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Cincinnati one of four finalists for MLS expansion team

As FC Cincinnati finalizes its stadium plans for a possible promotion to Major League Soccer, the second-division United Soccer League club and its fans can breathe a little easier today.

MLS announced Wednesday that Cincinnati is one of four finalists for the two expansion clubs that are scheduled to be named by the end of the year, and FC Cincinnati received important confirmation the local government will support its efforts to build a soccer-specific stadium required for MLS.

»RELATED: FC Cincinnnati will finance stadium with private funds

FC Cincinnati’s bid — one of 12 submitted in January as the initial application process began — was pushed through to the final stage of consideration along with Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento. Owners and officials representing the four prospective expansion markets will make formal presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s expansion committee in New York on Dec. 6, and a decision will be made following the Board of Governors meeting Dec. 14.

“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” Garber said in a press release. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”

»RELATED: FC Cincinnati, Liberty Center announce partnership

In the meantime, FC Cincinnati is still trying to nail down the last of the expansion requirements set forth by MLS, which prioritizes a soccer-specific stadium. The club originally pitched to MLS a stadium in Newport, but efforts to keep the team in Cincinnati, at a preferred site in Oakley, took a big step Wednesday with infrastructure funding plans passing a vote by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and City Council.

On Monday, City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee agreed to spend up to $37 million for infrastructure at the Oakley site and a 5-3 vote by Council made it official Wednesday, shortly after Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously approved spending $15 million for a 1,000-space parking garage.

“It’s time for this community now to come together — the city, count an FC (Cincinnati) — to demonstrate to MLS that we want a Major League Soccer franchise to be awarded to FC Cincinnati,” County Commissioner Todd Portune said in the meeting.

FC Cincinnati will be privately financing the $200 million stadium on the former Cast-Fab site but has asked the city and county for $75 million in infrastructure, which means there likely is still a $33 million gap in the funding even if the Council vote goes through.

»MORE: FC Cincinnati unveils design plans for proposed new stadium

After the commissioners voted, FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding told WCPO.com the Oakley site is the one the club will pitch to MLS on Dec. 6. The club likely is competing with Nashville and Detroit for a spot in the Eastern Division with Sacramento expected to claim a spot in the Western Division.

The two teams chosen after the Dec. 14 board meeting will begin play in 2020, and two more expansion teams are scheduled to be selected at a later date to bring MLS to 28 teams. The other eight markets still in consideration for the final round of expansion are Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Hope Solo accuses former FIFA president of sexual assault

United States women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulting her in 2013, ESPN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Solo told Expresso that Blatter grabbed her buttocks before the pair went on stage in 2013 to present an award to Solo’s teammate, Abby Wambach.

“It's been normalized,” Solo said of such behavior.

A representative for Blatter called the allegation “ridiculous” in a statement to Expresso and The Guardian.

Solo and Blatter walked onstage together in January 2013 to present the 2012 women's world player of the year award to Wambach.

“I was in shock and completely thrown off," Solo told The Guardian on Friday. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my teammate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.”

Solo said she never saw Blatter again after the ceremony, ESPN reported. 

“That was kind of bad,” she told Expresso. “I didn't get to tell him directly. ‘Don't ever touch me!’ That's the way I've always handled things. Directly.”

Blatter, now 81, was banned by FIFA in 2015 over a conflict of interest case.

“While in this instance it was Sepp Blatter, who was the most powerful man in football at the time, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior are rampant at every level in women's sport, and it needs to stop,” Solo said.

 

UPDATE: Columbus Crew SC owner explains interest in moving to Austin

The Major League Soccer team in Columbus, Ohio, announced Tuesday morning it is exploring a move to Austin, along with continuing to pursue a new stadium in Columbus.

“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Anthony Precourt, chief executive officer of Precourt Sports Ventures and chairman of Columbus Crew SC, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options.

“This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise,” the statement said. “Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”

A relocation to Austin is not possible without a stadium plan, the Crew owner told the American-Statesman Tuesday morning.

“It would be a privately financed stadium in Austin, and I really think it can get done,” Precourt said. “We are not asking for tax dollars. We are just initiating the process. A huge key to this is finding the right site. That will take time.”

Precourt said he’ll need financial help bringing the team here.

“We will look for local investors in Austin,” he said. “We will look for stragic partnerships with people or groups who can get this done.”

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber supports the Crew SC’s possible move to Austin.

“As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” Garber said. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the Club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS.

“The League is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”

Columbus Crew SC was the first charter granted in Major League Soccer in 1996. Crew officials have recognized its growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared with its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City.

Columbus wants a downtown stadium, whether it is in the capital city of Ohio or Texas.

Precourt, a Northern Californian with few ties to the Ohio capital, has visited Austin several times in recent years and been in conversation with Austin leaders, multiple sources told the American-Statesman. SI.com’s Grant Wahl was the first to report the intention late Monday.

“He wants to move to Austin,” a Columbus business leader said. “He may mention Cincinnati and Phoenix, but it’s Austin he really wants.”

An MLS source agreed that while Austin is being used for leverage, the first option is to move to Austin.

University of Texas athletic director Mike Perrin indicated his school would be interested in such an arrangement. Myers Stadium has a capacity of 20,000 — in the ballpark for MLS — and alcohol sales are allowed.

“We are aware of MLS interest in Austin and have no opposition to exploring possible collaborative opportunities,” Perrin told the Statesman.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler shot down reports by other news outlets that there would be bond elections coming for a new stadium.

“I don’t know what it would be you would be putting on a ballot,” he told the Statesman. “You could put something on a ballot if there was going to be a bond election to finance a stadium, but nothing like that is in the works.”

Adler told KVUE that Austin would make an excellent MLS market.

“Exciting news because Major League Soccer would be a huge success in Austin, and the Crew would find tons of fan support,” he said. “There is a lot of benefit that being in Austin would give a team, too, though not public funding of a stadium.”

Earlier this year, Major League Soccer registered “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” as trademarks. MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche told the Statesman that Austin would not be considered for one of the four remaining expansion slots but did not respond to a question about relocation.

An Austin soccer source said he was told MLS Commissioner Don Garber sent a letter to owners explaining the potential Columbus move. Garber has previously praised Austin as having the right vibe and demographics for his league.

The Crew had an affiliation with the Austin Aztex of the United Soccer League for one year, 2015, before the Aztex were suspended amid a sea of debt. The Aztex reported an average home attendance of 3,227 playing in high school football stadiums.

The Crew relocation is one of two efforts to bring professional soccer back to Austin after the Aztex were suspended. Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein announced this summer he is bringing USL pro soccer back to Austin in 2019, and they will play in a new 5,000-seat stadium at the race track.

Epstein is not involved with Precourt’s group and said he will take a wait-and-see approach about the Crew’s possible move to Austin.

Columbus is near the bottom of MLS in attendance and franchise worth. Columbus’ home average of 15,439 fans ranks 20th of 22 teams, ahead of only Colorado and Dallas. The Crew SC is worth $123 million, according to Forbes Magazine, ranking 21st.

Mapfre Stadium, capacity 22,555, is the original purpose-built stadium in MLS and also the oldest, opening in 1999, and is showing signs of wear and tear.

The timing of the reports is curious. The Crew, the 2008 MLS Cup champions, qualified for the postseason as the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed. The playoff start next week.

“Our interest in Austin is very sincere,” Precourt said. “(I) have a longstanding affinity for it.”

Staff writers Kirk Bohls and Katie Hall contributed to this story.

Police release video of soccer star Alex Morgan's eviction from Disney's Epcot

On Oct. 1, one of the biggest stars of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was out with friends at Epcot in Orlando, Florida, when the night took a major turn for the worse.

>> Watch the news report here

Alex Morgan, who also plays for the Orlando Pride, was out with Orlando City player Donny Toia and his wife, and after some sort of altercation, the trio was kicked out of the park and told not to come back, authorities said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office released body camera footage of the three as deputies issued them trespass warnings for “conduct not welcome on Walt Disney property.”

>> Watch the footage here

Deputies and park officials said Morgan and the Toias were being verbally aggressive, loud and belligerent toward park staff and other guests, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

>> On WFTV.com: Orlando Pride adds Alex Morgan to roster

In the video, the three can be heard arguing with the deputy and park employees and at one point, one of them, who was off camera, took exception with how a deputy described their behavior.

“Dude, you guys are lying right now,” the woman can be heard saying. “I can’t imagine what black people go through.”

As his son practiced at XL Soccer World in Orlando on Tuesday, Erlend Kleiven said he was disappointed in what he saw in the body camera video.

“Obviously, as a role model from the national team, for young kids to look up to her, wear her jersey, obviously that’s not something that is good for the sport,” he said.

>> Read more trending news 

While soccer dad Jason Gilmore agreed that what he saw in the video was not a good example for aspiring players, he argued that Morgan might be getting more flak than was warranted.

“It isn’t great role model stuff, but on the other hand, I mean, we kind of forgive this stuff, and worse, from male athletes,” he said.

After spending about 15 minutes in a conference room at Epcot, the three were escorted from the park, but not before Morgan assured her friends that the trespass warning wouldn’t stick.

“That’s fine,” she said after hanging up her phone. “It’ll be rescinded tomorrow. It’ll be rescinded tomorrow.”

The Walt Disney Co. warned that if Morgan or the Toias ever entered its property again – which includes all theme parks, water parks and resorts – they could face arrest.

None were charged criminally in connection with the incident.

Morgan apologized for the incident on Twitter.

>> Read the apology here

World Cup sites for North American bid in 2026 trimmed to 32

Organizers leading a North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup trimmed its list of potential host cities to 32 on Wednesday, and 254 cities in the United States remain in the running as venues for soccer’s showcase event,  The Washington Post reported.

>> Read more trending news

The U.S. front-runners include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, the Post reported. Other American cities in the running were Baltimore; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and Tampa, Florida.

U.S. cities eliminated from consideration were Birmingham, Alabama; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; and San Antonio, Texas. The two Canadian cities dropped from the list were Regina and Ottawa.

The World Cup was last staged in North America during the summer of 1994.

If the North American bid is successful, the United States would stage 60 matches in about a dozen venues, the Post reported. Mexico and Canada would have 10 games apiece.

All three Mexican bidding cities (Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey) are widely expected to make the final cut. Canada will probably settle for two venues, with Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton in the running.

Representatives from the remaining cities will meet in Houston next month for a working session with the United Bid Committee. FIFA — soccer’s international governing body — will announce the winner in June, the Post reported.

 

Soccer star Wayne Rooney arrested on ‘drink-driving’ charge

Soccer star Wayne Rooney has been arrested on suspicion of “drink-driving,” the BBC reported Friday.

>> Read more trending news

England's all-time record scorer, who played for Everton, was stopped by police near his home in Cheshire on Thursday night, the BBC reported.

Rooney, 31, announced his international retirement last week, after 53 goals for his country in 119 appearances.

Earlier Thursday, Rooney had been pictured at the Bubble Room bar in Alderley Edge, with the image appearing on Instagram at 10 p.m., The Independent reported. The photograph was later deleted once reports of Rooney’s alleged arrest became public.

Cheshire police declined to comment and Everton has not responded to the BBC's request for a statement.

 

Soccer star Lionel Messi marries childhood sweetheart

Soccer star Lionel Messi married his childhood sweetheart in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina, on Friday, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news

Messi, 30, married 29-year-old Antonela Roccuzzo in a civil ceremony at a luxury hotel in Rosario. More than 250 guests attended the ceremony, including Messi’s teammates from Barcelona, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Gerald Pique; and Colombia pop star Shakira, the BBC reported.

Messi, a forward for Barcelona, first met Roccuzzo when he was 13.

Argentina's Clarín newspaper has called the nuptials "the wedding of the year" and "the wedding of the century," the BBC reported.

“Being who he is, he could have been married in the best place in the world, and must have had many offers,” Enrique Dominguez, Messi’s former coach at Newell’s Old Boys, told CNN. “And yet he chose Rosario.”

Messi and Roccuzzo have two children -- Thiago, 4; and Mateo, 1.

Soccer star Ronaldo confirms he is father of twins

Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed Thursday that he is the father of twins born to a surrogate mother, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news

Ronaldo confirmed the birth of the boy and girl after the Portuguese national team lost in the semifinals of the Confederation Cup in Kazan, Russia. Portugal and Chile played to a scoreless tie, but Chile advanced on penalty kicks.

Ronaldo posted a photo holding the twins, noting that he was “So happy to be able to hold the two new loves of my life.”

Ronaldo already has a son, Cristiano Ronaldo Jr., who was born in June 2010, the BBC reported.

The twins were born on June 8, the BBC said unconfirmed reports out of Portugal. The SIC television station reported the children were named Mateo and Eva, the BBC said. 

Orlando City Soccer forward Cyle Larin charged with DUI

Orlando City Soccer Club forward Cyle Larin was arrested early Thursday in Orlando and charged with driving under the influence, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

>> Read more trending news

Investigators said a trooper spotted a white Cadillac shortly after 2:30 a.m. traveling the wrong way on the South Ivanhoe Boulevard ramp.

The vehicle merged onto North Orange Avenue and continued to travel in the wrong direction in the wrong lanes, so the trooper pulled over the driver, investigators said.

The driver stopped in the middle of the road, and an oncoming Mercedes stopped within feet of the vehicle, preventing a head-on collision, according to an arrest report.

The driver told the trooper he was unfamiliar with the area and wasn't from the area, the report said. Investigators said he later told the trooper he moved from Toronto, Canada, to Orlando about three years ago.

The trooper described the man's eyes as bloodshot and glossy and said that the vehicle smelled of alcohol, the report said.

The trooper asked the driver to pull into an adjacent parking lot, where he identified himself as Cyle Larin and a field sobriety test was performed, officials said.

Investigators said that Larin, whose speech was slurred and who had difficulty answering questions, told the trooper that he and his female passenger were coming back from Ono Nightclub in downtown Orlando, but he said he hadn't drunk any alcohol.

The report said Larin had difficulty following some of the trooper's instructions during the field sobriety test and kept changing his answer when asked how much he had to drink, the report said.

Larin told the trooper he had "two to three vodka Red Bulls," according to the report. He was arrested and taken to the Orange County Jail, where he blew a .179 and .182 during breathalyzer tests, troopers said. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Florida is .08

Larin was booked into the Orange County Jail and is being held in lieu of $500 bond.

WATCH: Man on drone delivers game ball in Portuguese Cup final

Now this is the way to deliver a game ball. 

>> Read more trending news

Before Benfica and Guimaraes met in the final of the Portuguese Cup on Sunday, a man brought the game ball to the officials by flying a drone into the stadium. 

Despite damp conditions, the man made a perfect landing and handed the ball to the head official.

Benefica won 2-1 to earn its 26th Portuguese Cup and its 11th league and cup double.

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