Happy Tuesday, Mane Landers. With less than five weeks to go until Opening Day, the news is coming thick and fast, but we have it here for you when you need it and we don't want you to miss anything. With that in mind, take a look at today's Lion Links.
Estrela heads to Cyprus
Well it hasn't taken defensive midfielder Estrela long to find a new home. After being released late last week by Orlando City following two seasons with the side, the 20-year-old Portuguese player decided to continue his career with Apoel FC, the most popular side in Cyprus football. Despite having never made an MLS appearance, everyone here at The Mane Land wishes him the best of luck with his new team. We also hope that he stays on the right side of his manager Temur Ketsbaia, who is responsible for one of my all-time favorite goal celebrations:
Nocerino on his way?
After weeks of rumors, it appears that Orlando City is within touching distance of clinching the signing of midfielder Antonio Nocerino. The one thing standing in the way, his discovery rights. They are currently owned by D.C. United, but that may be an obstacle that can be overcome (see below). Make sure you stay tuned to The Mane Land so we can keep you up to date as the situation continues to develop.
MLS Movers & Shakers
After a number of star acquisitions in recent weeks, MLS clubs continued to bolster their rosters yesterday with a few lesser-known names. Eastern Conference rivals the New England Revolution signed midfielder Xavier Kouassi to a DP contract. Kouassi, 26, will join the Revs after the completion of his current contract with FC Sion in July.
D.C. United also made a move yesterday with a trade for 2014 MLS Cup-winning midfielder Marcelo Sarvas from the Colorado Rapids for Targeted Allocation Money and a conditional 2018 MLS SuperDraft pick. The pick-up of Sarvas probably highlights the end of Davy Arnaud's career as well as D.C. United looking to trade the discovery rights of Nocerino.
However, the Eastern conference didn't have all the news yesterday as the Western Conference's Colorado Rapids announced the signing of Albanian forward Shkëlzen Gashi to a DP contract from FC Basel. The signing of Gashi should bolster the Colorado front line, which has struggled under Ireland international Kevin Doyle.
Messi to forgo Olympics
After a punishing two years since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the current Ballon d'Or holder Lionel Messi has already decided to give the 2016 Rio Olympics a miss, according to his coach, and will instead turn out for Argentina for the Copa América Centenario set to take place in the United States in June. The announcement that Messi will be starring in the U.S. based tournament will get American fans salivating for the start of the tournament.
One lad who will get to see Messi up close and personal is Murtaza Ahmadi. Ahmadi came to the national attention with his homemade Messi jersey on the streets of Afghanistan and it has now been confirmed that Messi is in discussions to meet him personally. Fingers crossed that the little guy gets to meet his idol.
FIFA suspends payments to CONCACAF/CONMEBOL
With ongoing corruption investigations into the federations that run North, Central & South American soccer, FIFA has made the decision to stop $20 million worth of payments to those federations. With this drop in funding, CONCACAF has not paid its 41 federation members any stipends and has cancelled all federation meetings for the near future. This news breaks with fewer than 24 days remaining until the extraordinary FIFA Congress to elect FIFA's next president.
That's it for today's Lion Links, and be sure to leave your suggestions below on where we can get purple plastic bags so that we can make our own Mane Land shirts.