MLS and Premier League hold talks over summer 'Super Cup'

Paul Hirst 10/09/2015
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Pushing for change: Garber.

Major League Soccer has held talks with the Premier League about organising a tournament involving American and English teams.

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MLS, now in its 20th year, has experienced a considerable growth in popularity over the last few seasons because of the success of the American national teams and an improved TV deal with worldwide broadcasters.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber believes popularity in football also grows in the States when the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool cross the Atlantic for pre-season tours.

Over the last two years all three clubs have participated in the International Champions Cup but Garber is hoping to create a more formal competition in which the most successful English teams compete.

“We have been talking to the Premier League about doing some sort of official competition as opposed to just having clubs come over to the country on a random basis playing in a tournament that takes place every summer,” Garber said.

The Premier League said general talks had taken place, but the format of any potential tournament had not been discussed.

Garber’s dream is to pit the top teams in America against their foreign counterparts – possibly from England – every summer.

“I would love to find a way that we could play our cup champion and our league champion against an FA Cup and league champion in a tournament and play it in New York City every year,” he said. “If not every year, then every four years.

“This concept of super cups involving MLS, whether it’s one with Mexico or one with some of the other leagues, would be smart. And many years ago they used to take place before MLS was in existence.”

He added: “Overall there is no doubt that there are opportunities for MLS and Premier League to work more closely together on either a tournament or some other type of activity, but that is about as far as it has gone.”

In future years, other major competition winners from across Europe could feature.

“You have calendar issues, but there is no reason why it couldn’t (happen),” Garber said.

English influences on American soccer are nothing new, of course. David Beckham took MLS’ profile to new heights when he signed for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.

Garber hopes the league’s profile will rocket again when Beckham’s Miami franchise comes into existence. Beckham has spent more than a year trying to find a home for his franchise in the Floridian City.

After protests from local residents, Beckham was forced to ditch plans to build a stadium in downtown Miami and has instead opted for a location next to the Miami Marlins baseball stadium.

The MLS commissioner hopes more big names will flock to the US once Beckham’s team is up and running.

“I certainly believe that is what David would do,” he said. “That is what is motivating him to be part of the MLS ownership group. He says players are calling him all the time.”

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Jordanian Prince Ali confirms he will stand in FIFA elections

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Reformer: Prince Ali.

Prince Ali of Jordan has announced he will run again for the FIFA presidency next year and threw down the gauntlet to his rivals including Michel Platini by claiming they “didn’t have the guts” to challenge Sepp Blatter.

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The prince, who lost May’s election to Blatter by 130 votes to 73, made the announcement in Jordan. He will face opposition from UEFA president Platini, who supported him in the last campaign but is now the favourite to succeed Blatter, and Korea’s Chung Mong-joon in the election on February 26. Former Brazil star Zico has also declared his intention to run.

Prince Ali, son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, has said Platini represents ‘old FIFA’ as he is a former protege of Blatter’s. His speech also made pointed remarks that others had been afraid to challenge Blatter who is stepping down after 17 years at the helm.

He said: “Ten months ago, I was the only person who dared to challenge Mr Blatter for the presidency of FIFA. I ran because I believe that FIFA needs change. And I had the courage to fight for change when others were afraid.

“I conceded that election. Not because I was not the best candidate, but because others were using me to make room for themselves. They didn’t have the guts to run, but I did. Ever since president Blatter promised his resignation just a few days later, they have been scrambling to secure the job for themselves.

“I didn’t stand for election the first time to make way for others. This election should be about football and not personal ambition. I will not be a pawn for others. I cannot leave the field that I have cleared, only to allow a flawed system to continue.”

The FIFA election is taking place with a backdrop of investigations into football-related corruption that has seen 18 people indicted by the US justice department.

Ali added: “Since the last election, I have thought long and hard about how to reform FIFA. It will be a difficult task. We must overcome deep-seated corruption and political deal-making.

“But I was not brought up to walk away in the face of a tough fight. Nor have I been brought up to walk away from what I believe in or take the easy way out.

“This is about right and wrong. It’s time for us to stand up for what we believe in.”

The prince also sent a message to FIFA’s sponsors promising their association would “no longer be a source of controversy and shame”.

He also promised to dedicate himself to growing the women’s game, supporting referees, holding discussions on introducing new technologies, and increasing the fight against match-fixing

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Ambitions high for deep-pocketed Al Ahli

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Moussa Sow is the Arabian Gulf League's most expensive signing ever.

The eye-catching additions of Moussa Sow and Lima mean Arabian Gulf League-title chasers Al Ahli possess the most fearsome foreign contingent in their history, according to CEO Ahmed Khalifa.

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The Red Knights have reacted with a show of strength in the transfer market after last term’s pathetic defence of their top-flight crown ended in a distant seventh-placed finish.

Senegal forward Sow, 29, has been brought in for a UAE-record fee of €17 million (Dh70m) after he excelled at Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

Brazilian striker Lima has already looked a bargain since his €7m (Dh28.4m) move from Benfica, scoring five goals in his opening four matches.

With Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro and South Korean defensive midfielder Kwon Kyung-won already in situ, Khalifa believed boss Cosmin Olaroiu has under his command the strongest squad ever assembled at Rashid Stadium.

“Never in the history of Al Ahli have we had this level of player, all at the same time,” he said. “We always had just one or two. “But now we have Ribeiro, a Brazil national team player, Moussa Sow, a Senegal national team pla-yer, while Lima is a very big player also. He’s played in big teams and transferred from Benfica, where he was top scorer and won the Portuguese league.

“We will not stop at that, whether that is the local market or the international market. This is part of our strategy to maintain the team, to develop the team and recruit players who can add value, players who can push the team to more trophies.” 

The 2015 AFC Champions League quarter-finalists have a firm record of attracting outstanding talent.

Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and 2008/09 Bundesliga top scorer Grafite have played for them in recent years, while legendary Iran playmaker Ali Karimi made his name there before his switch to Bayern Munich a decade ago.

Their shake-up has seen Morocco winger Oussama Assaidi and Brazilian forward Ciel cast aside. Interest has been registered in the pair by various AGL sides, ahead of September 21’s transfer deadline.

Ahli’s actions have been noted across Dubai, with Al Nasr boss Ivan Jovanovic insisting their activity headlines a summer of impressive dealing in the UAE.

He said: “I believe all the teams have reinforced with good players. Maybe Al Ahli more than all the other teams.

“I know with Al Ahli they are a very serious team, always playing for the league title or AFC Champions League. But also the teams in the lower group dynamic have reinforced themselves very well.

“That why I believe it is a very, very interesting league.” Nasr will be out to prove their mettle on Saturday at Al Dhafra when the AGL resumes.

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