Kick Off: Former MLS star Robbie Rogers gives first US interviews

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

1. GOODBYE WORLD FOOTBALL CHALLENGE, HELLO INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP

Fans who enjoyed the series of high-profile friendlies that made up the WFC are in luck this summer. Now there’s actually something at stake, according to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, who reported on Monday that the ICC will replace the annual event, pitting eight teams against each other in two groups of four and resulting in one team walking away champions. Real Madrid, Juventus and the Los Angeles Galaxy will be three of the participating clubs, according to the report.

2. MLS’ THOUGHTS GO TO MATT REIS’ FAMILY AFTER BOSTON MARATHON EXPLOSIONS

The tragic events at the Boston Marathon touched one of Major League Soccer’s own, as the New England Revolution announced via Twitter on Monday afternoon that goalkeeper Matt Reis’ father-in-law had been injured by one of the explosions at the finish line. All of our thoughts, prayers and support go to Reis, his family and everyone else affected in this time of need.

Here’s the league’s statement following Monday’s events: "Major League Soccer offers our deepest condolences to those affected by today's events in Boston."

3. ROBBIE ROGERS GIVES FIRST US TELEVISION INTERVIEW AFTER COMING OUT

Robbie Rogers has been under the spotlight since coming out as gay earlier this year, and he made the rounds on ABC’s Nightline and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday to give even more insight into his decision and the secret he wrestled with during his professional career. You can watch short clips of his Nightline and CNN interviews here and here.

“I felt like I couldn’t play and come out,” Rogers told Cooper. “I thought it would be too emotional for me, it would be a circus. I just thought it would be very difficult the impact on the team with the media showing up every day …I’m glad it did it this way. I am happy.

“I’m not worried about the fans. I’m worried about going to the footballer locker room.  If I go back I want to go as a soccer player, not the gay soccer player.”

4. GUILLE ENCOURAGES ROGERS TO COME BACK TO THE GAME

Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Rogers won a championship together in Columbus, developing an off-the-field friendship in the process, and you can count the Argentine among those who would love to see Rogers return to the game he loves.

"I think it's a personal decision and I respect it," Schelotto told FutbolMLS.com. "His private life is his business. But as far as those of us who are MLS fans, unfortunately the league loses a great soccer player. Hopefully Robbie changes his mind and comes back to play. There's still time."

You can read the full interview with Schelotto here. (SPANISH)

5. SPORTING KC PLAY THE WAITING GAME WITH KAMARA

Kei Kamara may have started at the Emirates against Arsenal on Saturday, performing admirably but also being whistled for a soft PK that turned the game, but his fate at Norwich still isn’t sealed from Sporting’s perspective. The deal is done should Kamara and Norwich decided the player’s fate lies in England, but Kansas City manager Peter Vermes says he hasn’t heard anything definitive just yet: “We're also inquiring as well, so we can do some planning. We're looking into it, but I haven't heard anything yet.”

6. US U-17S KEEP THEIR HEADS UP AFTER FALLING SHORT OF WORLD CUP

They’d never fallen short of the biggest stage in 14 editions of the U-17 World Cup, but there is a first time for everything. Richie Williams’ team may have lost 3-1 to Honduras on Sunday, but all is certainly not lost for the class of players who made it to the doorstep. "We believe they have great futures ahead of them,” Williams said. “One game is not going to define their career."

7. HEY, AT LEAST NOBODY WAS OVER-AGE, RIGHT?

It may be little consolation to US fans, but at least the Americans are playing by the rules. Check out this story from African U-17 qualifying detailing how nine players were ruled ineligible for the competition after MRI scans revealed they were over-age. Even more concerning, the same article claims up to 35 percent of the participants at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 U-17 World Cups were over-age as well.

8. IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE US PLAYER DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM?

That’s the question being asked by many after the U-17s' failure. Fox Soccer’s Leander Schaerlaeckens tackles that issue, coming to the conclusion that the US’ failings lie in the system’s structure, which allows the rest of CONCACAF to outpace their northern neighbors.

9. REMEMBER, LIFE AS A US FAN WASN’T ALWAYS THIS EASY

Are people disappointed by the U-17’s failure? Sure. But think back to 1989 when the United States were hoping to taste the World Cup for the first time. The USMNT has come a long way since Paul Caligiuri’s “shot heard ‘round the world," and here’s a piece to remind you just how much that moment meant to a country trying to forge a soccer identity.

10. ATLANTA’S SOCCER LEGACY IS STRONGER THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT

Atlanta’s name is often bandied about in MLS expansion discussions, but check out this article running down the history of the sport in the Peach State’s crown jewel. From Pelé’s hat trick against the Atlanta Chiefs while a member of Santos to the current incarnation of the Atlanta Silverbacks, dive into the history of soccer in the Southeast.

11. BRAZIL 2014 IS COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: BE PREPARED

Well, not literally. But it still feels a ways off even if the tournament is just a bit more than a year away. To help you get in the mood, The New York Times sent a travel reporter to experience the samba, futebol and passion of the fans in Brazil. The detailed report tells you when to go, how to stay safe, where to go and what to watch in the country that lives for the game.

12. DELVING INTO THE MIND OF A SOCCER PLAYER

US women’s national team midfielder Yael Averbuch is a UEFA Champions League veteran and can count herself among the best players in the world. She’s also writing blog posts for The New York Times about what it’s really like to compete at the highest level (Averbuch currently plies her trade with Kopparbergs/Göteborg in Sweden). Check out what she has to say about staying motivated and her approach to on-field relationships.

13. D.C. UNITED REPORTEDLY LOOKING AT STADIUM OPTIONS IN MARYLAND

According to The Baltimore Sun, D.C. United are sniffing around Maryland again for a location suitable for a soccer-specific stadium. They will not, however, consider Baltimore.

14. IT’S GOOD TO BE A SOCCER-LOVING POPE

It seems Pope Francis is reaping some soccer-related rewards from his papacy. The pope received a jersey signed by all 25 members of La Furia Roja from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and has even been given kits on the streets of Rome. Which MLS jersey would you pass his way?

15. DID LOS ANGELES CHANGE DAVID BECKHAM’S SPEECH PATTERNS?

That’s what researchers at Manchester University claim. The study says Beckham and his wife Victoria speak differently now than they did prior to their move to LA, eliminating some of the working-class English speech patterns that had previously cropped up in their interviews. In fact, the researchers claim the duo’s voices actually changed, saying the famous pair had become “posher” with their words.