A London club in free-fall, trains without operators and the elusive 20th MLS team: It's the Hat Trick and Question of the Day!

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United celebrates his team's third goal with team mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on December 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

1 Hard Times on the Thames

Manchester United is a very good club. This season, they’ve tossed aside inferior opponents with a startling ease. Despite that, there’s no reason Fulham should’ve lost to them 5-nil at home yesterday. The South London club looked completely unprepared to deal with the likes of Danny Welbeck, Nani and Wayne Rooney.

In recent years, Fulham have played the Red Devils well at home. Last season, they escaped with a 2-2 draw. The two years prior, they ran wild with a pair of 3-nil wins.

Yesterday though, Fulham looked confused. The forwards were starved for service, the midfield was unable to create any possession and the defense was slow and uninspired (especially with the two has-beens in John Arne Riise, formerly of Liverpool and Phillipe Senderos, formerly with Arsenal.

The Dutchman Manager Martin Jol took over this summer from Mark Hughes and, at times, it appears to be overwhelmed. His big summer signing was Striker Bryan Ruiz from Twente who has taken some time to adjust to the physicality and pace of the Premier League. The club recently crashed out of the UEFA Europa League by being indecisive about whether or not to take the tournament seriously. The club currently sit 13th in the Premier League, but with difficult fixtures with Chelsea on Boxing Day, Norwich away on New Year’s Eve and Arsenal at home on January 2nd, things could get ugly very quickly.

More on EPL battles, London strikes (perhaps not what you are thinking), and MLS expansion poll after the break

My gut reaction yesterday was to call for Jol’s head. Perhaps that was premature. But if the club doesn’t win one of those three games, it might be time to panic a bit and consider what a relegation battle might look like.

Fulham is a surprisingly popular club stateside, mostly because they’ve used a number of Americans throughout the years. During their "Great Escape" season in 2007-2008, they employed recent Sounders retiree GK Kasey Keller, two now-former Fire players in defender Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride, former Wiz kid Eddie Johnson and the Texan-born Clint Dempsey, who is still with the club.

Obviously it’s premature, but it’d be a shame to see them sucked into a relegation scrap.

2) Tube Troubles

If any transportation service goes on strike more frequently then the London Underground, I’ve never heard of them. Seriously, this is like a true British tradition. I spent the Summer of 2009 taking classes and interning in London and this happened while I was there. England was playing the World Cup qualifier that day and everyone was worried about how people would be able to get to Wembley. But in typical British fashion, they whined incessantly and then when the day of reckoning came…they kept calm and carried on. People would wake up an hour earlier and take three buses instead of one train. The London Underground would call in retired workers to run a limited service. And then the trains would be completely up and running again by the next day.

It’s a truly odd country. Wow, I miss that place.

3) Expansion!!!…Coming Soon!!!...somewhere

Did everyone enjoy the Montreal Impact’s…I’m sorry, Impact de Montreal’s expansion draft a couple weeks ago? I hope so, because as of now, there won’t be an expansion draft next year for a very simple reason: no one has any idea who MLS’ 20th team will be.

Every year since 2007, MLS has added at least one team. For the most part, they’ve been no brainers. While Toronto’s (2007) on-field play and management has been abysmal at best, the club has been incredibly popular. San Jose (2008) was a move to correct the awful Houston 1836…I mean Houston Dynamo (2006) move. Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010) and Portland (2011) have all been slam-dunks. Vancouver (2011) may take more time, but will most likely be successful once they get a new stadium. Montreal (2012) was very popular as a second-tier club and likely will succeed in MLS.

But team #20 is difficult because, quite frankly, there are no slam dunks left. MLS commissioner is very much in favor of a 2nd New York City team, a move that makes zero sense to me. I’d rather see a second Portland franchise before a second NYC one. The rest of the options have some promise, but all have drawbacks as well. Miami has already failed once as a MLS franchise, Detroit could work but isn’t particularly strong. Same for Atlanta, Minneapolis, Indianapolis Las Vegas, Orlando, etc. My current city St. Louis doesn’t have the funding despite a strong soccer culture (I’ll write more in depth about this later).

The latest two cities to enter the mix are Sacramento and San Antonio. Sacramento is definitely a long-shot, but having a number of California teams create a rivalry has some intrigue. The San Antonio Scorpions will begin playing in the NASL in 2012. This should be a good test as to whether they have a soccer culture that could work for MLS.

So the question for today is what do you think? Do any of those cities make sense for team #20? Or is there a city I failed to mention? Vote in the poll and leave your comments below. I’ll be responding throughout the day.

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