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Lion Links: 8/12/17

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Bendik wins MLS Save of the Week, Maddy Evans retires, Ashlyn Harris returns, Morocco submits a World Cup bid, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Hey Mane Landers, hope you’re all ready for a Saturday filled with Orlando soccer. The night’s festivities kick off in Virginia as OCB takes on the Richmond Kickers at 7 p.m. Then at 7:30 p.m., make sure your DVR is turned on because while the Pride host Sky Blue FC, Orlando City will be in New Jersey to face the surging New York Red Bulls. So charge up your devices now, because we have an exciting night ahead of us. Until then, enjoy today’s Lion Links.

Joe Bendik Reclaims Save of the Week Crown

Orlando City may have given up two goals in last weekend’s loss in Montreal, but some consolation can be found in goalkeeper Joe Bendik’s Save of the Week win. Bendik earned the title for a quick dive to his left to get a glove on Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili’s shot. This marks Bendik’s third Save of the Week award this season, an accolade he won 11 times in 2016, and hopefully he can make it four after tonight’s bout with Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls.

Maddy Evans Retires from Professional Soccer

Orlando Pride midfielder Maddy Evans will hang up her cleats after tonight’s game and accept a job in her home state of Pennsylvania. The 26-year-old was selected by the Pride from the Boston Breakers in the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft and, although she has only played 456 minutes this season with neither goal nor assist, she will be missed by both fans and players. The Penn State graduate joins a growing list of young female players leaving professional soccer for other career options and we wish her the best in her new job.

Harris Returns as Pride Eye Playoffs

While Maddy Evans will be saying goodbye, Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris will say hello as she returns to the lineup tonight, her first match since going down with a quad injury in May. Hopefully Harris can energize the Pride defense as it faces a potent Sky Blue offense that has scored the second-most goals in the NWSL this season. A victory tonight at home will jump the Pride into a playoff spot, leap-frogging the Seattle Reign — who play Sunday against league-leading North Carolina — and put them in the driver’s seat as the postseason nears.

USL Goes “All In” on Las Vegas Franchise

In an effort to become one of the best second divisions in the world, the USL chose Las Vegas to be the third and final franchise of its 2018 expansion effort. The Las Vegas club is owned by Brett Lashbrook, the man who oversaw Orlando City’s transition from the USL to MLS. With a decided home stadium in the heart of Sin City, the only thing left is for fans to choose a name for the USL inductees. I don’t know about you, but I’m pulling for the Las Vegas Lights.

Morocco Steps Up to Face North America

A new challenger appears! On the deadline to submit a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Morocco launched an official bid to challenge a joint bid by the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams, an increase from the usual 32, and the North American bid is much more equipped to handle the heavy load. But don’t write off the small North African nation just yet. If Morocco can unite the Confederation of Africa, which has the second-highest number of FIFA voters, and garner support from European voters, then it has a real shot at winning.

That’s all I’ve got for you as far as Lion Links, but check in with us later today for the How to Watch threads for all of tonight’s games!