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11/23 5:00pm
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11/30 9:00pm
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11/23 1:30pm
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Eastern Conference Championship

Kick Off: With expansion on the horizon, MLS realignment enters the conversation

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

1. WHAT WILL MLS REALIGNMENT LOOK LIKE?

With the news that Atlanta is "in the final" stages of an MLS expansion bid, Brian Straus of SI.com breaks down what all the new clubs could mean for the league's conference structure. The piece also has a nugget about the frontrunner for the next expansion club.

2. STADIUM UPDATES, EVERYWHERE, BUT NOTHING SETTLED YET

There is still no confirmed answer as to where New York City FC will play their inaugural season in 2015, but EmpireOfSoccer.com posits Yankee Stadium as the current favorite to host the new team right off the bat. In other stadium news, it seems that David Beckham’s proposed stadium in Miami will have to overcome another snag, this one revolving around the relocation of a fuel-spill facility.

3. XOLOS BOW OUT OF CCL

Cruz Azul overcame a first-leg deficit to advance past Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Wednesday night, setting up an encounter with Toluca in the final. Cruz Azul won 2-0 on the night (2-1 on aggregate, watch highlights here) to dump the Xolos out of the competition, and while Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Paul Arriola all started for the losing side, there was no place for Herculez Gomez in the matchday squad. In other action on Wednesday, American midfielder Jose Torres helped Tigres UANL to the Copa MX title with a 90-minute performance in the final.

4. FRIENDS REUNITED

The LA Galaxy host the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE, TSN in Canada) in the first of back-to-back games between the clubs, and for Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson, the main concern is stopping his good friend Robbie Keane from scoring. The game might also present something of a conflict for basketball star Steve Nash, who plays for the LA Lakers but is a co-owner of the Whitecaps.

5. HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE

Jermain Defoe sat out Toronto FC’s last game nursing an injury, and the Englishman may do the same again this weekend when TFC take on the Colorado Rapids (4 pm ET, TSN/RDS2, MLS LIVE). Yet with three goals in two games, there’s no denying the striker's instant impact, and Defoe has been chatting with popular Canadian TV host George Stroumboulopoulos about his a number of topics, including his now famous phone call with Drake. Meanwhile, another Toronto FC striker is keen to get his first goal.

6. ROLFE RELISHING D.C. BELIEF

The ink was barely dry on Chris Rolfe’s D.C. United contract before the forward was thrown into the game against the New England Revolution. That didn’t seem to bother Rolfe, though, as he scored on his debut, and the 31-year-old suggests, “I think I play my best soccer when I’m more instinctual,” comparing the manner of his whirlwind appearance to playing with the US national team. While Rolfe may have scored a goal in his first 30 minutes with United, Eddie Johnson has yet to get one in 367 minutes, so what does the Designated Player need to help him rediscover his form?

7. KEY INJURIES EASING UP FOR NEW YORK

Rolfe could play a bigger role in United’s home match against the New York Red Bulls this Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), as both teams deal with several injury concerns. However, things are looking up for the visiting team, as Tim Cahill may well be available off the bench if need be and the Red Bulls will also be able to call on Dax McCarty again, although the midfielder has revealed that he is battling steady back pain.

8. MLS KIDS HIGHLIGHT US U-20 ROSTER

Tab Ramos has named his US Under-20 national team squad for the upcoming Dallas Cup, and it features no less than eight MLS players, including some notable names such as FC Dallas’ Kellyn Acosta, Real Salt Lake's Jordan Allen and Sporting Kansas City’s supposed Juventus target Erik Palmer-Brown. New York head coach Mike Petke, however, said he is considering holding onto defender Matt Miazga for the Red Bulls' two games this week.

9. RADIO FREE SEATTLE

Starting on April 15, Sounders fans will have another outlet to express their love for their team with the launch of Seattle Soccer Talk, a soccer-themed radio show hosted by Mike Gastineau, but how did this idea come to pass? Back on the field, while Kevin Parsemain didn’t manage to play a game before tearing his ACL, apparently that only serves to enhance his mystique.

10. McINERNEY RELISHING DI VAIO OPPORTUNITY

The Montreal Impact host the Chicago Fire this Saturday (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and it could present Montreal fans with their first look at Jack McInerney in an Impact jersey. Having finished his first training session with his new club, the former Philadelphia Union player admits to being surprised by his sudden trade to the Canadian team but is now relishing the opportunity to play alongside Marco Di Vaio.

11. MANAGING BLAS

With no reports of an injury, some FC Dallas fans may have been wondering why Blas Pérez did not start last weekend’s game against the Houston Dynamo. As it turns out, it’s just another example of Oscar Pareja’s man-management, with the new FCD coach choosing to ease his 33-year-old striker’s workload in order to help prevent injury throughout the season. That’s one sensible way to do it, and others are listed here by MLS’ medical coordinator.

12. CHIVAS USA, NEW ENGLAND ADD YOUNG AMERICAN SIGNINGS

Have Chivas USA secured another new signing? Apparently so, as the latest report suggests that Matt Dunn, a 20-year-old midfielder, is set to join the Goats. Dunn is a former US U-17 international, where he played under current Chivas USA coach Wilmer Cabrera, and Dunn spent some time with German side FC Cologne’s academy before playing in Serbia and then eventually back to the US, where he played last fall for a small college in Maine. In other signing news, the New England Revolution confirmed that the addition of goalkeeper Larry Jackson.

13. FAMILIAR FACES HEAD TO ARIZONA

Following the recent announcement that FC Dallas would be loaning Jonathan Top to Arizona United SC, the USL PRO side announced several more signings on Wednesday, including two former teammates of Top at FC Dallas: Bradlee Baladez and London Woodberry. The club also received a defender in a trade with soon-to-be MLS side Orlando City SC.

14. MEXICO: WORLD CUP CONTENDERS?

According to Mexico manager Miguel Herrera, his ultimate goal with the national team is to win the World Cup. It may sound far-fetched but, as Herrera rightly suggests, “It’s very difficult, but if you don’t go [to a World Cup] with that dream, then why are you going?” Of course, Herrera’s first task is to pick his squad for that tournament, and it’s a job he isn’t finding easy. 

15. I BELIEVE … I BELIEVE THAT

When the World Cup kicks off in Brazil this summer, the American Outlaws will be right there supporting the US national team, and the vocal supporters group are the subject of ESPN’s latest World Cup promo.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

March to the Match: Have we found the next top US goalkeeper?

MLS Fantasy: Double game weeks are coming, prepare accordingly

Could Justen Glad one day replace Kyle Beckerman? Garth Lagerwey seems to think so

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