GOAL!

Audi to donate $1,000 for every goal scored during MLS is Back Tournament

Audi Field is home to DC United. Audi has its U.S. headquarters near the stadium. Photo courtesy of Audi AG

This article originally appeared on AutomotiveMap.

Sports are back! The PBR and NASCAR were among the first. Heck, even MLB finally got its act together. Now, MLS is ready to kick off their season with a little help from Audi.

During the MLS is Back Tournament, the way the league is opening their abbreviated season this year, Audi will donate $1,000 to MLS Academies for every goal scored. During the finale, the company is committing to $5,000 per goal. Additionally, Audi will contribute $10,000 to the Academy represented by the MLS is Back Tournament Golden Boot winner (the tournament's leading goal scorer).

Earlier this year, the MLS Academies program added 64 teams. Photo courtesy of Major League Soccer

During the tournament, each MLS club will play three competition matches as part of the Group Sage. The MLS club roster was divided into six groups via random draw: one group of six teams and five groups of four teams. Each group is lettered A through F. According to fresh MLB rules, clubs in Groups B though F will play their inter-group opponents once during the Group Stage, Group A will play three of the possible five Group opponents.

Clubs were seeded based on their standing at the end of the 2019 season.

Dallas, which was part of Group B, was recently dropped from the tournament due to a rise in COVID-19 cases within the team. The schedule continues to be shifted as more cases are discovered within various teams.

During the Group Stage, clubs earn three points for a win, one point for a tie, and no points for a loss. Standings will only take into consideration the Group Stage matches, and not regular season matches already played. These matches count toward the team's 2020 MLS Regular Season standings and Competition standings.

Knockout Stage Competition Matches will not count toward the club's Regular Season standings. The Knockout Stage consists of 4 rounds: the Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and the Final.

Earlier this year, the MLS Academies program got a large boost in participants with 64 academy clubs that formerly participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy strategically aligning themselves with MLS's existing club academies structure as part of a player development platform. The U.S. and Canada-based teams total now sits at 94. During the 2019 season, MLS invested $70 million in the program.

Continue on AutomotiveMap to learn how Audi's commitment to the Academies extends into the regular season.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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