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Sounders, Earthquakes hold Black Lives Matter display

The Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes participated in a brief Black Lives Matter display before the start of Friday night's MLS is Back Tournament game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.

Players and coaches from both teams wore Black Lives Matters T-shirts, with the team captains featuring the letters BLM on their armbands.

Players from both teams knelt before the opening kickoff, extending an arm in the air in support.

The display continues the theme of social justice in the league's return to action after play was halted in March by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to Wednesday's initial tournament game between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami FC, more than 100 Black MLS players stood on the pitch in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, with raised fists, while the starters from both teams knelt in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The length of time coincided with how long a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the incident.

--Field Level Media

Orlando City sign F Akindele to extension

Orlando City SC forward Tesho Akindele agreed Friday to a contract extension through 2021 that includes options for 2022 and 2023.

"We are very excited to have Tesho continue with us in Orlando," executive vice president of soccer operations Luis Muzzi said in a statement. "He has shown true leadership both on and off the field since his arrival, as well as an innate goal-scoring ability. Tesho is a very important piece on our roster and a role model for our youth. We look forward to seeing his continued involvement with the growth of all aspects of our Club."

Orlando City acquired Akindele from FC Dallas ahead of the 2019 MLS season. He went on to set a career high with 10 goals in 28 games last season.

The 28-year-old veteran has 34 goals and 10 assists in 164 games with Dallas and Orlando City. He was the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2014.

--Field Level Media

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Ex-MLS coach Marsch eyeing another role

Jesse Marsch is enjoying success as a head coach in Europe, but there is one position that could lure him back to the United States: coach of the U.S. Men's National Team.

"It's a hard one," Marsch, 46, told Bleacher Report. "I try not to look too much into the future and I try just to enjoy the moment, but I would be honored and I'm very hopeful to someday coach the national team."

Marsch previously coached in the MLS with the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls, winning the Supporters' Shield with New York in 2015. He became an assistant coach in Europe in 2018, then led FC Salzburg to the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup championships in the past few months. He was named Bundesliga League Coach of the Year last week.

Still, with two USMNT caps as a player and after serving as an assistant coach at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, being the head coach of the team is on his mind.

Gregg Berhalter has held the position since December 2018.

The United States will be a co-host of the North American-based 2026 World Cup, with games to be played in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"Coaching a national team for anyone is a big honor, but coaching the US national team would be incredible," Marsch, a Wisconsin native, said. "I was an assistant there in 2010. Coaching at the World Cup at home would be an incredible experience."

--Field Level Media

Confident Sounders eager to open tourney play

Reigning MLS champion Seattle is finally getting back to the business of defending their 2019 hardware as the Sounders open play in the MLS is Back Tournament on Friday.

Nicolas Lodeiro is over the hamstring tendinitis that limited him earlier this season and Seattle feels it might be at full strength for the first time in months.

"I still feel like there's a target on our back because we're the previous champions and rightfully so, I think," midfielder Cristian Roldan said. "The one thing that's probably up in the air, is whoever wins this tournament, they're in a weird space, it's a tournament in the middle of our season that is still up in the air. So who knows then that time comes, but we certainly feel like we're the defending champions and we have a target on our back so we're going to have to be prepared to get everybody's best game."

Seattle begin tournament play Friday against the San Jose Earthquakes.

"Guys are ready, Nico's ready, and I think the team is ready to have these games start," coach Brian Schmetzer said. "I think that will help keep them from thinking about the monotony of being in a bubble and not being able to do perhaps as many things as they're accustomed to. So I think the game coming up on Friday certainly is going to make the team feel a little better mentally."

--Field Level Media

Sounders, Earthquakes excited to return to field

With three MLS Cup appearances in the past four years, including two titles, the defending champion Seattle Sounders are among the favorites for the MLS is Back Tournament.

Quakes' Hoesen says he received racist message over social media

San Jose Earthquakes forward Danny Hoesen said he recently received a racist message over social media.

Nashville exits tourney, MLS alters group format

Major League Soccer announced Thursday an updated format and schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament after Nashville SC became the second team to withdraw from the event.

Nashville exits tourney, MLS alters group format

Major League Soccer announced Thursday an updated format and schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament after expansion Nashville SC became the second team to withdraw from the event.

MLS reconfigured the six groups into four teams apiece as a result of the respective withdrawals of FC Dallas and Nashville due to a number of positive coronavirus tests.

Chicago Fire FC have moved from Group A to Group B, joining the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Fire will face the Sounders on Tuesday morning, the Earthquakes five nights later and the Whitecaps on July 23.

The MLS also altered another match, pitting the Sounders versus the Whitecaps on July 19.

Nashville had nine players test positive for COVID-19 since arriving in Florida.

"We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament. Due to the number of positive tests, the club has been unable to train since arriving in Orlando and would not be able to play matches," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "For every decision we make in our return to play, the wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority."

Nashville was scheduled to face the Chicago Fire late Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, but that game was postponed one day earlier.

"I don't think it will surprise anybody to know that as well as us they were all devastated to have to withdraw from the tournament," Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said of the reaction of his team's players on Thursday. "Unfortunately it was a medical and a timing issue that had us withdraw.

"The players were 100 percent committed right to the end. Devastated to hear the bad news. It will be a low point for a few days I'm sure, and our job and (head coach) Gary (Smith's) job and everybody else involved is deal with it, dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up and move on.

Quakes' Hoesen says he received racist message over social media

San Jose Earthquakes forward Danny Hoesen said he recently received a racist message over social media.

"A few days back I even received myself on Instagram a racist message," Hoesen, who is biracial, said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "And I was able to share that with the team, without going into details.

"Even guys that are not of color and lived in this country for long, they even apologized and said that 'We had no idea this was going on, and what these guys are going through.' So I think it's good that everybody starts to stick together and address the problem."

Hoesen's father is Moroccan and mother is Dutch. He played previously in the Netherlands, England, Finland and Greece before joining the Earthquakes in 2017.

"It's not that racism is only in America; it's in Europe, it's in Asia, it's everywhere. And so from that perspective, I'm not surprised," Hoesen said. "My opinion, it didn't change much. I'm just very curious how the country is going to handle it, how the president is going to handle it. People start to see that it's time for a change and that's going to be very interesting in the next couple of months."

Hoesen, 29, has recorded 22 goals and 12 assists in 98 career matches with Earthquakes.

--Field Level Media

MLS opens tournament with powerful BLM tribute

Major League Soccer made a powerful statement without words Wednesday as the league's MLS is Back Tournament was set to begin with a game between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami FC.

Prior to the opening kick at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando, Fla., more than a 100 Black MLS players stood on the pitch in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, with raised fists, while the starters from both teams knelt in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The length of time coincided with how long a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the incident.

The protest was conducted by members of the league's Black Players for Change, according to the official MLS website. The group consists of over 170 Black MLS players and was formed to help create change inside and outside the league.

Players wore shirts drawing attention to social and racial injustice concerns. Players also sported face masks with the words "BLACK LIVES MATTER" and "MLS is BLACK."

It was a powerful moment as the first major men's sports league in North American returned to action following a 122-day interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Women's Soccer League returned to action June 27 with the start of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup at two locations in Utah.

The "MLS is Back Tournament" features all but one of the league's 26 teams taking part in a World Cup-style competition. Following the event, the league plans to continue with its regular season.

--Field Level Media

MLS to consider removing Nashville from tourney

Nashville SC could be removed from the MLS is Back tournament, commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday after the expansion team had five players test positive for coronavirus.

Nashville was scheduled to face the Chicago Fire late Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, but that game was postponed.

At halftime of Wednesday's tournament opener between Orlando City and Inter Miami CF, Garber said a decision on Nashville's status would be made overnight.

"We are working closely with our doctors and will meet with them after tonight's game," Garber said on the ESPN telecast. "If we find we have a situation with Nashville where we find they can't continue in the tournament, then we will make that decision overnight and move forward from there."

Nashville could be the second team forced to withdraw from the tournament after FC Dallas was removed after 11 positive COVID-19 tests (10 among players).

The 25 remaining teams in the tournament have been divided into six groups with round-robin play to be followed by a knockout stage. The semifinals are scheduled to take place Aug. 5-6 with the final on Aug. 11.

--Field Level Media

MLS opens tournament with powerful BLM tribute

Major League Soccer made a powerful statement without words Wednesday as the league's MLS is Back Tournament was set to begin with a game between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami FC.

MLS to consider removing Nashville from tourney

Nashville SC could be removed from the MLS is Back tournament, commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday after the expansion team had five players test positive for coronavirus.

Revs' Arena seeking fast start vs. Impact

New England coach Bruce Arena says it's important that the Revolution hit the ground running when they face the Montreal Impact in their Group C opening game in the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando on Thursday night.

Revolution add D/MF Polster

The New England Revolution signed defender/midfielder Matt Polster on a transfer from Scotland's Rangers FC on Wednesday, pending receipt of his international transfer certificate.

Expansion side Charlotte signs Spanish MF Ruiz

Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz became the first player to sign a contract with Charlotte MLS, the expansion franchise announced Wednesday.

Union, NYCFC seek better start at MLS is Back Tournament

The Philadelphia Union and New York City FC look to shake off the effects of a four-month hiatus on Thursday morning when they compete in the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

Revolution add D/MF Polster

The New England Revolution signed defender/midfielder Matt Polster on a transfer from Scotland's Rangers FC on Wednesday, pending receipt of his international transfer certificate.

The Revolution traded $100,000 in 2021 allocation money to the Chicago Fire to acquire Polster's MLS rights. He is not eligible to compete in the MLS is Back Tournament, however.

"We are pleased to have Matt join the Revolution," sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena said in a statement. "Matt is a talented player, very athletic, and technically sound. His experience in MLS and his ability to play in multiple positions makes him a great addition to our roster."

Polster, 27, signed with Rangers in January 2019 after recording three goals and 10 assists in 82 appearances with the Fire (2015-18).

Polster was the seventh overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft after four seasons at SIU Edwardsville.

Polster, who played in 10 matches for Rangers across all competitions, could fill a void in New England caused by midfielder Luis Caicedo's season-ending knee injury.

--Field Level Media

Expansion side Charlotte signs Spanish MF Ruiz

Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz became the first player to sign a contract with Charlotte MLS, the expansion franchise announced Wednesday.

Ruiz, 25, served as the captain of second division side Racing Santander. He'll join a Charlotte MLS team that has yet to reveal its nickname or team colors.

"We are laying down the foundations of a competitive and winning team, and Ruiz is the ideal player to start with," Charlotte MLS sporting director Zoran Krneta said in a statement. "We've been scouting him for several months. He is a natural leader and an intelligent, versatile midfielder, who will be joining Charlotte MLS in his prime. I'm very pleased that he has decided to join us."

Ruiz collected six goals and seven assists in 2018-19 for Racing Santander. He made 31 appearances for the club the following season.

"I am so happy and am really looking forward to arriving in Charlotte," Ruiz said. "It's an exciting project and a dream for me. I am committed to do my best and make the club and its fans feel really proud."

Charlotte and Austin FC will become the league's 27th and 28th teams beginning with the 2021 season. Clubs in Sacramento and St. Louis will join in 2022.

--Field Level Media

Miami, Orlando set to clash in MLS's return

With Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC leading the way, MLS is back.

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