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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
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Leg 2
11/30 9:20pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
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11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
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Eastern Conference Championship

Kick Off: Big names highlight unprotected Expansion Draft list

Changes are afoot throughout MLS this week.

Clubs released their lists of protected and unprotected players ahead of the Expansion Draft. On Wednesday, the Montreal Impact will select 10 of the available names to add to their roster.

Several big names highlight the unprotected list, including Freddy Adu, Omar Bravo and Andrés Mendoza. The Peruvian finished fourth in the MLS scoring charts, but Columbus left him exposed. “You never really know how other teams view your own players,” Crew technical director Brian Bliss said. “It's always a calculated risk, and you try to mitigate it as much as you can.”

Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey expects to lose one player to Montreal. When compiling RSL's list, “We look at salary, contract, experience, quality of depth,” Lagerwey said. “It’s never one thing.”

The Houston Dynamo looked at those factors and decided to leave captain Brian Ching exposed. The 31-year-old understood. "I thought that I would be left unprotected," Ching said. "That's what I would have done had it been my decision."

Another US international striker is unavailable to the Impact, however. D.C. United protected Charlie Davies, despite questions remaining surrounding his future. United general manager Dave Kasper explained that nothing will be worked out regarding Davies until mid-December. There's still a chance D.C. could trade the rights to Davies to another MLS club if Sochaux are willing to loan him out again.

Following the Expansion Draft, plenty of trades will zigzag across the league, including some players the Impact pick up in the draft. "There's going to be a lot of calls made to Montreal for guys on the list," Vancouver Whitecaps director of soccer Soehn said.

The transfer window cracked open for four hours on Monday. Chivas USA took advantage by signing Ryan Smith from Sporting Kansas City for two Supplemental Draft picks. "He's definitely a dangerous attacking player," Robin Fraser said. "I think he's difficult for defenders to deal with 1-on-1. He certainly adds something a little different to our attacking group."

The Timbers will have more flexibility to make international signings shortly. Portland expect two players to receive green cards in early 2012.

The protected lists speak volumes about a given player's position at a club. But so does not making either list. Jovan Kirovski's absence from both protected and unprotected lists likely indicates that he will retire. Gregg Berhalter, who retired to concentrate on his assistant coaching role full time, is also absent from the lists.

Besides those two veterans, the LA Galaxy may lose David Beckham. The Englishman has offers from “a couple of big European clubs.” However, he doesn't want to play for another team in England besides Manchester United.

One of the big clubs interested is undoubtedly Paris Saint Germain, who have not hid their desire to sign Becks. PSG director Leonardo thinks the chances of Beckham joining him in France are at 50 percent.

Wherever he goes, Beckham will keep his Beverly Hills mansion and move there after his playing career ends. “For our children to be able to go to school and come home and go to the beach or jump in the pool, you don’t get that many places in the world," he told Yahoo Sports.

Beckham may also remain in MLS. The 36-year-old wasn't in the mood to tip his hat either way during a segment with SportsCenter. (VIDEO)

Even if Beckham leaves, don't expect LA to abandon Designated Players. The new 10-year, $55 million local TV deal with Time Warner stipulates the Galaxy's “commitment to having Designated Players,” AEG president Tim Leiweke said. “We are committed to DPs, and this organization will always be committed to DPs.”

Another potential departure is Omar Gonzalez. The hulking centerback won the 2011 Defender of the Year award and could attract offers from Europe. According to the Boston Globe, Bruce Arena already had potential replacements lined up.

Should Gonzalez leave, it would break up a centerback partnership that has lasted six years. Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza anchored Maryland's back line that won the NCAA College Cup three years ago as well as LA's successful MLS Cup bid in 2011. “It’s crazy,” DeLaGarza said. “It’s pretty special to do that with someone in the college and professional levels.”

Personnel shifts won't be limited to the league this week, either.

In the wake of MLS Cup, ESPN decided to promote former Revs forward Taylor Twellman from the studio to the main color commentator of MLS and US games on the network. Twellman retired in 2010 due to the lasting effects of multiple concussions and, besides studio work for ESPN, has called local Philadelphia Union matches. The contract of Ian Darke's usual partner, John Harkes, was not renewed.

Speaking of Cup, just how did the Galaxy beat Houston on Sunday? Popular blog Zonal Marking broke down the match, claiming the two keys were expansive fullbacks and Landon Donovan's switch up top at the hour mark.

The final drew a 0.8 overnight TV rating, which is a nice uptick from last year.

In that Chelsea match, Nicolas Anelka never made it off the bench. With his contract set to expire shortly, the Frenchman has a raft of offers ranging from Italy to China. Additionally, L'Equipe report that New York, Philadelphia and Montreal have all approached the 32-year-old striker. (FRENCH)

Four MLS clubs are reportedly watching out-of-contract Gambian goalkeeper Pa Dembo Touray. The 31-year-old claims he has interest from Toronto, New York, Columbus and Colorado but is more interested in a deal in South Africa since the “USA is a violent country.” Currently Dembo is playing badminton during the offseason.

Dembo's former club, Djurgårdens, follows a calender-year season in Sweden. However, Sepp Blatter again claimed MLS needs to switch to a July-to-June “international” calender yesterday. “It would be better for US Soccer, and specifically also for the [United States] national team. And the popularity inside the country.”

Those not too busy shivering at the thought of BMO Field in January can catch some UEFA Champions League action this afternoon. Both Manchester clubs kick off at 2:30 p.m. ET. United take on Benfica on Fox Soccer Channel and City visit Napoli on Fox Soccer Plus.

Lastly, an umbrella accident caused the match between Granada and Real Mallorca to be postponed. Part of the umbrella broke off and injured the assistant referee's face. Bizarre.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Matchday 360: MLS Cup 2011

Omar Bravo wins FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año

Monday Postgame: Looking back at MLS Cup 2011