John Clay

It's official, Major League Soccer will soon be just a short drive away

Fans cheered before speakers took the stage at an event to announce the addition of FC Cincinnati to Major League Soccer on Tuesday. FC Cincinnati has set attendance records in its three seasons in the United Soccer League and will get a soccer-only stadium by 2021.
Fans cheered before speakers took the stage at an event to announce the addition of FC Cincinnati to Major League Soccer on Tuesday. FC Cincinnati has set attendance records in its three seasons in the United Soccer League and will get a soccer-only stadium by 2021. Associated Press

Random notes:

Beginning next year, attending a Major League Soccer match will require but the 90-minute drive up I-75.

As expected, FC Cincinnati was officially awarded an expansion franchise on Tuesday with the club starting play in 2019. It was the just reward for a city that has gone nuts over its United Soccer League club, growing from an average attendance of 17,296 at Nippert Stadium in 2016, the club's first year, to 24,416 this spring.

FC Cincinnati drew more than 30,000 for exhibition matches against MLS clubs. And the city agreed to chip in $34.8 million in infrastructure funds for a new 21,000-seat stadium on the West End of town.

Having started with 10 teams in 1996, MLS will be at 26 when Cincinnati (2019), Nashville (2020) and Miami (2020) begin play. The league plans to add two more teams to reach 28.

Speaking of Cincinnati, the Reds have officially demoted Homer Bailey to the bullpen. The 32-year-old starter, who is making $21 million this year and is scheduled to make $23 million next year, is 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA, the worst ERA among qualified starters.

Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers don't take a game off the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals — the prediction here says the Cavs claim one win — LeBron James has solidified his equal (if not better) status with Michael Jordan by dragging his rag-tag team to the championship round.

Props to Conference-USA for coming up with a unique scheduling idea for its upcoming basketball season. The league will schedule the first 14 games of an 18-game conference schedule. The final four games will be determined by seeds.

The top five teams will play each other. Teams 6-10 and 11-14 will also play each other. The hope is the flex scheduling will improve RPIs and the league's chances of getting more than one NCAA Tournament bid.

You have to believe Nick Mingione when he said flat-out on Tuesday that, despite speculation, he will be UK's baseball coach next year.

It's pretty much a total rebuild for national champion Villanova after both Donte DiVincenzo, the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, and Omari Spellman announced they will stay in the NBA Draft and hire agents. Villanova had already lost Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges.

Meanwhile, Auburn received great news when Austin Wiley and Bryce Brown announced they are withdrawing from the draft and returning to school. After sitting out last season because of the FBI investigation into college hoops, the 6-foot-11 Wiley has been ruled eligible for next year.

Other notable SEC names withdrawing from the draft and returning to school: Florida's Jalen Hudson, Tennessee's Admiral Schofield and LSU's Tremont Waters.

If you missed it, Tubby Smith has hired son G.G. as an assistant at High Point. G.G. Smith resigned after five seasons as head coach at Loyola-Maryland. His teams went 56-98, including 9-22 this past season.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify was getting it done in his Tuesday morning work at Churchill Downs, covering 4 furlongs in an impressive :46.80. But with the Belmont Stakes just 10 days away, did he go too fast?

Disappointing news for those who want to buy beer at SEC football games. Word from the spring meetings is that the league has no plans to approve that suggestion anytime soon.

RIP, Bill Mallory, the former Indiana football coach who died last week at age 82. Mallory was head of the Hoosiers during a time when Kentucky and Indiana played an annual border rivalry.

That was especially true when Jerry Claiborne was the UK coach. Mallory was 1-3 vs. Claiborne and 4-3 vs. Bill Curry. Overall, he was the most successful coach in IU history, going 69-77-3 with six bowl trips in his 13 seasons.

Congrats to Kentucky SID Tony Neely who received a 25-Year Award from the College Sports Information Directors Association for his "outstanding long-term service to the athletics communications profession."

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