Charlotte Gains Final MLS Placement in Expansion

Major League Soccer has been expanding their organization for more than a decade. Fans always asked themselves when this expansion period would end. However, the sport continued to become more popular, and MLS continued to receive more applications from cities nationwide. Looking back six years ago, nobody would’ve anticipated the drastic rise in popularity that MLS experienced. International players from the Premier League and FIFA have been brought over to major league soccer, shopping that this league is gaining global appeal.

Fans can now rest easy knowing that the expansion period for major league soccer has been completed. The announcement that this period has concluded came on December 19, 2019. With this information, it was also revealed that Charlotte would become the final team to join major league soccer. They will be the 30th club to enter the sporting organization and the 20th team to enter the North American championship series since 2005. Within the last six months, six new teams were announced. This included Austin, Inter Miami, St. Louis, Sacramento, and Nashville. However, Charlotte FC won’t start competing in MLS until 2020 with Sacramento.

The Associated Cost

It took five weeks for the final team announcement to be made by major league soccer. The associated cost with the last placement was extensive, which has been prompted by current market conditions. Joe Mansueto paid $204 million for 51% stake ownership in the Chicago Fires. Additional factors included the league’s expansion in popularity and franchise profitability opportunities.

The other significant factor was the number of other cities competing for the final position. Phoenix, Indianapolis and Las Vegas were all competing for this final placement. However, these metropolises weren’t willing to pay the associated cost and were debating lower costs with MLS officials. When Charlotte confirmed that they would pay upwards of $325 million for the team, with all other associated costs, it took officials less than twenty-four hours to accept the bid. This now means that the owner of the Carolina Panthers also owns Charlotte FC.

Those wanting to support Charlotte FC in their opening stages of development can purchase team gear on their official website. This money is being used to generate revenue for the construction of a new stadium and the acquisition of formidable players. Depending on the support received from citizens in Charlotte, this football club could be a significant contender for 2022.

Italian Soccer Bans Stars for Blasphemy

During the week, both Francesco Magnanelli playing for Sassuolo and Matteo Scozzarella playing for Parma has been handed a one-game suspension after they were filmed using God’s name in vain on the field. This took place during Sassuolo’s game against Verona which resulted in a 1-0 victory for the team and when Parma and Inter Milan clashed in a match ending in a draw of 2-2.

Over the past decade, there have been many instances where the Italian soccer authorities took disciplinary action against players who were guilty of blasphemy on the field. Using God’s name in vain is not acceptable behaviour according to the rules and guidelines of the soccer body. Although they are very soft in their approach towards both players and crowds who are making themselves guilty of racism, the same kind of tolerance is never seen when anyone is guilty of blasphemy.

Previous incidences occurred in 2018 when Rolando Mandragora, playing for Udinese, was also suspended for one game after being found guilty of blasphemy during a match against Sampdoria. The same rules apply for coaches. During the previous season, the coach of Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini was suspended. This was the result when he used profane language when his team was playing SPAL.

Italian Soccer Authorities Being Criticised

This occurred amidst a current wave of criticism towards the soccer authorities and their lack of action against those who make themselves guilty of racism. During September, the Football Federation stated that they wouldn’t punish Cagliari after they were accused of making racist chants during the game. These chants were directed towards Romelu Lukaku, playing striker for Inter Milan. The fans of Cagliari walked away without consequences for their behaviour. Also, the supporters of Hellas Verona got away scot-free after they were accused of racial abuse towards the midfielder for AC Milan, Franck Kessie.

Recently the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, requested that the FIGC will take more severe action against racist action during their games. He stated that he believes that racism can be reduced when proper education, as well as condemnation and open discussion, take place. He is strongly opposed to racism within any team or society. He also stated that over time the occurrence of racism within Italy has never improved. This is deemed as a difficult situation. He said that the perpetrators need to be identified and that they need to be thrown out of the stadiums. This should set an example of what happens when supporters make themselves guilty of such an offence. Currently, the Italian soccer authorities are letting them get away. This also sets the president that it is fine to continue with such behaviour. If the action of racist won’t get stopped, it will keep on continuing forever.

Racism in Soccer Out of Control

It has been a concern for many years, but it seems that racism from the supporting crowds is currently reaching an all-time high. Recently many games had to be paused, a couple of teams have left the field mid-play and even fines and playing home games without a crowd are all steps taken to avert this kind of behaviour, but will it result in any success?

Serbia Fined

During a match in September between Serbia and Portugal in the Belgrade’s Stadion Rajko Mitic, Serbia’s supporters made themselves guilty of racist behaviour. In efforts to minimize and eventually eliminate racism within the sport, UEFA acted against the Serbian team with a $37 000 fine in addition to having to display the #EqualGame banner at their stadium and being forced to play their next two home games without a crowd. One of these games being a crucial one against Luxembourg since it is a Group B qualifying match.

Bulgaria Also Under the Spotlight

Serbia is not the only team with a crowd out of control. Merely days before the decision of UEFA, a match between Bulgaria and England had to be paused twice due to Nazi salutes, monkey noises and racists chants from the crowd. Twice the game was broken, and announcements were made to address the group on their behaviour, but with no avail. Not even the manager of Bulgaria addressing the crowds during half-time managed to make a difference.

Haringey and Yeovil

Now we had witnessed once again a repeat of such behaviour when Haringey Borough was up against Yeovil Town. Valery Douglas Pajetat, the goalkeeper to Haringey, was not only spat at, but was also hit by an object flung from the crowd. This led to the team stopping play midway their FA Cup game and walking off the field, following their manager, Tom Loizou in the 64th minute of the match with Haringey having a 1 point lead. This game has been rescheduled to be played next week and whether the supporting crowd will behave this time around still has to be seen.

The Predicament of Black Players

According to Darren Lewis, a journalist, black players have been waiting for more than five decades for authorities to step in and relieve their plight on the field. Yet, they have been left disappointed and now is the time for them to start doing something for themselves. He considers the fact that players walked off the field mid-match as a new level of protest against racism. Lewis also felt that these players couldn’t only be sent off into these kinds of situations. He stated that their emotional well-being and their mental health and the impact of being the subject of racism should be taken into account. Even though authorities have action plans in place for when such events do occur, they aren’t always followed, as with the Bulgaria game. If teams then decide to abandon play, then it should be seen as the only option they had to support their teammates.

Norwich Showing Up Manchester City

Premier League Champions, Manchester City suffered an embarrassing defeat over the past weekend. The underdogs, Norwich City, managed to take victory over what many consider to be the most active team in the world with a 3-2 final score. To add further misery to their pain, Norwich earned their victory with eight of their first-team players, off the field. Their style of play was immaculate, and praise is streaming in from all the corners of the sporting industry.

Holding On To Their Style

The kind of game which Norwich played is nothing new in the Premier League, but what is making it so commendable is the fact that it is seldom, if ever that a team who has only recently made it into the Premier League, can execute it so flawlessly. Often the groups which have only newly been promoted into Premier will be seen performing an aggressive attack against their competitors. This is often the case when clubs like Bournemouth and Swansea are in action. Norwich decided to stick to their playing style. They never let the ball clear, regardless of the mounting pressure they were under. In the end, they managed to show the soccer league that newcomers can be able to prosper within the league.

Blackpool Almost Having Success with the Same Style

Blackpool had a limiting budget against them, which most probably meant that their success when they were the first team who tried to play this kind of game, was short-lived. They have managed to end up on the last day of the 2010-11 season, with only 1 point away from safety. More impressive though is that they stood on 55 goals, a remarkable number which was equal to what the number five on the rankings at that time, Tottenham, had.

Fulham Also Tried Their Hand at This Style of Playing

Last season we witnessed Fulham’s attempt of the same playing style in Premier League. Despite having a hefty investment into the club, they couldn’t make it happen. Slaviša Jokanović tried relentlessly to unite his team with the senior new editions to the club which was signed during the summer period. His failure to succeed, meant his end as he was fired in November last year.

Norwich is Different

Norwich is nothing like Fulham and Blackpool. They managed to achieve 94 points on the scoreboard while Blackpool and Fulham barely made it through the playoffs. Under the management of Daniel Farke, the team shows continuity in their play. For a long time, English football was hoping for the day when teams can be promoted to play in the Premier League and then manages to stay on, in it. They want these teams to play a great game and not to try and ensure their position within the league by spending money and buying great names. They want these teams to play out of the back and to play a game based on possession. It seems that Norwich might be what they were hoping for.

The Youngest Player to Sign Professional League

For as long as that he can remember, Francis Jacobs wanted to be a professional soccer player. That dream came true for him when he recently became the youngest male player to ever sign a professional contract at the age of 14 years, four months and 29 days. The previous record for that was set by Freddy Adu, who was only a month and a few days older when he signed with DC United in 2003. The youngest female player to sign professional also happened earlier during the year when Olivia Moultrie signed with the Portland Thorns at the age of 13 years.

Signing Up With Orange County SC

Orange County SC plays their homes games in Irvine at The Great Park. Jacobs lives in the nearby Laguna Beach. Although there was interest from clubs all over the US as well as Europe to sign with the teenager, he preferred to play at a local club. Jacobs’s first appearance is set for the 17th of August when Orange County is taking on the Las Vegas Lights FC. Jacobs joined Orange County after being very successful with the Irvine Strikers. His performance there earned him national recognition and clubs from all over the country was interested in him. Jacobs was also participating last year in the US Junior National Team Camp and played with the United State U-14 National Team. He also had some training opportunities with the Bundesliga clubs, Bayer Leverkusen and Cologne in Germany.

The Future of the Young Star

According to Oliver Wyss, the President of Soccer Operations and also General Manager of the Orange County SC, Jacobs is known for the immense maturity which he shows on the field. He is considered to be far ahead of his peers on that level. He also proved himself to be very manageable and pick up on training quickly. All members of the club are committed to guiding him into the brilliant career ahead of him. His skills are the perfect foundation for a long prosperous career in professional soccer. The location of their practice grounds will allow him to be able to be at practices and to learn from the best skilled and experienced players. Some of their players have experience on an international level in both Europe as well as Mexico. This will provide excellent guidance to the young player.

Jacobs Excited and Appreciative of the Opportunity

Jacobs expressed his appreciation towards the club as well as towards Kestin, Braeden and Oliver, who allowed him to play and to move forward in the future. His dream is to follow in the footsteps of fellow Orange County SC player, Aaron Cervantes. Cervantes signed with OCSC when he was only 15. This was before the USL Championship season in 2018. Now Cervantes is a regular at OCSC and were already appearing on the field for them eight times. Both of these young players will be in the United States U-17 team.

Summer Transfer Window – Major Moves This Far

The Summer Transfer Window for 2019 is almost coming to an end, and there have been many significant transfers already completed worthy of note. Some of these transfers are noteworthy due to the massive amounts of money paid for players and some because of the vast ways it will impact some of the most significant leagues and teams. Let’s explore how much and why some of these deals got signed for.

Jasper Cillessen moving to Valencia and Neto to Barcelona

An excellent move for both. Cillessen previously tried to become the No. 1 keeper for Valencia, and this is his opportunity to do it again. In return, Neto is awarded with a much better contract as well as playing for a great club. The move entails much more than that. This was also an accounting driven decision by both Barcelona as well as Valencia to avoid any troubles from Financial Fair Play. For Valencia to stay within the guidelines of FFP, they had to arrange more transfer income before their new financial year started on the 1st of July. Therefore Neto was sold to Barcelona for the amount of €35 million to avoid any penalties. Then Barcelona sold Cillessen to Valencia for the same amount. With Cillessen’s purchasing price only entering the books after the 1st of July, it seems that Valencia is ending off their financial year on the plus side. If the purpose of the FFP was to avoid that the larger clubs outplay the smaller clubs with their bulky wallets, then they have failed at that. What it did cause was much more creative thinking from the larger clubs to get away with the same kind of deals.

Tyrone Mings moved to Aston Villa

Thanks to the vast sums received from English Premier League given upon promotion, it was evident that Aston Villa would probably spend large amounts this summer. Still, nobody expected such a big splash as them paying a total of £26.5 million to keep Tyrone Mings, who was there on loan, permanently. This is an unprecedented amount to pay for a player who can be rated as mediocre at best. It does tell us a couple of things about the market, though.

First of all, central defenders, like Mings, are hard to find if clubs are willing to pay that much money for them. Secondly, the prices paid for defenders did become somewhat inflated over the past couple of years, until the turning point occurred with the outrages sum of £75 million for Virgil van Dijk by Liverpool. From there onwards it was slightly deflating again.

A third thing which teaches us about the transfer market is that English clubs still are looking for English talent. Evidence of this is also rooted in the rumours of Man United planning on buying Harry Maguire for a staggering £80 million. This English international player from Leicester City will then become the player for which the most was ever paid in history. Let’s hope he is as good as the money is which paid for him.

Liverpool eager for more after cementing Champions League legacy

Liverpool’s success in last season’s Champions League was the culmination of what had been a roller-coaster ride to the final.

The Reds’ 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur was achieved in comfortable fashion, although the road to Madrid had been anything but smooth.

Read on as we look at how Liverpool overcame the odds to lift European club football’s most prestigious trophy and assess their chances of repeating the trick this season.

Epic fightback stuns Barcelona

Liverpool sneaked through the group stage, before comfortably disposing of Bayern Munich and Porto in the first two knockout rounds.

They looked to be on their way out of the competition after losing 3-0 against Barcelona in the first leg of their semi-final tie.

However, they produced a stunning comeback in the reverse fixture to seal a memorable 4-3 aggregate victory.

With Spurs also recovering from a three-goal deficit in their last four tie against Ajax, the final contained two English clubs for the first time since 2008.

Liverpool make it six

The result of the final never looked in doubt from the moment Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot after just two minutes.

Spurs failed to create many chances and on the rare occasions they did break through they found Reds goalkeeper Alisson in fine form.

Divock Origi’s late goal was the icing on the cake for Liverpool in a game that struggled to live up to the drama provided by the semi-finals.

However, with only Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7) ahead of them in the list of winners of the competition, Liverpool can rightly claim to be one of Europe’s finest clubs.

Defending the trophy will be tough

Madrid won the Champions League three times in a row between 2016 and 2018, but no other side has retained the trophy since Milan achieved the feat back in 1990.

Liverpool were beaten by Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli during pre-season and will have to play much better when the competition gets underway in September.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has yet to make any major signings this summer and that could hinder their hopes of success this time around.

However, Liverpool proved last season that it is foolish to write them off and they will be eager to make it to through to their third successive Champions League final.

Gareth Bale’s time at Real Madrid is Finally Up

It seems like the war between Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale has finally reached its breaking point. The Real Madrid coach has recently stated that he hopes Bale will leave soon as it will be best for everyone. The manager noted this after the 3-1 defeat against Bayern Munich on Saturday.

This means that a transfer is on the horizon. Jonathan Barnett, the agent for Gareth Bale, responded afterwards by calling Zinedine a disgrace. There’s no turning back now.

The Gareth Bale Situation

A massive clue was given away 45 minutes before the start of the match on Saturday that something was wrong at Real Madrid. Bale was originally part of the starting squad as a substitute. However, word got out that he wasn’t involved at all, and due to his troubled relationship with Zidane, it certainly wasn’t due to an injury.

Zidane’s patience has run out with Gareth Bale, and he doesn’t see the player forming part of the team’s revival. Bale transferring to PSG would mean Neymar form part of Real Madrid. However, the club just spent €100 million to acquire Eden Hazard for the same position that Neymar specializes in.

There’s also rumours that Real Madrid is targeting Paul Pogba for €200 million. However, Florentino Perez, the president of Madrid, loves annoying Barcelona, so acquiring Neymar would do the trick.

There’s also the possibility that Gareth Bale can move to Manchester United with some swap along with a cash deal. However, Bale will need to fancy the Europa League and be ready to carry the torch for a team that is currently going through a difficult time. Does he even have a choice in the matter?

What about Tottenham Hotspur? A comeback to his former club could be very appealing, and it would keep him in the Champions League. However, even that might be too late for the Welshman.

Outside the European Leagues

So who else can afford to take Gareth Bale from Real Madrid that is not situated in Europe? There are talks that Jiangsu Suning and Beijing Guoan from China might be interested. However, is a truckload of money enough for Gareth Bale to transfer to a brand-new country along with a significant culture shock and a drop in competition?

The list of suitors for Gareth Bale at the moment is tiny, and the football star doesn’t have much of choice anymore. Zidane is spot on by saying that its time for a significant change for someone that has completely lost their way at Real Madrid. At the age of 30, along with an extensive list of injuries, one is left to wonder whether Bale has the same desire and hunger as he once did. Will he be able to recover from the devastation he is currently in? That is precisely what potential suitors are asking themselves.

Brazil Victorious at 2019 Copa America

Brazil claiming a Copa America victory at home shouldn’t come as a surprise. The country has hosted the competition a total of 5 times, and after defeating Peru 3-1 during Sunday’s final, they have been victorious five times.

Not only did the tournament show that Brazil was able to handle being the favourites, proving that they did not choke on the anticipation as they did five years ago in the World Cup, but that they claimed victory thanks to a progressive, modern playing style. Brazil achieved this glorious win without Neymar who was injured throughout the competition. This is one victory that Tite will remember forever, a win that occurred without an imbalanced Neymar.

The Brazilian Manager

When Brazil was defeated by Peru three years ago in Foxborough, eliminating them from the Copa America group stage, it marked the beginning of a modernity shift for Brazil. Dunga was out while he was replaced by Tite, who didn’t have the narrow-mindedness of his predecessor. He decided to go to Europe and learn from others, study other players, and adopt a unique football style by pressing.

However, even though he incorporated this new and improved technique in the World Cup, he was always going to be hampered by the galactic ego-minded Neymar. Someone who no one can rely on when it comes to pressing as he slowed down the game. During the World Cup, there were several moments where Brazil showed that they had what it takes to be winners, but the imbalance of Neymar quickly ruled this out.

Without Neymar playing in the team, the squad transformed into something spectacular. It took a few attempts with a roster of players, but once everything merged, it turned into a phenomenal team, especially when you consider Gabriel Jesus and Everton as flanks, while Firmino dropped deep from a central role.

Peru vs Brazil

Gabriel Jesus managed to set up a beautiful opener for Everton during Brazil’s match against Peru. Everton was also the man who created the late penalty for the third goal, while Gabriel Jesus scored the second goal after Firmino won the ball, while Arthur surged forward. The midfielder from Barcelona played a vital role in midfield while Coutinho was considered the playmaker. Arthur was undoubtedly a player that Brazil missed during the last World Cup.

The only sad part about the match between Brazil and Peru was the fact that the ticket prices were far above average. This meant that only idle classes made up the bulk of the crowd at the stadium and plenty of seats were left open during the duration of the Copa America. This is something that needs to be looked at during the next Copa America as more ticket sales lead to more benefits for both team and football association.

Brazil deserved the win after their incredible performance, and we hope that the referees hear Lionel Messi and his concerns regarding corruption in Copa America.

Argentina Advance to the Copa America Quarterfinals

There’s a trap that every head coach needs to avoid: Don’t let your game strategy be more critical that the players in your team. In other words, make do with what you have and avoid working around it.

This trap essentially explains the disaster that Argentina experienced during their last World Cup campaign in 2018. Jorge Sampaoli is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing coaches on earth, but his high-pressure tactics require a goalkeeper that is fantastic on his feet and quick defenders. Argentina doesn’t have either of these qualities, and therefore, chaos was the result.

Argentina Receives a New Manager

Sampaoli was on a long-term contract and to get rid of him, the football association in Argentina had to fork out a fat check to pay him off. Lionel Scaloni, the inexperienced coach, replaced Sampaoli permanently as he had a glowing record in qualification. Scaloni was also quite cheap compared to the previous coach.

Unfortunately, Scaloni fell into the same trap as the previous head coach. He created a bold strategy for the Argentina football team: be quick on transitions and use two wingers that will play the ball swiftly into open spaces. However, there was one massive problem that surfaced when the best player in Argentina returned for international duty. Scaloni’s plan did not fit around Lionel Messi.

One of the team’s wingers needed to be sacrificed, and therefore, the entire plan fell apart. Scaloni was well aware of this fact. So, when Messi made his return to the team for a friendly match against Venezuela, the head coach had the opportunity to tweak his overall strategy. He decided to have three centre-back players, which allowed him to have two attacking wing-backs that could provide the width. The only problem with the three centre-backs was the fact that they were unable to defend successfully against the pace of the wingers in Venezuela.

Scaloni decided to return to his original plan, one that he knew couldn’t work with Lionel Messi in the mix. The outcome of his decision was a defeat during the opening match against Columbia. Since this defeat, along with the immense pressure from the tournament, Scaloni has been trying to dig himself out of this trap.

Argentina’s Path to Victory

Everything started to come together when Sergio Aguero took over for Roberto Pereyra at half-time during the match against Paraguay, the second game for Argentina in the Copa America. Argentina finally started inching forward towards something more coherent. The same strategy was utilized when Argentina managed to defeat Qatar 2-0 to secure a place in the Copa America quarterfinals where the team will face Venezuela on 28 June 2019.

Argentina is making progress as the tournament unfolds but will it be enough to advance past the quarterfinals of the Copa America tournament? And if they defeat Venezuela, are they experienced enough to take on a side like Brazil that has been dominant since the first game?