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Smorgasborg

27 January 6:08 pm

There's no mistake. A 54-year-old English manager at the helm of the oldest club in England's Premier League is advocating a mini-revolution for the sport: the introduction of the NFL challenge system.

Before you throw cold water on the idea, consider for a moment the proposal put forth by Stoke City's Tony Pulis: a challenge flag per half for each team with 30 seconds for the match official to check upstairs. It tacks on a mere minute per half if both coaches use their flag.

His plan allows for video replay to make its entry at the highest levels of professional soccer without proving to be a scandalous shock to the system. Most reasonable fans can stomach this.

Beware, however: MLS should not be the guinea pig, otherwise the experiment gets labeled as a gimmick. If the EPL takes the first stab, the soccer world will surely embrace it. It should happen in England before it shows up anywhere else.

"It would help the referees, it would help us, the football nation and the supporters. And it would get the decision right, which is more important than anything else," Pulis says.

He actually never makes mention of a flag in his pitch. So can soccer be original and come up with its own object to hurl at the ref?

Pulis sells it well. Watch him in this video clip.

27 January 4:42 pm

Consensus is that the US was robbed of the 2022 World Cup. Well, here comes the next best thing. And it even comes six years earlier!

The president of the Ecuadorean soccer federation, whose brother is on the CONMEBOL executive committee, told Mexican media that the USA is a potential candidate to host the 2016 Copa América in celebration of the South American confederation's 100-year anniversary.

"We are going to have the opening so that it's not held in one of the 10 countries of South America. It could be Mexico and it could be the United States as well," said Luis Chiriboga.

Chiriboga noted that the special edition of the 2016 Copa América would feature 16 teams: 10 from South America and six from CONCACAF. Apparently there would be a qualification process to determine the six CONCACAF nations.

Four groups of four teams with Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the USA in separate groups? Fans will flock.

If US fans thought that was big news, the Ecuadorean chief also mentioned that the US would likely get an inivitation to participate in the 2015 Copa América in Brazil.

"I have no doubt that the obstacles [in CONCACAF] are being overcome," said Chiriboga. "Mexico's invitation has never been in question. Of the two teams we invite, one is Mexico and the other could be the United States or Japan."

Imagine this schedule for the USMNT: 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 2015 Copa América in Brazil and the 2016 Copa América on US soil. Something tells me Jurgen Klinsmann is not the type to decline these kind of invites.

26 January 6:36 pm

If you include the Tim Ream transfer to Bolton Wanderers, the New York Red Bulls have arguably executed the three shrewdest business transactions in MLS history.

The club transferred Tim Howard to Manchester United for a reported $4 million, Jozy Altidore to Villarreal for a widely cited figure of $10 million and now Ream for a fee placed at $3 million. The return on investment for each player is stunning.

It’s a transfer sum that should serve as a strong reminder to Erik Soler, Hans Backe and NYRB brass, who have lately been criticized for preferring the international player over up-and-coming young Americans. They have even outwardly expressed their views on the SuperDraft and lack of impact prospects they believe are available. That was not the rationale employed just a short time ago in the case of Howard (assigned to NY in 1998), Altidore (No. 17 draft pick in 2006) and Ream (No. 18 pick in 2010).

That trio weren’t the finished product when they joined the club, but they were shown confidence and allowed to play and make their share of mistakes. Today’s club is reticent to do that with national team regular Juan Agudelo, although, ironically, he may very well be the source of the next massive transfer.

Just days after trading another SuperDraft pick for Kenny Cooper (their first-rounder in 2013) and publicly stating their intention of adding another international to fill Ream’s shoes – Wilman Conde is the name that comes up – the Ream deal should come as a wake-up call.

The Red Bulls are probably waiting until further investment in their academy can produce "higher quality" talent that’s ready to play immediately. But why wait? These talents can also develop on the MLS stage NOW if given the chance. It’s time to renew that commitment to American college and academy products and in some cases give them playing time ahead of the internationals.

History has shown – it’s good business.