posts nowadays. In front of his family, especially in those days, he showed an emotional side that he kept away from the public. He used to cry a lot.”During those days, he used to cry a lot because of his weight problem. We used to tell him that he needed to lose some pounds. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t play football ever again. Sometimes, he would return from practice in tears,” said Leandro Becker, the newly minted Liverpool keeper’s uncle.Becker saw up close how Alisson was born to play football. However, his initial stints on the pitch were away from the goalkeeping position.”He tried out to be a winger with Internacional,” Leandro says. “However, it was a matter of a few matches. Let’s say that, during the first or second week, I can’t recall exactly, his coaches asked him to play as a keeper since he was taller than the rest of the goalies there.”Alisson’s inspiration to become a goalie was already at home. His father used to play the position in pick-up matches with friends. His brother, Muriel, five years his senior, was already a strong presence in the Internacional system. Alisson’s first taste of the red was when he saw his brother train at the pitches then located next to the Beira-Rio Stadium.”I had the chance of meeting Alisson before he started to play,” recalls Daniel Pavan, goalkeeper coach at Internacional and credited by Alisson himself as the person who discovered his talents. “He used to join Muriel at his practices. Then, someone used to hand him a football, so he could play and have some fun. Then, he started to show a lot of interest in his brother’s position. The inspiration for Alisson to become a keeper was seeing his brother training.From the age of 10, he became a part of the Inter system. He already started to show technical skills which put him apart the rest of kids his age.” Pavan, who also attempted to become a keeper when he was younger, joined Internacional in 1995, when he was just a student. He did not train Alisson during his first two years at Internacional; however, he was there alongside him since he turned 13 and was there with him at a crucial time in his surging career.”He was quite chubby,” Pavan recalls. “It was a matter of genetics, combined with the fact he loved to eat. He loved to have a soft drink and a cookie. As soon as the training session was over, he already had one of each in his hands.”At the same time, his development was a bit slower than usual. He was a bit shorter and chubbier. He wasn’t a starter or a first substitution, either. However, people could see he had technical abilities which made him stand out from the rest. Thanks to our department’s studies on him, we knew he was going to grow up and gain some height and, with that, he would become leaner.”However, since his parents started to see that he did not play in the matches, they wanted to take him away from football. They thought he did not have a future as a player. They thought it was just a waste of time. Sometimes, in order to join some tournaments, he had to lose school time. That happened back when he was 12 years old and about to turn 13. They went and had a chat with me. They thought Alisson should dedicate himself to his academics, since they saw Alisson in here every day and they thought he was not having any benefits from it.”To make things even worse, Alisson’s dad, Jose, was unemployed.Jose worked at a shoe company, which went out of business. Since he was making a considerable financial effort in order to have his two children training in Porto Alegre every day, his money constraints reinforced the idea that maybe it was better to have his youngest son removed from football.”Despite all that, I managed to convince [his parents] that things would get better, that Alisson would mature as a player and that he had a huge technical upside and potential,” Pavan says. “Thank god, they listened to me.”Suddenly, it all came together. A year-and-a-half, about two years later, Alisson stretched out. He gained 16 centimetres in height and won his battle against the scale. He went on to become a starter at the base team, and then he joined the Brazilian national side at his age category. It was the start of a successful career.”Because of Pavan’s involvement in such an important moment in Alisson’s life and in his role in the national team, both remain friends to this day. They exchange text messages and words of encouragement and root for each other’s success.Nowadays, Pavan, Antonia and Leandro are all proud to see that the short, chubby kid from Novo Hamburgo, who used to cry a lot, is now the first name mentioned whenever the Selecao play. They hope that, one day, he will return with a World Cup for Brazil in his hands.

What’s the long-term plan for MLS, USL, and USL D-III?

By Nicholas MendolaJul 31, 2018, 7:45 PM EDT

The Premier League previews have yet to begin, Major League Soccer is on its All-Star break, and international soccer is gone for a spell, so allow this writer to take you on a tangent.For about as long as the promotion and relegation war cry has methodically danced around social media, I’ve had a difficult time believing Major League Soccer expansion would stop anywhere short of a similar system to the one employed by the rest of the world.

[ MORE: Phoenix, SD get Garber bump ]

As MLS partnered with the USL raised its maximum number of teams to its present stated goal of 28, it became clear that one of two things would happen:

  1. The number of teams would grow
  2. The league would eventually employ a system of pro/rel

Whether that’s years or decades away, it’s hard to say. What’s easy is that MLS knows it can capture the interest of two markets that are currently keeping it arm’s length at best by switching up its system: Soccer fanatics ignoring the growing quality of MLS play because pro/rel is their priority, and casual sports fans curious about an experiment.I’d put myself at about 90 percent confident of that before something clicked following this article on SocTakes which lays out the growth of the USL and the challenges still facing its individual owners.The strength of any group of teams lies within its league, and I’m not talking about the chemistry between its group of owners. The people who control and work for the actual league have to possess power, with a reservoir of funds, and avoid the arrogance that comes with the first two.Make no guarantees on the third part, especially given that the second part of the famous “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” line is “Great men are almost always bad men.” That’s not a shot at anyone specifically, just a judgment on the nature of business here.The only option outside of the pro/rel model that includes league growth eliminates plenty of draw for the top flight: Either clubs begin playing each other once a year, with no return date until the next season, or they expand the conferences with limited interplay and another unbalanced schedule

Nuh-uh.Clearly the USL is building up power and reserves, as MLS has done that already. Most of its top-end teams aren’t amongst the MLS B-sides and have the look of top-tier sides (FC Cincinnati, Sacramento Republic, Phoenix Rising).At some point, the MLS-B sides are going to disappear or head to USL D-III (or IV). The bottom half of USL average attendance is littered with those squads, even with high-performing on-the-field sides Real Monarchs and Red Bulls 2.  Neutral fans don’t want that. Shoot, I wouldn’t want to market that my local team is facing a must-win match against some MLS club’s guys 25-40. [ MORE: Garber “hopeful” Crew will stay in Columbus ]

So MLS “stops” at 28 teams. There’s 20-26 in USL, who will announce promotion and relegation between it and D-III. USL D-III will have another 20, and the way out of that place will be promotion.That’s where the experiment begins, with USL teams and the American soccer landscape seeing if pro/rel really is something that drives crowds.

This happens out-of-the-way of MLS, as owners continue to build up reserves to eventually serve as parachute payments for relegated teams. That money becomes available because MLS lifts its cap and entire salary structure. Teams like the LA Galaxy, Red Bulls, and NYCFC can spend and sell as much as they like and are buttressed by their academies.This lifts parity, once considered the jewel of the league, and makes the race to avoid the bottom a real thing. The MLS teams are still superior in salary and talent to the USL teams, so instead of Bottom 3 down, Top 3 up, MLS deploys some sort of promotion/relegation playoff similar to Germany.Naturally, the teams toward the bottom of MLS are going to be the ones who refuse to spend. So, yeah, it could be a San Jose having to deal with upstart FC Cincinnati for the right to get a top flight spot? Something tells me the spending will increase. Fight or flight (back to the bottom).Can it all be so simple? I really do think so. Maybe MLS can continue to expand, a couple of markets at a time, for 10 years. It can add to the schedule, maybe 40 games, but there’s a finite number of games it can add and have each team play home-and-away.

And wait til you tell a team owner from the East that it might not see Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the two or three seasons he’s here because of an unbalanced schedule. I don’t want to be in the room for that.MLS is growing in renown, and will continue to do so for some time, but it’s not going to reach its potential without building legitimate powers via letting big spenders spend. The Supporters’ Shield will become a bit less interesting for some clubs, but the final playoff spots and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will become even more prestigious.  As for the pro/rel part, it’s one of the things keeping nascent leagues alive with hope, and clubs/fans outside its system refusing to play ball. It makes too much sense and, over time, we’ll find out it was the plan all along. And the arguments from the peanut gallery, including this King Peanut, will keep things buzzing while it waits for its roll out.  The longer the league waits, the better chance a competitor tries and it gets some momentum. With the NASL lawsuits on the stove now and NISA without a leader, there’s no competition. That’s not to say an upstart rival league couldn’t be squashed by MLS, but why risk it?It’s going to happen, really. Otherwise, why would Alexi Lalas say things like this to his boss?

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