Archive for the ‘MLS’ Category

Gareth Bale is taking his talents to Hollywood.

The Welsh superstar has agreed to join Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC on a one-year contract, reports David Ornstein of The Athletic.

The agreement includes an option to extend the 33-year-old’s stay a further 18 months.

Bale became a free agent after ending his nine-year spell at Real Madrid, where he scored 106 goals in 256 appearances. He moved to Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then-world-record fee of £85 million.

Bale was previously linked with a move back to Spurs and hometown club Cardiff City in recent weeks, as well as Spanish side Getafe, whose president said that Bale was “offered” to the Spanish club earlier this month.

It’s understood that LAFC won’t have to use a Designated Player spot on Bale, with Tom Bogert of Major League Soccer reporting that the American club will instead use Targeted Allocation Money to complete the deal.

Additionally, Carlos Vela will reportedly commit to staying in Los Angeles as a Designated Player. The Mexican forward is expected to extend his stay with a one-year contract, according to ESPN’s Taylor Twellman.

The reported agreement with Bale comes weeks after LAFC completed a deal to sign Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Both players could be eligible to make their respective debuts for the Western Conference-leading club when LAFC take on city rivals Los Angeles Galaxy on July 8, Bogert adds.

Apple’s foray into live sports took a big step forward Tuesday.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced a 10-year partnership on a streaming service that will allow fans to watch every game without local blackouts or restrictions. The service will be available exclusively through the Apple TV app beginning next year.

The deal is Apple’s second venture into streaming professional sports. In April, it began airing “Friday Night Baseball,” an exclusive weekly doubleheader of Major League Baseball games.

“The opportunity to partner with a sports league, and truly build the product together with them is very, very unique,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services. “We can bring the things that we do really well with the things that they do really well and really make the product, which I think will be significantly better for the fans. We want to create a great experience for fans to be able to watch and experience MLS like they’ve never had before.”

The details of the streaming service will be announced in the coming months. The package will be included for fans who have full-season ticket packages for their club.

Some MLS and Leagues Cup matches will be available at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers, with a limited number of matches also available for free.

“We really couldn’t have found a better partner to embark on this new journey together to capitalize on the momentum that exists in MLS today,” league Commissioner Don Garber said. “We can use this deal as rocket fuel as we build towards the World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026 and thinking about what the sport of soccer, what Major League Soccer could look like, in the years beyond.”

Currently, most MLS games are streamed on ESPN+, but there are blackout restrictions due to some local rights agreements. The league’s deals with Fox Sports and ESPN expire at the end of the year, but Garber is hoping the league can reach a deal with a broadcast partner.

Even with the Apple deal, MLS does have the opportunity to simulcast some games nationally.

Streaming is already built into soccer fans’ DNA. The league said it has found in various studies that 83% of MLS fans watch sports on streaming devices or recorded TV in a typical week, much higher than the general average of 52% for all TV viewers.

What also makes the deal intriguing for Apple is that MLS has the youngest and most diverse audience compared to the other four major professional North American sports leagues.

Besides all regular-season and postseason matches, the package includes all Leagues Cup matches — the competition between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX — as well as select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches.

Apple will also partner with MLS on presentation of the matches as the league takes over production. This is another step forward for the league, but is similar to the way European soccer leagues do business. All matches will be called in English and Spanish while those involving Canadian clubs will also be available in French.

All matches will also be available in Full HD (1080p) for the first time. Previously, matches were broadcast in 1080i or 720p.

Garber said the league will have a more streamlined schedule beginning next season, with most matches taking place on Saturday evenings and some on Wednesdays. The only time that might change is for a national broadcast or stadium conflict. The league will expand to 29 teams in 2023 with the debut of St. Louis CITY SC.

The deal comes as Apple is also exploring opportunities with other sports. The company has been pursuing streaming NFL games when the league’s “Sunday Ticket” expires at the end of the upcoming season.

Charlotte FC fired coach Miguel Angel Ramírez on Tuesday just 14 games into the regular season.

Ramírez was hired by owner David Tepper to lead the Major League Soccer expansion club and was dismissed after going 5-8-1 in league games. The team advanced to the round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup.

Assistant coach Christian Lattanzio will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

No explanation was given for the firing.

“This is a difficult decision, but one we feel is best for the team at this time,” Tepper said in a news release. “I want to thank Miguel and his staff for their hard work during our first season and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

Assistant coach Mikel Antía, head fitness coach Cristobal Fuentes Nieto and first team video analyst Luis Piedrahita also were fired. Goalkeeper coach Andy Quy will remain on staff.

“We appreciate the contributions of Miguel and his staff to our Club, and wish them well moving forward in their careers,” Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta said. “We are excited about this opportunity for Christian. He is a very experienced coach who has made a tremendous impact on our squad this season.”

It’s unclear if Ramirez’s outspoken nature played a role in his firing.

Before the season began, Ramirez said in an interview that the Charlotte FC team was “screwed” heading into its inaugural season after failing to acquire some of the talented players he had coveted.

It’s not entirely uncommon for Major League Soccer teams to fire coaches in their first season.

Since the start of the 2019 season, six full-time coaches have lasted one year or less: FC Cincinnati’s Alan Koch and Ron Jans, Montreal Impact’s Thierry Henry, Inter Miami’s Diego Alonso, Toronto FC’s Chris Armas and Atlanta United’s Gabriel Heinze. Another expansion coach who failed to last more than one season was New York City FC’s Jason Kreis.

This is the second time in as many jobs that Ramirez has been fired midseason; he was terminated by Internacional of Brazil despite going 11-7-4.

Some soccer teams have been able to recovery quickly from such moves. Tottenham fired its manager 17 games into its season before battling back and finishing in the top four in the English Premier League. And Nottingham Forest sacked its manager after just under a year in charge and went from last place to being promoted to the Premier League this past weekend.

David Beckham’s dream of building a new $1 billion home for his Inter Miami Major League Soccer franchise cleared a major hurdle on Thursday after years of uncertainty and fierce public opposition.

Inter Miami, which is co-owned by the former England captain, have played their first three MLS campaigns in Fort Lauderdale at DRV PNK Stadium, around 30 miles north of Miami.

But after a meeting at Miami City Hall, the club earned the requisite votes from the five commissioners to lease land at Melreese Country Club near Miami international airport to build a new 25,000-seater stadium, due to be ready in 2025.

There was drama towards the conclusion of a six-hour hearing when Miami commissioner Ken Russell voted against the deal only to change his mind after a 30-minute break to ensure a 4-1 triumph amid jubilant scenes involving Inter Miami officials.

The golf course at Melreese, the only public one in the city, will now begin to be converted into the stadium complex which will be called Miami Freedom Park.

It will include a state-of-the-art multi-use stadium, a 750-room hotel, technology hub, one million square feet of office space and a 58-acre park with soccer pitches for public use.

Political infighting had halted the deal with it being branded a “real estate deal with a soccer stadium” by opponents.

But Jorge Mas, the Miami born construction magnate who is effectively Beckham’s right-hand man, could barely contain his delight.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a phenomenal deal for Miami,” said Mas, 59. “This is a legacy project. This is an amazing day.” Co-owner Mas spoke passionately at the start of the hearing about the project which has been six years in the making and has encountered myriad problems since its conception.

Inter Miami purchased a plot of land in Overtown, a dilapidated downtown area, in 2015 but Mas has always pushed for a far more lucrative development which they hope will create a Silicon Valley-type environment in South Florida.

Mas said the importance of being allowed to create the $1 billion complex which he said would help create around 15,000 jobs.

Inter Miami stress Freedom Park is ‘100% privately financed’ and Mas made the point that in both Tennessee and Buffalo, where new NFL stadiums are being planned, funding will come from the public purse.

“This deal is unprecedented in US sport,” added Mas.

Beckham was absent as was head coach Phil Neville although both were following the events closely.

Sporting director Chris Henderson was present at the hearing which lasted close to six hours.

“We are really building something here,” he told AFP. “Because of David’s involvement, the brand has always been big and of course this will just increase that.”

New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner is sidelined with a hairline fracture in his right foot.

Turner tweeted Saturday that the United States’ Feb. 2 World Cup qualifier in frigid weather at St. Paul, Minnesota, “has nothing to do with that’s kept me off the field these last few weeks.”

“I had a brief bout of tendinitis after that game in my left foot that was quickly resolved and back to 100%,” he wrote. “After that, I resumed preseason with the Revolution and training before playing in the final friendly of preseason. Early on in that game a reckless and unnecessary preseason sliding challenge came in which left me a hairline fracture in my right foot.”

Revolution coach Bruce Arena said March 8 that Turner was injured during a practice game at Los Angeles FC. New England said it was during a closed-door scrimmage that took place Feb. 9.

The 27-year-old Turner, who has agreed to to a summer transfer to Arsenal, missed the United States’ last three World Cup qualifiers and was to miss his fifth straight MLS match Saturday.

Austin FC scored five goals for a second straight game on Sunday, thrashing Inter Miami 5-1 to surge to the top of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.

Argentinian striker Sebastian Driussi and substitute Ethan Finlay both scored twice as the Texans ran riot against the David Beckham-owned Miami.

Driussi opened the scoring for Austin on 22 minutes before Julio Cascante doubled the hosts’ lead four minutes later.

Driussi grabbed his second of the game on 51 minutes, volleying home from close range after Miami gave away possession cheaply.

Ecuador international Leonardo Campana gave Miami the faintest of hopes in the 53rd minute, punishing slack defending in the Austin defence to drive in a low shot from inside the area.

But Finlay snuffed out any hopes of a Miami fightback in the 64th minute, and then lashed home a thunderous effort on 90 minutes to complete a miserable afternoon for Miami manager Phil Neville.

“This league is really punishing, you get punished for your mistakes, lapses in concentration,” the former England and Manchester United defender, said.

“We know our team is going to take time to settle and there were signs we were getting back into the game — and then we’d concede again. We’ve just got to stop conceding goals.”

Austin, 5-0 winners over Cincinnati in their opening game last week, lead the Western Conference with six points from two games.

Miami have one point from two games and are 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Major League Soccer has a new superstar.

Lorenzo Insigne rubber-stamped his remarkable transfer to Toronto FC on Saturday, signing a four-year contract reportedly worth an MLS record €11.5 million per season before bonuses.

The Italian winger’s TFC spell will begin July 1 following the expiration of his Napoli deal.

“Lorenzo is the kind of player you come to watch, because there’s always a chance he’ll do something unforgettable,” Toronto FC head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said.

“This is a historic and exciting day for our club,” TFC president Bill Manning added.

Insigne, 30, has amassed 89 goals and 72 assists in 321 Serie A appearances for Napoli. He’ll relinquish the captain’s armband at his hometown club when he departs.

Given the struggles of Sebastian Giovinco to remain on Italy‘s radar while starring for Toronto FC in MLS, Insigne can’t afford a drop-off in form in North America with the 2022 World Cup kicking off in November.

He’s been a regular in the Azzurri setup since his debut in September 2012, appearing in each of the three major tournaments the national team has reached over that span. Insigne notably scored the winner in Italy’s European Championship quarterfinal against Belgium during its triumphant run last summer.

“Insigne is fundamental for us,” Italy head coach Roberto Mancini said during the group stage of that tournament. “For the role of linking things together. He’s an important player for our game.”

Overall, Insigne has scored 10 times in 53 appearances for Italy.

His arrival in Canada will prompt a reshuffle at BMO Field as Toronto FC’s Designated Player quota is already filled by Alejandro PozueloJozy Altidore, and Yeferson Soteldo. However, Altidore’s contract is reportedly set to be terminated and Soteldo’s time at TFC could end after just one season.

The Insigne era will be overseen by Bradley, who’s been named MLS Coach of the Year on three occasions.

Lorenzo Insigne has agreed to join Toronto FC on a lucrative five-and-a-half-year contract worth €11.5 million per season, Sky Sport Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio reports.

Insigne, a star player in Serie A and starter for the Italian national team, will reportedly head to Major League Soccer as a free agent once his contract with Napoli expires in June.

His deal with TFC also includes a potential €4.5 million in bonuses, according to Di Marzio.

As one of Toronto’s three Designated Players, Insigne will easily become the highest earner in MLS history. Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled in a then-record $7.2 million while playing for the LA Galaxy in 2019, and Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela led all earners last term with $6.3 million in total compensation.

Although Alejandro PozueloJozy Altidore, and Yeferson Soteldo currently occupy TFC’s three Designated Player spots, Altidore is expected to terminate his contract, and Soteldo could leave before the start of next season.

Still just 30, Insigne is one of Serie A’s most popular players and a regular fixture in Italy’s lineup. The left-winger scored twice at Euro 2020, including the winner against Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Insigne’s move to MLS follows countryman Sebastian Giovinco‘s headline-grabbing transfer in January 2015. Giovinco, who earned a comparatively modest $5.6 million per season, led Toronto to its first MLS Cup in 2017.

A lifelong Napoli fan, Insigne has spent the majority of his career in southern Italy, only breaking away for loan spells at Cavese, Foggia, and Pescara. He made his debut for Napoli in January 2010 and won the captaincy upon Marek Hamsik’s departure in 2019.

Insigne has 107 goals and 85 assists in 357 career Serie A appearances.

New York City FC are seeking more than $15 million for Valentin “Taty” Castellanos after the forward’s stellar 2021 MLS campaign, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Daniel Bocatto.

Palmeiras reportedly fell short of NYCFC’s valuation with an offer worth around $12.5 million. The Brazilian club made its bid after Castellanos scored in normal time and converted a penalty in the shootout of NYCFC’s MLS Cup final win over the Portland Timbers.

The 23-year-old’s strike in the final took him to 40 goals and 18 assists over 99 regular season and playoff appearances with NYCFC since he initially joined on loan from Uruguay’s Torque in 2018. He was directly involved in 30 goals in 2021 alone.

Castellanos has previously voiced his wish to play in his native Argentina but has made it clear that he’s currently focused on taking his talents to Europe.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he believes Castellanos is ready for a move across the Atlantic Ocean. Both Manchester City and NYCFC are owned by City Football Group.

“What I saw when the scouting department talked to me, I know he’s a quality player and ready to make the next step to Europe, and we will see where,” Guardiola said earlier in December, according to ESPN’s Rob Dawson.

New York City FC earned their first championship win the hard way.

After conceding a late equalizer, Ronny Deila’s side bounced back to beat the Portland Timbers on penalties and win the 2021 MLS Cup.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two vital saves, and center-back Alexander Callens blasted home the decisive spot-kick to give NYCFC a 4-2 shootout win Saturday at Providence Park.

NYCFC clinched their first league title in their seventh season.

Timbers forward Felipe Mora sent the game to extra time – and the home crowd into a mad frenzy – when he pounced on a loose ball in the 94th minute. Referee Armando Villarreal allowed the goal to stand despite vociferous claims that NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot was fouled before the equalizer.

Before that, Portland seemed resigned to losing the championship game at home. Valentin Castellanos, Major League Soccer’s Golden Boot winner, opened the scoring in the 41st minute with a powerful header that slipped through goalkeeper Steve Clark‘s fingers.

A fan threw a beer can as NYCFC celebrated the go-ahead tally, striking winger Jesus Medina. The Timbers confirmed the fan was ejected and banned from the stadium indefinitely.

But the visitors had the last laugh. Callens stepped up and executed from 12 yards to deliver the title on hostile territory. Portland, meanwhile, lost in the final for the second time in four campaigns.