Kick Off: US national team faces Mexico with spots on Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup roster on the line

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

1.  SHOWDOWN IN GLENDALE

Tonight is the night, as the US are set to take on Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. (11 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas). This is the last match before Jurgen Klinsmann assembles his World Cup camp, and with so many players still trying to secure their spot, there are a few key things to look out for. You can hear directly from Klinsmann and some of the top US players on the race for roster spots. Mexico have already named their starting lineup, and with a large number of the crowd likely to be made up of Mexican fans living in the US, what is their mind set heading into the game?

2. THE FUTURE IS HAPPENING NOW

A lot of eyes will be focused on Julian Green during the game against Mexico, and the young German-American starlet could be just the first of many future stars joining the US. But there are two other players already in the team with equally bright national team futures. With Brad Evans injured and DaMarcus Beasley stranded in Mexico, DeAndre Yedlin is looking likely to earn a start at right back and is still hopeful of earning a World Cup roster spot. While Luis Gil’s playing time is far less certain, the young Real Salt Lake midfielder is quickly becoming the player many hoped he would.

3. NO LEATHER FRINGE FOR THE US?

The US officially unveiled their brand-new away Jersey on Tuesday, with quite the cast of characters coming out to support the launch. Yet Nike’s kit reveal was soon eclipsed by the Colorado Rapids' inspired April Fools' Day joke, involving an homage to former NASL team Caribous of Colorado and their “distinctive leather fringe.”

4. RODRIGUEZ REVITALIZED BY CHIVAS USA

Many were surprised when Nelson Rodriguez stepped down from his position as MLS executive vice president of competition, technical and game operations, but considerably fewer were shocked when he was announced as the new president of Chivas USA. Now that he's on the job, Rodriguez has been explaining what prompted him to make the change, and why he feels he has a good sense of the team and the task at hand.

5. TO ZLATAN OR NOT TO ZLATAN?

Among the most enigmatic soccer players in the world, Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads Paris Saint-Germain into the Champions League quarterfinals today against Chelsea. The New York Times' Sam Borden recently sat down with Ibrahimovic and, in a rare look behind the star's curtain, shines some light on his turbulent career. Borden also explains what Zlatanera means in Swedish. In the first set of Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday, one journalist acknowledges -- and explains why -- he was looking at pictures of dogs during the Manchester United-Bayern Munich match.

6. PARKHURST PERFORMS, EDU ENTERTAINS

Since returning to MLS during the offseason, Michael Parkhurst has been earning rave reviews in the Crew’s defense. While Columbus may be 3-0-0 at the moment, Parkhurst describes the team as a “work in progress” and is very much looking forward to helping the Crew improve further. Of course, Parkhurst made his return with one eye on the World Cup this summer, as did Maurice Edu, and the latter is the subject of a new documentary series charting his return to North America.

7. HYNDMAN ENJOYING TIME OFF

FC Dallas have made a good start to the season under new coach Oscar Pareja, but what of the club’s old coach, Schellas Hyndman?  After stepping down from his role at the end of last season, it was announced he would be kept on by FCD as a consultant, but according to Hyndman himself, “I have not heard from FC Dallas and more than likely will not.”  Dallas appear to be doing just fine though, and, in the absence of George John, there’s a nice partnership developing at the back between Matt Hedges and Stephen Keel.

8.  GOING DOWNTOWN

Crew Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS, and as it begins to show its age, new owner Anthony Precourt invested in a multimillion-dollar renovation. And for those wondering whether the Crew might follow the trend and one day move to a new downtown stadium, Columbus’ own mayor has poured cold water on that idea, suggesting that any move involving public funding would be “very difficult.” Down in D.C., many United fans are wondering what it means for their dreams of a new stadium after incumbent mayor Vince Gray lost his democratic primary to Muriel Bowser.

9. MOTOR CITY GOING PRO?

It seems that Detroit may be another step closer to hosting professional soccer after details emerged on Tuesday that a preliminary agreement has been reached for a team to enter USL PRO, starting in 2015, under the same owner as the successful PDL club Michigan Bucks. On the MLS expansion front, with the league's recent venture South, is there an argument to be made for Raleigh as a candidate?

10. GO SEA COWS!

Ahead of their debut season in MLS, are Orlando City rebranding themselves as the Orlando City Manatees? Of course not, that was an April Fools' Day joke. What wasn’t a joke, though, was the news that, despite competing in different leagues, both Orlando City and the Tampa Bay Rowdies are continuing the I-4 Rivalry Cup that debuted last year. The Lions are currently two games into their final USL PRO season and, so far, one standout player has been English fullback Luke Boden.

11. FRIENDLIES FOR ALL

Brad Guzan could be making a couple of extra appearances in the US this summer, as it was announced that Aston Villa will be heading to Texas as part of their preseason program. While there, they will face FC Dallas and provide the opponent for the Houston Dynamo in the Dynamo Charities Cup, which Guzan seemed to single out as a tougher match. There was also news of an international friendly coming up in May, with the Canadian national team set to face off against Bulgaria in a closed-door game as part of a 10-day training camp in Austria. In a club friendly on Tuesday, the Chicago Fire used some of their top reserves in a 3-1 win over new NASL club Indy Eleven in front of 1,604 fans at Purdue University. The Indy goal was scored by former Philadelphia Union midfielder Kléberson.

12. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CONTINUES

In the two CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, Club Tijuana overcame Cruz Azul 1-0 at home in the first leg of their series (watch highlights here), with three Americans seeing action. Herculez Gomez came on for the final three minutes of his side's win, and the Club Tijuana striker then made this April Fools' Day announcement. In the other semifinal, Toluca picked up a 1-0 road win against Costa Rican club Alajuelense (watch highlights here). However, it wasn’t all good news for Toluca on Tuesday, as CONCACAF fined the Mexican club for secretly filming a San Jose training session prior to their Champions League quarterfinal.

13. CAHILL'S OUT, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

Following New York Red Bulls midfielder/forward Tim Cahill’s injury on Sunday, the Australian international is now expected to be out for two weeks. However, as head coach Mike Petke quite rightly points out, “With Tim, we all know, you say, ‘He’ll be back in three weeks,’ and he comes back in a week-and-a-half.” Adding to the Red Bulls lineup questions is the fact that Saturday's game against the Montreal Impact will be played on artificial turf, and both Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave tend to avoid playing on the fake stuff.

14.  PORTER’S PEEVED, BUT SIGI CLEARS THE AIR

Watch out referees, Caleb Porter is not a happy man. First, having reviewed the footage from Saturday’s game against FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers coach clearly does not agree with the decision to send off Michael Harrington. Secondly, with a big game coming up against the Seattle Sounders this weekend, the Timbers may have to play without Darlington Nagbe, along with a few others, after the player suffered a muscle injury. This, in turn, has left Porter demanding more protection for his player. Farther north, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid says there were no problems between him and Chad Marshall after Saturday's loss to Columbus; Schmid just wanted to find out what the referee had told Marshall.

15. THE DARKE KNIGHT

Have you ever been on a really awkward date? C’mon, we’ve all been there. Now, imagine how much less painful that experience would have been if you’d had Ian Darke narrating the whole event.

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