Major Link Soccer: Expansion is Coming

Richard Wolowicz

By the end of the decade, MLS will be the largest top flight league in the world.

Do you long for the good old days of MLS, when the Sounders had players plucked from their roster each season? If so, then you're in luck for the rest of this decade. Expansion is making a comeback! If you don't miss expansion drafts, here's some food for thought: the Sounders have won a major trophy in each season prior to an expansion draft. They have failed to do so in each season that wasn't followed by an expansion draft. That clearly means that we can count on a treble in 2014.

August is here, which is usually a great month for the Sounders. Seattle is 9-1-2 in MLS in the month of August since 2010. That will come as welcome news to the team after having a mediocre July. One Seattle area native who isn't having a mediocre year is Shoreline's own George John, who was one of the players named as inactive all stars.

The All-Star Game didn't exactly go the way MLS would have preferred, with the MLS All-Stars losing to AS Roma 3-1, but DeAndre Yedlin played reasonably well and didn't get injured after coming on as a second half substitution. Despite the result, the fans in Kansas City pulled off an impressive tifo and mosaic display of the USA flag. At halftime, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made news by announcing that MLS will expand to 24 teams by the end of the decade, thereby making the league the largest top flight league in the world.

One of the front runners to be included in expansion is Orlando City SC, who are pushing forward with an ambitious plan to join MLS by 2015. That plan is largely dependent upon funding from Orange County for a 18,000 capacity soccer specific stadium. The club will submit their financing proposal to the county in two separate presentations next week.

There are a couple of noteworthy items in Portland. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson held an informal Q & A session on Twitter, which raised issues such as potential DP signings, stadium expansion, inclusion of other competitions in season ticket packages and food carts. Geoff Gibson, the founder of Stumptown Footy, is moving on.

Though you might not know it from the lack of transfer rumors involving the Sounders, the summer transfer window is still open, and there is some news of signings for other MLS teams. Chicago is reportedly close to signing another Uruguayan DP (can we have ours back please?). Drogba may still be interested in coming to MLS, but only if it's New York or Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, racism in football is a story that just never seems to go away. UEFA has hit Dinamo Zagreb with a €25,000 fine and ordered them to close a portion of their stadium for their next match in UEFA competition as a result of racist chants from their supporters in a Champions League qualifying match a few weeks ago. Despite that, a Kick It Out official believes that punishments for racism in football need to become more harsh, advocating a minimum 10 game ban in England for players found guilty of racist abuse.

The following story deserves its own paragraph because it's not strictly racist, as it also involves issues stemming from religion and nationalism. In a UEFA Champions League qualifying match on Tuesday evening, FC Basel's Egyptian winger Mohamad Salah went out of his way to avoid shaking hands with the players from Maccabi Tel Aviv prior to the start of the match.

Panama beating Mexico twice in the Gold Cup was bad for the Sounders, because it may have kept them from signing Roberto Chen. It was also bad for the overall TV ratings of the Gold Cup final, although the TV ratings for FOX's broadcast represented an improvement over the 2011 broadcast on Fox Soccer. NBC is hoping to score big with TV ratings for their Premier League coverage this season, and are sparing no expense in promoting their coverage for the upcoming season. One thing we won't see, however, are locker room scenes or interviews.

It appears that the Gareth Bale silly season saga may finally be coming to its conclusion, with reports that Tottenham and Real Madrid have agreed to a €120 million transfer fee for the Welsh winger. This could be a blow to NBC, who famously featured Bale in promoting their coverage of the Premier League in Times Square in New York City. That, along with Bale modeling Tottenham's new kits a few weeks ago, was seen as an indication that he was going to stay at White Hart Lane for at least one more season.

Although Real Madrid appears to, once again, have the means to pay a world record transfer fee, many teams in Spain are struggling financially. The problem is getting worse, with teams facing automatic relegation after the league and federation closed a legal loophole that previously allowed teams to avoid punishment by going into administration.

Bayern Munich's star winger Franck Ribery isn't going to be confused for a NBA player anytime soon, but he's still not crazy about anything that would highlight his diminutive frame. That was probably the reason he chose to switch mascots with a teammate prior to a recent match after realizing that his mascot was nearly as tall as himself. Ribery's problems are nothing compared to what Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeneß is facing, after being charged with tax evasion.

EA's FIFA 14 team brought 360° cameras to a Vancouver Whitecaps match earlier this season in an attempt to capture the field level and locker room atmosphere on match day. It will be interesting to see how they are able to incorporate what they captured into the final product of FIFA 14, which is set for release in late September.

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