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Nancy's Crew & The Herdy Boys: MLS, USL, and the rest 2024

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    Birmingham Legion have said, screw it, lets do a USL2 team too this summer. USL2 is up to 128 teams in 18 divisions.

    Paxton Pomekal knee surgery, done for the year again.

    Olivier Giroud looks to be joining LAFC in the summer.


      Originally posted by HeavyDracula View Post
      Looks like the ref’s strike is over and not a moment too soon - I wonder if the terrible weekend the scab refs had played any part in it?
      It wasn't a strike, it was a lockout--PRO (which is funded by MLS and is the administrative organization for refs) was not selecting refs from the Professional Soccer Referees Association until the union agreed to a new deal.


        Midge Purce did her ACL and Imani Dorsey her Achilles, both done for the season.

        Man City have officially signed Philly's 14 year old wonderkid, Cavan Sullivan, who debuted for the reserves last weekend. City are also chasing an NYCFC academy kid.

        Maxime Chanot returns to LAFC from Ajaccio.

        Bay City sold out their home opener Saturday.



          The MLS weekend starts at 6pm (GMT) where Philadelphia Union welcome Minnesota United to Subaru Park. Union picked up their first win of the season last week in Portland despite missing key players due to international call-ups but have otherwise misfired so far this season, whereas United top the Western Conference with three wins from four games, including the scalp of Inter Miami in Florida. Kicking off at 8pm is Colorado Rapids versus a Los Angeles FC side that finally woke up last week and defeated Nashville 5-0 after three scoreless weekends. Rapids are, well, Rapids and so you'd expect a big away win but LAFC didn't enjoy their last trip to the Rockies, so who knows?

          There's a clutch of games at 11.30pm, including Saturday's sole free game on AppleTV in DC United versus CF Montreal. Both sides have looked combative this season without pulling up too many trees and have strikers in form. Christian Benteke has four goals in three games for United this season, with newcomer Mathias Cocaro netting three times in four for the Canadiens. It should be a decent game. The other four games at 11.30pm (and the rest of Saturday's offerings) are behind the paywall on MLS Season Pass and run from Toronto to Miami. Toronto FC are at home to Sporting Kansas City and have started the season well, with three wins from five games. John Herdman has got them playing with confidence and seems to be getting the best of expensive Italian imports Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne. KC sit mid-table in the Western Conference but can be unpredictable, with Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell just as likely to score goals as go missing.

          2023 Supporters Shield winners FC Cincinnati hop across the Appalachians to North Carolina and Charlotte FC looking in good form to repeat that accolade after three wins and two draws so far this season. The addition of Miles Robinson and Corey Baird to an already good side was great business and, with Charlotte missing their star player to a European loan spell, it could be one-way traffic at the Bank of America Stadium. Down in Florida, both Orlando City and Inter Miami are at home, with the Lions facing a New York Red Bulls side who put four past Miami last week, thanks to a hatrick from in-form Lewis Morgan. Orlando have been an odd side so far this season, capable of greatness and ineptitude, and they'll need the former to try and stem Sandro Schwarz's revival at Red Bulls. Lionel Messi will once again be missing when Miami take on New York City FC in Fort Lauderdale but it's a good time to play the Pigeons as they've managed just one win from five games so far this season, although there is never any talk of Nick Cushing being under threat there.

          Just before the clocks go forward at half-past-midnight, Nashville SC host Columbus Crew at Geodis Park in what should be a cracker of a game. Nashville's 5-0 defeat at LAFC last week was very much an anomaly for a side usually so organised and 2022 MLS MVP Hani Mukhtar can always be counted on to conjure some magic, while in Cucho Hernandez, Jacen Russel-Rowe, and Aidan Morris, Crew have plenty of attacking threat. Also at 0.30am are two derby games in Texas. Sort of. The risible Austin FC face FC Dallas at Q2 Stadium desperately in need of, well, anything, although the visitors haven't exactly pulled up trees so far this season. Sebastian Driussi did make his first start of the season last week for Los Verde and they could really do with Jader Obrian finding the net against his former club. Houston Dynamo welcome San Jose Earthquakes to Shell Energy Stadium in what is still something of a grudge match, to the Quakes fans at least. The original MLS Earthquakes moved to Houston in December 2005 and it took another two-and-a-half years for the Quakes to return to action. San Jose have just one win so dar this - last week, at home to Seattle - but Houston are hardly in full flight either.

          The clocks go forward in the UK at 1am, returning the later kick-offs to their usual times for us Brits. Real Salt Lake versus St Louis City is at 2.30am, and both sides have shown flashes of brilliance - and spells of mediocrity - so far this season. That match is followed at 3.30am by two West Coast clashes, with injury-hit Seattle Sounders travelling to a buoyant Los Angeles Galaxy, whose acquisition of Joseph Paintsill over the winter might prove to be the spark that brings the famous club back to former glories. Saturday's final game is the first Cascadia Cup - a mini-tournament he;ld for bragging rights between former NASL rivals Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver - match of the season and sees Phil Neville's Portland Timbers visit Vancouver Whitecaps with both sides having two wins and a draw so far this season. Both teams lost at home last week, though, and that might tip Whitecaps towards more attacking play. The weekend's final game is on Sunday evening at 8.30pm (BST) and it's another freebie on AppleTV as Atlanta United host Chicago Fire with both sides having underachieved so far this season despite some good play.

          MLS Next Pro

          Newly arrived independent club Chattanooga FC continue to be unbeaten in regular time in MLS Next Pro, although they lost a shootout at New York City FC IIon Wednesday night and take just a point from that game to leave them on six points from three games. The newbies took the lead through Taylor Gray after eight minutes and held onto that advantage until Jonathan Shore equalised for the Baby Pigeons ten minutes into the second-half, with the game finishing 1-1. That means they have this weekend off, but the other independent side in this third-tier MLS reserve league - Carolina Core - are away at New England RevolutionII on Sunday, an 8pm kick-off if you're at all curious to see if they can earn their first win of the season.


            USL Championship

            Action in the second-tier begins tonight in Cary as promoted side North Carolina FC - looking for their first win of the season - welcome the reshaped and unbeaten Hartford Athletic to WakeMed Soccer Park with an 11pm (GMT) kick-off. Saturday's action starts at 8pm when Louisville City play Birmingham Legion at the Lynn Family Stadium. City are two from two so far this season and are always good value for a tilt at the title, whereas Legion - with one loss and one win from their two games this season - are a curious orange and you never know what you're going to get. There's a pair of games at 11pm, beginning with Indy Eleven versus Detroit City at Michael J Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis, where Le Rouge will be hoping to go back to Detroit with their third win from three games this season, and continuing down in Florida as a rebuilt The Miami FC host Charleston Battery at the cavernous FIU Stadium. Also in Florida, but with an 11.30pm kick-off, is Tampa Bay Rowdies versus expansion club Rhode Island FC, and both sides have drawn both their matches so far this season; Rhode Island, however, had 2023 USL-C MVP Albert Dikwa find the net twice last week in Monterey and that's got to be ominous for the hosts.

            Just before the clocks change at half-past-midnight is 2022 champions San Antonio versus Frank Yallop's Monterey Bay at Toyota Field. Both sides have a win and two draws so far this season but the Texans are good value at home and can be relied upon to grab some goals in front of a decent crowd. With the closk going forward at 1am, the California games revert to their usual 3am (BST) start time and there's three of them this week as Oakland Roots host a Las Vegas Lights side who won their first match in nine last week, in-form Orange County SC welcome FC Tulsa to Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, and perennial powerhouses Sacramento Republic take on Memphis 901. The weekend's final game - at 3.30am - sees reigning champions Phoenix Rising and New Mexico United clash in the "unsuitable places for human habitation" derby. Rising beat Oakland 1-0 last week after opening their title defence with two defeats, while United were beaten badly at Charleston, but this should be a fine advert for USL-C soccer.

            USL League One

            The third-tier USL League One started its weekend early when expansion club Spokane Velocity visisted Charlotte Independence last night, where a disappointing crowd of just 686 fans at American Legion Memorial Stadium saw the home side record their first win of the season thanks to goals from Joel Johnson and Luis Alvarez, with Martin Gil having briefly restored Velocity to parity in between.

            There's a pair of games tonight, with Lexington SC opening the gates of their gridiron marked Toyota Stadium in Georgetown for the visit of Greenville Triumph at 11pm (GMT), and Forward Madison making the trip to Fresno, California, to face Jermaine Jones's rejigged Central Valley Fuego side, with a 2am kick-off. There should have been another two games tomorrow but Chattanooga Red Wolves versus Union Omaha is off after the Red Wolves pitch needed work. Instead, the lone game sees top of the table One Knoxville host 2022 champions South Georgia Tormenta at 8pm and the visitors are beginning to get their groove back. Should be a decent third-tier encounter.



                CR still has more followers.

                Global football culture is dumb.



                  After a slow start to the season, Philadelphia Union are beginning to hit their stride, following up last week's win over Portland Timbers with a home victory over previously unbeaten Minnesota United on Saturday.Hungarian international Daniel Gazdag got things rolling with a point-blank goal in the 16th minute but Union didn't have it all their own way afterwards, withstanding some heavy pressure from the visitors. However, a breakaway move finished by Julian Carranza six minutes from time secured the points. Los Angeles FC also haven't had the best of starts to the season but looked to have turned a corner last week with a 5-0 demolition of Nashville SC. This weekend found them travelling across the Rockies to Colorado Rapids, a side who seem to be putting together some decent results despite looking as enticing as a bag of crap. It didn't take long for LA to take the lead with Eduard Atesta scoring from a Timothy Tillman corner, with Denis Bouanga going close twice soon afterwards. Colorado got back on level terms following a corner of their own when Moise Bombito headed in seven minutes before half-time, with the second-half producing good chances for Bouanga, Matheusz Bogusz, and Venezuelan teenage substitute David Martinez. Martinez then put the visitors ahead again before receiving picking up a booking, and Colorado came back with another equaliser, a well-taken free-kick from Djordje Mihailovic, his first for the club since moving from AZ Alkmaer in the winter. Martinez's earlier transgression then became a disaster when he picked up a second yellow and Rapids got the bit between their teeth and pushed on, finding an unlikely winner a minute from time and holding on through seven minutes of stoppage time to take the win.

                  Three of the five kick-offs at 7.30pm EDT ended in 1-1 draws, but weren't short on incident, particularly in Charlotte where 30,000 fans saw Charlotte FC and FC Cincinnati share the points. Chances were at a premium in the first-half, although Patrick Agyemang forced Roman Celentano into a good save, but the game came alive twelve minutes into the second when Yuya Kubo fouled Dijbril Diani in the box, giving Diani a chance to convert from the spot and give the home side the lead. The Garys never stopped pushing for an equaliser, however, and got their reward when Aaron Boupendza finished a smart move after a clever assist from DeAndre Yedlin. It was honours even at both games down in Florida, too, with both New York sides enjoying the sunshine. Orlando City welcomed New York Red Bulls to Inter&Co Stadium for a fixture that, twelve months ago, would have been a banker home win, but the 2024 Red Bulls have something about them and forced their way ahead when Lewis Morgan slotted home from the spot. Both defences were in good form and it took the Lions until a minute from time to force an equaliser when Noah Eile put through his own net.

                  Inter Miami were still without Lionel Messi when New York City arrived in Fort Lauderdale, and moved Sergio Busquets into the centre of defence, but still should have had more than enough to see off a Pigeons side that only gained their first points of the season last week. Bitey racist Luis Suarez put the Herons ahead after fourteen minutes and New York went close to an equaliser through Santi Rodriguez before Alonso Martinez fired in the send the teams level into the break.Miami had much the better of the play in the second half but couldn't find a winner, missing a chance to go top of the Western Conference as a consequence. The home side also scored a single goal in both of the other 7.30pm kick-offs but with differing final outcomes. John Herdman's Toronto FC have looked decent so far this season but came totally unstuck at home to a Sporting Kansas City side missing both Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido. KC entirely dominated proceedings, allowing Toronto just two shots on target to their ten, but took until 57 minutes to find the net through Remi Walter. Jacob Davis and Alenis Vargas added two more, with the home side's contribution limited to just Jonathan Osorio's consolation seven minutes into stoppage time. In Saturday's sole free game on AppleTV, DC United took on CF Montreal at Audi Field with both sides having mixed seasons thus far. Both Christian Benteke and Matias Coccaro had chances in the first-half but the teams went in goalless at the break, and further chances for Benteke and Josef Martinez followed in the second-half. In the end, Pedro Santos's strike into the top corner settled affairs in United's favour.

                  The 7.30pm CDT kick-offs provided more in the way of goals and a positive result at last for Austin FC, who beat FC Dallas to draw first blood in this season's Copa Tejas. Josh Wolff reshuffled his pack but looked to have gotten nothing out of it when Eugene Ansah opened the scoring for the visitors six minutes into the second-half, only for centre-half Julio Cascante to level three minutes later when he finished a cross by Jon Gallagher. Dallas, for whom Petar Musa was a menace, almost grabbed the lead back through Sebastian Lletget midway through the second-half but Jader Obrian thought he'd given Austin the advatange, enthusiastically celebrating a goal against his old club before VAR confirmed the linesman's offside flag. Austin did grab a 2-1 win and all three points, though, thanks to Diego Rubio's header on 70 minutes. Elsewhere in Texas, Houston Dynamo hosted San Jose Earthquakes in a grudge match dating back to the original Quakes' move to Sapce City. The 2024 Quakes have struggled so far, with just last week's win over a similarly disappointing Seattle Sounders side to show for their efforts, but took the lead after just one minute through Bruno Wilson header from a corner. Things took a turn in the 34th minute when San Jose's Preston Judd was sent off for an elbow off the ball, although they managed to hold onto their lead until the 81st minute when Sebastian Ferreira's shot finally made Dynamo's pressure count for something. Three minutes after that, Franco Escobar found a winner for Houston, and San Jose's terrible evening was confirmed by Jackson Youell's second yellow five minutes into stoppage time.

                  Nashville SC were hammered 5-0 at Los Angeles FC last week and couldn't have enjoyed the prospect of reigning champions Columbus Crew coming to town, but had two good chances before Sean Zawadzki headed the visitors ahead after sixteen minutes. Still, the Coyotes never let their heads drop and went back at them with Hani Mukhtar going close from a free kick before firing in an equaliser three minutes into first-half stoppage time. Mukhtar then won a free kick even further into time added on and a Jacob Shaffelburg cross found Anibal Godoy in the box who fired in to send Nashville into the break a goal ahead. Three minutes into the second-half, a VAR-assisted penalty from Diego Rossi found the woundwork rather than the net, and Malte Amundsen, Darlington Nagbe, and Jacen Russell-Rowe all went close before Marino Hinestroza headed in an equaliser on 79 minutes to level the score. A year ago, Real Salt Lake might also have been apprehensive at the prospect of St Louis City visiting Utah but City haven't quite hit their stride this season so far, despite Joao Klauss looking lively. Still, Indy Vassiliev fired St Louis ahead after just three minutes and the visitors maintained their lead through half-time and well into the second-half, before Cristian Arango scored a twenty-one minute hatrick to give Real the points.

                  Saturday's final 2 games came from the West Coast, where Los Angeles Galaxy met Seattle Sounders, and the first Cascadia Cup game of the season took place. Seattle are getting somewhere back to their first-choice eleven but were facing a Galaxy side that look like they mean business this season, even if they did leave top scorer Dejan Joveljic on the bench. It was a decision that looked to have paid off as early as four minutes in when Gabriel Pec scored his first for the club on only his second start. Sounders looked for an equaliser after that but chances were tight, with Albert Rusnak forcing a save out of John McCarthy their best effort, and Galaxy sealed the 1-0 to go top of the Western Conference. Portland Timbers visited Vancouver Whitecaps with absolutely no consistency to their play so far this season, as likely to concede as they are to score, but with the threat of Anthony and Evander always around the corner. Still, it was Whitecaps who opened the scoring in the second minute through Ryan Gauld, and Fafa Picault doubled that on 29 minutes to send the home side into the break two goals to the good. Timbers looked much better in the second-half and it took Evander just seven minutes to reduce the arrears with a terrific distance strike. They went in search of an equaliser and found one through Felipe Mora's close-range header in the 77th minute. Unfortunately, that sparked Vancouver back into life, going close through Picault and Tristan Blackmon, and Ryan Raposo's winner seemed almost inevitable when it hit the back of the net with three minutes to play.

                  Sunday's sole game saw Atlanta United welcome Chicago Fire to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of the weekend's biggest crowd of over 42,000. United were given a scare early on when top scorer Giorgios Giakoumakis, who missed last week's defeat at Toronto because of international duty with Greece, went down injured after nine minutes but he returned to the field and scored the home side's opener on the stroke of half-time with a fine finish from six yards after slipping his markers. Chicago went close to an equaliser through Brian Gutierrez before Jamal Thiare doubled Atlanta's advantage, and Fire's uphill battle got even more difficult when Carlos Teran was sent-off seven minutes from time. Thiare scored his second in the fifth minute of stoppage time and United were well-deserved winners, with Georgian DP Saba Lobzhanidzhe a constant threat.


                    USL Championship

                    The USL Championship weekend started on Frifday night in Cary, where North Carolina FC welcomed unbeaten Hartford Athletic to WakeMed Park. Oalex Anderson has yet to fully emerge since his elevation with the WIngs over the winter but looked lively throughout, earning a penalty when Anderson Asiedu brought him down in the box in the 24th minute. Louis Perez stepped up to convert the spot kick and give the home side the lead, which was doubled by "Goalex" himself on 35 minutes after a smart through ball by Rodrigo da Costa. Hartford were in the game throughout and got one back eighteen minutes from time through Jay Chapman, but North Carolina held on for their first win since their promotion back into USL-C. Saturday's games started in Kentucky where Louisville City met old enemies Birmingham Legion. City, perennial play-off competitors, had played two and won two so far this season and continued where they left off against Pittsburgh Riverhounds last week, opening the scoring through Jake Morris in the 13th minute. Wilson Harris added a second shortly before the break and Legion looked all at sea. That was something they never recovered from, conceding another Harris goal 11 minutes into the second-half, and then two more from Taylor Davila and Ray Serrano to complete a 5-0 rout.

                    Like Hartford and Louisville, Detroit City had also won two out of two but faced a short trip to tough opposition when they faced Indy Eleven at the Michael A Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis. Sebastian Guenzatti put the hosts ahead midway through the first-half just after Maxi Rodriguez had a shot saved for the visitors, and it stayed 1-0 through to the 55th minute when Ali Coote levelled for Le Rouge. Rodriguez made amends for his earlier miss by giving Detroit a third win on the trot with just two minutes left on the clock, and Detroit look like they mean business this season. Charleston Battery are also looking dangerous after a shaky start, having demolished New Mexico United 4-0 last week. They travelled to the reshaped The Miami FC, who delighted the 1,100 in attendance with an opener from Allen Gavillanes in the 9th minute. That lead lasted just two minutes before Nick Markanich drew the visitors level and that's how it stayed until the 82nd minute, despite some heavy Battery pressure. Inevitably, though, Matt Myers popped up with the winner for Charleston, a close range effort following Juan Torres's saved shot.

                    Elsewhere in Florida, Tampa Bay Rowdies were looking for their first win of the season after two draws on the last two weekends and faced a Rhode Island FC team in a similar position. 2023 USL-C MVP Albert Dikwa opened the scoring for the expansion club in the 16th minute and it looked for a while that there might be a slight upset on the cards. However, the second-half found Rowdies in full flight,scoring four unanswered goals through Manuel Arteaga, Cal Jennings, Jordan Doherty, and Damian Rivera, the last coming six minutes into stoppage time and finally ending Rhode Island's increasingly slim hopes of escaping with a point. 2022 champions San Antonio FC were at home to Monterey Bay on Saturday, with 7,500 flocking to Toyota Field for the clash. Carter Manley got the party started early for the hosts with a 7th minute shot from a corner, but Union levelled in first-half stoppage time through Mobi Fehr. The hosts were much the best side but had to wait until four minutes from time before Kevon Lambert fired past Gerald Siaha in the Monterey goal and put San Antonio joint top of the Western Conference with eight points from four games.

                    It's a position they share with two California rivals, both of which were in action at home on Saturday. Despite the loss of Milan Illinovski in the winter, Orange County SC have looked good value this year and that was the case again when FC Tulsa visited Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, with OC taking all three points thanks to Sofianne Djeffal's 27th minute strike. With 9,488 at Heart Health Park, Sacramento Republic had the weekend's biggest crowd in USL-C but didn't have it all their own way against Memphis 901. The visitors defended with spirit but only managed one shot on target themselves, and it looked like a 0-0 draw was on the cards before Jonathan Ricketts scored a winner for Republic with just three minutes left on the clock. The other Californian side at home on Saturday night didn't have such a good time of things as Las Vegas Lights made it two wins out of two when they left Oakland Roots with all three points. Second-half goals from Coleman Gannon, Gaoussou Samake, and Valentin Noel did the damage in a 3-0 win for Jose Batista's club.

                    The weekend's final game in USL-C came from the Phoenix Soccer Stadium where reigning champions Phoenix Rising welcomed near-rivals New Mexico United. United were hoping that last week's bad defeat at the hands of Charleston Battery was just a blip and set about the champs, overwhelming them in sheer goal attempts, if not possession. It took 16 minutes for Dayonn Harris to find the Phoenix net with a smart shot and that's how it stayed, with Dariusz Formella's saved shot two minutes after the goal Rising's only attempt on target.

                    USL League One

                    With Charlotte Independence beating Spokane Velocity on Thiursday night, there were just four games in the third-tier USL League One scheduled for the weekend, cut down to three when Chattanooga Red Wolves versus Union Omaha was postponed due to pitch issues in Tennessee. Friday's two games started in Georgetown, Kentucky, where Lexington SC hosted Greenville Triumph in front of 1,672 fans at Toyota Stadium. The home side took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Isaac Cano fired home, a scoreline doubled by Cameron Lancaster's first league goal for the club twelve minutes into the second-half. At that point, odds were firmly on a home victory but Triumph woke up and hit back, scoring three goals without further reply through Ben Zakowski, Lyam MacKinnon, and a 98th minute own goal, holding on for an impressive comeback away win.

                    Jermaine Jones's rebuilding job at Central Valley Fuego is very much a work in progress and Forward Madison showed them the way to win games with a comprehensive 3-0 win in Fresno on Friday. Derek Gebhard opened the scoring in the 28th minute for the 'Mingos, who added a second through John Murphy on 42 minutes. There was still time, though, for Devin Boyce to score Madison's third, deep into stoppage time, and give the away side a 3-0 lead at half-time, something Fuego just weren't able to come back from, although they did look much better in the second-half. The weekend's final game in USL-1 came from Tennessee, where One Knoxville were looking to make it three wins out of three (plus a cup victory) so far this season. The visitors were a South Georgia Tormenta side looking to be getting their act together after a so-so start and, in the end, it was Angelo Kelly's strike for the home side after 36 minutes that separated the sides at the final whistle, delighting the majority of the 1,813 fans at Regal Soccer Stadium.

                    MLS Next Pro

                    With Chattanooga FC having played on Thursday night, there was just one game featuring an independent club in the third-tier MLS reserve league this weekend. Carolina Core travelled to Foxboro to play New England Revolution II in front of a handful of fans at the cavernous Gillette Stadium. The Revs pressed their home advantage as early as the second minute when Malcom Fry put them ahead, but former Barry University standout David Polanco equalised eight minutes before half-time. It was all for nought, though, as US Olympic hopeful Jack Panayotou - who played twelve times in MLS last year - got the winner for New England, leaving Core still looking for their first 90-minute win of the season.​


                      I haven't seen an exciting and winning Galaxy team for a long time now. It's a weird feeling.


                        US Open Cup

                        The second round (proper) of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup gets underway tonight with the 32 first round winners facing off for a chance to meet sixteen USL Championship teams in round three. There were a number of "cupsets" in the first round, resulting in seven lower-tier sides progressing at the expense of their third-tier opponents. Of those, two will meet and so at least one side from (at least) the fourth tier is going to be in the draw for the next round!

                        Action begins tonight in Virginia, where Richmond Kickers of USL League One welcome NISA's Maryland Bobcats. The Kickers began life in the USL predecessor league USISL in 1993 and actually won the US Open Cup in 1995, the last year before MLS arrived on the scene. They used to enjoy a healthy rivalry with the third Baltimore Bays club and will look to renew that border rivalry with the Bobcats, who are based in Boyds, west of Charm City. The Bobcats were themselves formed in 2016 and moved into the semi-professional fifth-tier UPSL in 2019, joining NISA in 2021. They reached the third round of last year's Open Cup where they were eliminated by Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL-C, with Kickers reaching the same stage and losing to MLS's DC United. Kickers have not started the season well in USL-1 and have lost two from two, but NISA doesn't start its season until this weekend and so the home side should have a slight advantage in terms of match sharpness.

                        There's an MLS Next Pro derby at Belson Stadium in Jamaica, New York, as New York City FC II take on New York Red Bulls II. The inclusion of MLS reserve sides in this year's Open Cup is disappointing but we are where we are and at least one of them will be eliminated in this clash. Both sides breezed through the last round against fourth-tier opposition. Of far more interest to the neutral is tonight's clash between USL-1's Charlotte Independence and South Carolina United Heat of the fifth-tier UPSL. Very much the second team in the Queen City, Independence started play in the USL in 2015, having acquired the local franchise rights from Charlotte Eagles, and spent time in the second tier USL-C until taking voluntary relegation to USL-1 for the 2022 season. They've won one and lost one so far this season, with the Columbia-based Heat winning their first league game in the UPSL Mid-Atlantic Conference at the weekend when they beat the MLS babies of Charlotte Soccer Academy. They eliminated Charlotte FC's MLS Next Pro affiliates Crown Legacy FC in the last round and will be looking to cause another upset in the city tonight.

                        MLS Next Pro's Minnesota United 2 knocked out everyone's favourite Farley "Jackmaster" Funk tribute club Chicago House AC in the first round and tonight welcome NISA's Michigan Stars - from the Detroit suburbs - to St Paul. Stars were 1-0 winners over Pittsburgh's Steel City FC in the first round but again, as a NISA club, haven't started their league season yet. The Detroit club were officially formed in 2014 but trace their history back through both Windsor Spartans and Dearborn Stars to 1982. They played in the NPSL before turning professional with the establishment of NISA in 2019. The one all lower-tier game on the schedule for this week comes from Texas, where Lubbock Matadors face Foro SC at Lubbock Christian University Soccer Field. Matadors, who are only in their third year of existence and took third place in last year's NPSL national play-offs, beat NISA newbies Arizona Monsoon in the first round, while Foro accounted for MLS Next Pro's Austin FC II. The Dallas club finished fourth in the Fall 2023 UPSL play-offs and are coached by former FC Dallas star Michel Garbini, who also works as an assistant coach at North Texas SC in MLS Next Pro.

                        The final game tonight comes from Fresno, California, where Jermaine Jones's Central Valley Fuego from USL-1 take on El Farolito SC of the NPSL's Golden Gate Conference, who knocked out Portland Timbers 2 of MLS Next Pro in the first round. Formed in 1985 and named after the owner's chain of restaurants in the San Francisco area, they won the Open Cup in 1993 under the name Club Deportivo Mexico and represented the US in the 1994 CONCACAF Champions Cup.

                        CONCACAF Champions Cup
                        Three MLS clubs remain in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup as it reaches the quarterfinal stage, with Liga MX providing four and a sole Costa Rican survivor making up the numbers. Tonight sees Columbus Crew host UANL Tigres, currently fourth in the Liga MX Clausura, and with the home side in good form so far this season it should be a cracker. Perhaps less so in Foxboro, where New England Revolution welcome Liga MX leaders Club America having taken just a single point from their five MLS games so far this season. There are two further games tomorrow and the reverse legs are next week.


                          USL Super League Carolina is Carolina Ascent FC.

                          Cincy reserves continue the rebranding, as Commonwealth United bc they play in Kentucky.

                          USL Portland branding announced 4/27.

                          Mike Watts and Devon Kerr calling the Kickers-Bobcats USOC game are on another of their missions to cram as many references into the commentary as possible. Taylor Swift song titles tonight.
                          Last edited by jefe; 03-04-2024, 00:18.



                              Attached Files
                              Last edited by Flynnie; 03-04-2024, 09:36.


                                US Open Cup, Second Round round-up
                                1995 US Open Cup winners Richmond Kickers became the first side into the hat for round three when they beat NISA's Maryland Bobcats 5-2 at City Stadium in Richmond last night. The USL League One club went ahead after just six minutes when Nil Vinyals converted a penalty given for a handball by Luis Almeida and doubled that advantage in the 20th minute through Chandler O'Dwyer. Abdul Kooistra reduced the arrears for the Bobcats four minutes later, but Kickers finished the half strongly, adding a third goal - a header from Dakota Barnathan - to take a two-goal lead into the break. Thriteen minutes into the second-half, Maryland had a chance to come within a goal again when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Justin Sukow on Darwin Espinal, but Espinal's spot kick hit the bar. Things got worse for the visitors two minutes later when Josselin Possian was dismissed for a second yellow, but they did manage to claw a goal back through Espinal, a distance strike on 71 minutes. From there, Richmond reasserted control, scoring two late goals from Ryan Sierakowski and Barnathan again to ease into round three.

                                The all-MLS Next Pro New York derby also produced a hatful of goals as New York City II beat New York Red Bulls II 4-2 in Jamaica (the New York neighbourhood rather than the Caribbean nation). Mohammed Sofo opened the scoring for the baby Bulls after just six minutes but the baby Pigeons hit back with two goals from Jonathan Jimenez and one from Malachi Jones to take a 3-1 lead into the break. Serge Ngoma put Red Bulls within touching distance two minutes after the restart after Roald Mitchell had an effort saved by Tomas Romero in the City goal but an 87th penalty given for handball completed Jimenez's hatrick and sent the home side through. Down in North Carolina, USL-1 side Charlotte Independence and the UPSL's South Carolina United Heat from across the border, drew 0-0 after extra-time at the American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte. Penalties were called upon and an opening miss by Juan Carlos Obregon for the hosts was negated by two saves by Independence 'keeper Austin Pack to keep Charlotte in the hunt for cup glory.

                                MLS Next Pro met NISA in St Paul when Minnesota United 2 faced Michigan Stars, and it was the 2022 NISA champions who walked away with a 2-0 win, despite the hosts having the . Scores were level after ninety minutes but nine minutes into the first period of extra-time, Sacko Konate headed the visitors into the lead, compounded by Hunter Olson's strike a minute after the half-time in extra-time break. There was guaranteed to be a lower-tier winner at the end of the match at Lubbock Christian University in west Texas, where the NPSL's Lubbock Matadors met Dallas side Foro SC from the UPSL. A crowd of over 2,000 saw a cagey affair, with the teams level until Salvador Martinez struck in the 71st minute to give the Matadors the lead and Foro's problems deepened when Nigel Katawa was red-carded for violent conduct five minutes later, the end result of a pell-mell sparked by Daniel Celi's bad foul on Kodai Kobayashi. The ten men battled back and went very close to an equaliser in stoppage time through Juan Ramirez, but Shuma Sasaki's 93rd minute goal sent the home side through 2-0.

                                The night's final game in the Open Cup came from Merced, California, where USL-1 side Central Valley Fuegos were taking on 1993 Open Cup winners El Farolito SC from the UPSL. The game took place not at Fuegos' usual ground in Fresno but at Bobcat Field on the University of California campus an hour north, but Fuego looked right at home when they took the lead through a Jose Carrera-Garcia penalty on 19 minutes, given for a foul by Jonathan Mosquera. The home side looked happy to sit back and were caught out in first-half stoppage time by Dembor Benson's equaliser. The visitors again had much of the play in the second-half and got their reward two minutes from time, with Benson adding a second to secure the night's first "cupset."

                                CONCACAF Champions Cup, Quarterfinals round-up
                                Just 8,000 fans were at Field in Columbus last night to watch the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup Quarterfinal between Columbus Crew and Liga MX side UANL Tigres, which was delayed by 90 minutes by a thunderstorm. Those that did bother to turn up were treated to an incident-packed match that came alive late in the second-half after an even first 45 minutes which saw Andre-Pierre Gignac net for Tigres and Diego Rossi equalise for Crew. The second-half grew increasingly ill-tempered but it took the referee until the 75th minute to show a yellow card, to Aidan Morris. That was followed two minutes later by a second - also to Morris, who was dismissed for a bad foul - but there were no further goals and the teams will go again in Nuevo Leon next week.

                                New England Revolution have had a bad start to their MLS season but have been capable in the CONCACAF Champions Cup thus far, something ruined by a 4-0 home defeat to Club America last night. The Liga MX top the standings in Mexico and showed their quality at Gillette Stadium with many of the 12,000 crowd leaving well before the end. Revs were second-best all night and went behind in the 16th minute to Henry Martin's left-footed effort, with Alejandro Zendejas doubling the lead eight minutes later after an assist from Martin. That's how it stayed until just past the hour, but chances for the home side were thin on the ground and there was little surprise when Cristian Calderon added America's third from close range. The sorry story was completed a minute into stoppage time when substitute Brian Rodriguez fired home and next week's second leg looks to be a dead rubber.
                                Last edited by HeavyDracula; 03-04-2024, 10:45.


                                  US Open Cup, Second Round preview (part 2)
                                  There are ten games in the US Open Cup Second Round tonight, completing the round before sixteen second-tier USL Championship sides enter next time out, and four lower-tier teams have the chance to join El Farolito SC and Lubbock Matadors in round three.

                                  Although the rankings are far from an exact science (and they have joined the fifth-tier UPSL for 2024), Miami United are the lowest ranked side remaining in the cup, having accounted for MLS Next Pro newbies Chattanooga FC in the first round. They began play in 2013 and spent most of their existence in the NPSL, but recently played in United States Soccer League (Florida). Their opponents at Broward College in North Miami tonight are NISA's Club de Lyon from Daytona Beach in central Florida. Lyon had a season to forget last year, unable even to secure a home pitch for the complete season, but beat 2023 UPSL national champions AS Frenzi in the first round and will be hoping for a more stable 2024.

                                  There's a Georgia derby in Statesboro as South Georgia Tormenta of USL League One face NISA's Savannah Clovers at Tormenta Stadium. Tormenta were surprise winners of USL-1 in 2022 and have had a mixed start to the season so far, but - as with all NISA sides - Clovers are yet to start their league season. Tormenta reached the third round last year, where they lost to Charlotte FC of MLS, one stage further than Savannah, who were knocked out in the second round by Charleston Battery. One Knoxville SC have won all of their four league and cup matches so far this season and will relish the visit of USL-1 rivals Greenville Triumph to the Regal Soccer Stadium tonight. This is only their second tilt at the Open Cup, having been knocked out by Memphis 901 in the second round last season, but they will be wary against a Triumph team that won away at Lexington SC at the weekend.

                                  USL League Two outfit Vermont Green provided one of the shocks of the first round when they beat Lexington SC in the first Open Cup match ever staged on Vermont soil. The Burlington side began play in 2022 and have an ambition to become a net zero soccer club, the Green in their name more than just a colour. They welcome MLS Next Pro expansion club Carolina Core to the aptly named Virtue Field, which will no doubt be full and rocking again. Core have yet to win a game in 90 minutes in the league (which settles draws with penalties) and squeezed past NoVA FC in the last round, so there's all to play for in the Green Mountain State. Atlanta club Apotheos FC - who play in the NPSL - were given a walkover in the first round when their NISA opponents Georgia Lions were not in a position to begin their season. Apotheos were runners-up in the NPSL national play-offs last year but don't start their season until next month, meaning their clash with USL-1's Chattanooga Red Wolves will be their first competitive game of the year.

                                  Chicago Fire II easily dispatched local semi-professional side Chicago City in the first round but face tougher opposition in round two in the shape of Forward Madison from USL-1. The 'Mingos won away at Central Valley Fuego at the weekend, are in decent form so far this term, and will be looking forward to testing their wiles against the MLS Next Pro side at SeatGeek Stadium. USL-1 mainstays Union Omaha have had a stuttered start to the season but have won both their games so far, including a commanding first round victory over Western Mass Pioneers. In tonight's game they will come up against Des Moines Menace, the USL-2 side that made headlines even before they beat NISA's Capo FC in the first round when they tempted former USMNT regular Sasha Kljestan out of retirement for their cup campaign. Kljestan set up a goal and scored the decisive kick in the penalty shootout and Omaha will be wary of his abilities as both a player and a talisman tonight.

                                  As in Georgia, there's a derby game in Colorado, too, when Colorado Rapids 2 welcome Northern Colorado Hailstorm to Dick's Sporting Goods Park tonight. The Rapids beat fellow Denver side Azteca FC in the last round, with Hailstorm winning away in Oklahoma against Tulsa Athletic, and it'll be another interesting clash of MLS reserves versus their independent third-tier equivalents. As will Ventura County FC (formerly known as LA Galaxy II) versus NISA's Irvine Zeta at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. Branding itself as the first Chinese-owned club in US Soccer, Zeta were elevated into the professional ranks this season after playing in the UPSL last year and beat 2023 US Amateur Cup winners SC Mesoamerica in the first round, with County seeing off Irvine Zeta 2, the club's semi-professional arm still competing in the UPSL.

                                  The final second round game comes from western Washington state, where USL-1 expansion side Spokane Velocity - who beat 2023 USL-2 champions Ballard FC in the first round - welcome NISA's Los Angeles Force to One Spokane Stadium. Velocity have won two and lost two in their debut league campaign thus far but have quality up front with English striker Josh Dolling always a threat. The sixteen winners from round two go forward to the next round on April 16 and 17, where sixteen USL Championship sides await.

                                  CONCACAF Champions Cup, Quarterfinals round-up​ (part 2)

                                  After a bad night for MLS clubs last night in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the third and final MLS survivor plays tonight as Inter Miami host Monterrey, currently second in Liga MX. All eyes will be on the Miami line-up and whether Lionel Messi will return after missing the last three matches with injury. The final tie sees another Liga MX side, Pachuca, travel to Costa Rica's Herediano.


                                    Originally posted by HeavyDracula View Post

                                    New England Revolution have had a bad start to their MLS season but have been capable in the CONCACAF Champions Cup thus far, something ruined by a 4-0 home defeat to Club America last night. The Liga MX top the standings in Mexico and showed their quality at Gillette Stadium with many of the 12,000 crowd leaving well before the end. Revs were second-best all night and went behind in the 16th minute to Henry Martin's left-footed effort, with Alejandro Zendejas doubling the lead eight minutes later after an assist from Martin. That's how it stayed until just past the hour, but chances for the home side were thin on the ground and there was little surprise when Cristian Calderon added America's third from close range. The sorry story was completed a minute into stoppage time when substitute Brian Rodriguez fired home and next week's second leg looks to be a dead rubber.[/LEFT]
                                    I was there. Raining all night. Crowd was 90% Mexican in support, a sea of yellow. The Revs have had a disastrous start to the season in MLS and this carried over last night to the Cup. Carlos Gil ploughs a lonely furrow even his brother his struggling in this lineup. At least we had some classic Mexican gamesmanship to admire, along with some fights, and the ole's that started in the 17th minute. Oh and Zendejas is a US Born player on Club America. I didn't catch up with our Lunenberg correspondent who will have a neutral view of the game - if he made it.


                                      The scorer of the brace for El Farolito is ex-Rev disaster Jerry Bengtson's brother.


                                        US Open Cup Second Round round-up (night 2)

                                        After two lower-tier sides made it through to the third round in Tuesday night's games, Miami United got Wednesday's action off to a great start at home to NISA's Club de Lyon. The UPSL side - who played last year in the USSL Florida league - knocked out MLS Next Pro newbies Chattanooga FC in the first round and picked up where they left off by taking a first-half lead through Colombian veteran Jhon Pajoy, who was playing in that country's top tier last season with Once Caldas. United shaded a fairly even game and a second goal in the 56th minute, from Argentine youngster Alejo Melo Fernandez, was just rewards for their efforts. There was still time for Miami to have Frank Fraggetti sent off for two yellow cards and the visitors to go close with two late efforts but the fifth-tier side held on.

                                        The all third-tier clash between USL League One South Georgia Tormenta and NISA's Savannah Clovers was a much more one-sided affair, understandable given Clovers' recent financial worries. Almost 2,000 fans saw Niall Watson give Tormenta the lead after just 74 seconds and things got worse for the visitors when US Virgin Islands international Joshua Ramos made it two on 35 minutes. Savannah had their chances but fell further behind twelve minutes into the second-half when Sebastian Vivas added a third, and the 4-0 demolition was completed by an Austin Wehner strike as the clock reached 90 minutes.

                                        Two of Tormenta's USL-1 rivals faced off in Tennessee when four wins out of four One Knoxville welcomed the unbeaten Greenville Triumph to the Regal Soccer Stadium. The visitors took the early advantage after nine minutes when Swiss-born striker Lyam MacKinnon fired home from close range, but Knoxville came right back three minutes later when Brandon Fricke handballed in the Triumph box, giving German forward Kempes Tekiela the chance to equalise from the spot. MacKinnon scored a similar goal to his first to restore the Greenville lead on 33 minutes and that's how it stayed until 17 minutes into the second-half, when Tekiela grabbed his second, this time from open play. Four minutes from time, Knoxville's Yesin van der Pluijm was penalised for a foul in his own box and, with MacKinnon off the field, Brandon Fricke stepped up but saw his effort saved by Johan Garibay. With no further goals before the final whistle, the game went to extra-time where the deadlock was finally broken by Chapa Herrera's well-taken goal just after half-time in extra-time. That proved to be the winner and it's Triumph that will go through to round three.

                                        There was another big crowd at Virtue Field in Burlington to see Vermont Green of USL League Two take on professional opposition in the form of MLS Next Pro expansion club Carolina Core. Snow fell before (and during) the match, and it looked like the visitors might struggle to acclimatise when the overly-physical Ibrahim Covi fouled Yaniv Bazini in the box, and the Israeli striker from the University of Vermont picked himself to fire the penalty kick home. Both sides had slim chances to score before the half-time whistle and the game came alive fifteen minutes into the second-half when Green defender Zach Barrett brought down Joshua Rodriguez and the referee awarded a penalty. Former Houston Dynamo 2 striker Papa Ndoye converted the kick and Rodriguez himself got on the scoresheet ten minutes later when he scored after a corner. Core held strong and restricted Green's chances after that, and a red card for Jacob Labovitz for reacting to an unseen kick from Covi just put the cap on a disappointing evening. Vermont Green, though, look every bit a USL-1 side and that's what they should be working towards.

                                        Apotheos FC, who play in the NPSL and are based inthe Atlanta suburbs, were given a bye in round one when their NISA opponents Georgia Lions (now Georgia FC) were unable to complete the fixture. Round two saw them facing USL-1 opposition in the form of Chattanooga Red Wolves at Silverbacks Park (ironically, where Georgia FC will play) and it was a game of few chances, taking 37 minutes for a shot on goal to be recorded. Red Wolves did have some good chances to take a lead before they actually did, Serbian striker Stefan Lukic finding the bottom corner from inside the box, and that's how it stayed, despite Apotheos coming close twice near the end.

                                        MLS reserve side Chicago Fire II dispatched USL-2 Chicago City in the last round and had local(ish) opposition in round two as well, this time in the shape of USL-1's Forward Madison. Madison won 3-0 away at the weekend and must have been confident ahead of the tie, which would have made falling behind in the eleventh minute a big blow, Polish striker Dawid Poreba finishing from close range. Fire controlled the game from that point, Madison not even recording a shot on target, and Jason Shokalook's 90th minute second for the home side merely confirmed a result which had been obvious for some time.

                                        One of the stars of the last round were Des Moines Menace, the USL-2 side that talked former US international Sasha Kljestan out of retirement to mastermind their victory away at NISA's Capo FC. Their reward for their efforts was a trip to Union Omaha of USL-1, and they further bolstered their line-up with the addition of three more former MLS stars in Tesho Akindele, AJ DeLaGarza, and Roger Espinoza. A cagey first-half resulted in just one goal, with Omaha taking the lead into the break after a 34th minute shot from Pedro Dolabella, and the home side doubled their lead three minutes into the second-half when Marco Milanese tapped in following a corner. Menace went close though Kljestan, Euan Holden, and Cyrus Harmon, finally pulling one back with three minutes left on the clock, former Sporting Kansas City academy player Leroy Enzugusi finding the net. Efforts to grab an equalsier were in vain, however, and Lagos Kunga ended the Menace fairytale when he shot home in the ninth minute of stoppage time.

                                        MLS reserve side Colorado Rapids II defeated city rivals Azteca FC last time out and faced another Colorado side in USL-1 outfit Northern Colorado Hailstorm at Dick's Sporting Goods Park last night. After a goalless first-half, Rapids took the lead two minutes into the second through Wayne Frederick, but Hailstorm pulled themselves back into the game eleven minutes later, midfielder Mark Hernandez netting at the second attempt after having his first shot saved by Rapids' 'keeper Adam Beaudry. Hailstorm were much the better side after that and went ahead when Hernandez set up Ethan Hoard in the 80th minute, but the home side took advantage of time added on to equalise through Canadian youngster Kimani Stewart-Baynes and send the game to extra-time. Both sides had chances to grab a winner but it was Hailstorm who did - in the 121st minute - when David Garcia fired home, taking the USL-1 side through to the next round.

                                        USL-1 expansion side Spokane Velocity played the first US Open Cup game in western Washington last night when they welcomed Los Angeles Force of the NISA league to One Spokane Stadium. Both sides overcame USL-2 opposition in round one and, with Force recruiting well over the winter, this was destined to be a close-fought affair. So it proved, with just five shots on target all night, four of them for the home side. That dominance proved the difference, but it took 85 minutes for Velocity to score, Luis Gil firing home to take Spokane through to round three.

                                        The night's final game took place in Carson, California, where Ventura County FC (formerly Los Angeles Galaxy II) of MLS Next Pro hosted NISA newcomers Irvine Zeta. County had beaten Zeta's amateur side in the first round but found the professionals much tougher going, especially after Nicolas Barrio Schelotto - son of former Argentinian international (and ex-Galaxy coach) Gustavo - was red-carded for a foul in the 16th minute. Zeta pressed their advantage from that point on but it took until the stroke of half-time for them to go ahead when former UC Irvine standout Rafael Espinoza scored. George Almeida doubled the visitors' lead sixteen minutes into the second-half and the job was completed by Mexican winger Marcel Salceda two minutes from time, County restricted to just one shot on target all night.

                                        The draw for the third round - which will introduce fourteen clubs from the second-tier USL Championship, takes place at 1pm EDT today (Thursday).

                                        CONCACAF Champions Cup Quarterfinals round-up (night 2)

                                        After Columbus Crew drew and New England Revolution were hammered in the home legs of their CONCACAF Quarterfinal ties against Mexican opposition, Inter Miami were hoping for better luck when they faced Monterrey in Fort Lauderdale last night. Still without Lionel Messi, they nevertheless fielded Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquet, and bitey racist Luis Suarez, and withstood early pressure from their Liga MX visitors to go ahead through centre-back Tomas Aviles on sixteen minutes. Monterrey pressed for an equaliser but the Miami defence held resolute through half-time and into the second-half, when the battle plan came unstuck and Herons midfielder David Ruiz was given his second yellow card. Monterrey soon took advantage of the extra man, equalising from a VAR-confirmed strike by Maximiliano Meza, and their search for a winner paid off when Jorge Rodríguez fired home with a minute left on the clock. In the night's other quarterfinal match-up, Costa Rica's Herediano were well-beaten at home by Pachuca of Liga-MX, a 5-0 win making it odds on for an all-Mexican semi-final line-up after next week's second legs, all of which will take place in Mexico.


                                          A NISA 2024 preview
                                          The National Independent Soccer Association was announced in June 2017, with plans for an 8- to 12-team league to begin play the next year. Their initial plans called for a promotion and relegation system once the league's membership reached 24 teams, and to act as a feeder league for the second North American Soccer League. The NASL subsequently lost its Division II status and went out of business, and NISA was dealt a further blow when one of its founders - Jack Cummins - died suddenly in February 2018, with co-founder Peter Wilt quitting in May 2018 to start a USL League One club in Madison, Wisconsin.

                                          NISA eventually secured Division III status from US Soccer in February 2019 and aimed for an August 2019 start, although several of its member clubs declared they would not be ready until Summer 2020. The eight teams that kicked off in August 2019 were Atlanta SC, Orange County-based California United Strikers, Los Angeles Force, The Miami FC, Oakland Roots, Philadelphia Fury, San Diego 1904, and Stumptown Athletic from Matthews, North Carolina, but Philadelphia folded before playing a game. The 2019-20 season was split into halves but the second half went unfinished as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in Spring 2020.

                                          Atlanta SC went out of business before the 2020-21 season, Miami and Oakland joined the USL Championship, and both San Diego and Stumptown opted out of the Fall Championship, which welcomed five new clubs - Chattanooga FC, Detroit City, Michigan Stars (from suburban Detroit), New Amsterdam FC (Hempstead, NY), and New York Cosmos - into the league. San Diego and Stumptown returned for the Spring season, alongside new arrivals Maryland Bobcats, based in Boyds, west of Baltimore. Unfortunately, the Cosmos did not and so nine teams competed for the Spring Championship which was won, like the Fall title, by Detroit City.

                                          The Fall 2021 season was staged as a standalone as part of a process of aligning NISA with the Summer calendar used by MLS and the USL, and the nine clubs that finished the Spring 2021 season were joined by new arrivals Chicago House AC, founded by Peter Wilt. Once again, Detroit City carried off the honours. Ahead of the 2022 season, Detroit joined Miami and Oakland in the USL Championship, Chicago House dropped down to the Midwest Premier League, and both New Amsterdam and Stumptown went out of business. Their places were taken by Bay Cities FC (from Redwood, CA), Rochester's Flower City Union, Syracuse Pulse, and Phoenix-based Valley United. Additionally, San Diego 1904 rebranded as Albion San Diego, and the first title without Detroit in the running went to their local rivals Michigan Stars, who beat California United Strikers in the play-off final.

                                          There was further churn ahead of the 2023 season, with California United Strikers opting out, and Flower City absorbing Syracuse. Officially, when they played games in Syracuse, they were to be known as Salt City Union but this was quickly forgotten. More new clubs arrived in the shape of Club de Lyon (from Daytona Beach, FL), a second Detroit outfit in Gold Star FC, and Savannah Clovers. Chattanooga FC were runaway leaders during the regular season but it was Flower City who captured the title, beating Michigan Stars in the play-off final.

                                          The 2023 season was beset with problems as games were awarded as walkovers or played at the away side's stadium, and the Professional Referee Organization complained to US Soccer about money owed. In the close season, Chattanooga FC jumped to MLS Next Pro, while Albion San Diego and Gold Star dropped out of the league. Worse still, champions Flower City announced they would be dropping down to the fourth-tier NPSL, leaving just five teams from 2023 committed to the 2024 season. Luckily, four new clubs have agreed to take their places and so the 2024 NISA line-up will again consist of nine teams.
                                          Arizona Monsoon are one of the four new arrivals in the league and are a brand new club who will play at Matt O Hanhila Field in Glendale, ten miles northwest of Phoenix. Glendale Community College's Carlos Padilla was named interim Head Coach and he's recruited a young side of mostly local college players, but also signing striker Alex Tejera (formerly of USL-1's Chattanooga Red Wolves), defenders Noe Jimenez and Alex Vedamanikam (both with NISA experience with Savannah Clovers and LA Force, respectively), and ex-Barca Academy midfielder Yahir Gonzalez. There's also a handful of players from the UPSL's FC Arizona whov'e made the jump up, including Jesus Ruiz and former Real Salt Lake man Ricardo Velazco. Monsoon played their first ever game in the US Open Cup First Round, losing to Lubbock Matadors of the NPSL.
                                          Another of the new sides, Capistrano FC (popularly known as Capo FC), were formed in 2006 primarily as a youth soccer organisation, with their senior side joining the fifth-tier UPSL in 2021. In 2022, they moved laterally to the NISA Nation leagues, and played 2023 in USL League Two. They will play their home games at JSerra Catholic High School Stadium in San Juan Capistrano in southern Orange County, and club president Peter Carey will also act as head coach for their inaugural professional season. They've chosen to go with a squad mostly made up of last year's USL-2 side but augmented with some college recruits, veteran defender Cameron Vickers and former Albion San Diego midfielder Brandon Zambrano. They lost their US Open Cup First Round match-up to Des Moines Menace from USL-2 on penalties.
                                          Having won the Florida division of NISA Nation in 2022, Club de Lyon moved up into NISA proper last year but endured a torrid season which not only saw them miss the play-offs but also have to play games away from their home stadium when the high school team that owns it pulled rank. In 2024, they will play at Showalter Field in the Winter Park suburb of Orlando and have made wholesale changes to their squad, recruiting mostly from local amateur and semi-professional sides, although Argentine veteran Juan Manuel Martinez and Portuguese goalkeeper Rafa Santos will add some experience. In the US Open Cup First Round, they defeated 2023 UPSL national champions AS Frenzi, but were well beaten by another UPSL side, Miami United, in Wednesday's Second Round.
                                          The Georgia FC story is a mess before a ball has even been kicked this season, with the expansion side moving their base of operations from the Atlanta suburb of Conyers to Dalton, up near the border with Tennessee, amid talk of unpaid rent. A plan to begin the season with a round of games in Georgia was abandoned and they forfeited their US Open Cup First Round match two weeks ago. News broke yesterday that the side formerly known as Georgia Lions are now under new ownership - before they've even kicked a ball - and will be known as Georgia FC, with Silverbacks Park Stadium in Atlanta as their named venue. Their opening game against Maryland Bobcats has been postponed, however.
                                          Irvine Zeta brand themselves as the first Chinese-owned US soccer club, for whatever that's worth, and step into the professional ranks after a successful first season as an amateur club. They will play their games at the Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, CA, which is already home to USL Championship side Orange County. They started their new era with a US Open Cup First Round win over 2023 US Amateur Cup champions SC Mesoamerica, and their reward was a tie at Dignity Health Park against Ventura County FC, formerly LA Galaxy II, which they won 3-0. Head coach Daniel Gonzalez has brought in plenty of third-tier experience for their debut campaign, including former Loudoun United and Albion San Diego man Shin'ya Kadono, ex-LA Force men Alex Culwell and Israel Espinoza, and two LA Galaxy II alumni in Oscar Cervantes and Jonathan Estrada. Goalkeeper Mitch North - at Central Valley Fuegos in USL League One - will be key to organising their back line and they'll look to veteran Venezuelan striker Cristian "Fecula" Fernandes and UC Irvine graduate Rafael Espinoza for goals.


                                            The sole-surviving founding member club, Los Angeles Force have upped sticks and left Irvine for Long Beach this season, playing at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Long Beach Community College. Former Israeli international Dekel Keinan has stepped up from player to player-coach this year and has recruited well, bringing in goalkeeper Seth Torman and striker Joel Quist from USL Championship clubs Birmingham Legion and Hartford Atheltic, the former Michigan Stars pair of Garrett Hogbin and Ahmed Shaibu Jr, Josue Cartagena from 2023 NISA champions Flower City Union, and centre-back Aydan Bowers from Chattanooga FC. They started their 2024 season with a US Open Cup First Round win over USL League Two side Redlands FC, but fell at the next hurdle, 1-0 at USL-1 expansion club Spokane Velocity.

                                            Formed in 2016 as World Class Premier, Maryland Bobcats started life playing both the Washington Premier League and Maryland Major Soccer League, joining the fifth-tier UPSL in 2019. In 2020, they changed their name to their current moniker and were accepted into the fourth-tier NPSL, only for the Covid-19 epidemic to wipe out that year's soccer at that level. Later that year, they joined NISA but sat out the Fall championship, beginning play in Spring 2021, and they've finished in fifth place three times out of four seasons. They play at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, Maryland, an hour west of Baltimore and 45 minutes north of Washington DC, a facility they share with Major League Rugby club Old Glory DC. The bulk of last year's squad is still around including centre-back Abdul Kooistra, midfielders Josselin Possian and Manny Gonzalez, and top scorer Darwin Espinal, and head coach Alex Kao has also signed half a dozen new players, mostly with NISA experience but also including former South Georgia Tormenta winger Elijah Amo. They eased through the US Open Cup First Round last month, beating West Chester United of the NPSL, but were defeated 5-2 by USL-1 side Richmond Kickers in round two, with Possian sent off for good measure.

                                            Michigan Stars owner George Juncaj bought the club in 2018 to ensure his sons - Robert and Steven - had somewhere to play. Steven has since moved HNK Rijeka in Croatia (although he will be available for some early season games) but Robert is still around, ensuring his father's investment is not wasted. Playing in Washington, 25 miles north of Detroit, Stars won the NISA Championship in 2022 and were losing play-off finalists last year, and have started the 2024 season with two US Open Cup wins, over NPSL outfit Steel City FC and Minnesota United 2 of MLS Next Pro. Head coach Enis Dokovic has gone for continuity in keeping many of last year's runners-up, including former Zimbabwean international goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva, midfielders Andre Chalbaud and Hunter Olson, and top scorer Leon Maric, but has also brought in veteran Iraqi international Justin Meram and the ex-Chattanooga FC pair of Sebastian Capozucchi and Colin Stripling.

                                            Missing out on the play-offs in their first season last year, Savannah Clovers have brought in half a dozen players to bolster their chances this time around, mostly from Gold Star FC, who are sitting out NISA this year. Defender Leonel Palma, midfielders Jedidiah McCloud and Vladimir Jokic, and striker Roddy Green all made their Clovers debuts in the US Open Cup First Round win over Brave SC of USL-2, along with fellow new arrivals Kyle Nelson (from 2023 NISA champions Flower City Union) and former Albion San Diego man Corey Lundeen. Of last year's squad, English goalkeeper Jack Crichton has stuck around, as have a clutch of other regulars, and head coach David Porter will be hoping for more out of his side this time around. There has been talk recently that Savannah's financial position isn't the most stable and news broke yesterday that NISA will be financially supporting the side this year and picked up the tab for their Open Cup games, the second of which they lost 4-0 to state rivals South Georgia Tormenta of USL-1.


                                              Enjoying these updates, particularly tracking Niall Watson's progress in South Georgia.


                                                Some members of the Miami United team are alleged to have bet on themselves before the USOC game, at tribal casino kiosks. The casino saw the pattern and called it in.

                                                Women's Olympic team is likely to have a last warmup game at Audi in DC in mid July.


                                                  USL Championship preview, April 5-7
                                                  The USL Championship weekend gets underway tonight in Oklahoma as FC Tulsa face 2023 champions Phoenix Rising at ONEOK Field. The Roughnecks have won one and lost one so far this season but meet a Phoenix side that have lost three out of four in their pursuit of a second title, new head coach Juan Guerra still not getting the best out of his charges. Tomorrow's games start at 7pm (BST) with the clash of two clubs who rebuilt their sides in the off-season. Hartford Athletic won their first two games but slipped up away at North Carolina FC last week; visitors The Miami FC have 4 points from four games and have looked both impressive and dreadful so far. Saturday's games continue at 9pm with three games kicking off at the same time. Detroit City, who drew city rivals Michigan Stars in the next round of the US Open Cup, welcome North Carolina FC to Keyworth Stadium for the first time and sit top of the Eastern Conference with three wins out of three so far. New head coach Danny Dichio has got them playing with a confidence they were missing last year but every game is an adventure for the promoted visitors.

                                                  Also at 9pm (and also with 9 points from three games), Louisville City host an Indy Eleven side that invested in a new attack over the winter and are yet to see proper dividends from that. City are always there or thereabouts come the end of the season but they look to be playing with a swagger this year that should be ominous for their rivals. A six-hour drive away in Memphis, Orange County SC are the visitors to Memphis 901's AutoZone Park in an all-Western Conference clash. OC sit top of the West at present, with 8 points from four games and that's 5 points more than their hosts, who narrowly lost to Sacramento Republic last week.

                                                  here's a break until the next USL-C game at midnight, between a Pittsburgh Riverhounds side who have uncharacteristically lost three out of three so far and their buoyant visitors, Tampa Bay Rowdies. These two fought it out for the Players Shield last season but couldn't be having more different seasons and - on form, at least - you'd be silly to bet against the Rowdies getting a result at Highmark. Still, surely the 'Hounds have to come good at some point...? Rhode Island FC seem to be enjoying life as the USL's newest expansion club so far, with star signing Albert Dikwa starting to find the net that he troubled so much last season. Unfortunately for them, this week's visitors for the half-past-midnight kick-off at Beirne Stadium are Charleston Battery, who started quietly but have exploded into form in the last two weeks...

                                                  Colorado Springs Switchbacks are a mystery, capable of winning and losing at the drop of a hat (but are doing nothing but losing so far), and they face perennial Western Conference powerhouses Sacramento Republic at Weidner Field on Saturday, a 1am kick-off for interested viewers (all USL-C and USL League One games are live on YouTube). Republic haven't hit their stride yet but still sit joint top in the West, and Trevor Amman - who moved to Republic from USL-1 Northern Colorado Hailstorm in the winter - will be eager to return from the Centennial State with more goals to add to the three he's scored already this season. Down at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico United are having a decent season so far without uprooting too many trees and won away at champions Phoenix Rising last week. Their visitors at 2am are an El Paso Locomotive team who have just 1 point from four games so far and it will be tough to look past a home win, save for the fact that Locomotive are always better on the road.

                                                  The sole Californian game from Saturday's USL-C fixtures is a derby match between Oakland Roots and Monterey Bay FC at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward. It's early days but both teams look every bit the mid-table sides they currently are and late-night viewers will be hoping for some derby magic. Saturday's final game sees Las Vegas Lights, whose restart under former MLB star Jose Bautista looks to be coming good, face San Antonio FC at Cashman Field, a stadium they've finally started to make their own. The visitors were champions two years ago and sit joint top with Orange County and Sacramento after their first four games, which should make for an interesting gauge of Lights' progress.

                                                  There's just the one game on Sunday, an 10pm kick-off in Alabama as Birmingham Legion face the exciting youngsters of Loudoun United. Neither side has gotten going so far this season but both have plenty of threats in the attacking sense and hopefully that will mean goals will flow from the chances that are bound to arise.


                                                    USL League One preview, April 6

                                                    It's back to league action for the third-tier leagues after US Open Cup adventures in midweek, and the USL League One week starts in Virginia tomorrow night at 11pm (BST) when Richmond Kickers face Central Valley Fuego. The clubs had contrasting midweek fortunes, with Kickers seeing off NISA's Maryland Bobcats and Fuego losing at home to NPSL side El Farolito, and new Fuego coach Jermaine Jones will be hoping to get things firmly back on track. He'll note that Kickers lost at home to South Georgia Tormenta last week but Fuego look a way off Tormenta so far this season. The horrible gridiron markings of Paladin Stadium in Greenville will be in evidence for the midnight kick-off when Greenville Triumph host Northern Colorado Hailstorm. Both sides had impressive wins in midweek, with Triumph beating a previously imperious One Knoxville and Hailstorm winning away at MLS Next Pro Colorado Rapids II, but Greenville has yet to lose in any competition this season and will be confident of keeping that record intact through the weekend.

                                                    Chattanooga Red Wolves's home tie with Charlotte Independence has been postponed due to problems with the pitch at Red Wolves' CHI Memorial Stadium and so the weekend's final game in USL-1 kick-offs at half-past-midnight with the visit of Lexington SC to South Georgia Tormenta. Having been the sole USL-1 club to lose in the first round of the Open Cup, Lexington had a break in midweek and have an identical league record to Tormenta so far this season. The hosts, however, are beginning to hit their stride, something not yet in evidence in the visitors, and so it should be mostly one-way traffic here.

                                                    NISA preview, April 6

                                                    It's matchday one for the National Independent Soccer Association's 2024 season tomorrow and it will be a relief for the league's organisers to get underway after a turmultuous winter. I've written a full preview of the season here but suffice to say, there's no defending champions, a clutch of new teams, and some weird goings on down in Georgia. There are just two games this weekend, both hosted by two of the league's more stable outfits as Michigan Stars - who drew city rivals Detroit City in the US Open Cup Third Round yesterday - play Savannah Clovers at Romeo High School Stadium, and the season's first Californian derby comes as Los Angeles Force take on expansion side Irvine Zeta at Long Beach Community College. With Steven Juncaj still available before he moves back to Croatia, Stars should have little trouble with the "under league management" Clovers, but the other clash should be a cracker as Force have recruited well and Zeta have impressed in the Open Cup so far.​

                                                    MLS Next Pro

                                                    Neither of the independent clubs in MLS Next Pro are in action this weekend. However, the rebranding of MLS reserve sides looks to be continuing, with FC Cincinnati 2 rumoured to be changing their name to Commonwealth United, refelcting the fact that they play in Highland Heights, just over the border in Kentucky (which, of course, is a commonwealth rather than a state...)