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Lion Links: 11/30/17

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OCSC Academy player up for college’s biggest award, Marta scores again for Brazil, expansion final four, and more.

Soccer: Tournament of Nations - Women's Soccer-Brazil at USA Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Thursday, everyone. It’s the final day of November, and — like I tell my kid — we can start putting up our Christmas decorations tomorrow, the way nature intended.

The off-season has afforded me a little more free time, and I’ve used it the last couple of nights to finally start reading Simon and Susan Veness’ book, Defying Expectations. If you’re not familiar, it’s the story of Orlando City founder Phil Rawlins and how he brought soccer to the City Beautiful. If you’ve got soccer fans who read on your Christmas list, this would make a great gift. Amazon’s got it.

Orlando City Academy Product Up for MAC Hermann Trophy

The 15 semifinalists for the 2017 Mac Hermann Trophy — awarded annually to the top NCAA soccer player — are out and a former Orlando City Academy player made the cut. Florida International University forward Santiago Patino, who has 15 goals and five assists for FIU in 18 games, attended Freedom High School and formerly played with the Kraze United academy team in Orlando, where he earned an NPSL Player of the Week honor in 2016. Patino, one of four MLS academy products to make the shortlist, joined OCSC’s U-17/18 team for the 2014-15 season. Good luck, young man.

Two Orlando Pride Players Honored

If you haven’t seen it yet, FourFourTwo is counting down the top 50 U.S. women in soccer for 2017. No Orlando Pride players made the 50-41 or 40-31 groups that were released, but both Ashlyn Harris (No. 28) and Ali Krieger (No. 23) made the cut in the third installment. I’m pretty sure Alex Morgan is still to come after the season she had for club and country.

Pride’s Marta Leads Brazil to Pair of Wins Over Chile

In preparation for the Women’s Copa America, Brazil played two away friendlies against tournament host Chile. The second of those came yesterday in La Serena, with the Brazilians winning, 3-0 (the first meeting was a 4-0 Brazil victory in Ovalle). Marta, who scored a goal in the first meeting on Saturday, assisted on two of the goals Wednesday and Orlando Pride teammate Monica also started for Brazil. Here’s a look at the highlights from yesterday’s match:

Montverde Academy Joins Florida Cup Festivities

The Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament (MAST), featuring the top regional U-17 and U-19 boys teams, will be held in conjunction with the 2018 Florida Cup. Known as the 2018 FC MAST, the tournament will kick off on Jan. 9 at Montverde Academy and end Jan. 15 at the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Soccer Stadium. The champions will be recognized during a special half-time ceremony of the 4 p.m. Florida Cup match at Spectrum Stadium. In addition, the Florida Cup All-Star Game will be held at Montverde Academy on Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. and will be free for students, players and families. The game will include stars like Dutch International Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Toronto FC Returns to MLS Cup

The treble is still alive for Toronto FC after a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew last night and a 1-0 aggregate win in the Eastern Conference finals. Jozy Altidore scored the goal to push the Reds through. Justin Meram missed a pair of golden opportunities for Columbus and Zack Steffen stopped Victor Vazquez on a penalty kick to keep the Crew in it early. Toronto will host the winner of Seattle-Houston and the Sounders enter tonight with a significant advantage.

MLS Narrows Next Two Expansion Cities to Four

There are now just four cities vying for the next two MLS expansion teams. Of the 12 applicants, MLS revealed yesterday that bids from Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are the final four. The four groups will present to MLS on Dec. 6 in New York City to make their final case for inclusion in the top flight of the U.S. and Canada. has a nice breakdown of the four bids at the link above.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards released a statement about his team’s continued commitment to get into MLS despite yesterday’s setback. San Antonio FC is also still working on MLS.

Which two of the final four would you want to see added?

Free Kicks

That’s all for me today. Enjoy the Western Conference second leg tonight if you’re inclined to stay up late for it. I hope to see you out at the 2017 Women’s College Cup at Orlando City Stadium this weekend.