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

Kick Off: Atlanta awarded MLS team, promising winning tradition & no football lines

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

1. WELCOME TO MLS, ATLANTA!

It's official: Atlanta will be home to MLS’ 22nd franchise.

2. A CLUB "OWNED BY THE FANS"

Wednesday's announcement in Atlanta saw owner Arthur Blank become visibly emotional as he talked about his family's connections to soccer and a promise that the club will be "owned by the fans." In his remarks, Blank made a commitment to "whatever resources it's going to take to get us a winning tradition," and also showed a good understanding of something near and dear to many MLS fans, declaring, "We will make sure there is never an MLS game where NFL lines are shown on the field."

3. ATL SOCCER SCENE CELEBRATES

With the Atlanta announcement, several MLSers with connections to the city, including Clint Mathis, Josh Wolff and Jack McInerney, reacted to the news. Meanwhile, the second-division NASL Atlanta Silverbacks – with whom Blank said he hopes to build a strong relationship – responded to Wednesday's news with a statement on their website: "We both have an extreme passion for growing the sport of soccer in Atlanta."

4. RED BULLS HOLD ON FOR FIRST WIN

The New York Red Bulls can breathe a sigh of relief now after finally posting a win in 2014. It may have taken a while to arrive, but goals from Thierry Henry and Lloyd Sam gave the home side a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union (watch highlights here). Afterward, Union coach John Hackworth was left baffled by his side’s mistake-filled performance.

5. MORE SURGERY FOR PONTIUS

Chris Pontius’s spell on the sidelines will extend a little longer after D.C. United confirmed that he will undergo further surgery on his injured hamstring. The decision comes after three specialists agreed additional surgery was the best option, but, according to general manager Dave Kasper, “They are all optimistic about a full recovery.” Pontius could return in the late summer.

6. LD IN 2018?

Landon Donovan is on the verge of playing in his fourth World Cup. Could the LA Galaxy star play in a fifth? “It would certainly be difficult to do another one, but not impossible,” he says. Indeed, Donovan acknowledges that age is already starting to play a role in his selection for the squad.

7. FEELING AT HOME IN TORONTO

Toronto FC’s recent signing Issey Nakajima-Farran has played all over the world. Yet according to the Canadian international, his short time with TFC so far has been like no other experience he’s had before: “I actually think I should have come back to Canada a long time ago.”

8. THE CARL ROBINSON PLAN

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson may only be in his first year, but the Welshman has shown that he isn’t worried about shaking things up with his roster and team selection. So far it’s had mixed results for the Whitecaps. But do the coach’s moves suggest a far more long-term strategy?

9. CATCHING UP AT THE DALLAS CUP

There weren’t supposed to be any games on Wednesday at the Generation adidas Cup, but with Brazilian side Flamengo forced to miss their game against the Colorado Rapids on Monday due to a canceled flight, the fixture was rearranged. Maybe the Rapids wish it hadn't been, because Flamengo took them apart, 5-0. Not quite as exciting as RSL's comeback win over English club Stoke City.

10. DYNAMO BRIDGING THE GAP

In the past six months, the Houston Dynamo have launched an NWSL team, the Houston Dash, and formed an affiliation with the USL PRO's Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Now you can add a U-23 team to their portfolio in an attempt to bridge the gap from the academy to the senior team. The squad, made up of both former and current Dynamo academy players, will begin by competing in a few tournaments in May and June.

11. DUFF TO MLS?

According to reports on Wednesday, Irish international Damien Duff has set his sights on playing abroad for a year, either in America or Australia, before finishing his career back home in Ireland. Duff revealed that he's already “had a bit of banter” with his countryman Robbie Keane of the LA Galaxy.

12. IS MLS KEY TO THE NWSL’S SUCCESS?

The NWSL’s second season began last weekend with Houston Dash drawing more than 8,000 fans to their opener at BBVA Compass Stadium. Considering the Portland Timbers' sister club, the Portland Thorns, drew an average crowd of 13,320 last year – almost 9,000 more fans than the next largest crowd – is it fair to suggest that partnerships with MLS teams are an important component for the NWSL?

13. BASH BROS. CONFINED TO WHEELCHAIRS

The San Jose Earthquakes were involved in a tough 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew last Sunday but, prior to that game, the club’s notorious Bash Brothers, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, went to experience a very different type of soccer.

14. LIGA MX TROLLS MLS ON TWITTER

In recent years, the USA-Mexico soccer rivalry has grown exponentially, through the constant back-and-forth of the national teams to MLS and Liga MX battling for supremacy in the CONCACAF Champions League. Now they've taken the cross-border scuffle to Twitter.

15. GRAND RAPIDS FANS UNITE

It seems that, with the great example set by Nashville FC, another community-owned soccer club is on the way. Grand Rapids FC, who have a membership fee of $100, have already started carving out a solid base.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

March to the Match: The tactical shift making MLS more South American

Generations Episode 8: Dwyer and Mattocks ready to make their mark

Can Atlanta’s past names and Logos help hint at the future?

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