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Lion Links: 12/20/17

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Pride players honored by CONCACAF, Sermanni looking for European talent, MLS’s newest city all but confirmed, Leo Pereira’s future, and much more.

Deon Cooper, The Mane Land

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited. This time of year always has me jacked up. Minus the craziness of getting through last-minute Christmas shopping, everything is finally ramping up. Champions League knockout rounds have been drawn, MLS off-season is hitting full swing, and at the end of the day we’re hitting the new year, which for whatever reason — probably the Cleveland fan in me — has me optimistic over the entire soccer landscape. I’m jacked up on good holiday vibes, so lets get into it.

Orlando City Set to Kick Off 2018 Against D.C. United

If you didn't already hear, Orlando City has officially announced its kickoff match for the 2018 MLS season, and the Lions will face off with D.C. United at home. This will be the fourth time in a row City will open at home, as it looks to start off 2018 right against a D.C. United that hit its stride in the back half the year with additions like Paul Arriola.

All I can say is: ARE WE THERE YET?

Morgan, Krieger, and Marta Selected in CONCACAF’s Best XI

CONCACAF announced its Best XI for 2017 and, to no surprise, the Orlando Pride found their way to multiple spots on the list. Alex Morgan, Marta, and Ali Krieger were all honored after a banner 2017.

If there was one gripe, it has to be the rehashing of FIFA Player of the Year debates where Carli Lloyd was again given a prestigious honor despite being injured for a decent chunk of the year. This left Matilda and Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr off an awards list again. Quite frankly, I don’t know how this is still happening.

MLS Nashville Bound? Sounds Like It

It appears that MLS will be announcing its newest city — and one of two new expansion teams — Tuesday afternoon:

Jeff Carlisle isn't the only one talking, as Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus reports:

The league all but confirmed Tuesday morning that the Nashville bid fronted by local billionaire John Ingram and supported by the Wilf brothers, who own the Minnesota Vikings, has been accepted. MLS commissioner Don Garber will join Ingram, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and Nashville mayor Megan Barry at an event Wednesday afternoon at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where they’ll announce the city’s entry.

And if that isn't enough, a judge recently threw out a lawsuit intended to block the creation of a soccer-specific stadium in Nashville.

Is this a good thing for MLS? You can argue absolutely, especially regionally, as the South gains another team and the MLS soccer map gets more diverse. Is Nashville going to support a team well? That remains to be seen, but they did have a Tennessee state record for the Gold Cup with over 47,000 in attendance in July at Nissan Stadium (I worked that U.S. game and the atmosphere was solid for it being in a football stadium). And you have to consider that as far as expendable sports dollars go, there’s only two other pro franchises to contend with.

If this is true, this leaves Detroit, Cincinnati, and Sacramento as the remaining cities vying for an MLS expansion club. It’s anyone's guess right now as to who will win that last spot.

Leo Pereira Looks to Stay in Brazil

Center back Leo Periera, who was on loan from Clube Atlético Paranaense — City's official Brazilian partner club — has had his option picked up by his parent club for the 2018 season. While the defender filled in at times in 2017, the youngster never really settled in as the center back musical chairs certainly didn't help. As a reminder of his 2017 season, here was our final season grade.

This will add a very valuable international spot back to the roster for GM Niki Budalic to utilize this off-season.

Speculation on New Pride Players as Sermanni Returns from Europe

It’s every good manager’s role to actively scout, but it seems that Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni may have something up his sleeve with his recent trip to Europe. With Camila injured, and Australians Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy out of contract (yet considering extension offers), Sermanni went to Europe in search of what could be a few new additions to the Pride in 2018. Backline Soccer ponders who the possible targets could be.

Your USSF Presidential Candidate Update

Paul Caligiuri starts off with an open letter to the Federation, most notably calling out the recent issue of USSF’s board of directors looking to finalize a general manager position before the new president can even be elected. Couldn't agree more with him that the timing is very odd and seems like a control grab — my words, not his — by an organization’s board set to protect itself and its power.

Michael Winograd, my current preference, sat down with Yahoo! Sports’ Henry Bushnell to discuss many of his takes but the article mainly highlights Winograd’s take on the youth soccer industry. Youth soccer has a multitude of issues, and one very big one being that the Aspen Institute illuminates in regards to participation of athletes ages 6-12.

For you Eric Wynalda fans, here’s his new website where you can keep tabs on all his stances, forums, etc.

Another OCB Alum Finds a Home

Defender Zach Carroll has found a home with Reno 1868 FC. The 23-year-old center back will move to his third team in three years despite earning second-team All-USL in 2016 with New York Red Bulls II and a year with Orlando City B that had many excited about his future prospects.

This is just another player in a line of multiple OCB players who has found his way out of town, giving OCB supporters continued heartburn on what is to come for 2018.

All the best, Zach.

Free Kicks

So until next week, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, or simply just enjoy some free vacation time. Cheers!