Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1) TORONTO FC BEGIN AMWAY CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE VS. MONTREAL
TFC have bossed the US Open Cup equivalent for the past few seasons, but that doesn't mean they're taking anything for granted come Wednesday night's semifinal first leg against Montreal at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet/TVA Sports). Head coach Ryan Nelsen has already demanded 90 "ruthless" minutes from his team, and knows how important CONCACAF Champions League qualification is to the club. Meanwhile, Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum knows what it feels like to lift a domestic cup and wants that for his players: “Winning championships and cups are moments you don’t forget."
2) VANCOUVER TRAVEL TO EDMONTON WITH AIM OF REACHING FINAL
The Whitecaps haven't been firing on all cylinders as of late — and they've already admitted a hodge-podge lineup is in the cards on Wednesday vs. FC Edmonton (9:30 pm ET, Sportsnet) — but that doesn't mean they're not taking the ACC seriously. Quite the opposite, in fact, as manager Martin Rennie has challenged his team to win the competiton despite a lack of Canadian ties in the squad: “I think it’s really important to this team to win this trophy, to become the best team in Canada."
3) GOMEZ TARGETS SECOND CLUB WORLD CUP WITH SANTOS
While the Canadian teams fight for a spot in the competition, Santos Laguna and Monterrey find themselves in the final for the second straight year. The first leg is Wednesday night in Torreon (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, Univision Deportes), and Gomez & Co. are desperate to avenge last year's loss to Los Rayados: “We’re well aware of what we missed out on, I think we’re all champing at the bit to get on that field tomorrow and try to win this.”
4) IS KEVIN DAVIES CLOSE TO SEALING HIS MOVE TO TORONTO FC?
Toronto haven't been shy about looking across the Atlantic for reinforcements this season, and it seems more and more likely that Bolton's Kevin Davies will be the next to join Nelsen's squad. After initial reports leaked this weekend, BBC Radio Manchester reports that Bolton are willing to release Davies from his contract early, as it is already clear he will not be re-signed by the club. Will Toronto snatch the 36-year-old up? We'll have to wait and see.
5) GARBER TAKES TO TWITTER, ADDRESSES EXPANSION
MLS Commissioner Don Garber's schedule is normally pretty jam packed, but he found a few minutes on Tuesday to take questions from fans — and even Herculez Gomez — via Twitter. What emerged was insight on a wide range of topics, including expansion, the eventual size of the league, promotion and relegation and what kind of suspension MLS would have doled out to Luis Suárez. Hint: he'd be in a world of trouble.
6) IS TIME RUNNING OUT FOR NYC2?
Despite saying in his Twitter Q&A that progress was being made in the quest for a second team in New York City, Garber made it clear earlier this year that MLS wouldn't wait around forever to get the backing needed to build a stadium in Queens. Now it seems the unofficial deadline could be the final day of the Bloomberg administration on Dec. 31, 2013. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called the proposed stadium one of his legacy projects, but the candidates vying to replace him in office don't seem so enthusiastic. During a forum on Tuesday, ambivalence was prevelant, making time of the essence.
7) COPA LIBERTADORES PERHAPS TOO MUCH FOR MLS SQUADS TO BALANCE
Having MLS sides compete in Copa Libertadores sounds good, but it's probably not viable anytime soon, according to Kyle McCarthy at Goal.com. The reality of the situation is that no MLS team has won the CONCACAF Champions League and only one (Real Salt Lake) has reached the final. He argues that asking teams to balance yet another competition, one that is arguably more taxing than the CCL, is a bridge too far at the moment. Do you agree?
8) RANKINGS GALORE AT MLSSOCCER.COM
Can Jack Mac's goals drag the Philadelphia Union up the ladder? Will Seattle make a run now that they're close to being healthy? Find out where your team stacks up in this week's MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings. And while we're on the subject, see who topped the Castrol Index in Week 8. You might be surprised. Look out for Rookie Rankings on Wednesday, as well.
9) HENRY BACKS STEELE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND CALL-UP
When Thierry Henry speaks, people tend to listen. Red Bulls midfielder Jonny Steele is hoping the Northern Ireland boss is one of the people with open ears. After a brilliant week on the field that he dedicated to his ailing father, Steele attracted the interest of the UK media, who love nothing more than an underdog story. Henry wasn't shy about supporting his teammates and friend, stumping for a national team call-up: "I am not the manager and am not giving anyone any orders," the French striker told the BBC, "but I am just saying he has the quality to play for Northern Ireland, for sure."
10) WHILE ALONSO FIGHTS FOR US ELIGIBILITY, HIS COUNTRYMEN FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS
Osvaldo Alonso still doesn't know if he'll ever be eligible to play for the US national team, but he's just one of many Cuban soccer players (and defectors) plying their trade in the United States. It seems a few players and staffers silently slip away every time a Cuban national team side, whether it be the senior team or a youth side, visit the US or Canada. USA Today relays the story of those freedom seekers, who risk everything for an opportunity to earn a living playing the game they love.
11) STILL WORRIED ABOUT US U-17S? DON'T BE
Is the US U-17s' failure to reach the World Cup still weighing on you? Well, take a deep breath and release that frustration. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney explains why in his latest column.
12) WHERE DOES MLS RANK AMONG THE WORLD'S BEST?
Fans, journalists and just about everyone else love to compare MLS to the rest of the world. It's practically habit at this point. In that vein, check out why a report from Sporting Intelligence places MLS seventh in the global hierarchy. Is it the new stadiums? Competitive balance? Caliber of players? You can find out here.
13) TIMBERS DO THEIR PART ON EARTH DAY
MLS players do more than play soccer, and Portland got in on the Earth Day act on Tuesday, planting trees and putting the finishing touches on some improvements at a local school. Those improvements included solar panels (green energy for the win) and Timber Joey even showed up to lend a hand. Check out all the details here.
14) CHANGING OF THE GUARD? BAYERN THROTTLE BARÇA
Bayern Munich's Bundesliga form suggested they had a better-than-average chance of sweeping Barcelona aside in the UEFA Champions League semis, but nobody expected the kind of ruthless whupping delivered by the Germans on Tuesday in the first leg at the Allianz Arena. Actually, at least one man wasn't surprised. That would be Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes, who said his team "dominated" Barça. Some are now wondering if there is a changing of the guard in club soccer, but remember there is still another semifinal today as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid meet at 2 pm ET on FX.
15) MIKE TYSON ADDRESSES SUÁREZ BITE
The sports world has gotten plenty of laughs out of the Luis Suárez biting incident over the past few days, but perhaps the most ironic came when it was revealed Mike Tyson (a notorious biter in his own right who took off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear during a title fight in 1997) started following the Uruguayan striker on Twitter. It was only a matter of time before Tyson commented publicly, and he didn't disappoint with his candor: "He bit someone, it happens."
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