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Major Link Soccer: CCL Group Stage begins

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FC Cincinnati is averaging 17,000 fans a game in their first year in USL - will they be the ones to pay MLS $200 million in expansion fees?

FC Cincinnati drew over 36,000 to their friendly with Crystal Palace in July.
FC Cincinnati drew over 36,000 to their friendly with Crystal Palace in July.
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Seattle

Even if you've been glued to your computer and TV screens this week, you still might need Richard Farley's recap of all that transpired in Sounders land.

Everyone knows Seattle Reign's starting goalkeeper is Hope Solo, but Haley Kopmeyer has been training under her and quietly improving since being drafted out of Michigan three years ago.

MLS

Nicolas Lodeiro's first game in MLS and he's already on the MLS Team of the Week, earning the #5 spot in Audi's Player Index for Week 21.

Nick Rimando doesn't care that he tied Kevin Hartman's all-time MLS record for wins as a goalkeeper with 180; he wants the record all to himself.

The Sounders MLS expansion bid cost $30 million dollars back in 2007, while LAFC most recently paid a $110 expansion fee. The league is rumored to be increasing their expansion fee to $200 million for the next round of expansion.

The Chicago Fire have finally responded to the rise of the ¡P*to! chant among some of their fans, with club GM Nelson Rodriguez giving a bilingual address to the stadium on Pride Night at Toyota Park. Whether the club is prepared to back up its words with enforcement will be the next step.

It appears that the Chicago Fire have managed to poach PSG academcy director Cédric Cattenoy as the new head of their academy.

New York Red Bulls have come to a settlement with the city of Harrison over the lease details of their stadium and the land it sits on, sparing the New Jersey Supreme Court from having to rule on the case.

New York is taking advantage of its unfortunate sponsorship deal, signing Israeli forward Omer Damari on loan from sister club RB Leipzig in Germany. Damari, 27, spent last year on loan with another sister club, Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.

USA

With many leagues breaking for the Rio Olympics, here are 75 North American teams ranked by attendance. FC Cincinnati, Portland Thorns FC, and Sacremento Republic FC were the highest non-MLS clubs, all averaging over 10,000 people per game.

FC Cincinnati is averaging about 17,000 per game in just their first year, and club executives had the opportunity to meet with MLS officials during last week's All-Star festivities in San Jose and push the idea of MLS in Cincinnati.

Scratching the Pitch has the latest USL news, including the Wilmington Hammerheads announcing the club will not compete in 2017 to restructure, while the Austin Aztex will extend their hiatus another year.

ESPN's recent efforts to emphasize new voices and reach female listeners on sports radio are proving successful, growing its female audience by 42% over last year.

Whenever athletes express controversial opinions, millions who disagree inevitably say, "Stick to sports." Here's why that's dumb.

World

CONCACAF announced yesterday their coverage plans for the 2016-17 CCL on UDN and Univision, beginning with the start of the Group Stage today (see below for when/where to watch).

Everton has made a bit of their own Garth Lagerway signing, hiring Steve Walsh, the man behind the roster construction at Leceister City, as their technical director hoping he can work his magic twice. Rory Smith writes about how the English have always been susceptible to the cult of the individual and belief in "guru-thinking".

It's only been 6 years since Inter Milan won the Champions League and ended decades of frustration, but it's been downhill since the departure of Jose Mourinho shortly after.

A New York-native purchased Venezia FC in 2015 following the club's third bankruptcy. His ownership group has big plans on taking the club from its lowly 4th division status all the way to Serie A, spending big on players, staff, and facilities.

Towards the end of his playing career in 2006, Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola was already eyeing the transition into coaching. A short 6-month stint with minnows Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico proved formative to his future coaching career.

Bayern Munich considers it to be European football's obligation to encourage the soccer's growth in the US. The German giants are looking to form a partnership with an MLS club; they are not interested in following City Football Group's "satellite" team model, however.

This might be a first in sports: Barcelona is looking to trade a soccer player for a basketball player. The club's basketball arm, 18-time Spanish champion Barcelona Bàsquet, is interested in a basketball player owned by Saski Baskonia, another Spanish basketball team. Saski Baskonia's owner is also the majority owner of Deportivo Alavés, which recently won promotion to La Liga and are likely interested in quality reinforcements from Barcelona's reserves.

The Palestinian soccer federation has filed an official complaint with FIFA against Israel, after several players and staff were prevented from travelling from traveling from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank in order to attend the Palestinian Cup final.

Still unsure of who's the greatest of all-time, Messi, Maradona, or Pele? Well the debate is over: Pope Francis has spoken and the word of God is Messi.

ESPN FC examines the benefit to signing players towards the beginning of the transfer window, a luxury Sounders fans have dreamed of all season.

Soccer to Watch Today:

USL - City Islanders vs New York RB II - 4:00pm (Youtube)

CCL - Central vs Whitecaps5:00pm (Univision Deportes)

USL - OKC Energy vs Sacramento Republic - 5:30pm (ESPN3, Youtube)

CCL - Pachuca vs Olimpia - 7:00pm (Univision Deportes)