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Fuel Soccer Talk: Atlanta takes Campeones Cup; ESPN reaches deal with NWSL; MLS Around the League

Atlanta wins second edition of Campeones Cup

On Wednesday night, at a packed-out Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta United beat Club America 3-2 in a very back-and-forth affair in a matchup. The Five Stripes emerged as victors in the second-ever edition of the Campeones Cup, which pits the MLS Cup winner and Campeon de Campeones winner from Liga MX in a one-off final for North American dominance. Tigres defeated Toronto FC in the inaugural match last season by a score of 3-1.

Toronto FC in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League matched Liga MX teams in swagger. Wednesday night’s Campeones Cup felt like the first time the MLS team had MORE swagger.

READ BOBBY WARSHAW’S TAKE

ESPN reaches exclusive agreement with NWSL

ESPN and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the longest-standing professional women’s soccer league in the United States, reached an exclusive agreement for worldwide rights (excluding U.S.) to the league’s regular season and playoff matches, it was announced today. ESPN already holds the rights to NWSL broadcasts in the U.S. via a separate agreement announced earlier this year.

ESPN’s international coverage of the NWSL across its linear and digital platforms continues Saturday, August 17with a doubleheader featuring Orlando Pride vs Utah Royals at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by Portland Thorns FC vs Washington Spirit at 10:30 p.m. ET.

“This is an important step for NWSL to strengthen the league’s reach through ESPN’s international network,” said NWSL President Amanda Duffy. “Our partnership with ESPN has already brought NWSL’s world-class competition into more homes and to more fans here in the United States. Expanding the network’s distribution internationally will continue to elevate the profile and visibility of NWSL around the world.”

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MLS News & Notes from around the league

Atlanta 2, Portland 0: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez grabbed a rare goal and Josef Martinez scored in his MLS-record 11th straight game as Atlanta United again claimed victory over the Portland Timbers in the teams’ first meeting since MLS Cup 2018. Atlanta have now risen to the top of the East on the total wins tiebreaker and look ready to stay there. Is it too early to start dreaming of a titanic MLS Cup showdown with LAFC? Probably, as lot can happen in two-plus months, but it’s a tantalizing thought nonetheless. On the flip side, the home loss will sting for Portland, as they remain seventh in the West after missing a chance to create separation from the chasing pack in the Western Conference. Still, they have played the fewest games of any West contenders, and should still feel confident about their playoff chances.  – Nick Rosano 

LA Galaxy 2, Seattle 2: The LA Galaxy overcame a first-half red card to take a 2-1 lead but conceded an own goal equalizer in the 82nd minute, settling for a 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday. Coming away with a draw while playing down a man for that long would ordinarily be a great result, but the Galaxy might actually come away disappointed they didn’t hold on for all three points considering they outplayed the Sounders for long stretches after the red card, and had the lead late in the second half. For the Sounders, it’s not as bad as a loss would have been, but they’ll certainly feel like they squandered the early gift afforded by Steres’ ejection as they continue their recent rough run of form. It’s a road point, but Seattle are still a team with a lot of questions to answer, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. – Ari Liljenwall

Sporting Kansas City 2, San Jose 1: Sporting Kansas City overcame a halftime deficit courtesy of a historic Chris Wondolowski goal, putting in two second-half scores for a 2-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening at Children’s Mercy Park. This was a win that Sporting desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially given that they were outshot and outpossessed in the first 45 by a San Jose team that looked to be besting them in one-on-one matchups. For the Quakes, it’s a bit of a hiccup, as they’ve suffered their second loss following a five-match unbeaten streak. Weirdly, it’s their first back-to-back loss since they dropped their first four matches at the start of the season. – Phil West

For more excellent coverage of this weekend’s MLS action  

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