Kick Off: United States U-20s fight for their World Cup lives in winner-take-all match against Ghana

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

1. D-DAY FOR US U-20s' WORLD CUP DREAM

There’s no turning back, it’s now or never for the US Under-20 national team at the World Cup in Turkey. Today they face Ghana (12:45 pm ET, ESPNU) in a winner-take-all clash, as Tab Ramos’ men look to secure a spot in the knockout stages. Check MLSsoccer.com for all the latest news and reaction from the U-20 World Cup in Turkey.

2. TRAPP HOPES US FORM WILL OPEN DOORS WITH CREW

Columbus Crew’s Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp is aiming to use his displays at the U-20 World Cup to propel his MLS career forward. The former Akron player has been backed by US coaches and Columbus’ technical director Brian Bliss to kick on. “Being a young guy in MLS, it’s never easy to break into the lineup,” Trapp said. “I’m just trying to do well and show well, and hopefully my performances here will help me when I get back home.” Meanwhile, Sporting KC youngster Mikey Lopez may get the nod in midfield with Santos Laguna youngster Benji Joya suspended. Head coach Ramos could also bring captain Caleb Stanko back into the side: "We'll have to prepare for this game a little bit differently, so sure, there's a possibility Caleb could play again.”

3. US GOLD CUP ROSTER TO BE ANNOUNCED THURSDAY

The US roster for the Gold Cup will supposedly be announced this morning by Jurgen Klinsmann. In fact, it might even be released around the same time as you're reading this. Word on the street is that Landon Donovan and Jack McInerney have made the squad. Check MLSsoccer.com later for all the news.

4. CHICAGO END ORLANDO’S FAIRYTALE

The Cinderella story is over. The slipper didn’t quite fit as Orlando City’s remarkable run to the Open Cup quarterfinals came to an abrupt end last night. The Chicago Fire booked their semifinal spot with a resounding 5-1 victory, but the game was tied at 1-1 up until the hour mark at Toyota Park. Chicago were even wobbling after Orlando equalized, but Sean Johnson emerged as the hero, making several top saves to deny the upset and spur the Fire onto the semis.

5. RSL OVERCOME SPIRITED RAILHAWKS

Real Salt Lake brushed aside the NASL table-topping Carolina RailHawks to reach the Open Cup semifinals, with Jason Kreis’ side winning 3-0. Goals from Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert and Álvaro Saborío sealed the win. Beltran had a special celebration planned … but he forgot it: “I had a little tribute to my buddy, who is a speed skater training for the Olympics. But sometimes when things like that happen your mind goes blank and everything goes out the window.” Maybe we can see it next time out, Tony...

6. PORTLAND OUST DALLAS IN TEXAS THRILLER

The Portland Timbers just keep on churning out wins, the latest a hard-fought 3-2 victory over FC Dallas in Texas. A stunning strike from Darlington Nagbe sent them on their way before Diego Valeri and Frédéric Piquionne extended the lead. FCD nearly equalized with the last kick of the game, but David Ferriera’s shot struck the post as a tired Timbers side held on. “As long as we’re winning games and getting results, I’m feeling good,” Nagbe said.

7. RESURGENT UNITED DOWN REVS

Suddenly D.C. United have only lost once in five games across all competitions. They're in the Open Cup semifinals. too, by virtue of a 3-1 victory against the New England Revolution. Head coach Ben Olsen isn’t getting carried away, but he is delighted about the teams upturn: “I’m excited about the last couple of weeks, and we’ve seen [the team] moving in the right direction.”

8. SEMIFINAL FIELD SET

So with the quarterfinals done and dusted, four MLS teams will now have to wait until August to play the semis. But we know when and where they will be. D.C. United will travel to Chicago on August 7, while Real Salt Lake host the Portland Timbers later that night. The full bracket is here.

9. MERRITT PAULSON SPEAKS OUT ON TWITTER

It seems as if Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has tried to scale down his use of Twitter this season. But he couldn’t help himself following Portland’s win against Dallas last night. Portland travel to Salt Lake for the semifinal, and RSL have played every round of the USOC at home. Paulson wasn’t impressed. But he and RSL agreed over a lengthy Twitter exchange to explore setting up a live TV broadcast of the semifinal. So that’s positive. 

10. DOM DWYER RETURNS TO SPORTING KC

Despite the disappointment of losing to Chicago in Open Cup action last night, Dom Dwyer is heading back to MLS. Sporting KC have recalled the red-hot forward from his loan with Orlando City, with CEO Robb Heineman announcing the news via Twitter earlier this morning. Dwyer scored 15 goals in 13 USL PRO games for Orlando, leading the league.

11. KENNEDY TO LEAVE CHIVAS USA?

Could Dan Kennedy really be on his way out at Chivas USA? Granted, it wouldn’t surprise many, despite the 2012 MLS All-Star goalkeeper has stuck by the Goats despite all their recent issues. However reports are suggesting Maccabi Tel Aviv could be his next destination, as their on-loan netminder, Nigerian international Victor Enyeama, returns to Lille. In other news, Chivas USA have the youngest squad in MLS.

12. SACRAMENTO SETS SIGHTS ON MLS FRANCHISE

According to this story, plans for an MLS franchise in Sacramento are being hurried along after New York City FC became the leagues 20th side. With Orlando City and others pushing hard to be a part of the league's future, read how Sacramento is planning to break into MLS.

13. FUTURE FOR LOWER-TIER EXPANSION

Check out the proposed plans for expansion in the lower-tiers of the U.S. Soccer pyramid. Looking out West, the number of USL PRO teams could rise from four to 12 in the near future. What do you guys make of that? More teams = good times ahead for US soccer across the board.

14. ROGERS REACTS TO SUPREME COURT’S DECISION

LA Galaxy winger Robbie Rogers reacted to big news emanating from the US Supreme Court on gay marriage yesterday: “I'm far from getting married, but I have friends that have been together for a really long time that now can get married, so it's just kind of exciting.”

15. BRAZIL REACH CONFED CUP FINAL, SPAIN OR ITALY AWAIT

Paulinho scored a last-gasp winner against Uruguay, as Brazil won 2-1 to book their place in the Confederations Cup final. Diego Forlán missed a penalty before Fred and Edinson Cavani exchanged goals. Spain take on Italy this afternoon for the right to face Brazil in the final (3 pm ET, ESPN2), which you may remember is a repeat of the Euro 2012 final.

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