Eden Hazard joins former teammates to become part-owners of San Diego NASL team

Eden Hazard has joined forces with fellow professionals Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow to invest in a new NASL expansion side in San Diego, in what is an intriguing move for soccer fans across the globe.

The quartet of stars are funding the formation of the new team alongside local investors in San Diego, although a full team name has yet to be confirmed.

Hazard played 115 games alongside Cabaye and 70 alongside Sow while at Lille, before playing 35 times alongside Demba Ba at Chelsea following his move to the Premier League in 2012.

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San Diego will become the 10th team in the NASL when they enter play in Spring 2018, alongside a fellow expansion team in Orange County.

San Diego is expected to welcome a professional soccer team back to the area with open arms. There are an estimated 3.3 million people in the area and more than 50,000 youth players.

Chelsea star Hazard is one of the world’s most talented and widely recognised stars. He said San Diego’s passion for soccer is one of the key reasons behind the investment.

“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us. My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”

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Hazard’s former Chelsea teammate Demba Ba – who currently plays for Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua but is on loan at Besiktas – is planning for success in the NASL and beyond.

“Success is our goal – with the club, with the community, with everything that we do,” Ba said. “One of our goals is to sign players who have a strong passion for the game, who are competitive and love to win.

“I look forward to competing against our fellow California clubs and the rest of the NASL, as well as MLS clubs in the U.S. Open Cup. It is going to be up to us to be the best.”

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The expansion club will play their home matches at the University of San Diego until their own soccer-specific stadium is built, with sites currently being considered in North County.

The news comes just a couple of months after Didier Drogba became football’s first player-owner with USL side Phoenix Rising and there is a sense that an increasing number of the games biggest stars may be looking to invest in US Soccer.

AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini is the co-owner of NASL side Miami FC, who are coached by Alessandro Nesta. While David Beckham’s own Miami project recently received a boost in its pursuit of an MLS Expansion Team, following the acquisition of the land needed to build a 25,000-seater stadium.


Getting stuck in: Could MLS survive with promotion and relegation?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into whether promotion and relegation is a possibility for Major League Soccer…

Every weekend from August to May I sit on my lumpy couch, remote in hand, ready to watch Premier League matches until my eyes bleed. Liverpool games are always my main meal, but I have some other dishes I like to munch on. Maybe a U.S. player like DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Brad Guzan or Matt Miazga is playing? Or I might dig into an intriguing Manchester derby. This year I will watch anything Leicester City. But nothing gets the little hairs on my head to stand up more than a relegation battle.

Ah, promotion and relegation. That strangely un-American and un-Canadian system that has been exhaustively debated from coast-to-coast since MLS came around 20 years ago. In a recent ESPN poll, MLS players were asked if they would favour promotion and relegation in MLS. The results saw 49 percent say “yes” and 51 percent answer “no”. And that seems to be where we are: pretty much split down the middle.

But the person who really counts is MLS Commissioner Don Garber. He recently said: “We play in a country where the major leagues are really successful. There is no promotion and relegation in hockey and basketball and they work really well. It is not happening in MLS any time soon.”

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So we are stuck with a quirky playoff system that rewards 60 percent of the league, with very little punishment for the remaining 40 percent. But could promotion and relegation work? No is the answer with the way the league is presently constructed. No owner would pay an expansion fee of $100 million just to be relegated. That is what would’ve happened to NYCFC last season when they amassed a paltry 37 points in their inaugural season.

Ok, let’s start with the basics of how relegation and promotion might work. First, you need a league for MLS teams to be relegated to. Like in the Premier League, there needs to be tiers. Could MLS (Division I) work with the NASL (Division II) and USL (Division III) to form a three-tier system? It would certainly take a lot of work from all three leagues to get aligned, but it is doable.

Now for the stadium issue. The USL and NASL, for the most part, play in – and I use this term loosely – small stadiums. Here’s a scenario: FC Edmonton win the NASL and gets promoted to MLS. They make peanuts on tickets sales, concessions and parking because their rinky-dink stadium holds a mere 5,000 people. They won’t be staying up for long with that kind of revenue.

Let’s look at the reverse. NYCFC gets relegated to the NASL. I doubt David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo will accept going down when they have to play Rayo OKC at the Yukon High School. While I seriously doubt they will be able to convince their European pals to join them with this kind of pitch: “Hey Ronaldo, you should really come check out soccer in America. Not sure where I am, but I think I am playing on a high school field in front of a few friends and family.”

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Ok, teams like AFC Bournemouth in England, who are NASL-esque, made it work. They climbed up the divisions and brought along a dated ground with them to the Premier League. But they didn’t have to rely on gate receipts. The amount of money they got for being promoted is substantial. The pittance teams would get from getting promoted from USL to NASL to MLS would be laughable. And where would the parachute payments come form? TV money?

MLS has come a long way with securing decent TV deals. Fox, ESPN and Univision pay $90 million a year, which is a huge amount compared to what MLS was getting in 1996. But compared to the Premier League’s shiny new multi-billion dollar TV deal, well, the MLS TV deal looks pretty puny.

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For all the reason stated above, and many more I left out, I don’t see promotion and relegation happening in my lifetime. But there’s a good argument for it to happen sooner than later. One anonymous MLS player put it this way when talking to ESPN: “Whether you’re playing for promotion or to avoid relegation, it makes every game that much more important. In MLS, if you’re having a bad season, some guys just ride out the last couple [of] months because they know they’ll be in the league next year.”

MLS is two decades old, so maybe it’s just too early for such a radical change. But to truly be accepted as a top league in world football, it probably has to happen one day. There’s just too much at stake.

TRANSFER ROUNDUP: United star to Bayern, Arsenal’s Barca raid & Palacios to MLS

Daily transfer roundup (Friday, May 29)

MLS Rumours

Wilson Palacios has been released by Stoke City and his next move is yet to be confirmed. The 30 year old has been in the Premier League since 2007 but a move to MLS is a possibility. (REPORT)

Premier League Rumours

Manchester United flop, Angel Di Maria, could be moving on to Bayern Munich after just one season to. The German giants are expected to dip into the market for a winger with both Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben heading into their last year of their contracts. (REPORT)

Arsenal are planning a raid for FC Barcelona duo Pedro Rodriguez and Martin Montoya. Both players are reportedly unhappy with a lack of playing time. (REPORT)

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Liverpool have reportedly made an offer for Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic as they look to fill the void left by Steven Gerrard’s departure to MLS. (REPORT)

Done Deals

Orlando City SC have announced goalkeeper Josh Ford will be joining Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, of NASL, on loan until June 18. (REPORT)

Chicago Fire have sent Mike Magee on a three-day loan to USL affiliate Saint Louis FC to get some playing time. (REPORT)

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Tottenham Hotspur have signed Austrian defender Kevin Wimmer from German side, Cologne, for an undisclosed fee on a 5-year deal. (REPORT)

United legend set for Miami battle with former teammate

Manchester United and MLS legend, David Beckham is set for a battle with AC Milan icon, Paolo Maldini, as his proposal for a new Major League Soccer franchise continues.

Maldini has the upper-hand as his Miami Football Club will be competing in the North American Soccer League as of the 2016 season. Maldini is full of confidence ahead of Miami FC’s debut season.

“I’m proud and excited to be part of this venture. I strongly believe in the growth of soccer in USA, and this is the perfect project to develop a top-class soccer team in one of the most important cities of the world.”

Beckham’s latest setback with his proposal came in 2014, after a 25,000 capacity stadium was rejected and his push for a fourth Miami competitive side has not been easy. Miami politicians have rejected stadium applications twice for Beckham’s franchise and a proposal was made for his side to be based at Florida International University on a temporary basis.

Maldini’s Miami will become the third soccer side in the city, alongside Miami United and Miami Fusion, who both play in the National Premier Soccer League Sunshine Conference. Fusion formerly played in MLS until 2002.

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Miami FC were described as the ‘city’s only professional soccer club’ in an NASL statement, which is a blow for Beckham.

The former United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star is set to meet today with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and outgoing University of Miami president, Donna Shalala, about the possibility of a partnering on a football/soccer stadium.

Beckham needs his proposal to take a forward step as he is risking losing his expansion slot with a whole host of potential teams lining up to join MLS.

Don’t miss: Don Garber give fresh encouragement to MLS expansion hopefuls

Miami FC’s announcement yesterday has only intensified pressure on Beckham’s proposal to bring MLS to Miami.

Has Maldini’s Miami FC dealt a huge blow to Beckham and is this the start of a rivalry between two footballing greats?

EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Minnesota United FC are set to become the latest Major League Soccer expansion franchise when MLS Commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire make the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, and that means another set of passionate supporters are set to enter the league too.

Minnesota United’s largest and oldest supporters group is the Dark Clouds and they have followed the team through thick and thin since they were formed in 2004. They are delighted that the club is finally on its way into MLS and cannot wait for the next era.

“It’s hard not to see the place in MLS as vital,” the Dark Clouds’ President Jim Oliver told MLSGB’s Louis East. “Minnesota’s had second division soccer for going on 26 years now, so we’ve had a team to support for a long time and have managed to survive through lean economic times and fraudsters for owners.
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“Despite that long history though, the competition for getting the rights to the MLS franchise in Minnesota might have put another club in United’s geographic area, which would have spelled doom for our club. That’s why it was so important for United to go for the MLS spot, and why we’re so pleased that our owner Dr. McGuire and his partners were willing to make the commitment.”

Some members of the Dark Clouds have been waiting for as long as two decades for their MLS dream to come true so the fact that United are set to become the league’s 23rd club is certainly something they’ve earned.

“MLS has been around for 20 years, so there’s definitely some among us who’ve been waiting that long,” Oliver added.

“Honestly we’ve been happy to support a lower-division club since the founding of the Dark Clouds 12 years ago, but nobody can say that you don’t dream of the quality players, stadiums and competition that the top flight provides.

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“For the Dark Clouds, we’re excited about all the attention MLS will bring and how it’ll help us to expand the charitable work that our group does. We’ve supported local soccer-related causes for years, and it’ll be great to hopefully turn that trickle of volunteerism and cash donation into a flood.”

Minnesota United’s official website claims: “We are industrious and built around the idea that hard work yields the greatest rewards. We are strong and getting stronger. We are United.”

More of those rewards are just around the corner now. An MLS franchise could enter the league within the next three years and United fans will hope to dominate in the top flight the same way they have done in the NASL over the past four years.

The NASL started it’s second chapter in 2011, and Minnesota United won the championship at the end of that first season. United then won the NASL Spring Championship last season and will look to enter MLS in style by continuing to dominate the second-tier of US Soccer until then.

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

“We’re expecting big things from United,” Oliver continued. “The ownership group has show a commitment to really raise the level even in the second division, bringing in great players and staff and systems that kept us firmly on top of the table last year.”

“There’s no other second division club in this country that commits resources to things like preseason tours (England last year and Brazil this year) and signings on the level we’ve seen from United in recent years. Dr. McGuire wants a dominant side and he’s done what it takes to build one. We can’t wait to see that in MLS.”

Are you looking forward to seeing Minnesota United enter MLS as the latest expansion franchise?

Top 10 British footballers to play in America

Football, or soccer depending on what you prefer to call it, is quickly becoming one of the more recognised sports in the United States as Major League Soccer continues to grow and develop as a league. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will both head stateside this summer but here is a list of the ten best British players to play in America so far.

10. Dom Dwyer

Dom Dwyer celebrates after scoring for Sporting Kansas City last season (Photo: SportingKC.com)

Dom Dwyer celebrates after scoring for Sporting Kansas City last season (Photo: SportingKC.com)

He might not be the most recognisable name on this list but he’s made a splash since heading stateside. Dwyer played for Norwich at youth level but moved to America aged 19. He won the 2013 MLS Cup with Sporting Kansas City and scored 22 times in 33 appearances for the club last season. Dwyer recently made headlines as he married U.S. Women’s international footballer Sydney Leroux on Valentines Day.

9. Trevor Francis

Trevor Francis playing for the Detroit Express (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Trevor Francis playing for the Detroit Express (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Francis joined the Detroit Express in the North American Soccer League (NASL) on loan from Birmingham City in 1978. He scored an impressive 39 goals in 38 games in his only season in America before becoming the first British player to be transferred for £1 million when Nigel Clough signed him for Nottingham Forest in 1979.

8. Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne playing for England

Paul Gascoigne playing for England

Although he never actually signed for a club across the pond, Gascoigne spent a summer on trial with MLS side DC United in 2002 as a 33 year old. He rejected a contract with DC and his next career move saw him move to China with Gansu Tianma in a role that saw him fulfil both player and coaching roles.

7. Rodney Marsh

Rodney Marsh in action for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers against Franz Beckenbauer (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Rodney Marsh in action for the Tampa Bay Rowdies against Franz Beckenbauer (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Marsh joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1976 and famously announced, “Pele is the black Rodney Marsh” after being labelled as the “White Pele” by the club’s owner upon his arrival. He went on to score 48 goals in 94 appearances for the Rowdies and stayed in America after retiring, filling various roles as a coach and CEO.

6. Peter Beardsley

Peter Beardsley playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps (Photo: VancouverWhitecaps.com)

Peter Beardsley playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps (Photo: VancouverWhitecaps.com)

Beardsley spent two short spells with Canadian-based club, the Vancouver Whitecaps in the early stages of his career, scoring 28 goals in 73 appearances. He first joined from Carlisle in September 1982 but was signed by Ron Atkinson at Manchester United just weeks after moving to North America. Beardsley returned to Vancouver in March 1983 in another short spell as he was then signed by Newcastle six months later.

5. Bradley Wright-Phillips

Bradley Wright-Phillips playing for the New York Red Bulls last season (Photo: NewYorkRedBulls.com)

Bradley Wright-Phillips playing for the New York Red Bulls last season (Photo: NewYorkRedBulls.com)

Wright-Phillips moved to the New York Red Bulls in July 2013 and the move across the Atlantic has rejuvenated his career. The former Southampton and Manchester City striker has scored 33 goals in 43 appearances and equalled the MLS single-season goal scoring record last year with 27. He won the MLS Supporters’ Shield with the Red Bulls in 2013 and scored against Bayern Munich in last season’s MLS All-Star game.

4. Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Gordon Banks during his time in America (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

The legendary England goalkeeper first moved to America in the summer of 1968, two years after winning the World Cup with England, to join the Cleveland Stokers on loan. He played seven of the club’s 12 games in their short-lived history. He returned to America in 1977 to join the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL, where he made 37 appearances before retiring.

3. Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore in action for the Seattle Sounders (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Bobby Moore during his time stateside (Photo: NASLJerseys.com)

Even Bobby Moore, one of England’s great footballing icons, made the trip west to play the game in North America. He joined the San Antonio Thunder on loan from Fulham in 1976, making 27 appearances, before moving to the Seattle Sounders in 1978 where he played just seven times as a 36 year old.

2. George Best

George Best with Pele during his time in the United States (Photo: Duncan Raban/EMPICS Entertainment)

George Best with Pele during his time in the United States (Photo: Duncan Raban/EMPICS Entertainment)

Best played for three different American clubs after leaving Manchester United in 1974. He spent two brief spells with the Los Angeles Aztecs either side of a season with Fulham before joining the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1978, where he played with Gordon Banks. The Northern Irishman then spent two years with the San Jose Earthquakes from 1980, netting 54 goals in 77 appearances for their indoor and outdoor teams.

1. David Beckham

David Beckham while with the LA Galaxy (Photo: MLSSoccer.com)

David Beckham while with the LA Galaxy (Photo: MLSSoccer.com)

Beckham is the man who changed the perception of U.S. soccer when he joined the LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007. ‘Becks’ spent five-and-a-half years with the Galaxy, winning the MLS Cup in each of his last two seasons. His mere presence helped to boost the image of the beautiful game in America and he is now on the cusp of securing his very own Miami MLS franchise.

Who do you think is the best British player to have played in America?

Samuel Eto’o receives offer from America after one week in Sampdoria

Samuel Eto’o could be on the move yet again as he has received an offer from the New York Cosmos just eight days after joining Italian club Sampdoria, according to the Daily Mirror.

Eto’o left Everton after just five months to join the Serie A side last Tuesday but has endured a disastrous start to life back in Italy after losing 5-1 to Torino on his debut before refusing to do a double training session and left the camp.

Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said: “I don’t know why he left, nor do I know what the club plans to do now.

“All that is certain is that the player didn’t give me any explanation. I consider it a serious lack of respect toward me and the squad.”

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There have even been reports that Eto’o is ready to tear up his contract with the club and the New York Cosmos are reportedly watching the situation with interest.

The NASL side are joined by Chinese club Shanghai East Asia in their pursuit for the 33-year-old Cameroon striker and the report in the Daily Mirror claims that the Cosmos have already offered Eto’o a contract should he wish to jump ship again.

Sampdoria is the fourth club Eto’o has played for in 18 months as he left Anzhi Makhachkala to join Chelsea in August 2013, before moving to Everton last summer.

Would Samuel Eto’o be a good signing for the New York Cosmos?

Lost in transit: Freddy Adu again without a club as FK Jagodina release him

Lost – adjective: Unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts – “Help! We’re lost!”
synonyms: stray, astray, off-course, off-track, off the right track, disorientated,disoriented, having lost one’s bearings, adrift, going round in circles, at sea

Ten years ago Freddy Adu was a name on everyone’s lips in America as a 14-year-old superstar burst onto the scene for DC United, becoming the youngest ever player to make an appearance, and then score in MLS history.

But a his career has spiralled out of control in recent years and the 25-year-old midfielder in without a club for the second time this year after being released by Serbian outfit FK Jagodina.

Adu moved to the Serbian club in July after failing to earn a contract with clubs in England, Norway and the Netherlands after unsuccessful trials. He signed an 18-month contract with Jagodina but made just one appearance in a Serbian Cup game before his release.

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He is now back in America, as anyone who follows him on Instagram will know, and he is in desperate need of a home in the game before his career ends as abruptly as it began.

His best spells have come in MLS with DC United and more recently the Philadelphia Union, where he played between 2011-2013, but it is unlikely that any side in Major League Soccer would take a gamble on the man once labelled as the American Pele at this point.

That means Adu may have to swallow his pride and join a club in the NASL or even USL-Pro League if they were willing to take the attacker.

He’s desire to play in the top leagues around the world can no longer be matched. He is the youngest ever player to appear in US Pro sports but is in danger of becoming a forgotten man for good.

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Playing in the NASL would give him a chance to rebuild his career on home soil, while a chance to play with an MLS team’s reserve side in USL-Pro could also be a good opportunity.

A host of MLS teams have secondary sides entering USL-Pro in 2015 and that could be the best place for Adu to play.

Whatever he decides to do next, it needs to be the right move. Anymore failed moves could see Freddy Adu slip off the soccer radar altogether.

What should Freddy Adu do next? Is his career over or has he got a chance to resurrect it in the US?