By RYAN TOLMICH
Entering the league’s fifth season, the NASL is set to field its eleventh team team: the Jacksonville Armada. However, talk surrounding a pair of franchises waiting in the wings has remained quiet in recent months.
The Virginia Cavalry and Oklahoma City FC have been announced by the league as future expansion teams, and both teams had originally announced that they were set to begin play in 2015. However, those plans did not come to pass for a variety of reasons, casting doubt over the team’s immediate future.
In the case of Oklahoma City, issues involving ownership derailed the team’s plans, as one of the partners in the team, Tim McLaughlin, had bought a 50 percent ownership stake in the rival franchise Oklahoma City Energy. For the Cavalry, constant stadium construction issues and ownership reorganizations have caused delay after delay, pushing the team’s debut back to 2016.
NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson admits that things haven’t quite gone to plan with the development of his latest expansion sides, while also making it clear the league plans to keep things close to the vest while ownership is sorted out.
“We haven’t announced any developments because we really don’t want to have to go through what we’ve had to go through again,” Peterson told SBI. “The expansion process is a complicated process, one that we take very seriously. We move cautiously as we go through the process and it can come undone at any point. Unfortunately, with both of those situations, the teams actually announced that they were going to play. Continue reading
By RYAN TOLMICH
After a busy offseason complete with blockbuster signings and a contentious labor negotiation that narrowly avoided a strike, Major League Soccer is back with a series of marquee matchups to start the 2015 campaign.
Headlining the opening week of the 2015 regular season is a matchup between two newcomers, as Orlando City hosts New York City FC. Pitting Kaka against David Villa, the two sides will play their inaugural MLS game in front of a sold-out crowd in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl.
Meanwhile, a pair of teams that are veterans of success collide Sunday night as the Seattle Sounders take on the New England Revolution. Despite achieving plenty last season, both teams will enter 2015 with a chip on their shoulder after falling just short in last year’s postseason.
In addition, the LA Galaxy open their title defense against the Chicago Fire, the New York Red Bulls take on Sporting KC in a playoff rematch, and Toronto FC takes on Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps.
Here is a rundown of the Week 1 schedule: Continue reading
By IVES GALARCEP
With the MLS Players Union and league officials agreeing on a new CBA, and a strike being averted, it’s time to continue previewing the 2015 MLS season on the latest episode of The SBI Show.
Episode 195 of The SBI Show looked back at the CBA deal, which left fans excited, but many players unhappy with the deal eventually settled on. We discuss the gains earned by the players, and the risks included in the deal.
Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also provide our Western Conference preview, as we both rank the teams in the West.
SBI senior writer Franco Panizo joins us as we all make our predictions for the 2015 season’s MLS awards and MLS Cup winner.
Give Episode 195 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:
By FRANCO PANIZO
For Brad Guzan and Aston Villa, tapping into their most recent performance is what it is all about this weekend.
Aston Villa is set to continue its FA Cup title chase on Saturday when it hosts fellow English Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion, and the Villans are hoping to replicate the outing and result that they enjoyed earlier this week. Aston Villa welcomed the Baggies in a league match on Tuesday, and picked up a 2-1 victory that ended a long winless streak in the Premier League that dated back to early December. A second win in five days would push Guzan and the Villans into the semifinals of the FA Cup, and that’s an achievement they could sorely use given how dire things have been recently.
Danny Williams is the other American still alive in the competition, and a place in the semifinals will also be on the line for him on Saturday. Williams and Reading will visit Bradford City in a match-up that will pit two lower-division clubs against one another, and the match is sure to be intense as both teams try to keep their respective Cinderella story alive. While League One’s Bradford City might have homefield advantage, Reading has the better squad on paper and many observes are expecting the Royals to advance in the tournament.
If you’re wondering what other match might be worth watching, look no further than the Eredivisie duel between FC Utrecht and AZ Alkmaar on Sunday. The match could pit attacking talents Rubio Rubin and Aron Johannsson against one another, but Rubin must snap a spell of inactivity at Utrecht in for that to happen. Rubin has not played in a league match since Feb. 15, and will be keen on ending that streak in front of his club’s home fans at Stadion Galgenwaard.
Here is who the Americans Abroad rumble with this weekend:
By RYAN TOLMICH
On the heels of the recent MLS CBA negotiations, free agency is a hot topic in the North American soccer landscape.
With the announcement of a limited form of free agency extended to MLS veteran players, the league has taken a step toward developing somewhat of a free market. However, that market has its disadvantages from a player standpoint, as free agency in the latest incarnation of MLS’ CBA is limited strictly for veterans, while even those eligible have a cap on salary increases.
Free agency is nothing new in NASL, where players have the freedom to play for any team they want once out of contract, much as is the case in the rest of the soccer world. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson remains a believer in that system, and while he is glad MLS is set to take the field on time, he believes the league’s players are still at a major disadvantage.
“First of all, I’m glad that they reached an agreement,” Peterson told SBI on Thursday. “I think that that it’s important that both sides have agreed that these are terms that they accept. I don’t think what’s being called ‘free agency’ is very advantageous for the players. You look at our league where guys sign one or two-year deals and then are able to go back out and test the market with any team in the world. That’s free agency, in my opinion, but they agreed to it. That’s their business and we wish them well.
“It won’t effect anything we’re doing. I think you find that more and more of the agents and more and more of the players start to realize what free agency really looks like when they come into the NASL and that’s one of our advantages, one of our unique selling points, that a player can come in and prove himself at a very high level and, in a short period of time, go back out there onto the market.” Continue reading
By AYDEN REYHAN
While MLS takes centerstage in North America, Europe promises a weekend of soccer that promises both league and cup action.
The FA Cup takes centerstage this weekend as Liverpool take on Blackburn Rovers while Aston Villa and West Brom collide after Villa’s victory midweek. In addition, Tottenham faces off with Queen Park Rangers in Premier League action.
In Spain, Atletico Madrid hosts Valencia in La Liga with the hosts looking to protect or build on their one-point lead ahead of their visitors, who sit right behind them in fourth.
Elsewhere, Napoli hosts Inter Milan, Schalke plays Hoffenheim with a two-point lead ahead in the Bundesliga standings and Ligue 1-leading Lyon visits Montpellier.
Here is an overall look at the action from the top five European leagues that is coming up this weekend: Continue reading