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Supporters, MLS clash over 'Cascadia Cup'

Supporters, MLS clash over 'Cascadia Cup'

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Cascadia Cup, created in 2004 by soccer supporters to celebrate the rich rivalry between clubs in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, is now the unexpected center of a conflict between those groups and Major League Soccer.

It started when MLS intended to trademark the term ``Cascadia Cup'' in the United States and Canada - prompting outrage from the fans who named the yearly head-to-head competition between the Sounders, Whitecaps and Timbers, and gave it a stately silver trophy.

MLS claims it wants to protect the Cascadia Cup from outsiders looking to exploit it. The supporters fear that MLS itself will be exploiting the term.

The issue has Seattle's Emerald City Supporters, Portland's Timbers Army and Vancouver's Southsiders banding together - something that on the surface appears a bit unusual given the competitive passion of the rivalry.

The groups have formed the Cascadia Cup Council to protect the rivalry's name. And its spirit.

``Not only does the Cascadia Cup Council believe they rightfully own the trademark to Cascadia Cup but they also are of the belief they are the appropriate entity to protect the mark from third parties that are unaffiliated with the supporters groups in the Pacific Northwest,'' the group said in announcing its formation.

The council has already submitted its own application to trademark ``Cascadia Cup'' with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application was filed on Jan. 8.

To his credit, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he should have better communicated the league's intentions with the supporters' groups. MLS has not yet applied for the U.S. trademark, but has applied for the equivalent in Canada.

Obviously, the issue is touchy for the teams themselves.

``I've tried to keep an ear to it and not get into the middle of it very much. I understand both sides of the issue. And I'm confident that something reasonable, that cooler minds, cooler heads will prevail and they will work something out,'' said Sounders owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer. ``But that's about as controversial as I'm willing to get right now.''

The Cascadia Cup - at least the trophy itself - was introduced in 2004 when all three teams were part of the United Soccer Leagues First Division. Fans pooled their money to buy the 2-foot tall silver cup, which goes to the team that finishes with the best record in head-to-head matches between the three, based on a points system.

But the actual rivalry between the three teams dates back to 1975, when all of them were part of the North American Soccer League.

Seattle supporters like to point out that the Sounders beat Portland 1-0 in the first game between the two teams that year, while Timbers fans talk up how Portland beat Seattle in the playoffs and advanced to the league championship.

Since 2004, each of the teams has claimed the Cascadia Cup three times. The rivalry grabbed attention on a national scale when the Timbers and Whitecaps joined the Sounders in MLS in 2011. The Timbers are the reigning Cascadia Cup champions.

This is not the first time that an issue involving a rivalry and supporters groups has become contentious.

Last season, controversy erupted surrounding the Rocky Mountain Cup between the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. Shortly before the April match between the teams, the rivalry was described as ``presented by Mark Miller Subaru'' on team websites. Supporters for both teams expressed outrage that the fan-created derby suddenly had a corporate sponsor - without their input. The teams later admitted the sponsorship deal should have been handled differently.

The MLS has already applied to trademark other rivalries, including the Rocky Mountain Cup, the Brimstone Cup between the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas, and the California Clasico between the San Jose Earthquakes and the L.A. Galaxy.

Following the MLS SuperDraft earlier this year, Garber addressed the controversy. From a business standpoint, it's understandable that MLS wants to make sure that anything involving its teams is kept in-house.

``(MLS can) ensure that it's controlled. Prospective fan groups, in theory, could offer that trademark to a competitive sponsor,'' Garber said at the time. ``They can take that trademark and sell it to a promoter. They can produce merchandise that's not merchandise that we would want associated with our teams or with our league.''

The Cascadia Cup Council and MLS officials aired their concerns in a meeting earlier this week, which both sides said was productive.

``This week we had a constructive conversation with supporters of all three clubs involved in Cascadia Cup, and we look forward to continuing that dialogue in the weeks ahead,'' MLS President Mark Abbott said.

In other words, stay tuned.

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AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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