Expansion time

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has revealed that the league plans to expand by four teams to 24 by the 2020 season.

Garber made the announcement at halftime of the MLS All-Star Game, which the league’s top players lost to Roma 3-1 at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

MLS currently has 19 teams this season, and New York City FC will join as the 20th team in 2015.

“The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league,” Garber said in a statement. “We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game.

“As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”

According to the league’s website, potential expansion sites could include Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit and Sacramento.

David Beckham, who spent recent seasons playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy before retiring this year, holds the option to buy an MLS expansion club for $25 million, and there is speculation that he is considering a site in Miami.

The most recent MLS expansion teams were Montreal (2012), Portland and Vancouver (2011), Philadelphia (2010) and Seattle (2009).

New York City FC will be jointly owned by English Premier League team Manchester City and the New York Yankees, who together will pay $100 million for the right to start the new franchise. Which shows what a bargain Beckham got when he was first offered an option to buy back in 2008 for just $25 million.

Dream turns sour

Tahiti, the smallest nation ever to compete in a major football tournament and composed almost entirely of amateurs, have been hit by a drugs scandal after FIFA confirmed that one of their players failed a drugs test at the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil.

The tiny country, with a population of just 178,000, went into the tournament as champions of Oceania, and although outclassed, won respect for the sporting manner in which they acquitted themselves.

But an unnamed player has been provisionally suspended for 30 days after failing a test conducted following Tahiti’s final group-stage match on June 23 against Uruguay which they lost 8-0.

Whatever the substance was, it could hardly be described as performance enhancing.

FIFA, which has not yet named the banned substance, said it opened disciplinary proceedings and invited the player to seek a full hearing. The player declined to ask for analysis of his back-up “B” sample. Both the player and the Tahitian Football Association have until August 15 to submit their evidence.

The case takes much of the shine off Tahiti’s appearance at the World Cup warm-up tournament where they lost by a combined score of 24-1.

Quick learners

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has praised his players after Wednesday night’s 2-0 friendly win over Sao Paulo, revealing that he has been left astonished by just how quickly they have adapted to his footballing philosophy.

After a comfortable win at the Allianz Arena, which came courtesy of goals from Mario Mandzukic and Mitchell Weiser, the former Barcelona boss was delighted with the players adaptability.

“The match wasn’t easy to play. Sao Paulo is in the middle of their season, and we are just going to start our campaign,” he told RTL. “But it was a deserved victory.

“I am quite astonished how easily my players are able to understand my ideas and how they are able to reassemble it on the pitch. My team is very intelligent. My team is a great team.”

Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose role in the side had come under scrutiny following the arrival of Thiago Alcantara, was singled out for special praise.

“Bastian is very important for us. He is very intelligent. He’s got personality. I am very satisfied with him.”

All seems well with the German and European champions.

Goal of the day

A truly astonishing long range strike from Dorlan Pabon for Monterrey against Queretaro.

Quote of the day

“Internationally, (Wayne) Rooney, (Paul) Scholes, (Frank) Lampard are all top players. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand at the back, all world-class footballers. Suarez is on a different planet to most footballers.”

Steven Gerrard confirms what most of us already suspected: Luis Suarez inhabits a different planet to the rest of us.

Barton Fink

Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton has played down claims from his agent that he is keen on a move to Everton.

Barton spent last season on-loan to French club Marseille and had previously stated his desire to return to the French club on a permanent deal.

However, the 30-year-old’s agent, Willie McKay, revealed this week that his client wanted to play for his boyhood club and was prepared to take 50 per cent pay cut to do so.

Barton, though, has dismissed these claims, insisting that he still wants a move Marseille and will turn out for QPR in the Championship next season if a permanent switch does not materialise.

“It’s well known who I support. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out,” he Tweeted.

“Good football agents will always be looking to move players, that’s how they make money.

“Recent rumours are slightly wide of the mark, everyone knows where I would like to end up, in France, playing in the Champions League for Olympique Marseille, nothing has changed my end.

“If not, I am contracted to QPR and will give my all to help them regain their Premier League status.

“If something happens and both clubs decide differently than I will assess my options.

“No matter what happens, I intend to enjoy my football and play with a smile on my face. Again, wherever that maybe. Careers are too short.

“Hope that clears my situation up for everyone. Stop listening to all the tittle-tattle.”

Fair enough, had Barton not stoked the rumours by Tweeting: “Once a blue, always a blue…”

Back to the drawing board

Just two days after unveiling their new guidelines on what terms are and aren’t acceptable for employees to use, Liverpool will be mildly embarrassed to discover that their kit supplier, Warrior Sports, has already contravened the new rules on its website.

“Man up” is one of several phrases the Anfield club deems unacceptable on a list issued to members of staff as part of a wider programme aimed at combating all forms of discrimination. Others in the section on gender include “queen”, “princess”, “play like a girl” and “don’t be a woman”.

The club’s official sportswear supplier, however, requests that people “Man Up, Sign Up” to receive its product updates by email.

As the Guardian notes, there is further embarrassment closer to home after it was revealed that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told the Anfield Wrap about his players: “If you get little niggles or little injuries, you’ve got to man up,” when his squad was down to the bare bones before the January transfer window.

The road to hell…

Death threat

An IK Brage supporter who threatened to kill one of his own team’s players during a match has been banned from attending home games for 2-1/2 years, the Swedish club said in a statement.

Brage are at the bottom of Sweden’s second division with one win and two draws all season and resentment among supporters about their poor displays culminated in one imbecile threatening to murder one of the players.

“One of these so-called fans expressed a direct murder threat during the away game at Degerfors to a Brage player, something which in recent days has been confirmed by several independent sources,” the club said on its website (www.ikbrage.se)

Club chairman Per Armund Ruth said: “We obviously cannot accept our players being threatened.

“If the player threatened with murder chooses to report it to the police he will do so, something Brage supports. The club has chosen to act with a long ban.”

Of course, had the idiot Tweeted it, he’d have got away with it.

Still not over it

After appeared to have healed a rift with the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy, Robert Lewandowski has once again criticised the club’s board for failing to keep its promise that he would be allowed to leave the club for Bayern Munich.

The Poland international looked set to join the Bundesliga rivals this summer, with his contract set to expire in a year’s time, but Dortmund eventually vetoed a move to the Champions League winner. Instead, they will be forced to allow the Polish striker to leave on a free transfer next summer. A better example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, it would be hard to find.

Although Lewandowski has assured supporters that he will be fully committed to Dortmund as long as he plays for the club, his language over the summer suggests an unhappy camper.

“If someone says something, he should keep his word. I’m not saying it’s only about the transfer, but other things we have discussed with management and that have not materialized,” Lewandowski told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita. “No matter how hard I will train and what I will do, the feeling that I’ve been cheated will still be there.

“It turns out that words spoken straight into my eyes were untrue.”

Dortmund, who defeated Bayern in the DFL Supercup but were runners up in all the competitions that actually mattered last season, kick off their Bundesliga campaign on August 10 against Augsburg at the SGL Arena.

Coach Jurgen Klopp was unconcerned by the striker’s remarks, but said said a meeting would be held with Lewandowski and his agent to clear the air.

“For me what he does is a thousand times more important than what he says because what he does needs no interpretation,” Klopp told reporters.

“Whatever is left to be discussed will be discussed internally,” he said. “The idea is to close this subject. Everything is in order. Nothing has changed since yesterday or the day before yesterday.

“I am convinced we will clear up everything in the coming days.”

Pep talk

Juventus coach Antonio Conte has lashed out at Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola following the latter’s comments about Bianconeri spending this summer.

Guardiola recently claimed Juventus are one of European football’s big spenders following the signings of Fernando Llorente, Carlos Tevez and Angelo Ogbonna, but Conte insists the club are living within their means.

“Guardiola is seemingly still stuck in his time at Brescia [from 2003 until 2004]. He should focus on how things are at his own club,” Conte told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’s not like he himself has joined a club with little to no money…

“I don’t like hearing this kind of nonsense that Juventus have been spending a lot of money.

“Ever since I joined the club, the gap between money spent and received is negligible.”

Juventus have so far sold the likes of Felipe Melo, Emanuele Giaccherini and Manolo Gabbiadini to offset their summer signings, while Bayern themselves have not exactly been shrinking violets in the transfer market, spending upwards of €50 million on Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara.

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