Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. THE BIG THREE?
Could the long-running saga over Xavi's future finally be coming to an end? Maybe so, as a publication in Spain suggests that the Barcelona great is set to sign a three-year deal with New York City FC this week. Might Frank Lampard be joining him with David Villa already in the bag? It's an exciting time to be a NYCFC supporter.
Is Las Vegas on MLS’ shortlist for possible expansion franchises? No doubt, according to Justin Findlay, who is working to bring an MLS side to the city. If successful, the Nevada-based team would go all in with a fully air-conditioned stadium.
3. SECOND FAVORITE
“Our goal is to be the world’s second favorite team.” That's the lofty ambition of Orlando City SC president Phil Rawlins, and while the inbound MLS side still has plenty of work to do, it's certainly making all the right moves.
4. ROBINHO RUMORS, BEASLEY COMING BACK?
Rumors continue to circulate about Robinho’s future amid news that the Brazilian won’t be part of AC Milan’s squad to visit the US. Meanwhile, in other transfer speculation, is DaMarcus Beasley on his way back to MLS? If so, a return to Chicago could prove difficult.
5. WRITING TO REACH YOU
The news that Matt Besler re-signed with Sporting Kansas City was a big deal for MLS and will have made a lot of SKC fans very happy. Same for this letter from Besler in The Kansas City Star, which explains how and why he arrived at the decision.
6. PAREJA CONTENT
With FC Dallas past their midseason blip and now riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, head coach Oscar Pareja doesn’t see his side being active in this summer’s transfer window, despite ongoing issues with George John’s health and news that Hendry Thomas’ season is over.
7. SO CLOSE
Back in May, Caleb Porter set the Portland Timbers a goal of earning 18 points over their next 10 games. It's now 10 games later, and the Timbers fell just short, collecting 15 points, but definitely showed signs of moving in the right direction. Could new DP Liam Ridgewell help push them over the edge?
8. STOKING THE FLAMES
As two members of the Cascadia Cup trio, the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps already enjoy a good rivalry, but has an AT&T All-Star snub for 'Caps midfielder Pedro Morales added even more fuel to the fire?
9. PROBLEMS IN THE MIDDLE?
It’s fair to say that, with the team bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Impact are not having the season they hoped for so far in 2014. Could their main problem lie with the midfield?
10. YOUTH AWARDS
US Soccer’s Development Academy has been handing out its end-of-season awards and, as club prizes go, it was a clean sweep for MLS, with the Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas and LA Galaxy each picking up the prize in their respective divisions.
11. SOCCER IN ST. LOUIS
Following the news that St. Louis would be getting a USL PRO team, many wondered if this would be the first step on the path to MLS. The current owners hope that might one day be the case, but for now they’re just focused on plans for year one, which include an affiliation with a current MLS side.
12. ALL THE BIG NAMES?
As MLS teams get ready to welcome a number of European teams to North America for high-profile exhibition games, both Aston Villa and Manchester City have announced their squads for those trips. Oh, and fans at the AT&T All-Star Game might get another good look at Julian Green after he was included in Bayern Munich’s traveling squad.
13. LEARNING THE LANGUAGE
Arsenal are also on their way to the US to take on the New York Red Bulls this weekend. Arsene Wenger has been full of praise for soccer fans in the US. Watch in horror as his players attempt authentic New York accents.
14. AN INDISCRIMINATE ACT OF KINDNESS
Do you remember Ben? The Netherlands' biggest fan who drove his truck all the way from San Francisco to Brazil to watch the Dutch. Turns out Ben got stuck in Brazil. Until Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson came to the rescue, that is.
As the debate continues over how to improve college soccer and why it won’t likely happen, there was some sad news over the past few days. First, Sam Koch passed away at 59 after a two-year battle with cancer, then Logan Fleck died on Monday at the age of 54. Condolences to their family, friends and players.
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