Kick Off: Orlando mayor confirms purchase of downtown land for soccer-specific stadium

Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. ORLANDO’S MAYOR OFFICIALLY UNVEILS SOCCER STADIUM PLANS: Huge news coming out of Orlando, as Mayor Buddy Dyer confirmed the City has spent $8.2 million on purchasing land to give to Orlando City Soccer Club for a new soccer-specific stadium. The plot of land sits in a prime downtown location, and Dyer believes the lure of MLS and the redevelopment of that area made his decision an easy one. "That's the perfect location," said Dyer. “That block is where we put the soccer stadium.” According to the report from WFTV Orlando, Orlando City will spend between $80-100 million to build the stadium and construction could start as early as December 2013. A huge breakthrough, it seems, in the club's aim to make it as an MLS expansion franchise. 

2. SPORTING PUT IN PERFECT AWAY PERFORMANCE: Five clean sheets in a row say Sporting KC are back to their best. And at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night, SKC put in a perfect away display, taking down New York, 1-0, thanks to Aurélien Collin’s first-half header from a Graham Zusi corner. That proved enough to solidify their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. Head coach Peter Vermes was understandably delighted with what he saw. “This was a massive result. Coming into Red Bull Arena and being able to walk out of here with three points, not giving any goals away is a massive result for us.”

3. HENRY ON SPORTING KC: “THEY’RE A TEAM. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT”: Thierry Henry admitted his admiration for Sporting KC before Wednesday’s showdown at RBA … and he did it again after New York lost. “They’re a team. It’s as simple as that. You have to give them credit,” Henry said. “I thought today that the best team won.” Meanwhile, head coach Mike Petke isn’t a happy camper: “At the end of the day, I’m not happy,” he said. “We lost to a good team, but at home, I’m not happy at all.”

4. JUNINHO’S MOMENT OF MADNESS, OVERREACTION FROM NIELSEN?: In stoppage time, that frustration boiled over, as New York midfielder Juninho smashed the ball at Sporting ‘keeper Jimmy Nielsen when the play was dead. The Brazilian received a straight red card, as things went from bad to worse for RBNY. “I was very frustrated with the goalkeeper, who was delaying the game a lot and I tried to rush him but I felt he exaggerated a lot,” said Juninho. “I don’t think I hit him in the face.” In the UK, the Metro paper had this to say about the incident “Jimmy Nielsen has won the crown of feigning injury.ITV Sport got in on the act, too.

5. BRADLEY TO FACE LAZIO IN ROME DERBY CUP FINAL: Congratulations go to Michael Bradley, who will be playing in the Coppa Italia final after AS Roma defeated Inter Milan in the semifinals on Wednesday. And what a final it should be, as Bradley’s men will face fierce rivals Lazio. The final will take place in the stadium both clubs share on May 26. Save the date.

6. ARENA: ROGERS “IS ALWAYS WELCOME TO TRAIN WITH LA GALAXY”: Yesterday, Bruce Arena addressed the media about Robbie Rogers’ comments about potentially training with the LA Galaxy to keep fit. And it seems as if that option is wide-open for Rogers. “He'd always be welcome to train with us," Arena said. "I'm in contact with players and people all the time in the game. He's always welcome to train with us.”

7. GORDON: “I’M GOING TO USE THIS FOR THE GOOD”: After receiving a three-game ban for using a homophobic slur against Portland’s captain Will Johnson last weekend, San Jose Earthquakes striker Alan Gordon promised to make the most of the situation. “People that know me know what type of person I am,” Gordon said. “I will choose to use this in the best way that I can ... I will do several things to let people know that it was a mistake.”

8. MILLER HOPING FOR RANGERS RETURN?: Reports from the UK have Vancouver Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller returning to Glasgow Rangers for a third spell later this summer. The Express believe that ‘Gers manager Ally McCoist is keen to get Miller back in Scotland, but chairman Charles Green has other ideas. Miller has kept close links with Rangers, training with them in the offseason, but can you see him going back across the pond?

9. CALGARY AIMS FOR NASL FRANCHISE: So with Orlando City steaming ahead with their big expansion plans, another city is gearing up for a pro soccer franchise. On Wednesday, Joe Petrone left the FC Edmonton front office to lead Calgary’s bid for an NASL franchise. The city is the fourth-largest in Canada and boasts the nation's highest levels of disposable income, according to this report. Is there the need for a second pro soccer side up in Alberta?

10. REIS VISITS TRAINING, DISCUSSES FATHER-IN-LAW’S CONDITION: Speaking for the first time after his father-in-law was critically injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis attended training on Wednesday to speak with his teammates and the media. “Ex-teammates, coaches from other teams, everybody in the soccer community has reached out to me and expressed their condolences and support,” Reis told “It's been amazing.” FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote a letter to the mayor of Boston, expressing “distress at the cruel bombings.'"

11. OLSEN TALKS POLITICS: Ben Olsen took some time out from talking about D.C. United’s season, as he discussed politics with The Washington Post about the upcoming referendum on budget autonomy for the District of Columbia. “I’m part of this city. I live here. I’m raising my family here,” Olsen said. “I’m not pretending to be an expert about this stuff. But from what I’ve gathered, it’s a good cause.”

12. GALAXY JOIN EUROPE’S ELITE FOR INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP: and other outlets have been reporting it for a few days, and yesterday the LA Galaxy officially announced they are part of the first-ever International Champions Cup, which kicks off this summer in the US. Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid are the three other sides confirmed so far, with the remaining four teams to be announced shortly. The tournament will be staged initially in Europe before switching to the US, with games in Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Miami.

13. MEXICO, PERU PLAY OUT STALEMATE AT CANDLESTICK PARK: The Mexican and Peruvian national teams played out a 0-0 tie in San Francisco, as Candlestick Park became a soccer stadium on Wednesday night. Pictures and recap from Kyle McCarthy at wrote this intriguing piece on the highest earners in Liga MX and why MLS isn’t as far behind, in terms of salary, as people think.

14. CANADIAN U-17S LOSE TO HOSTS PANAMA, WORLD CUP SPOT IN THE BAG: The full national team has had their struggles of late, but the Canadian youngsters did themselves proud at the CONCACAF U-17 tournament down in Panama. However the young Canucks came up short in the semis, losing 2-1 to hosts Panama. But Canada’s U-17s had already booked themselves a place in the World Cup in the UAE this fall by reaching the last four. Congrats.

15. RUMBLINGS CONTINUE AFTER NBC’S EPL COVERAGE PLANS REVEALED: “The democratization of the US soccer market…” That’s a new one. But over at Soccer America, Paul Kennedy unravels just what the NBC’s new EPL TV deal means for MLS and how soccer in America is falling in line with the world’s democratization of sport. Good read. Musts

March to the Match: Are Sporting built for a Cup run at last? Yes and no. (PODCAST)

Juninho on red card for kicking ball at Nielsen

HIGHLIGHTS: New York Red Bulls vs Sporting KC

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