Kick Off: Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls clash highlights four games on Wednesday night

Real Salt Lake's Beckerman and Morales, Kick Off

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USA Today sports

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

1. WORLD CUP HERO RETURNS AS RED BULLS, RSL TAKE CENTER STAGE

America’s World Cup hero will be hoping for a straightforward game on Wednesday night. No, not Kyle Beckerman. Mark Geiger, who makes his return to MLS after an impressive month in Brazil. There’s also the small matter of a high-profile game between Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls (9 pm ET, ESPN2, match preview), with both sides hoping to boost their playoff tilt as the second half of the season kicks in.

2. EAST BATTLES CONTINUE AS DC HOST TORONTO

Two of the Eastern Conference's most improved sides, Toronto FC and D.C. United, meet Wednesday for the third time this year (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE, match preview), although this will be the first time they’ve played at RFK Stadium. Jermain Defoe scored in their first meeting in March, and the striker will return from suspension for this one (as TFC found out against Sporting KC, no Defoe often means no party). He might be joined by new acquisition Warren Creavalle, while on the other side, D.C. got some long-term defensive help by picking up center back Kofi Opare from the LA Galaxy in a Tuesday trade.

3. REVS' FUTILITY NEARS CLUB RECORD

New England is in need of a Revolution as they host the shorthanded Colorado Rapids Wednesday at Gillette Stadium (7:30 pm, MLS LIVE, match preview). Jay Heaps’ side has lost its last eight league games, which means one more defeat will equal the club’s worst losing streak ever.

4. FIRE TRY TO RELIGHT PLAYOFF CHALLENGE

Like New England, Chicago are in need of some Fire. They currently sit slumped four points off the playoff places in the Eastern Conference, while the Vancouver Whitecaps, their opponent Wednesday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE, match preview) have drawn their last three league games (which does not sit well with coach Carl Robinson), with both teams scrambling for traction. Frank Yallop’s men are still hurting from the 5-1 loss at San Jose, and while the Fire’s wick shows no sign of catching light.

5. CHANGES AFOOT IN MONTREAL

Chicago have been burning up the transfer wire, acquiring Sanna Nyassi from the Montreal Impact in exchange for Dilly Duka on Tuesday, and that may not be the only change happening in Quebec. Reports from Montreal indicate major changes to the club's technical staff (FRENCH) could be forthcoming, with club owner Joey Saputo scheduled to make a major announcement Wednesday morning.

6. 'JUNIOR' JONES TO FIND HIS FIRE?

With US national teammates Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey already poster boys for MLS, Jermaine Jones could be next for a move across the Atlantic, according to transfer speculation, and the Chicago Fire are one of the teams reportedly looking at the Besiktas man as a potential designated player.

7.  IS M'BOLHI PHILADELPHIA'S BIG ANNOUNCEMENT?

Speaking of transfers, the Philadelphia Union have gone all mysterious on us. The club’s Twitter account revealed that a "major announcement" will made on Wednesday but made no mention of what was in the offing. Consistent reports indicate (PORTUGUESE) it could be the signing of Algerian World Cup goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.

8. FIVE AND COUNTING FOR NYC FC

Considering how Jason Kreis’ Real Salt Lake squad was known for their midfield, it is perhaps unsurprising that New York City FC’s early transfer and trade activity has focused on midfielders. Kreis has added another player to his roster for next season, trading a third-round SuperDraft pick in 2016 to FC Dallas in exchange for Andrew Jacobson, who will spend the rest of 2014 on loan with Bob Bradley's Stabaek in Norway.

9. MORE HERZOG, BITTE

Focus has already turned to 2018 for the US national team, and the contract extension of assistant coach Andreas Herzog is further proof of US Soccer’s commitment to the Jurgen Klinsmann Project. The Austrian, who has stated that he hopes to coach the US Under-23 team that will try to qualify for the Olympics in 2015, was a key part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s coaching team in Brazil.

10. WILL CANADIANS PREFER SOCCER TO HOCKEY?

Hockey players are Canada’s rock stars (although the Great White North does OK with those, too: Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, to name a few). But Vancouver Whitecaps Designated Player Pedro Morales believes soccer could soon overtake hockey as Canada’s national pastime and has even put a timeframe on when he believes it will happen.

11. RONALDINHO AN MLS OPTION?

Almost as soon as Ronaldinho’s exit from Atlético Mineiro as a free agent was confirmed, the rumbles started. The Brazilian has long been linked with a move Stateside, and it now appears that the New York Red Bulls – who have a third DP spot to fill – could be considering a move to sign soccer’s favorite buck-toothed playmaker. Whatever happens, he won’t be joining the Crew.

12. CANADA'S GOLD-EN DAYS

The good times might seem some way off for Benito Floro and the current Canadian national team, but the 2000 Gold Cup-winning team is being honored with a place in the country’s Soccer Hall of Fame. Jason deVos – already an individual inductee – scored one of the most famous goals in Canadian soccer history to clinch victory over Colombia in the final 14 years ago, with Carlo Corazzin adding a second-half penalty. Now the 2000 squad will have more than a medal to remember their triumph by.

13. KC CLASS OF 2014

In another Hall of Fame, Sporting Kansas City will induct club legends Lamar Hunt, Jimmy Conrad and current coach Peter Vermes into their Hall of Honor in an on-field ceremony at halftime of Friday’s home game against the Philadelphia Union (8 pm ET, NBCSN).

14. NUMBER ONE ON THE FIELD, NUMBER TWO IN THE BOOTH

It might surprise you to learn that Tim Howard hasn’t turned into a GIF. Despite the immortality of digital records of his World Cup heroics, he’s still an actual goalkeeper and a pretty good color commentator, too. NBC Sports has signed the Everton and US star to its Premier League broadcasts on a multi-year deal, working up to 10 games this season.

15. HARDLY OUT OF HIS LEAGUE

While we list him here for obvious reasons, 15-year-old Norwegian Martin Odegaard may soon rise to the forefront of world transfer talk. The youngest goalscorer in Norwegian Tippaligaen history, Odegaard has been seeing regular playing time – and producing – with Stromsgodset (where he is a teammate of on-loan MLSer Jeb Brovsky), who are currently in second place. His skills are worth a look.

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