The soccer news starts with how MLS teams prepare for their seasons. It wasn't that long ago that MLS wanted to follow the Major League Baseball model with teams training near each other. It's easier to schedule games and eventually draw fans to one site. That means Florida, a location that several MLS teams still choose for their preseasons. Not all of them, though.
MLS preseason now spreads to unlikely places with unlikely opponents. The Vancouver Whitecaps are in Hawaii. Yesterday, they shutout Iwaki FC 1-0. If you're checking the J.League table, don't bother. Iwaki FC plays in the 6th level of the Japanese system. That the Japanese league drops down that far is probably also news. This is part of the Pacific Rim Cup, a tournament that started yesterday and ends tomorrow at Aloha Stadium.
Vancouver isn't the only MLS representative. The Columbus Crew also made the trip to Hawaii. They lost 3-2 to J.League club Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo with USMNT player Gyasi Zardes scoring both goals. That game kicked off at 3am Columbus time.
Meanwhile, from Clearwater to Bradenton there are MLS teams re-creating the baseball template. DC United lost to Swedish club Orebro at the fields across from the Philadelphia Phillies spring training site. What they got from the game is the same question all of these MLS teams face when they're not playing each other. It's an open question what makes more sense. Playing each other in the preseason with the occasional foreign club in the same geographic region, or going wherever there are opportunities for games and training.
What we're seeing is a mix, without a league wide template or best practice. This is MLS, where the calendar and drawing power doesn't line up with the kind of preseason tours we see from even mid-table clubs in Europe. MLS is different, and that might mean an opportunity to create something unique. With the preseason quickly forgotten once the games count, is it worth asking if there's a best way to conduct preseason training with this league in mind?
The Toronto Sun's Kurtis Larson talks to Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney. MLSsoccer.com's Scott French talks to LA Galaxy players about the potential for Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the team. The LA Times' Dakota Smith and Kevin Baxter report that Los Angeles may not want to host 2026 World Cup games.
ESPN's Stephan Uersfeld reports that USMNT and Werder Bremen forward Aron Johannsson's hip injury wasn't serious and he could start for the Bundesliga club on Sunday. FourFourTwo talks to Steve McClaren about his time as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United. The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson explains why Arsenal is still in trouble after an active January transfer window. Tifo Football's Richard Jolly looks at how Antonio Conte has changed Chelsea's style of play. BBC Sport reports that Conte is intent on keeping his job as coach of Chelsea. UEFA.com lists the home unbeaten streaks in the Champions League. Bundesliga Fanatic's Zach Townsend explains why the league's 50+1 ownership role won't face a challenge.
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