DC United

MLS Playoffs get a make-over with expansion, moves to single-elimination

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Major League Soccer

MLS Playoffs get a make-over with expansion, moves to single-elimination

Major League Soccer is shortening its season by a month, going to single-elimination playoffs and scheduling the 2019 MLS Cup final for Nov. 10 in its earliest finish since 2002.

The league announced the change Monday and will have an all-knockout postseason in place of a two-leg format for the conference semifinals and finals. MLS had started using a two-leg, total-goals format in 2003.

After then-U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann criticized the league's season as being too short, MLS stretched its schedule into December each year starting in 2012. Klinsmann was fired in November 2016.

"The big challenge is for MLS overall, how can they stretch that season into a format that is kind of competitive with the rest of the world?" Klinsmann said in 2011. "Right now it's not competitive. If you have a seven-, eight-month season, that's not competitive with the rest of the world."

MLS says the new format will reward teams with top regular seasons with greater home-field advantage.

The league expands to 24 teams with the addition of Cincinnati next year, and 14 teams will make the playoffs. Each of the two conference winners will get first-round byes and be joined in the conference semifinals by the winners of the three first-round series.

The league will finish before the November international break -- and before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that Nov. 21. The October break will be between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.

Opening day will be March 2 next year, and the regular season will end Oct. 6.

The league said the changes resulted from discussions throughout the year with team owners, general managers, television partners and other officials. The changes were ratified last week.

"The idea here is to continually work on making the regular season become more and more important, so winning in March is as important as winning in September or October," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this month. "Our playoff format, the one that we're evaluating, I think is really going to place a very, very high emphasis, strong emphasis, on the regular season."

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D.C. United pays record-breaking transfer fee to sign Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores

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D.C. United pays record-breaking transfer fee to sign Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores

As D.C. United looks to replace the production of its three leading goalscorers from last season, including England legend Wayne Rooney, the club announced the signing of Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores Tuesday. To acquire Flores, the Black-and-Red paid Morelia, his former club in Mexico, a $5 million transfer fee — a new club record for D.C. United — according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. 

The 25-year-old appeared in three matches for Peru’s national team in the 2018 World Cup, which Flores helped his country qualify for with five goals in 14 appearances during World Cup qualification. Flores also netted two goals for Peru’s national team in the 2019 Copa America. 

Flores' contract with D.C. United is for five years for a team-high $2.1 million, according to Goff. The Peruvian will occupy one of the team’s three designated player spots. 

The Black-and-Red have one remaining designated player spot, which they could use for another high-profile acquisition before the season begins on Feb. 29, or during the summer transfer window. 

D.C. United will enter the 2020 season without the services of three of its most prolific attacking options from last year. Rooney, who scored 11 goals in 2019, returned to his native  England for a role as a player-coach with Derby County. Midfielders Luciano Acosta and Lucas Rodriguez, who both scored six goals last season, also left the club.

There's hope that Flores can help offset the effects of that lost production.

“We are excited to add an international player of Edison's pedigree to the team ahead of the 2020 season," Dave Kasper, D.C. United General Manager and VP of Soccer Operations, said in a release. "He is an exciting and dynamic attacking player who creates and scores goals. What has really impressed us is his commitment to the team...he is a versatile and gritty two-way player who plays with a real pulse.

D.C. United acquires Bill Hamid's contract on permanent transfer

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D.C. United acquires Bill Hamid's contract on permanent transfer

Bill Hamid is returning the District for good. 

D.C. United has acquired their goalkeeper permanently after a transfer from FC Midtjylland, the team announced on Monday. The deal is good for three years using Targeted Allocation Monday.

During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Hamid was on loan from the Danish club. Both years he continued to post superb numbers for United. In 47 starts he had 19 shutouts and a 21-12-14 record. His 14 clean sheets in 2019 led the league and had him in consideration for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

He had started for the club in some capacity in every season dating back to 2010.  The 29-year-old has club records in starts for goalkeepers (231), minutes (20,589), wins (87), saves (819) and shutouts (68).

"Bringing Bill back to the club in 2020 and beyond was a top priority for us this offseason," general manager Dave Kasper said in a release. “Bill is a leader on and off the field and we’re excited to bring him back to the club that he has worked tirelessly for over the last ten seasons. He is among the best goalkeepers in MLS and he resonates with fans and the community, and we know he is going to be an important piece at the club for the foreseeable future."

For years Hamid has been regarded as one of the top American goalkeepers, but injuries have hindered his growth. He was a part of the wave of USMNT players moving to European clubs when he signed with the Danish team back in 2018. Earlier in Jan. 2019 that appeared to pay off after his stellar season on loan with United. It resulted in Hamid on the USMNT's training camp roster.

The difference now in Hamid's permanent transfer is that he can no longer be called up by his primary team FC Midtjylland. While that never happened in his year and a half on loan with United, that possibility was always there. It's a permanent solution for United and resources can now be focused on other areas of the team. 

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