Kick Off: Atlanta Falcons president says team inching closer to Major League Soccer expansion franchise

Kick Off: Falcons president Rich McKay

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USA TODAY Sports

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

1. EXPANSION PROGRESS IN ATLANTA

In one of the clearest indications yet that Atlanta could be next in line of a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay told local officials Thursday that his side is "far along in negotiations" with MLS about bringing a team to the city, the league's first foray into the Southeast outside of Florida in league history. The Falcons want a soccer team to play at a new $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium that will break ground just south of the Georgia Dome sometime in the spring.

2. MIAMI VIABLE

With the announcement of David Beckham’s expansion plans for Miami, a lot of people have been quick to question whether it will work, drawing comparisons to the now-defunct Miami Fusion. But there are plenty more reasons to be optimistic this time around. Let’s not forget about the Tampa Bay Mutiny, though, a team that’s been largely forgotten in talks about soccer in Florida. Also, check out Miami’s response to Orlando City’s recent welcome message.

3. ARENA'S NEW DEAL

The LA Galaxy have officially announced a new contract extension for manager Bruce Arena. According to club president Chris Klein, it’s a three-year deal for veteran coach Arena, arguably the most distinguished coach in MLS history. Not sure of the impact Arena has had? Then check out this coaching tree.

4. GIVE US MOORE

Looks like another Englishman could be on his way to MLS, as it seems former Swansea City man Luke Moore has opted to join Chivas USA instead of remaining in the EPL. According to the player's agent, “This chance came in for him to move to America and was just too good for him to turn down.”

5. FEELING FAB

US national teamer Fabian Johnson is set to leave German side Hoffenheim at the end of the season. It’s a decision seemingly entirely down to Johnson, currently sidelined with a broken hand, who told the club he does not plan to renew his contract. Stay tuned.

6. DOUBTING DROGBA

Adding some extra perspective to the Seattle Sounders-Didier Drogba rumors is the player's current club Galatasaray, who claim to know nothing about any such move. Here's one club official: "If he had agreed with a club in the US, he would talk to us about it first.” In the meantime, Seattle have plenty of new faces to acclimate to the group, and Marco Pappa is just one trying to earn a place in the starting lineup.

7. AGUDELO SHINES

Juan Agudelo had spoken about how a good run at Dutch side FC Utrecht could help him make a push for the US national team, and if he keeps up like this, he may well make it. The striker scored his first goal on Thursday in only his third appearance, and what a goal it was.

8. "PESCADITO" GONE FOR GOOD?

Looks as though we’ve seen the end of Carlos Ruiz again. After having his option declined by D.C. United, Ruiz has decided to return home to Guatemala. Meanwhile, Tommy Heinemann and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, having left the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, respectively, have both landed with another Canadian club.

9. CONSISTENT CASCIO

Tony Cascio was part of the first intra-league loan move last month, and he isn’t going to let this chance go to waste: “I want to be out there and make the  best of my opportunities. I want to show people that I can compete at a consistent level.”

10. LUCKY DIP

Benji Joya was picked up by the Chicago Fire on Thursday via a weighted lottery, one of several players to have joined MLS this winter through such a method. If you’re not quite sure how a weighted lottery works, here’s a handy breakdown of what goes into assigning places.

11. HIGH HOPES FOR GIL

He can be a franchise player. He knows it, we know it.” That’s Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerway talking about young midfielder Luis Gil. In order to do that, however, Gil believes he needs “to be more of an impact player.”

12. KLINSMANN'S DOOR IS OPEN

Think some US players currently struggling for minutes or trying to get healthy in Europe can't make the cut for Brazil? Think again. With an international friendly against Ukraine looming early next month, US head coach Jurgen Kinsmann says there's still a chance players like Oguchi Onyewu, Timmy Chandler and Brek Shea can earn their way onto the plane this summer.

13. MLS VET TO PDL COACH

After spending 15 years in MLS, Tyrone Marshall is moving into coaching. Marshall, who retired at the end of 2012, has been named head coach of PDL side River City Rovers, based in Louisville, Ky. The team president is unsurprisingly thrilled with his new head coach, stating, “His playing experience will be an invaluable asset for players at the PDL level, as he knows exactly what it takes to make it at the highest level."

14. ORLANDO ADD ANOTHER

Orlando City have signed their third player for the 2015 MLS season, with El Salvador captain Darwin Cerén joining the team. Cerén will also play during their final USL PRO season as well, and team president Phil Rawlins stated, “We fought very hard to get him here, as several other MLS teams were also interested.

15. CONSOLE CONTROL

FIFA video game fans unite, there's something new on the horizon for the summer. Take a look at a sneak peek of EA Sports' 2014 FIFA World Cup, a game where you can either compete in the World Cup or go all the way to qualifying and try and take an underdog to the biggest stage in the world.

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