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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Major League Soccer is prepared to start its season this weekend even if there isnt a labour deal with its referees and other on-field officials. The Professional Soccer Referee Association was certified by the National Labor Relations Board last May to represent referees, assistant referees and fourth officials working MLS games. It has not reached an agreement with the Professional Referee Organization, which was created by the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS in 2012 to manage game officials in U.S. and Canadian professional leagues. The PSRA has filed a pair of unfair labour practice charges with the NLRBs New York office, accusing the PRO of bad-faith bargaining and making threats against PSRA members. PSRA members voted 64-1 last month to authorize an unfair labour practice strike. "We will be opening up this weekend with referees, and we are absolutely in a position to have a contingency plan in the event that those discussions dont end positively," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday. "We have so many things that were gearing up for with our 2014 season. Nothing is going to stop us from having a strong opening and to continue to grow this league." PSRA chairman Steve Taylor said there are economic and non-economic issues. "They have not made significant movement," he said of the PRO. Answering questions from reporters and fans during a season kickoff session, Garber said increasing the leagues television ratings is a priority. Viewers for national television broadcasts during the regular season dropped from an average of 180,000 viewers in 2012 to 170,000 last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. MLS has been negotiating with ESPN and Fox to replace deals with ESPN and NBC that expire at the end of this season. Garber said while quality of play, attendance, soccer-specific stadiums have increased, "our national television ratings have not grown at the same level." "So we need to figure out why thats happening. Obviously, theres a lot more competition than there ever was. Viewers have more alternatives. We need not to fight that but accept it and address it," he said. "Our games have been scheduled all over the week. Its been difficult even if you work in the league office to know what time and what day a game is taking place. So our new agreements will be very, very, very focused in terms of a specific date and time." Garber said progress has slowed on obtaining a new stadium for New York City FC, which joins the league along with Orlando, Fla., in 2015 as MLS expands to 21 teams. "Its tough to get stadium projects done in New York City, perhaps even a little more difficult now than it was maybe six months or a year ago," he said. MLS said in July it plans to reach 24 teams by 2020, and a Miami team has been awarded to former Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham, with no year identified for it to start play. Garber briefly discussed the expansion possibilities of several cities: Atlanta: "Were getting close. There are ongoing discussions. Theres not a rush to finalize something there. ... That time is probably sooner as opposed to later." Austin, Texas, and San Antonio: "Its premature for both markets. ... Expanding in Texas is something thats likely going to happen. Where that happens, when that happens is still to be seen." Cleveland: "There havent been any discussions of late. What I would say to folks that are living in Cincinnati, the folks that are living in Dayton, folks that are living Cleveland, support the Crew," a reference to the Columbus team. Detroit: "There havent been any discussions. Not sure its on the short list, but you never know." Minneapolis: "On the short list. Lots of interest there." North Carolina: "It is a hotbed for soccer. ... Well monitor it. ... Im not sure Carolina is coming any time soon." He also mentioned Sacramento as an expansion possibility. Jordan 5 For Sale Cheap Real . Selected by the Titans in the 2007 NFL Draft, Johnson rejoined the club last season after a five-year stint with Indianapolis. Jordan 5 Retro Cheap . A larger-than-life personality known for his intimidating style in the 18-yard box, Schmeichels career spanned some 20 years -- including a memorable tenure at Manchester United. http://www.cheapairjordan5.net/ .C. -- Marcus Paige and his North Carolina teammates have endured so many wild swings -- big wins, surprising losses, NCAA drama -- that no one can blame their Hall of Fame coach for wondering whats next. Air Jordan 5 Cheap Sale .Former NBA forward Morris Peterson has been added to TSNs Toronto Raptors broadcast team. Cheap Air Jordan 5 . 4 jersey of former defenseman Rob Blake this coming season. The ceremony will take place prior to the Kings January 17 game against Anaheim.MALMO, SWEDEN – Canada has been searching for its identity at the World Junior Hockey Championship and they may have found it: underdogs. Consensus among Canadian players is that they enter Tuesdays first-place showdown with the Americans as the clear underdogs following a shootout loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday and a white-knuckle, come-from-behind win against Slovakia on Monday. "Its probably one of this first times were the underdogs in this and theyre really good," said defenceman Mathew Dumba, loaned to Team Canada by the Minnesota Wild. "Theyre a great team and weve got to be ready for them." "Oh for sure, I think were definitely the underdogs," agreed forward Bo Horvat. "Theyve been playing well all tournament and won all of their games so far. It should be a good test." "I think, maybe, were a little bit of the underdogs," said Jonathan Drouin, Canadas top-line centre. "They won last year, theyre 3-0 so we have to get off to a good start and play our own game and not watch them play.” The message from Canadian players was remarkably consistent. You almost got the sense they were happy to enter the New Years Eve clash considered the weaker team and Nic Petan, who scored the winner in Mondays 5-3 victory over Slovakia, admitted as much. "Yeah, definitely, it makes us work harder," he said. Canada as an underdog in hockey? A rare occurrence, especially at the World Juniors, but considering the sky-high expectations facing these teenagers, who can really blame them for trying to shift the pressure to the Americans? Only 16-year-old Connor McDavid, Canadas youngest player, balked at the idea that his group was an underdog. "I dont know," the Erie Otters sensation said. "I think a lot of people are viewing us the underdogs. Im not necessarily sure thats how we feel. Were confident in our abilities." The defending champion Americans tried to brand themselves as underdogs entering the event. Head coach Don Lucia noted theyd need big-time goaltending from Jon Gillies every night and would rely on a grind-it-out style to win some close, low-scoring games. Of course, the United States promptly cruised through the first three games of the tournament outscoring the Germans, Czechs and Slovaks 19-4. "Were not a star-studded team," insists Lucia. "I think the bottom line is our guys understand what our identity is and keep with that identity." That blue-collar identity that values hard work as much as skill is the same one Canadian head coach Brent Sutter has sought to install with his group. But the Americans, who have had 12 different players score, seem to have had an easier time adapting to the brand. "Anybody who asks about this team I tell them I dont think we really have any superstars," said forward Adam Erne. "Were a group that works really hard and really wants to win and I think thats what it takes in this tournament: different guys every game." DROUIN FACES ERNE FOR FIRST TIME SINCE CONCUSSION Erne is at the heart of this years rivalry game, because of what happened earlier this month in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Erne, who plays for the Quebec Remparts, leveled Halifaxs Drouin with a hit from behind. Drouin sustained the first concussion of his career on the play. Afterwards, Erne suggested the third overall pick in last Junes NHL draft may have made matters worse by trying to draw a penalty on the play and embellishing what happened. "It happened so long ago. Its not a big deal right now. Im not focused on that. Im focused on the upcoming game," said Erne, who reached out to Drouin after the game via text. "Everybody knows that hes a good player and we were drafted by the same team [Tampa Bay] so were going to have to get along so thats just how its going to have to be. Its in the past. It happened. Itts hockey so lets move on from there.ddddddddddddquot; Erne wasnt suspended for the hit and Drouin refused to comment on that decision. But the 18-year-old said winning on Tuesday would be the best revenge. "Yeah, for sure," Drouin said, "I dont think Im going to go for a cheap-shot on Adam. Its not the Q here. We have to win and its going to be a team game." MCDAVID vs. EICHEL IN 2015 NHL DRAFT PREVIEW Erne against Drouin is not the only juicy subplot in the Canada-USA rivalry these days. Tuesdays game will also feature two of hockeys brightest young stars going head-to-head, specifically: McDavid against American Jack Eichel. Both are expected to go very high in the 2015 NHL draft with the Canadian considered the odds-on favourite to go No. 1. "Yeah, you know, its nice to play against him, but I dont really think about playing against him," said Eichel, a Boston University recruit. "Its not a one-on-one battle were going to be playing in. Its a team game where the United States is going to be playing Team Canada. Im not going to be playing Connor." McDavid echoed that sentiment. "Its not really about me and him. Its about Canada versus the Americans. Thats it. I know hes on the team. Hes a big part of their team. Hes a good player and hell be a big part of the game." McDavid has struggled to make his mark on the tournament. He was benched after taking two penalties against the Czech Republic and started the next game against Slovakia as Canadas 13th forward before earning more ice time in the third period. Eichel, meanwhile, has been a solid presence in the American top-six forward group notching a goal and three assists. "I couldnt believe how young he actually is," said Team USA captain Riley Barber. "Hes a big player, strong and doesnt really look his age." "His all-around game is quick, so fast," said line-mate Ryan Hartman. "Ive been lucky enough to be playing with him the last couple games now. He knows where he is out on the ice and where all the players are at." Gillies, Barber and Hartman are the three returning players on the American roster. Drouin, defenceman Griffin Reinhart and goalie Jake Paterson are the veterans on the Canadian side. Paterson will be Zach Fucales backup on Tuesday while Reinhart will make his 2014 tournament debut after missing the first three games with a suspension. RIVALRY IS SOMETHING SPECIAL Last years semifinal showdown remains very much on the minds of the players. "Its a motivation," said Drouin. "We lost 5-1. It was a hard loss for me. This year, I want to battle back and make sure I dont lose again against the Americans." "It was one of the worst feelings Ive had in hockey for sure," admitted Reinhart. "Whether they played in it or not everyone on both teams was watching," said Hartman. "Everyones going to be riled up and ready to go." Indeed, Canada versus the United States is always an emotional encounter. When you add in all the subplots listed above and the fact the game will decide who wins Group A, well, its easy to get pumped up. "Its something special," said Erne with a smile. "I mean, Ive been watching since I can remember so its going to be a real honour to play in it and Im real excited." "Ive played in a few U.S.-Canada games and theyre always intense," said Eichel. "I know our teams looking forward to it and I imagine they are as well." "Its unbelievable," said McDavid, "especially this New Years Eve game. It has been quite a tradition for the past couple years and I usually never missed watching so it will be a lot of fun for sure." "I expect a lot of compete out of them," said Barber, whos tied for the team lead with three goals. "It should be a really, really fun game to watch." ' ' '

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