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Lion Links: 12/23/21

U.S. Open Cup to return in 2022, former Lion Shane O’Neill signs with Toronto FC, MLS veterans on the move, and more.

SOCCER: SEP 20 US Open Cup - New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. How is everyone doing down in Florida so far? It’s hard to believe the year is almost over but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens for our Lions in 2022. We’ve got lots to cover today so let’s get to the links.

U.S. Open Cup to Return in 2022

The U.S. Open Cup committee announced the format and schedule for the 107th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The 2020 and 2021 editions of the tournament were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 edition will look much different than 2019, when the last Open Cup tournament was played. First, the tournament will start on March 22 — the earliest U.S. Open Cup in the modern era — to accommodate the expanded calendar. Orlando City SC will join 16 other MLS clubs and enter the tournament beginning in the third round. Eight MLS sides such as the Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, and Colorado Rapids will enter at the Round of 32. This move means there could be more David vs. Goliath match-ups between MLS clubs against lower-division soccer sides. ESPN+ will broadcast the tournament, with the final concluding in September.

Shane O’Neill Signs with Toronto FC

Toronto FC brought in some defensive help, signing former Lion Shane O’Neill, who was most recently with the Seattle Sounders. Toronto FC gave up the second most goals during the 2021 MLS season, with 66, and ended with a goal differential of minus-27. O’Neill played two seasons with the Sounders and made 45 appearances for the club. He previously played two seasons with Orlando City SC and four seasons with the Colorado Rapids. The veteran will be expected to boost the Reds’ back line after the club chose not to exercise the contract options on veteran defender Omar Gonzalez and Eriq Zavaleta.

MLS Veterans on the Move

It did not take long for Gonzalez to find a new home, as he is reunited with former head coach Bruce Arena and agreed to sign a two-year deal with the New England Revolution. The three-time MLS Cup champion just left Toronto FC and has played in 244 regular-season games, scoring 16 goals with 12 assists in his career. Gonzalez will help the Revolution back line, bringing in some MLS Cup playoff and international club competition experience as the Revolution return to the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in over a decade.

Former Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark has signed a two-year contract with the Houston Dynamo. Clark led the Timbers to the MLS Cup final this season against New York City FC and had seven clean sheets in 2021, and he helped the Timbers win the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020.

FC Barcelona Listening to Offers for Dest

USMNT defender Sergio Dest’s time with Barcelona could be up as the club explores options to move the defender next month. In recent transfer windows, Barcelona has had trouble moving players such as Neto, Samuel Umtiti, and Philippe Coutinho. Barcelona wants to focus on attacking players this upcoming transfer window but will need to sell more players to accomplish this task. The latest rumor recently is that Bayern Munich has expressed interest in signing the American defender. It will be ironic if Dest moves to Bayern Munich, considering the German club tried to sign him last year from Ajax before Barcelona swooped in for his signature. Dest has been dealing with injuries during his second season with Barcelona. However, Xavi wants to bring in new signings during the next transfer window, but players must leave to make room while Barcelona tries to comply with La Liga’s imposed spending cap.

Free Kicks

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Thursday and I’ll see you next time.