Kick Off: New York City FC, Red Bulls rivalry heating up already

Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. RED BULLS RAMP UP THE RIVALRY

New York Red Bulls boss Mike Petke had some stern words for 2015 expansion side New York City FC: “They’re the new guys coming in and I'm looking forward to smashing them in 2015, to be honest with you. That’s it. I don’t have any love for [them] because it’s a new team in the league, I love this league, and I think expansion is a [good] thing but now that they have come where we are we’ll welcome them, hopefully, with a smashing.”

2. REYNA NAMED DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL AS REACTION CONTINUES

More reaction flooding in after New York City FC’s press conference yesterday, as Claudio Reyna was named as director of football. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart spoke of his desire to “help soccer grow in America” while Soccer America believes NYCFC will struggle to deliver MLS Cups right away … as other expansion sides have shown. Reyna also stated that no head coach would be named in 2013.

3. NEW JERSEY FANS ROOTING FOR NYCFC?

Well, this rivalry is only a few days old and already it has tensions rising between soccer fans in the New York City metro area. Senior writer Jeff Bradley touches on, well, a touchy subject: Should Jersey fans come out in support of New York City FC? Meanwhile, NYCFC will look to outdo the Red Bulls by building the core of their squad with academy players in the future.

4. WELCOME TO THE PERFECT SHOT

Check out our new feature here at MLSsoccer.com, as we’ve partnered up with Samsung to deliver you “The Perfect Shot.” This incredible new feature begins with coverage of Sporting KC vs. Seattle, check this out and see which teams will be appearing in the "The Perfect Shot" in the coming weeks.

5. TIJUANA SET FOR LIBERTADORES QUARTERS

It is a huge night for Liga MX outfit Club Tijuana, as they host Ronaldinho and his Atlético Mineiro teammates in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores (Fox Deportes, 8:30 pm ET). The Xolos face their biggest test yet, in their debut season in the Libertadores, but they are full of confidence after knocking off Brazilian side Palmeiras in the last round. US national teamers Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo will feature for Tijuana.

6. KEANE TO CAPTAIN IRELAND, ARENA ACCEPTS IT

After much deliberation, Robbie Keane is heading away from MLS for a few weeks to captain the Republic of Ireland. LA announced yesterday that Keane would join up with Ireland for their friendlies against England and Georgia. That’s followed by a World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands on June 7 and a friendly with Spain in NYC on June 12. Bruce Arena isn’t exactly delighted about it: “We're allowing US players to play in friendlies, then we have to do [this]. It creates an awkward situation, but it's fair.”

7. VILLA WIELD THE AXE, DUO COULD HEAD BACK TO USA

Just a few days after the EPL season has finished, Aston Villa have already told certain players they’re no longer needed. They include USMNT defender Eric Lihaj and former San Jose Earthquakes loanee Simon Dawkins. Could they both be moving to MLS next?

8. CITY VS. CHELSEA AT BUSCH STADIUM

With Manchester City’s name now intertwined with MLS for years to come, tonight provides the first chance for soccer fans to see them on US soil this year. City will square off against old foe Chelsea (8:30 pm ET, ESPN2) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the locals turned up in the thousands to watch Chelsea train. The duo will also meet up at Yankee Stadium next Saturday, but Chelsea will be without Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole for that clash, as they return to England to meet up with the national team.

9. OPEN CUP FOURTH ROUND DRAW SETS UP CASCADIA CLASH

OK, so the third round hasn’t even started yet. But the US Open Cup likes to plan ahead, so here is the schedule for the fourth round. The big news to take from this is that the Portland Timbers could face the Seattle Sounders, if they defeat the Wilmington Hammerheads and Seattle beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Meanwhile, Seattle are already bracing themselves for a massive road trip for MLS and Open Cup action.

10. REAL SALT LAKE TO LAUNCH USL PRO SIDE?

MLS Reserves spoke with Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerwey about the possibility of an RSL-branded team competing in USL PRO. Turns out it could be something in the pipeline. Will other MLS teams start to follow suit as the relationship between the two leagues continues to blossom?

11. NASL’S NEWEST TEAM ANNOUNCES COACH

The Ottawa Fury are doing things big. Yesterday it was leaked that their new head coach would be former Montreal Impact manager Marc Dos Santos. The Montreal native led the Impact to the 2009 USL First Division title and could help to fuel a new Canadian rivalry.

12. WILL PULIS LEAVING STOKE BE GOOD OR BAD FOR USMNT STARS?

This is an intriguing one. Stoke City manager Tony Pulis mutually agreed to step down yesterday, but where does that leave Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu? Steve Davis at Pro Soccer Talk delves deeper into that issue. The USMNT trio could see Rafa Benítez arriving to charge at the Britannia Stadium, according to reports.

13. ROSSI RETURNS

Five hundred and sixty-nine days later, Giuseppe Rossi has returned to action. The New Jersey-born Italian international striker has had a rough time with injuries, to say the least. But he stepped back onto the field for Fiorentina against Pescara on Sunday. “After a year-and-a-half of suffering, I have finally come back to play a game with the team,” Rossi said. “I only touched the ball a few times out there tonight. I hope this is just the beginning.”

14. GIBRALTAR TO JOIN UEFA?

A tiny island, well more of a rock sticking off of Spain’s southern tip, could soon be a recognized UEFA nation. Member countries will vote in London tomorrow before the Champions League final on whether or not Gibraltar should become UEFA’s 54th member. Gibraltar has been under British control since 1713 and is classified by the UN as a “non-self-governing territory." Could the boys from Gibraltar be taking on Spain, Italy and England soon?

15. GÖTZE TO MISS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL, 2015 FINAL SET FOR BERLIN

A huge blow has been handed to Borussia Dortmund ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final. Star man Mario Götze is out injured and will miss the final against his future employers. Götze will join Bayern Munich in July, leaving his boyhood team for their bitter rivals. Could he be turning up at the Allianz Arena this summer with a shiny UCL winners medal to show off to his new Bayern teammates?

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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