Kick Off: Three MLS squads complete US Open Cup semifinal field, summer transfer season heats up

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

1. SEATTLE SET FOR SEMIFINAL

The Seattle Sounders advanced to the US Open Cup semifinals, their seventh semifinal appearance in eight years, following a thrilling 3-1 win over arch-rivals the Portland Timbers. After a late Darlington Nagbe goal tied the score, the game went to extra time, where Kenny Cooper eventually netted the winner. Portland gave up both extra-time goals while playing with 10 men after a Diego Chara red card that left Caleb Porter predictably frustrated.

2. DALLAS OPEN UP ON THE RAILHAWKS

FC Dallas brought the Carolina RailHawks' US Open Cup dream to an end on Wednesday by posting a 5-2 win. The RailHawks actually scored the first goal, but FC Dallas replied by opening up the throttle, with Fabián Castillo in particular earning rave reviews.

3. FIRE TOUGH IT OUT AGAINST SILVERBACKS

The Chicago Fire ensured that the US Open Cup semifinals will be an exclusively MLS affair after they beat the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks 3-1 in a match that saw both teams finish with 10 men after a first-half scuffle (watch highlights). Two late goals saw the Fire through, but were it not for Georgia native Sean Johnson in net, it could have been a very different story.

4. MESSI AND FRIENDS ADVANCE

Sadly, not every World Cup game can provide as many thrills as Germany vs. Brazil, and Wednesday's other semifinal certainly did not, finishing 0-0 after extra time. Argentina came through in the penalty shootout to set up a final against Germany on Sunday.

5. HOMEGROWN HEROES

MLS has announced the roster for the very first Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game during the All-Star celebrations in Portland. There are plenty of promising youngsters in the squad, including MLS regulars like Wil Trapp and DeAndre Yedlin, with the former a little bit jealous of the latter’s recent World Cup debut.

6. TRANSFER TUTORIAL

If you’re new to MLS or even if you’ve been a fan for years and years, you may not be entirely clear how the transfer window works. This guide helps break down some of the finer details.

7. SKC SET FOR SIGNING

Sporting Kansas City’s Eric Kronberg is set to miss two months of action after the goalkeeper fractured a bone in his left hand. The club has subsequently recalled 21-year-old goalkeeper Jon Kempin from his loan with the Oklahoma City Energy. SKC are also getting ready to unveil an international signing but insist there will be no big moves until the winter transfer window.

8. AN OCCEAN APART?

Olivier Occéan’s rumoured move to the Montreal Impact became one step closer to reality on Wednesday when the Canadian club confirmed there is mutual interest from both parties.

9. XAVI FOR NYCFC?

While Mike Petke is close to announcing which of his recent trialists may have earned themselves a contract, MLS’ other New York club has once again been linked with Barcelona’s midfield maestro, Xavi Hernandez. Will he become a New York City FC player?

10. ADDING FIREPOWER

Having been released by the San Jose Earthquakes, Sam Garza is on trial with Real Salt Lake as they continue to search for an extra offensive weapon to help answer some uneasy questions.

11. WORTH A WATCH

There hasn’t been much to cheer about for Chivas USA fans over the past few years, but Erick Torres has been changing that in 2014. With World Cup veteran Marvin Chavez working his way into the team, things could be about to get even better for the Goats.

12. MILLER'S BIG WELCOME

The New York Red Bulls may welcome back Dax McCarty for their game against the Columbus Crew, but Roy Miller will not be in attendance. While the injured defender could not have played anyway, his reason for being absent is pretty special, as he got to be part of this heroes' welcome back home in Costa Rica.

13. BUILDING THE FUTURE

One of the most positive stories for the New York Red Bulls this season has been increased playing time for young players, and we could be set to see even more of those players after the city of Hanover approved plans to expand the Red Bulls' training facilities, perhaps paving the way for their own USL PRO side.

14. A HELPING HAND

On Tuesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps revealed their own plans for a USL PRO franchise in New Westminster. How would that help the squad more than their current affiliation with the Charleston Battery? ‘Caps head coach Carl Robinson weighed in with his view on the subject.

15. INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS

Less than two weeks ago the Nigerian national team faced off against France in the World Cup FIFA has banned the country's federation from international competition after FIFA deemed the country’s government was interfering in the running of their FA.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

American Exports: Tim Ream dreaming of bigger and better thing

David Villa preparing for MLS learning curve

March to the Match: End of an Era? New leaders to emerge for US national team

Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!

Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.