Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...
1. READY TO GO, PLAYOFFS BEGIN TONIGHT
Wednesday night sees the beginning of the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs with the Seattle Sounders taking on the Colorado Rapids (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN). For Seattle, it’s a chance for a fresh start, forgetting their worrying end to the regular season, while Colorado will be hoping to reverse some recent trends. The Sounders and Rapids also know the dates and times of their next postseason matches should they advance.
2. POSTSEASON QUESTIONS
ESPNFC.com has five burning postseason questions they want to see answered and MLSsoccer.com's Simon Borg asks which city is most desperate to win MLS Cup. Meanwhile, the Professional Referees Organization has also released the referee assignments for the initial postseason games.
3. GOING DOWN IN FLAMES
The Chicago Fire confirmed late on Tuesday that the club has dismissed head coach Frank Klopas. The news came just two days after the team suffered a 5-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls which cost them a place in the postseason. With the Vancouver Whitecaps also officially announcing Martin Rennie’s departure and the Fire join a growing number of clubs opting for a change in leadership. NBC ProSoccerTalk breaks down five leading candidates for the available jobs.
4. D.C. MAKE MORE CHANGES
D.C. United’s offseason changes have begun. While manager Ben Olsen looks to be safe despite a league-worst win total, the club has chosen to remove front office staff including their communications manager, chief marketing officer and a fixture of the club's charitable operations.
5. CREW CUTS TIES
The Columbus Crew are starting to shape their team for next year and have revealed that Aaron Horton and Matias Sanchez will not be returning to the club next season. Though the timing may seem strange, seeing as the Crew still haven’t hired a new head coach, there seems to be plenty of reasons for removing the two players. Plus, could the Crew be about to start a local rivalry with incoming NASL team Indy Eleven?
6. DONOVAN VS. DEMPSEY
Who would you rather have in your team, Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey? Everyone will have their own opinion on the subject but ESPNFC.com decided that the best people to ask might be MLS coaches. So they did. Excluding Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena they asked all 17 coaches and, of the 14 they got an answer from, the result were unanimous.
7. FAN-TASTIC MOMENT FOR NEW YORK
There has been a lot of focus on what the recent Supporters' Shield success means to the New York Red Bulls. But how about the fans? Empire of Soccer has an interesting piece from a long-suffering Metrostars/Red Bulls supporter. Meanwhile, Tim Cahill has been huge for RBNY this year, but just how did he help turn around the fortunes of the club? And how do Designated Players celebrate winning the Shield? By going to a Woody Allen gig, of course.
8. TORONTO SET CHALLENGE
No one can accuse Toronto FC’s Tim Leiweke of not being ambitious. As president and CEO of Toronto’s ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Leiweke spoke to a group of local business leaders on Tuesday and made some comments that will surely have caught people’s attention: “This is the team we’ll turn around the quickest. We’ll make the playoffs next year. Write it down.” You heard the man, write it down. Then be sure to check out this short film to get a good sense of what it means to be a Toronto FC supporter.
9. THE "IT" CROWD
The official MLS attendance figures for the year are out and while the overall number is slightly down compared to last year, there were a couple of figures worthy of note. The Seattle Sounders have once again set a new record for average attendance, managing 44,038 per game. What’s next for the Sounders then? How about the Cosmo’s 47,856 record?
10. OVERLAP IS BACK
Today see’s the release of the third issue of our very own OVERLAP magazine. OVERLAP No. 3 is available free for android tablets and iPads and this issue contains a great feature by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep on the Portland Timbers' man of the year, Caleb Porter.
11. EXPAND YOUR MIND
In expansion news, David Beckham chose to drip feed us another piece of news about his Miami plans. It makes you wonder if Steve Davis hasn’t hit the nail on the head with his views on the Beckham expansion news cycle. In other expansion bits: The Atlanta Falcons have meanwhile released more pictures of their stadium including a diagram of the seating arrangement for its MLS configuration. And the Pittsburgh Riverhounds have made some ownership changes with the hope of joining MLS in the somewhat realistic timeframe of “somewhere between seven to ten years.” Finally, bad news in Detroit, as it looks as though a former jail site is set to become an entertainment complex rather than a 20,000-seat soccer stadium.
12. EYES ON THE PRIZE
Peter Vermes has been around the league for a long time, so, when he offers his thoughts on what MLS expansion will mean for the conferences, it may be worth taking note. However, that’s looking some way into the future, something Graham Zusi won’t allow himself to do while the MLS Cup is on the line.
The Portland Timbers were easily the most improved team in MLS this season, improving by 23 points to go from also-rans to Western Conference winners. It’s a large part of what Caleb Porter’s Coach of the Year candidacy is based on (he’s already won Goal.com’s award) and the Timbers themselves have released their thank-you video to the fans for the season just gone.
14. INTERNATIONAL IDEAS
FIFA has recently mooted the idea of expanding the World Cup, something that Yahoo.com's Martin Rogers argues would hurt the USMNT in the long term. And American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta proposes an idea that could perhaps benefit the national side for years to come. In Canada, turns out the game against the Czech Republic will no longer be their final match of the year with the Canadians now set to take on Slovenia four days later.
15. BEFORE IT WAS COOL
Are you a soccer hipster? There’s only one way to find out. Also, as you may know, there’s a movie due out next year all about FIFA. It’s officially commissioned by the governing body so it’ll most likely be as good as that sounds but, fear not, ESPNFC.com's Roger Bennett has some ideas on how to make it good.