Kick Off: Rumors of MLS/USL link up continue to persist

So is it true? Could the US Soccer landscape be shifting dramatically as MLS and the USL link up?

According to reports, the USL Pro could soon see MLS reserve sides competing within it. A possibility that many, like Brian Straus of the Sporting News, believe will help develop and nurture young American talent onto bigger and better things.

"My understanding is there are some talks, and they're very positive talks," Rochester Rhinos president Pat Ercoli told WYSL-AM. "We were told that there's something that will be in place for this next season, and obviously it'll be expanded upon in the future. ... Hopefully within several weeks, we'll be able to make that announcement."

The rumor mill spins into overdrive. But moving on and, phew, what a whirlwind Thursday was.

After a hectic day of arrivals and departures, some big new signings landed in MLS in a variety of ways.

First of all, perhaps the biggest news came in the weighted lottery for US youth international Gale Agbossoumonde as Toronto snapped up the ‘boss.’ TFC president and general manager Kevin Payne was delighted.

“We’re thrilled to have Gale Agbossoumonde join Toronto FC. He’s a young and immensely talented center back with solid international experience and we hope he will be a member of our team for years to come.”

Agbossoumonde’s acquisition could lead to plenty of movement in the SuperDraft picks selection order, as TFC now have some depth in the center of defense.

Elsewhere the LA Galaxy added another youngster to the ranks, as arguably the top player in college soccer in 2012 – Cal State Bakersfield’s Gyasi Zardes – penned a Homegrown contract.

The lightning quick striker grew up a matter of minutes from the HDC and is a Galaxy fan. Zardes’ record of 33 goals in his last 37 collegiate games is sure to get his new set of fans licking their lips in anticipation.

“I have to say that the Galaxy, I mean, it's the No. 1 club in my heart, as far as America. I'm thrilled to be part of the Galaxy. Now a new chapter in my life begins, and it's definitely going to be hard work.”

Plenty of hard work lies ahead for potential MLS Rookies at the 2013 Combine. But it’s still unclear exactly who will turn up.

Louisville’s standout midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo was on the initial Combine invite list, but he’s been offered a trial with Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt during the same dates as the Combine, according to the Cardinals website.  

One player heading to Ft. Lauderdale is Englishman Shaun Foster. Big Apple Soccer has this in-depth interview with the Hofstra standout ahead of the combine.

Rumors about players beginning to sign contracts with MLS and Generation adidas are beginning to surface on Soccer By Ives and NBC. Carlos Alvarez, Dillon Powers, John Stertzer, Andrew Farrell and Andre Blake have all apparently been offered deals with the league.

And oh yeah, add Furman defender Walker Zimmerman to that list, too. He tweeted about it yesterday.

“Excited to start on a new soccer journey in the @MLS. Thanks to #GenAdidas and all who made this dream a reality.”

Those rumors will continue to swirl, of course.

But one player not heading to MLS, not just yet anyway, is Duke’s imposing defender Sebastien Ibeagha. The Houston Dynamo were keen to acquire the reigning PDL Defender of the Year, yet it seems their efforts were in vain as he’s staying in school to finish his degree. Hats off to you, sir.

Luke Rodgers won’t be heading back to MLS and his beloved New York Red Bulls. A fan favorite during the Hans Backe era, it seems as if Rodgers won’t be a transfer target under the new regime at RBA.

Two former MLSers landed in Latin America on Thursday, see where Hernan Pertuz and Omar Bravo are now plying their trade.

Houston DP Boniek Garcia was named the Best Transaction of 2012 by in our Best of 2012 series. And in Three for Thursday, we take a look at three South Americans who can follow Garcia’s lead and shine in MLS.

Out west, 2012 Volkswagen MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski stopped by for a chin-wag with some Ultras. What a nice guy. Wondo was inducted in the 1906 Ultras Hall of Fame and the lads down at the South Bay pub were delighted to see Wondo rubbing shoulders with the locals.

We continued our Season In Review series, and this time it was Sporting KC’s turn to go under the microscope. Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle and Andrew Wiebe's Opta Spotlight look at how close SKC came to MLS Cup success in 2012, their USOC title and the incredible crop of young talent Peter Vermes has cultivated at LSP. 

Also,’s Stories of the Year continued with a cracker. Enjoy No. 11, the tale of Rafael Marquez.

Màrquez’s countryman José Luis Sánchez (“El Chelís”) will have some help from the family as he aims to turn Chivas USA’s fortunes around in 2013. Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome Chelís Jr. in former Canadian U-23 international, Isidro. Things will be very interesting in the Chivas technical area this season…that’s an understatement.

But there’s no way you can understate the truly mammoth UEFA Champions League last-16 draw made on Thursday. Some absolute humdinger’s were drawn out, with Manchester United vs. Real Madrid the pick of the bunch. See who Oguchi Onyewu’s Malaga were paired up with here. As well as the Europa League fate for those American Exports involved in the last-32.

Something else amazing came out of the blockbuster UCL draw made by ESPN commentator Steve McManaman (and 2013 UCL final ambassador) and UEFA officials in Switzerland. A test draw was made on Wednesday…and the exact same pairings came out in the actual UCL draw. “What are the odds of that happening?” I thought to myself...5000-1 apparently.

And finally, Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s life is never dull but his next move seems off the charts, even by his standards. Maradona is reportedly desperate to get back into international management. His next possible destination? Iraq. Musts

Throw-In: The end of Fulhamerica, does it matter?

Commentary: What now for Parkhurst in Germany

Best of 2012: Garcia a game-changer

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