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ESPN The Magazine 07.21.14

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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access_time4 min.
clearing shot the city of orlando claims it has the power to seize land to build a soccer stadium. but an even higher power may stand in its way.

A few weeks ago, as the first stirrings of World Cup mania rolled through this country, the city of Orlando unveiled plans for its own paean to the beautiful game: a sparkling new stadium for a new MLS team. The Orlando City Soccer Club’s $110 million facility will contain 20,000 seats, dozens of luxury suites and a massive lion statue that rotates to face the pitch during matches. The city is ready to break ground, but there’s one thing standing in its way: a tiny church. Unstoppable stadium, meet immovable altar. Orlando has acquired 19 of the 20 parcels it needs to begin construction. The final plot belongs to Faith Deliverance Temple, a nondenominational church of about 100 members. After the city failed to reach an agreement to buy it, Orlando filed…

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head games with the culmination of the world cup comes the predictable question about soccer’s future in america. time to put it to rest.

I very rarely get to discuss my own sorry athletic career, but I can tell you from experience: Soccer aficionados have been dreaming of the big time in the United States for at least 37 years. That’s how long ago (yikes) I was an inept fullback for the Cosmos of my local youth league. My teammates and I were part of the first generation of American kids to start playing the beautiful game in droves. Our talents, however, weren’t enough to elevate soccer into the mainstream of U.S. sports and spur a business that could compete with baseball, football or basketball. And the numbers say the World Cup, despite genuinely connecting with American fans, won’t net that goal either. Professional soccer has had a very difficult time building from the ground up…

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When it comes to the designs in the grass of Fenway Park, “patterns are only limited by imagination,” says director of grounds David Mellor. Since 2001, Mellor and his crew have carved things like jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween and “B Strong” after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. As a result, they’ve fielded some crazy requests. “Hugh Hefner asked for the Playboy Bunny in the outfield,” Mellor says. “I said not on the field, but I’d be happy to do it at the Mansion. My wife, who was listening, hit me in the stomach. I haven’t gone out there for that one yet.” Well, there’s always next year. —ANNA KATHERINE CLEMMONS 45 Minutes it takes each day to fine-tune the outfield B when in use. Installation takes nearly an hour, using mowers, hand rollers, hoses…

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Where else but Rio can this many fans watch a World Cup match while working on a tan? During the host country’s round of 16 matchup with Chile, tensions were climbing with the temperature in the FIFA Fan Fest viewing area at Copacabana Beach. Butts stayed firmly in beach chairs for the first 120 minutes of the 1-1 draw, but by the end of a PK shootout—which Brazil won when Chile’s last attempt hit the post—the whole crowd was on its feet, sweating it out. Hardly just another day at the beach. —RACHEL ULLRICH 2.9 Number of fans, in millions, who attended Fan Fests in the group stages, combining totals from all 12 host sites. 99.2 Percentage of Estadio Mineirao’s seats filled during the game. The other 0.8 percent apparently preferred the beach. $217 The price of…

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signing bonus

Anyone remember the travesty that was the Saints’ safeties last season? The Seahawks certainly do: They outscored New Orleans 57-22 in two games. That’s why ball hawk Jairus Byrd got $28 million guaranteed to relocate to the Big Easy. Here’s a statistical skinny on Byrd and four other big-ticket, must-have free agents who will reinvent their units. 1 BRANDEN ALBERT DOLPHINS LT CONTRACT: 5 YEARS, $47M Between Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie, Miami’s left tackles were a mess in 2013. Martin allowed, on average, one sack, one hit and two hurries per game. And McKinnie gave up four or more pressures in seven of his 10 starts for the Fins. Enter Albert, a 29-year-old former Chief who was the No. 15 pick in 2008. He’s been one of the best pass-blocking left tackles…

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time to go shopping

With the trade deadline at month’s end, we turned to ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski to identify which contenders would benefit most from an acquisition. Szymborski then used his ZiPS projections to pinpoint the players on the trading block who would produce the most for a team in need. Put the two sides together and, voilà, the deals practically suggest themselves. BEN ZOBRIST 1.7 PROJECTED WAR AFTER JULY 15 1.4 PROJECTED WAR AFTER JULY 31 The Rays’ David Price has dominated the trade talk, but it’s his teammate, INF/ OF Zobrist, who’ll produce the best WAR of any available player down the stretch, according to ZiPS. CLIFF LEE 1.6 PROJECTED WAR AFTER JULY 15 1.3 PROJECTED WAR AFTER JULY 31 Yes, Lee has been on the DL with an elbow sprain (he’ll be back around the break), but ZiPS still projects the four-time…