Inter Miami linked with major sponsorship

MIAMI, Fla. (January 20, 2020) —

BREAKING: Inter Miami is currently the only club in MLS without a shirt sponsor for the 2020 campaign but the lack of a sponsor is likely to end very soon. Sources expect a major agreement to be announced in the next few days.

Read more about this over on Inter Miami Hoy.


Espanyol Is Growing Brand Through International Academies

MIAMI, Fla. (January 6, 2019) —

In order to grow the club as a global brand, Real Club Deportivo Espanyol de Barcelona is developing a network of academies around the world.

The newest such fútbol school has opened in Brisbane, Australia.

This internationalisation model kicked off in the 2016/17 season with the launch of two academies and the growth has been gradual since then, reaching the curen position of 11 RCDE Academy sites.

Albert Saus is the manager of the club’s schools and academies department, He had this to say: “We work to create quality local projects around the world and the academy is at the heart of that. We have now reached Oceania, in the city of Brisbane, through an academy that will start activity at the beginning of February 2020.”

RCD Espanyol de Barcelona look at its academy not simply as a place to groom future players but literally as an extension of its brand. The club is creating a global model, opening centres around the world that will introduce the club not just to new players, but to create lifelong fans.

Global academies and football camps

The objective of these academies is to take the identity of RCD Espanyol de Barcelona academy to new territories, where boys and girls between the ages of four and 15 can improve their skills and the 119-year story of the club can be shared.

With the academy in Brisbane, the club is now present across all continents. In addition to Brisbane, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona is also based in Algiers and Tizi Ouzou (Algeria), in Saitama (Japan), in Jersey City, New Jersey (USA), in Baghdad (Iraq), in Helsinki (Finland), in Stockholm (Sweden) and in Shanghai, Shouguang and Hunan (China).

In total, RCD Espanyol has 1,085 boys and girls are training with the club.

In addition to the network of academies, Espanyol has created a football camps program.

Associated with the academies, the RCDE Football Camps consist of standalone training events designed to engage new playing talent around the world. When this project started three years ago, the club held six camps abroad. This year, 29 have already been held. Extending its global reach further, these camps have been carried out in Canada, The USA, Colombia, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Kazakhstan and Japan, among others.

RCD Espanyol de Barcelona now has the second most academies in La Liga that are supervised by club directors.

Growth in China

RCD Espanyol has invested greatly in China. The Catalan side has three of its international academies in the country. Alongside its Chinese ownership, this year’s signing of Chinese forward Wu Lei has helped to boost the club’s standing and presence here. It opened its third academy in China in the months following the signing as interest in the club grew rapidly. In addition, a new RCD Espanyol de Barcelona fan club was established in Shanghai.

It was a goal that gave Espanyol a 2-2 draw with Catalan rivals Barcelona, one which will have delighted the masses following back home in China, where Wu’s career is followed closely as the only player from his country to ply his trade in one of Europe’s top five leagues.


Saus explained: “Since [club owners] Rastar Group arrived at the club, our international presence has accelerated, although not only in China. The signing of Wu Lei helped us on the pitch and he also became an ambassador for the club in China. This goes in tandem with the three club academies in China.”

Consolidation in North America and other opportunities

Outside of Asia, the club maintains significant ambitions for growth and is working on consolidating its presence in North America. At the same time, it is also studying opportunities in India and possibly Central Africa.

Espanyol’s strategy definitely brings people from around the world closer to the club. “We want to build brand identity through our youth football because that helps to generate a sense of belonging,” Saus says. “We are seeing more and more members of our international programs joining our club in Spain or becoming fans, which increases our global network significantly.”

Russo Law and Soccer Briefs offers a quick glance on stories making news in the world of football.

Miami FC sign Romario Williams

MIAMI, Fla. (January 2, 2019) –

The Miami FC, newcomers to the USL Championship, used the New Year Holiday to announce their first signing of the year, Jamaican international forward Romario Williams. He has been signed for the 2020 season which begins in March.

“He shares our motivation to challenge from day one in the USL Championship.”

Paul Dalglish, Miami FC president

Romario, who is named after the legendary Brazilian player, has thrived in USL, though this is the first time he has signed directly with a USL Championship side. His other appearances in the league had been on-loan. Overall, Williams, 25 has played for the Montreal Impact, FC Montreal, Atlanta United, Charleston Battery and Columbus Crew SC.

“After meeting Romario and his family, we are convinced that his is not only an outstanding player, but an outstanding person who will be an asset on and off the field,” Miami FC president Paul Dalglish said in a statement. “He is a ruthless goal scorer and he shares our motivation to challenge from day one in the USL Championship.”

Williams first went to MLS as the third overall selection by the Montreal Impact in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. He was placed on Montreal’s second team, FC Montreal, where he played seven games in the league. He spent most of the 2016 season on-loan with the USL Championship’s Charleston Battery, where he scored 10 goals in 30 games.

In 2017, he was traded to MLS expansion side Atlanta United, where he spent most of the season on-loan again with the Battery. Williams had a great season in the USL, scoring 15 goals and three assists in 24 games, finishing fourth in the Golden Boot race.

Williams played in MLS in 2018, appearing in 19 matches for Atlanta United, scoring two goals and adding two assists. (The Five Stripes would go on to win MLS Cup that season.) Williams also appeared in seven games with the club’s USL affiliate, ATL UTD 2, scoring four times.

In 2019, Williams was traded mid-season from Atlanta to the Columbus Crew. Across all competitions for three clubs, he netted five goals in 16 appearances.

“I am elated to be joining The Miami FC,” Williams said in a statement. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this incredible organization and excited for the upcoming season.”

Williams also has 14 caps for the Jamaican senior national team and has scored twice for the Reggae Boyz. He has also represented Jamaica at the U17 and U23 levels. More information on Romario Williams is available on Transfermarkt.com.

“This signing demonstrates our ambition to bring the best talent to the USL and give our fans great entertainment in the heart of Miami,” added Dalglish.

Romario brings experience and a eye for the goal to the Miami FC attack and should be one of the key players in the coming season.

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

The Miami FC To Join USL Championship For 2020 Season. How It Happened & Why It's A Positive Move

Club will begin season in March 2020

Home games will be at Riccardo Silva Stadium On The FIU Campus

MIAMI, Fla. (December 12, 2019) —

The Miami Football Club will once again be in the second division of U.S. Soccer. The fifth-year club, which began life in and became one of the flagship teams in the now-defunct NASL, has played the last two seasons in the NPSL and NISA, lower level leagues outside of the official division sanctioning of U.S. Soccer.

Statement Released by the Miami FC on December 11, 2019

The team will join the United Soccer Leagues and begin play in the USL Championship in March, 2020 with its home games to be played at Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University (“FIU”) in the western part of Miami-Dade County. That venue was renamed in 2017 by FIU in recognition of Silva’s financial contributions to the college’s athletic programs. It marks a full time return to that venue for the first time since 2017.

The news was announced at last week’s USL 2019 Annual Winter Summit, held in Orlando. Miami FC sporting personnel and club employees were present, holding meetings and attending sessions.

The Mechanics

The pathway to the USL Championship bears the label “Made in Canada / Fait au Canada.” Here is the background: The Ottawa Fury was owned by Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (“OSEG”). The club joined the NASL in 2014, later moving from the NASL to the USL in 2017. The club has averaged nearly 5,000 fans over the past three seasons, and reached the USL Championship Playoffs in 2019. On November 8, 2019, The Fury announced a suspension of their operations. after receiving news that their sanctioning to play in USL would not be renewed. This was not entirely unexpected, as Ottawa had to fight to receive sanctioning from Concacaf prior to the 2019 season, and Concacaf had been clear that the licensing would be for 2019 only. The confederation has been accused of trying to force Fury FC into the Canadian Premier League, something the club’s owners did not wish to do.

Relocation of the franchise to the United States was one of the ways the franchise could continue in the USL Championship, since it eliminated the need for approval from Canada Soccer, U.S. Soccer and Concacaf. Moreover, a relocation clause was contained in the club’s franchise agreement with the USL.

Last Wednesday, OSEG announced that they had exercised those contractual rights to relocate. Under the arrangement, Ottawa Fury are officially relocating to Miami pursuant to their USL franchise agreement. They then will enter into a contract to sell the club to Riccardo Silva. Under the terms of the sale, the club will operate under the existing the Miami FC name, with Miami FC’s logo and iconic aqua, orange and blue colour scheme. The purchase by the Miami FC involves its same club and staff, which means the Miami FC will not field a team in either the NPSL or the NISA moving forward. The club will also maintain the same ownership and technical staff.

The amount the Miami FC are paying to purchase OSEG’s franchise was not disclosed. For context, the initial expansion fee for USL Championship was estimated to be $7 million in 2018. The likelihood is that the purchase price was less than that, given the desire/need of OSEG to sell its franchise, but probably still a significant amount given the level of interest around the country in obtaining a USL franchise.

“We are extremely grateful to USL CEO Alec Papadakis and President Jake Edwards for their leadership and whole-hearted support during this difficult process,” said Ottawa Fury FC President John Pugh. “We’re also thankful to Paul Dalglish and his team for helping to facilitate this transaction and wish The Miami FC well.”

A Win For The Miami FC

The Miami FC have been highly successful from the start, winning nine trophies and becoming an established presence in the heart of the Miami soccer community. The club recently launched The Miami FC Youth Academy Program with the past year, as part of its commitment to growing the game not only at the professional level, but also at the youth level in Miami.

Miami FC in a Miami derby versus Miami United FC at Barry University on April 20, 2019. |

“We could not be more excited to bring The Miami FC to the USL Championship in 2020,” said The Miami FC General Manager Paul Dalglish. “We will build on the Fury’s success and honour their history, while also elevating our club and our community as part of the fastest growing professional soccer league in the United States. I want to thank Ottawa Sports Entertainment Group for putting this deal together, and to USL CEO Alec Papadakis for welcoming us to the league.”

Dalglish recently moved into the general manager role, after being the head coach. Replacing him on the touchline is Nelson Vargas, a former forward who played for the Miami Fusion. Vargas also was on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. He has served as an assistant coach for Dalglish since 2018. Miami is expected to maintain most of the same roster, as many of the players on the current roster are signed for 2020. The squad was both NPSL and NISA champions this season.

Miami FC versus Stumptown Athletic in NISA. | Photo: Miami FC

Dalglish says the move to the USL Championship will help Miami FC further their ties in the community. “The decision to join USL … gives us a stable platform to further expand our academy program and community work, meaning accessible, inclusive and fun family events that bring all of Miami’s soccer community together,” he said.

What makes this turn of events particularly interesting is that it is set against the backdrop of how Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva has positioned the Miami FC since the club’s inception.

Silva has been a leading advocate of opening the system of US Soccer. He founded the club in 2015, along with former AC Milan defender and fellow Italian Paolo Maldini. This came after David Beckham’s initial announcement in February 2014 of his intent to exercise his option to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Miami. At that time, Beckham’s MLS club was only provisional, and initially it was thought the team could begin play in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. However, it would take until January 29, 2018 for Miami Beckham United to even become a confirmed expansion club in MLS. During that interim Silva was able to insert the Miami FC into the market and get them launched for the 2016 NASL season.

Riccardo Silva, right, with Miami FC part owner Paulo Maldini, left, in 2015.

In 2017, Silva made a $4 billion media rights offer to Major League Soccer. That offer was summarily rejected by MLS, though in defence of that position it came at a time that MLS was contractually bound to its existing broadcast rights holders, which made any negotiations impossible without breaching the contracts it had in place. The offer was also conditioned upon MLS agreeing to implement promotion and relegation, something that has been a non-starter for MLS.

Returning to the present, it might seem surprising to some that a club whose owner has been such an advocate of change in the system would join USL, a league that cooperates with MLS, and in fact has clubs that are owned by MLS clubs operating within its very ranks. But USL continues its upward trajectory, gaining new markets and seeing more of its clubs moving to better facilities. The league has established itself as a solid second division league and fertile ground for investors interested in soccer. It has also been exploring a more open system. USL president Jake Edwards has been very open about his aim to add promotion and relegation in the USL between its second-division Championship and third-division League One. While that falls short of the completely open system Silva has been advocating, it would still be a significant step in that direction.

“We are evaluating what the landscape looks like in all of those divisions over the course of the next few seasons,” Edwards said when interviewed this summer. “But that work is happening now… I’m also well aware of the excitement and the drama, the reward for ambition, and the punishment for apathy.”

Analysing the move to the USL Championship, by all accounts it is a smart business decision for Silva and the Miami FC. While they were advocating for change in the system, the collapse of the NASL left them without a viable second-tier league to play in. The NASL, now defunct, is still the subject of an existing lawsuit in Federal Court, one that it is likely to lose. The Miami FC, along with minor league side Kingston Stockade, also filed a case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) in Switzerland, requesting that judicial body to rule that the United States Soccer Federation is in violation of Article 9 of FIFA, which requires promotion-relegation to be the method of determining what teams compete at what level within a country’s domestic league stricture. The CAS has yet to make a ruling, but it would be a real shock to see it intervene in the way the petitioners would like, one that would likely lead to more litigation. Finally, without any disrespect to leagues such as the NISA, the road to having the strength to be a real force for chance is a long and difficult one absent forces beyond them also wanting change.

There is also the benefit of national exposure through the USL’s broadcast agreement with ESPN. Last August, the USL announced a new three-year rights agreement with ESPN that features the USL Championship and League One matches through the 2022 season. Under that new agreement, 18 regular-season games from the Championship will air on ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU or ESPN Deportes annually in addition to the USL Championship Final. All other matches will be streamed live on ESPN+ subscription platform.

In conclusion, joining an ambitious league growing in quality and reputation each year, with a vision of where it wants to go can only be a benefit to the Miami FC. Being in a stable league that has a national television contract is something the club needs, given that MLS’ Inter Miami CF also begins its inaugural season in March, has an ownership group worth billions and will certainly be the primary focus of the soccer media’s attention. Competition though, even if indirect and on different levels at different budgets, is always good. Smart scheduling, a well-thought marketing plan, outstanding communications team, proper price points for tickets and merchandise and giving fans a reason to feel invested in the club will all be keys to success. Outsiders may call Miami a bad sports town, but history has proven that a winning sports team here will get attention. Miami and South Florida have enjoyed an explosion of fútbol at all levels in recent years. New clubs have sprung up everywhere from West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, south across Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Some are even bringing the concept of having fans own a stake in the club to the region. The demographics are arguably the best in the nation for soccer. The game resonates with the population, and the city and region surrounding Miami are easily big enough for more than one club to not only survive, but thrive.

To sum up Miami FC’s decision, it’s a positive move by a club that is committed to change and has likely reached a conclusion that the best avenue to continue to push for that change is as a part of the established system instead of as an outsider.

SoccerEx USA 2019 Returns to Miami For Second Year

MIAMI, Fla. (November 20, 2019) —

More than 1,800 soccer business insiders from 80 countries, including myself, will assemble at the Turnberry Resort in Aventura on Thursday and Friday for the SoccerEx USA 2019 Conference. The conference includes 90 speakers, including Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas, CONCACAF general secretary Philippe Moggio, and Amanda Duffy, the president of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Soccer executives from clubs, leagues, federations, media rightsholders and suppliers will hold a series of panels which discuss topics affecting the sport: from the evolution of the sport to branding to stadium innovations to youth soccer to the growth of the women’s game. Major sponsors include Concacaf, MLS, and LaLiga.

This is the second year the conference has been to Miami. It is owned by GAPC Sports, which is involved in many soccer ventures. Its chairman, Joseph DaGrosa, who lives in Miami, purchased French Ligue 1 club Girondins de Bordeaux last year. DaGrosa has had preliminary talks with Mas about a friendly match between Inter Miami and Bordeaux.

One of the panels will feature Alexi Lalas, the Fox analyst and former U.S. national team star. He is a moderator at the conference, and will have a conversation with Don Garber, in which the state of MLS and the future of the league is discussed.

“I can’t believe we’re in the 25th year,” Lalas said of MLS. “With the perspective of what Don has done and what I saw when I was there at the start, we want to give a breadth of perspective to folks, especially from a business perspective because there’s this curiosity globally about what MLS is doing and what MLS has done and an understanding of how they’ve planned it.”

“I also will ask Don about his plan going forward for what he wants MLS to be, the South American aspect, the relevancy globally, the branding of the teams; and you can’t talk to the commissioner without talking about expansion.” 

Alexi Lalas and Don Garber at SoccerEx USA 2019 | Photo: Kenneth Russo

Lalas Talks Inter Miami

Lalas has been watching the Inter Miami launch closely and likes what he sees.

“It’s been a hell of a saga, to say the least, all the twists and turns,” Lalas said. “We’re right back in Fort Lauderdale for now. But ultimately, if there is that pot of gold at the end that is a Miami stadium, I think it’s going to be good. They’ve surrounded themselves with good quality people who understand the unique aspects both of MLS in 2020 and what that is and isn’t, and on the ground in Miami what needs to be done and working through all the stuff.”

Lalas said it is critical for Inter Miami to make a big splash immediately on and off the field.

“I remain bullish in that I envision Miami being a lot more like an Atlanta as opposed to a Cincinnati at the start,” Lalas said. “Because of what Miami represents, they can’t afford the perception of a soft launch in the way that other teams have done. Miami has to hit the ground running. It’s difficult without that stadium there, but they have to show the ambition that matches what that perception is of Miami, international and cosmopolitan and first class.

“When we all show up for that first game and experience, we need to leave there saying, ‘Jesus, if this is what they’ve got in a temporary site, think of what they can do in a permanent site.’ It’s a first impression, and they only get one chance to do that.”

Continue reading SoccerEx USA 2019 Returns to Miami For Second Year

MLS Expansion Draft 2019| Complete Player List Sorted By Team and Estimated Ranking

MIAMI, Fla. (November 17, 2019) —

This year’s MLS Expansion Draft kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

A key point is that once a player has been claimed from a club’s list of eligible players, Nashville SC and Inter Miami may no longer select players from that club’s list. So if Inter Miami’s Sporting Director Paul McDonough is going to pick anyone from his former club, he will only be able to tap into his knowledge of Atlanta United once in the expansion draft.

While there aren’t really many big-time goal-scorers to be found in the pool of available players, there is a wealth of pricey veteran defenders. And both expansion teams are already building up strength in midfield/ defensive midfield, they appear to not have much need at those positions in Tuesday’s draft.

For those who want to watch live, MLSsoccer.com’s 2019 MLS Expansion Draft live studio show will bring fans all of the selections in real-time, providing expert analysis on each team’s picks.

With a pool of 220 players, no clear cut favourites and only ten being selected, any attempt to create a “mock draft” is highly speculative at best. Only 4.5 % of the pool is being chosen by Miami or Nashville. That, my friends, makes predictions a guessing game. Disclaimers provided (what else would you expect?), let’s dive into the player pool and highlight a few players to watch.

PLAYERS AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION IN 2019 MLS EXPANSION DRAFT

Available Player List – Sorted By Team

MLS ClubPlayer NamePos.Pts.*
 Atlanta UnitedJustin MeramM96
 Atlanta UnitedMichael ParkhurstD77
 Atlanta UnitedJeff LarentowiczM66
 Atlanta UnitedBrek SheaD52
 Atlanta UnitedFlorentin PogbaD50
 Atlanta UnitedBrandon VazquezF39
 Atlanta UnitedDion PereiraM33
 Atlanta UnitedMikey AmbroseD3
 Atlanta UnitedKevin KratzM1
 Atlanta UnitedJon GallagherD0
 Atlanta UnitedJose HernandezD0
 Atlanta UnitedAlec KannGK0
 Atlanta UnitedBrendan MooreGK0
 Atlanta UnitedLuiz FernandoM0
 Chicago FireBastian SchweinsteigerD161
 Chicago FireNicolas GaitanM145
 Chicago FireNemanja NikolicF120
 Chicago FireDavid OustedGK64
 Chicago FireMarceloD42
 Chicago FireDiego CamposD14
 Chicago FireAmando MorenoM8
 Chicago FireCristian MartinezM5
 Chicago FireStefan ClevelandGK0
 Chicago FireElliot CollierM0
 Chicago FireRichard SanchezGK0
 Colorado RapidsTim HowardGK99
 Colorado RapidsDanny WilsonM61
 Colorado RapidsAxel SjobergD8
 Colorado RapidsNiki JacksonF4
 Colorado RapidsKofi OpareD3
 Colorado RapidsAbdul RwatubyayeD2
 Columbus Crew SCHector JimenezD71
 Columbus Crew SCFederico HiguainM65
 Columbus Crew SCWaylon FrancisD63
 Columbus Crew SCLuis ArgudoM57
 Columbus Crew SCDavid GuzmanM55
 Columbus Crew SCConnor MaloneyD36
 Columbus Crew SCYouness MokhtarM28
 Columbus Crew SCRicardo ClarkM19
 Columbus Crew SCRomario WilliamsF16
 Columbus Crew SCEduardo SosaM14
 Columbus Crew SCJosh WilliamsF10
 Columbus Crew SCJon KempinGK8
 Columbus Crew SCBen LundgaardGK0
 Columbus Crew SCEdward OpokuM0
 FC CincinnatiEmmanuel LedesmaM117
 FC CincinnatiRoland LamahM81
 FC CincinnatiKekuta MannehF77
 FC CincinnatiDarren MattocksF72
 FC CincinnatiPrzemyslaw TytonGK57
 FC CincinnatiCaleb StankoM51
 FC CincinnatiJustin HoyteD35
 FC CincinnatiAlvas PowellD34
 FC CincinnatiFanendo AdiF24
 FC CincinnatiForrest LassoD19
 FC CincinnatiCorben BoneM8
 FC CincinnatiNazmi AlbadawiM1
 FC CincinnatiHassan NdamD0
 FC CincinnatiLogan GdulaD0
 FC CincinnatiJimmy HagueGK0
 FC CincinnatiBen LundtGK0
 FC CincinnatiJimmy McLaughlinM0
 Los Angeles Football ClubJordan HarveyD148
 Los Angeles Football ClubTyler MillerGK139
 Los Angeles Football ClubSteven BeitashourD114
 Los Angeles Football ClubLee NguyenM70
 Los Angeles Football ClubMohamed El-MunirD38
 Los Angeles Football ClubJosh PerezM28
 Los Angeles Football ClubAdrien PerezM17
 Los Angeles Football ClubPeter-Lee VassellM10
 Los Angeles Football ClubDanilo da SilvaD9
 Los Angeles Football ClubRodolfo ZelayaF9
 Los Angeles Football ClubDejan JakovicD6
 Los Angeles Football ClubJavier PerezM1
 Los Angeles Football ClubLamar BatistaD0
 Los Angeles Football ClubPhillip EjimaduGK0
 Los Angeles Football ClubAlejandro GuidoM0
 LA GalaxyZlatan IbrahimovicF272
 LA GalaxyUriel AntunaM129
 LA GalaxyFavio AlvarezM87
 LA GalaxyJorgen SkjelvikD85
 LA GalaxyChris PontiusM51
 LA GalaxyPerry KitchenM32
 LA GalaxyServando CarrascoM21
 LA GalaxyEmil CuelloM14
 LA GalaxyDiedie TraoreD13
 LA GalaxyMatt LampsonGK2
 LA GalaxyJuninho Vitor JuniorM2
 LA GalaxyTomas Hilliard-ArceD0
 LA GalaxyJoão PedroM0
 League Pool GKCharlie LyonGK0
 Minnesota United FCEthan FinlayM111
 Minnesota United FCAngelo RodriguezF93
 Minnesota United FCBrent KallmanD75
 Minnesota United FCMiguel IbarraM60
 Minnesota United FCAbu DanladiF45
 Minnesota United FCRasmus SchullerM45
 Minnesota United FCLawrence OlumM26
 Minnesota United FCWilfried Moimbe-TahratD22
 Minnesota United FCMarlon HairstonM18
 Minnesota United FCCarter ManleyD0
 Minnesota United FCAlly Ng’anziM0
 Minnesota United FCWyatt OmsbergD0
 Minnesota United FCBobby ShuttleworthGK0
 Montreal ImpactEvan BushGK128
 Montreal ImpactMaximiliano UrrutiF114
 Montreal ImpactBacary SagnaD87
 Montreal ImpactRudy CamachoD70
 Montreal ImpactJorge CorralesD56
 Montreal ImpactZachary Brault-GuillardD47
 Montreal ImpactAnthony Jackson-HamelF43
 Montreal ImpactOmar BrowneM38
 Montreal ImpactKen KrolickiM19
 Montreal ImpactRod FanniD17
 Montreal ImpactAmar SejdicM2
 Montreal ImpactJeisson VargasF0
 New England RevolutionJuan AgudeloM95
 New England RevolutionEdgar CastilloD83
 New England RevolutionJuan CaicedoF75
 New England RevolutionMichael MancienneD52
 New England RevolutionJalil AnibabaD28
 New England RevolutionCody CropperGK24
 New England RevolutionBrad KnightonGK21
 New England RevolutionBrian WrightF2
 New York City FCEbenezer OforiM71
 New York City FCSebastien IbeaghaD65
 New York City FCJesus MedinaM53
 New York City FCBen SweatD50
 New York City FCTony RochaD41
 New York City FCGary Mackay-StevenM34
 New York City FCEric MillerD28
 New York City FCBrad StuverGK20
 New York City FCDaniel BedoyaM1
 New York City FCJuan Pablo TorresM1
 New York City FCLuis BarrazaGK0
 New York City FCJeff CaldwellGK0
 New York City FCAbdi MohamedD0
 Orlando City SCBrian RoweGK143
 Orlando City SCLamine SaneD118
 Orlando City SCWill JohnsonM87
 Orlando City SCRobinhoM72
 Orlando City SCSacha KljestanM66
 Orlando City SCCarlos AscuesD63
 Orlando City SCKyle SmithD48
 Orlando City SCShane O’NeillD36
 Orlando City SCCristian HiguitaM33
 Orlando City SCDillon PowersM27
 Orlando City SCAlex De JohnD18
 Orlando City SCGreg RanjitsinghGK7
 Orlando City SCAdam GrinwisGK0
 Philadelphia UnionHaris MedunjaninM196
 Philadelphia UnionMarco FabianM91
 Philadelphia UnionAurelien CollinD21
 Philadelphia UnionWarren CreavalleM20
 Philadelphia UnionOlivier MbaizoD16
 Philadelphia UnionJoe BendikGK13
 Philadelphia UnionFabinhoD1
 Philadelphia UnionMichee NgalinaF1
 Philadelphia UnionRJ AllenD0
 Portland TimbersZarek ValentinD63
 Portland TimbersClaude DielnaD58
 Portland TimbersAndy PoloM49
 Portland TimbersAndres FloresM39
 Portland TimbersJeff AttinellaGK37
 Portland TimbersTomas ConechnyM34
 Portland TimbersRenzo ZambranoM34
 Portland TimbersDairon AsprillaM31
 Portland TimbersModou JadamaD2
 Portland TimbersAljaz IvacicGK0
 Portland TimbersKendall McIntoshGK0
 Real Salt LakeNick RimandoGK138
 Real Salt LakeKelyn RoweM38
 Real Salt LakeJoão PlataM25
 Real Salt LakeJustin PortilloM5
 Real Salt LakeLuke MulhollandM1
 Real Salt LakeTony BeltranD0
 Real Salt LakeAlex HorwathGK0
 Real Salt LakePablo RuizM0
 San Jose EarthquakesHarold CummingsD71
 San Jose EarthquakesMarcos LopezD61
 San Jose EarthquakesPaul MarieD15
 San Jose EarthquakesCarlos FierroM11
 San Jose EarthquakesFrancois AffolterD3
 San Jose EarthquakesEric CalvilloM2
 San Jose EarthquakesLuis FelipeM2
 San Jose EarthquakesKevin PartidaD1
 San Jose EarthquakesMatt BersanoGK0
 San Jose EarthquakesJimmy OckfordD0
 San Jose EarthquakesAndrew TarbellGK0
 Seattle Sounders FCHarry ShippM93
 Seattle Sounders FCVictor RodriguezM73
 Seattle Sounders FCRoman TorresD63
 Seattle Sounders FCSaad Abdul-SalaamD50
 Seattle Sounders FCChad MarshallD41
 Seattle Sounders FCWill BruinF27
 Seattle Sounders FCAlex RoldanM23
 Seattle Sounders FCJonathan CampbellD17
 Seattle Sounders FCJustin DhillonF9
 Seattle Sounders FCLuis SilvaF8
 Seattle Sounders FCEmanuel CecchiniM6
 Seattle Sounders FCBryan MeredithGK0
 Sporting Kansas CityBenny FeilhaberM102
 Sporting Kansas CityKrisztian NemethF89
 Sporting Kansas CityBotond BarathD85
 Sporting Kansas CitySeth SinovicD80
 Sporting Kansas CityAndreu FontasD38
 Sporting Kansas CityNicolas HaslerD28
 Sporting Kansas CityGedion ZelalemM16
 Sporting Kansas CityJimmy MedrandaD13
 Sporting Kansas CityEric DickGK1
 Sporting Kansas CityRodney WallaceD1
 Toronto FCJustin MorrowD100
 Toronto FCLaurent CimanD57
 Toronto FCTsubasa EndohM50
 Toronto FCDrew MoorD47
 Toronto FCEriq ZavaletaD41
 Toronto FCPatrick MullinsF31
 Toronto FCNicolas BenezetM28
 Toronto FCAshtone MorganD14
 Toronto FCRyan TelferD5
 Toronto FCJon BakeroM0
 Toronto FCCaleb Patterson-SewellGK0

A note about the points used to rank the player pool: The points gathered come from this years’s MLS Fantasy Game. While that is obviously a less-than-ideal way to rank a player’s potential, it is an attempt to provide some guidance based on a player’s performance over the 2019 season. A player who has a ‘0’ for his score doesn’t mean that he is not worth a look. It simply reflects that he lacked playing time during the past season.

The Russo Soccer Top 50 Players in 2019 Expansion Draft

Peruvian International Winger Andy Polo of the Portland Timbers (left) is among the players available to Inter Miami CF or Nashville SC. | photo: Portland Timbers

Overview

With teams only being able to protect twelve senior roster slot players, most teams left second and/or third string goalkeepers unprotected. Also, players who have announced their retirement but who are under contract until the end of the year were also naturally left unprotected. Zlatan Ibrahimovitch of the LA Galaxy has announced his departure from MLS, and thus was a natural choice to make the Galaxy’s unprotected player list. The list also features more than a few high-priced older players.

Players To Watch

Forwards

Atlanta United’s Brandon Vasquez is a strong choice to be selected by Inter Miami CF. Vazquez signed with Atlanta United as a Discovery Signing via transfer from Club Tijuana on Dec. 2, 2016. He made eight appearances as a substitute as a forward/winger in MLS and two starts in US Open Cup in 2018. Vazquez scored just a minute into his MLS debut at Real Salt Lake on April 22, 2017 and added two goals and an assist in two US Open Cup starts in 2017. This past season saw him have limited time, appearing in 11 matches, scoring 2 goals and adding 1 assist across 637 minutes played. He was recently added to the US Under 23 Men’s National Team, coached by Inter Miami’s Jason Kreis, ahead of their 2-0 win in a friendly against Japan. Vasquez was in that squad and earned an appearance, coming on in the 72nd minute.

Atlanta United’s Brandon Vasquez, a top choice in the expansion draft. | Photo: Atlanta United FC

New England Revolution forward Juan Caicedo is also a player to watch. The Colombian joined the Revs from Independiente Medellin and has experience playing in the Colombian first division. He has tallied 89 goals in nearly 300 appearances across all competitions through nine professional seasons in the top divisions of Colombia and Argentina and has experience in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. He appeared in 27 games for New England, starting 13 and scoring five goals.

Juan Fernando Caicedo | Photo: New England Revolution

Montréal Impact forward Maximiliano Urruti would offer a combination of skill and MLS experience. The 28-year old Argentine originally came to MLS in 2013 as a high-profile signing by Toronto FC from Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina. The Impact acquired him via a trade with FC Dallas in December 2018. He made 31 appearances for the Les Montréalais during the 2019 season, starting 27 of those matches and netting 4 goals on a team that failed to create enough scoring chances and often struggled to find a rhythm under former coach Remi Garde.

Maximiliano Urruti, Impact de Montréal | Photo: TSN

Midfielders

LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna, already a Mexican international, is one of the top players in the expansion draft. The 22 year-old speedy winger who is on loan from Manchester City has drawn interest from both Chivas de Guadalajara and Portuguese giants Sport Lisboa e Benfica. Antuna is believed to have signed a contract extension with City through 2022. He remains on loan with the Galaxy through the end of the season but his future beyond that point has not been determined. He scored 6 goals and contributed 5 assists for the Galaxy during the 2019 season.

Uriel Antuna, 22, of the Los Angeles Galaxy, left, shown competing with LAFC’s Lee Nyugen, another player available in this year’s expansion draft. | Photo: USA Today

Seattle Sounders midfielder Victor Rodriguez is an experienced, versatile, attacking threat who can play on either wing or as an attacking midfielder. The veteran has over 127 appearances in LaLiga dating back to the 2012-13 season he spent with Real Zaragoza. Rumours in a Seattle say that Rodriguez wants to return to Spain for personal reasons. However he might be a gamble someone’s willing to take, because he might well be the best available player and has a low cost-to-skill ratio. He helped to seal the victory over Toronto in MLs Cup with a wonderful shot from the edge of the penalty box that eluded goalkeeper Quentin Westberg in the 76th minute. After winning the MLS Cup MVP, he’s no longer flying under the radar, either. I could see Miami selecting him and using TAM money to give him a raise, also making his trips home to Barcelona much easier.

Victor Rodriguez | Photo: Lindsey Wasson / Seattle Sounders FC

Haris Medunjanin isn’t typically mentioned in discussions about marquee players brought into MLS from overseas in recent years. But given the season he had in 2019 for the Philadelphia Union, perhaps he should be. A former Bosnia and Herzegovina national team player, at 34 years of age, is among a bunch of veterans left unprotected by their teams. Medunjanin has played a key role in the Union’s offense since arriving from Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2017. Positionally, he has played as a deep-lying No. 10 given his wide range of passing. But when Philly adopted a new system in 2019, he took on more defensive responsibilities as a No. 6. He’s also very durable, starting all 34 of the Union’s games this past season. Off the pitch, he has embraced the role of being a veteran leader and role-model for younger players, providing advice and constructive criticism on their play. On this point, he told mlssoccer.com: “I know myself when I was younger, it was harder and you played with a lot of more-experienced players and they would be like cursing you out when you did something wrong,” Medunjanin said. “Like that you learn, and sometimes as a player we should be hard on the younger players to get better.” Medunjanin is out of contract, so the choosing team would have to strike a new deal with him.

Haris Medunjanin of the Philadelphia Union is near the top of our list of available players | Photo: The Athletic

Atlanta United FC’s Justin Meram, a veteran MLS winger who spent five seasons with the Columbus Crew, was traded to Atlanta and was a contributor to both the regular season and the U.S. Open Cup during the 2019 campaign. He also plays on the Iraq National Team. He quickly became a fan favourite in Atlanta. “I’m very thankful for the fans bringing me in as one of their own from the get go,” he said. “They didn’t really look back on the past year I had, a little bit of the struggles. They looked at me as, ‘This guy could help.’ That gave me a little bit of confidence coming in.”

Jun 29, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Justin Meram (14) reacts after scoring his second goal of the match against the Montreal Impact during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City midfielder Robinho (Francisco Wellington Barbosa de Lisboa) at age 24, is still a player with potential. The native of Recife, PE, Brazil was acquired by Orlando from Columbus Crew during the summer transfer window. The Brazilian midfielder last played for Ceará Sporting Club in Brazil’s First Division during the second half of the 2018 season, where he made two appearances in the Brazilian First Division – Serie A – following a loan stint at Santa Cruz Futebol Clube of Brazil’s Third Division during the first half of the 2018 season. While at Santa Cruz, Robinho made 37 appearances across all competitions for Santa Cruz, scoring eight goals. Robinho shows signs of being a creative player who can help unlock defenses with his movement and pace. He can provide some speed and quality out on the edge of the pitch and is an affordable player.

Robinho | Foto: Divulgação

It’s worth noting that an Atlanta United veteran who has had an exemplary career in MLS is also on the list of available players. I would of course be referring to none other than midfielder Jeff Laurentowicz, 36, who studied and played at Brown University.

Defenders

Orlando City SC Lamine Sané is one of the top ranked defenders among available players. The 32-year-old French born Senegalese international just completed his second season with the Lions, after spending the previous two seasons with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Sané is the vocal leader of the back line, shouting out instructions from the first to the last whistle. He featured in 26 games this season at Orlando, starting all but one of those matches. Orlando City coach James O’Connor brought Sané to the forefront this past season, moving to a four-back defensive platform and placing him alongside the Swede Robin Jansson. Sané’s height, at 6 feet, 4 inches (1.72 m) is an asset, allowing him to cut down corners and crosses.

Aug 3, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City defender Ludovic Lamine Sane (22) and FC Dallas midfielder Santiago Mosquera (11) fight for the ball during the second half at Exploria Stadium. Photo: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Olivier Mbaizo of the Philadelphia Union could be a good choice for either Miami or Nashville. The 22-year-old right back from Douala, Cameroon hasn’t seen much playing time with the Union, losing some time to injuries, and thus didn’t make the top 50 list above. However, he has much potential, is not overpriced, and already is a regular on the national teams of his native Cameroon. It came as a surprise to many followers of the Union to see him among the unprotected players. Mbaizo is also likely to have some significant sale value in the future. This month, he has played for Cameroon’s national team at the under-23 men’s Africa Cup of Nations. He was on the field for every minute of the group stage, and helped set up the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Mali. The team, however, ended up finishing third in the group stage and fell short of the semifinals.

Olivier Mbaizo, Philadelphia Union | Photo: Philadelphia Union

Los Angeles Football Club defender Mohamed El-Munir is fast and displays excellent control on the ball. The Libyan international has 19 caps for his country and made 15 appearances for LAFC this past season.

Mohamed El-Munir | Photo: Los Angeles Football Club

San Jose Earthquakes defender Marcos Lopez, who is only 20 years old, would be a choice based on potential future dividends. The native of Callao, Peru transferred to San Jose from Sporting Cristal Lima and signed a multi-year contract ahead of the 2019 season. Lopez is a young left back that has already made an international appearance with Peru in August 2018 at the age of 18 when he appeared in a game against Germany. He can also play further up the pitch as a left winger. Lopez has a very successful first season with Sporting Cristal Lima, helping the club have a +62 goal differential, the best in the Peruvian league, and helped them earn qualification to the Copa Libertadores group stage. He played in 18 games for the Quakes in 2019, starting 15. This month he was called to the Peru National Team for a pair of international friendlies against Colombia (played last Friday at Hard Rock Stadium) and Chile.

Marcos Lopez (right) | photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Goalkeepers

Among the numerous goalkeepers on the unprotected list, several have accumulated significant experience in MLS. Most teams. Among them are Orlando City’s Brian Rowe, who is 31, and longtime Impact de Montréal keeper Evan Bush, who is 33.

Evan Bush of the Impact de Montréal has been consistently good for several seasons. An MLS original with the Impact, Bush completed his eighth season with Montréal. In 2018, he had a career-high 10 clean sheets and was the MLS’ top goalkeeper according to the Audi Player Index. He had a breakout season in 2015, starting 31 games, after only starting 15 games across his first three MLS seasons. He was a finalist for the 2015 Concacaf Goalkeeper of the Year award, following an outstanding Concacaf Champions League campaign in 2015 that saw him win the CCL Golden Glove award.

Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (1) blocks a shot on goal by the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of an MLS soccer match in San Jose, Calif., on March 2, 2019. | Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Tony Avelar

Brian Rowe of Orlando City SC is another available keeper. The 31-year-old goalkeeper completed his eighth season in MLS in 2019, after beginning his career in Los Angeles with the Galaxy in 2012. He earned 7 clean sheets in 2019, playing in 32 games for Orlando City. Rowe was exceptional in 2016 with the Galaxy, where he recorded 31 appearances, earning nine clean sheets and earning a 1.07 goals-against average en route to the playoffs. During that 2016 season, Rowe allowed the fewest goals (33) in MLS by any goalkeeper that appeared in a minimum of 30 matches. Rowe also finished third in MLS with 113 saves.

A younger choice at goalkeeper would be Los Angeles Football Club’s Tyler Miller. The 26-year old keeper started 28 games for LAFC this past season. He posted nine clean sheets in the process. Miller was the number one choice at goalkeeper up until last summer’s Gold Cup.Thereafter, he split time with Pablo Sisniega, whom LAFC chose to protect in the expansion draft. A player of Miller’s calibre is a tempting choice for either Inter Miami or Nashville. By leaving him unprotected, LAFC might be hoping he is selected, thus ensuring that none of their other unprotected players can be taken. It would be one way of solving the debate at goal keeper, and not having to renegotiate a contract for Miller, who is out of contract in Los Angeles.

LAFC GK Tyler Miller | Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Danish goalkeeper David Ousted of the Chicago Fire, 34, is also available. Ousted has been a starter for most of his six seasons in MLS, including five with the Vancouver Whitecaps. He is considered one of the more consistent keepers in the league, and holds numerous club records for Vancouver including wins, clean sheets and starts. He was finalist for goalkeeper of the year honours in 2015 with the Caps, who also won the Voyageur Cup (Canadian Championship) that year.

David Ousted | Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Two 40 year-old goalkeepers were left unprotected, but both have already announced their retirements. Nick Raimondo of Real Salt Lake was one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history. The legendary Tim Howard has also announced his retirement from the game.

Conclusion

Whatever the results of this expansion draft, there are certainly some quality players that Inter Miami and Nashville can acquire to assist them in building their initial rosters. The players they select can of course also be used in trades for other players, draft choices, allocation money or international player slots, so it’s not necessarily the player you obtain, but what you could acquire in exchange for that player.

It’s an interesting time of the year in MLS.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium And The “Centro Deportivo” Proceeding On Schedule

Milestone reached on construction site in northern Fort Lauderdale.

MIAMI, Fla. (November 6, 2019) —

Progress continues to be made on the Inter Miami Complex (we’ll call it the “Centro Deportivo”) in Fort Lauderdale, which includes a new stadium, the club’s training complex and Inter Miami CF Academy home.

Last Friday, November 1, the team of on-site construction personnel completed the installation of the first roof structure for the stadium. This milestone comes just weeks after the stadium “went vertical” with steel columns, followed by the installation of componentes of the secondary frame of the metal building as well as the horizontal structural members designed to provide lateral support for wall panels.

Photo: Inter Miami CF

The yet-to-be-named, 18,000-capacity stadium (referred to simply as “Fort Lauderdale Stadium” in the interim) will serve as the temporary home of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami for its first two MLS seasons, 2020 and 2021, before the club moves into its home stadium at Miami Freedom Park in Miami.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is being constructed on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium. It will continue to house Inter Miami’s USL League One team once the first team moves into its Miami home.

📹 Inter Miami CF

Another key moment will be reached in mid-November, when the grass at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and for the training fields is expected to be installed.

Other portions of the 46-acre Centro Deportivo are also progressing. The Training Complex – where Inter Miami’s MLS, USL, and Academy teams will permanently train – is also taking shape. The 50,000-square-foot (4,645 sq. m) building continues to undergo steel, concrete, and roofing installations.

The stadium and training complex at the Centro Deportivo will be ready in time for the beginning of the 2020 season. Here are a couple of preview images released by Inter Miami:

More than 200 people are working as part of the Lockhart Construction Team,  including Manica  Architecture, Perez & Perez Architects Planners, Bliss &  Nitray, Inc. Structural Engineers, SDM Consulting Engineers, Flynn Engineering Services and EDSA, Inc. They will continue their work to deliver this project ahead of Inter Miami’s inaugural season debut in March 2020. Inter Miami’s first home game is tentatively scheduled for March 14, 2020, a date which will be confirmed when MLS releases next season’s calendar in a few weeks.

Inter Miami Hoy.

(Cover Photo: Inter Miami CF)