|Don’t miss this summer’s biggest soccer event! Copa America – Tix Are Available Pre-Sale Now until Tuesday !!|
So its official the pricing is out for Copa America and the 4 games in Chicago are on pre-sale now. I see this as a once in a lifetime chance to see some of the best players in the world – with Argentina based in Chicago with a game on June 10 and the US coming on June 7th and of course the SEMI FINALS (read Final 4) on June 22 Argentina vs Brazil maybe – I am excited to make the trek over a few time in Early June. You have to buy all 4 games but seats are in the $75 to $140 range per game – really good for the SEMIS. Can buy up to 8 together. If interested in planning a trip over – reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The US will wrap up the Winter Camp for MLS players with the Sunday match 3:45 pm on ESPN2 vs an improving Iceland team. I always like to see what young players will emerge – last year was Zardes. This year? Nagbe maybe, Finlay or Morris? Should be fun to watch during this important year of Copa America and WC Qualifying. (Don’t forget the US hosts Guatemala on March 28 in Columbus – will let you know when tix go on sale)
This weekend is FA Cup action on the Fox Sports Networks so no EPL. Liverpool vs West Ham on Sat 12:30 looks ok Fox Sports 2. Great to see US defender Matt Miazga headed to Chelsea from NY Red Bulls – would be great to have another US player in the EPL. The Game of the weekend is La Liga Spanish leaders Athletico Madrid facing Barcelona at 10 am on Sat on beIn Sport. Enjoy and keep on Kicking – The Ole Ballcoach
Fantasy Girls Camp with US Women’s Team Mar 6 in Nashville, TN just $3,400 per player
EPL + World
Champions League Returns Feb 16/17 on Fox Sports
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Fri, Jan 29
2:55 pm Fox Sports 1 Derby County vs Man U.
Sat, Jan 30
9:30 am fox Sports 2 Dortmund vs Ingolstadt
10 am beIn Sports Barcelona vs Athletico Madrid
10 am, Fox Sports 1 FA Cup – Arsenal s Burnley
10 am Fox Soccer plus FA Cup Nottinghams Forest vs Watford
12:30 pm Fox sports 2 FA Cup – Liverpool vs West Ham United
Sun, Jan 31
6:30 am beIn Sport Chievo vs Juventus
8:30 am Fox Sports 2 Everton vs Carlisle United
11 am Fox sports 1 Milton Keynes Dons vs Chelsea
11:30 am Fox soccer plus? Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim 2:45 pm beIn Sport AC Milan vs Inter
3:45 pm ESPN2 US Men vs Iceland
Tues Feb 2
Weds Feb 3
2:45 pm NBCsN Everton vs Newcastle
Fri, Feb 5
10:15 pm Fox Sports 1 US Men vs Canada
Tues, Feb 16
2;45 pm FS 1 PSG vs Chelsea
2:45 pm FS2 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete
Wed, Feb 17
2:45 pm FS1 Roma vs Real Madrid
2:45 pm FS2 Gent vs Wolfsburg
Thurs, Feb 18
1 pm Anderlecht vs Olympiachos, Dortman vs Porto, Fioreentina vs Tottehman, Midtiland vs Man U, Villarreal vs Napoli
3 pm Ausburg vs Liverpool, Sporting Portugal vs Bayern Leverkusen, Valencia vs Rapid Vienna, Galatasaray vs Lazio
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich
8 pm FS1? Queretaro vs DC United
10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake
10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna
Tuesday, March 1:
D.C. United vs. Querétaro, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Wednesday, March 2:
Club América vs. Seattle Sounders, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Sunday, March 6:
Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. D.C. United, 10:00 p.m. (UniMás, Univision Deportes)]
Friday, March 25:
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 28:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time TBD (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
USA vs. Iceland: Three players to watch as USMNT kicks off 2016
The U.S. national team is nearly three weeks into a January camp that appears to be the most low-key gathering of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure. Time, plus four points from a pair of November World Cup qualifiers, have eased a significant portion of the pressure that built up through a frustrating summer and fall.The games that matter are two months away, and Klinsmann’s decision to split the camp between senior players and members of the U-23 team aiming to qualify for this summer’s Olympics removes a bit of tactical intrigue. Some partnerships or chemistry may take root out at StubHub Center, but for the most part, this month is about personal form and development. It’s about helping players through the long MLS offseason (most will go around four months without competitive games) and giving them a jump-start on the year ahead.It’s been relatively quiet so far. Most of the recent news has concerned players who left early (Matt Miazga), arrived late (Jordan Morris) or weren’t invited at all (Benny Feilhaber). Some, like Clint Dempsey, were given the option of skipping camp altogether—an approach that might have created external controversy or internal consternation in years past. And Klinsmann has eased his foot off the gas pedal, giving his players far more freedom than usual.
He told ESPN that locals like Gyasi Zardes and Jermaine Jones have the option to stay at home while out-of-towners can bring in their families or opt for a different hotel.”They already have the schedule for the month, but we just confirm it day by day,” Klinsmann said. “The rest is, ‘You are your own boss. You’re driving it. If you want more treatment here, stay longer here. If you want to run out and do something else, it’s fine. It’s your camp. It’s for you.’ I think that helped a lot. It keeps camp really, really light and positive.”BIRD: How Iceland’s rise is a result of calculated growth, development
Camp will conclude with home friendlies against an Iceland squad playing without many of the stars who helped seal European Championship qualification (Sunday, 3:45 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMas) and Canada (Feb. 5, 10:15 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas). Klinsmann always prefers a positive result, but the nature of his roster, which now features nine U-23 players, means he also may prioritize fielding partnerships or combinations of players he’ll want to use when the games matter in late March.For example, it may make sense to pair U-23 forwards Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter up top. They may be a few years away from starting together for the senior team, but the challenge presented by Colombia in the upcoming home-and-home Olympic qualifying playoff is more pressing than winning a low-profile friendly.Advancing to Rio is important, but Klinsmann ultimately will be judged by the success or failure of the senior squad. A pair of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala in late March and then the Copa América Centenario in June will indicate whether 2015 was a hiccup or the start of a more troubling trend. And there are several men now training out in Southern California whose 2016 form will play a significant role in determining that course. For them, the pressure and opportunity is a bit greater.
Here’s a look at three such players:
Defender Matt Besler
January camp was a bit more demanding one year ago, and Klinsmann’s public complaints about the offseason fitness of several unnamed players received return fire from Besler and his Sporting Kansas City coach, Peter Vermes. Besler, a World Cup starter, wasn’t in Klinsmann’s first 11 for another eight months.Klinsmann’s reliance on Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks at the Gold Cup proved to be the manager’s biggest misstep of 2015, and Besler’s strong season in MLS paved the way for a return. He started the Confederations Cup playoff loss to Mexico in October and then the ensuing qualifiers. Now, the 28-year-old is back in camp and in position to get a head start on establishing himself as an anchor in a unit that’s seen far too much upheaval in recent months.Geoff Cameron is nursing an ankle injury back with Stoke City, Omar Gonzalez (who hasn’t played for the U.S. in nearly five months) has started well with Pachuca while Brooks, Alvarado, Miazga, Michael Orozco and others knock on the door.Where Besler may have been fatigued or even defiant one year ago, he now seems eager to assume a leadership role“You come in for your first January camp and there’s a lot of focus around yourself,” he told U.S. Soccer. “One you’ve been around for a few years, I think there’s different responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is helping others. This is a great opportunity to be a leader in this camp—me specifically. There’s a ton of young defenders here. [I’m going to] just try to help get everybody on the same page as quickly as possible and help them have an enjoyable experience.”Getting everyone on the same page is what good center backs do, and in this January camp Besler now has the opportunity to make a different sort of lasting impression on Klinsmann.Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe
The national team’s lack of a bona fide midfield playmaker has had a significant domino effect. It’s forced an enormous amount onto Michael Bradley’s plate, isolated Jozy Altidore and left the Americans struggling to hold the ball, dictate terms or play the proactive, attacking soccer Klinsmann advocated.Nagbe’s much-discussed shift inside during the Portland Timbers’ stretch run has thrust him into that conversation.The 25-year-old, who was born in Liberia and moved to Ohio when he was 11, is quick, creative and deft on the dribble. His impact was obvious as the Timbers surged toward their first league championship and resulted in his first two caps in November. If he gets comfortable in a central role for the U.S., it would allow Bradley to focus on organization and tempo or to return to his original position as a defensive midfielder.Either way, Nagbe’s potential emergence would add an element the Americans have been missing while helping to define roles more clearly throughout the rest of the side.It also would require a significant shift in tactics and chemistry in a short period of time. If Klinsmann is going to try it in the qualifiers or Copa América, there needs to be hints that it’s working during the upcoming friendlies.“I think Darlington, especially in the attacking third, can really make a difference because he’s calm on the ball. He has great vision. He sees runs of players, and he knows how to connect all the way around. [He’s] very complete in what he’s doing,” the coach told reporters.
Forward Jozy Altidore
The past two years have been a tough stretch for Altidore, who’s not young anymore. At 26, he’s closing in on 100 caps (89) and now is embarking on his 10th year as a senior international. It’s no longer about potential for the Toronto FC striker. It’s about performance.And Altidore seems to know it. After enduring injury-plagued years that saw him miss most of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Gold Cup and included a brutal stretch at Sunderland and a season of transition at TFC, he was eager to get started this winter. So he arrived in California a week early to commence training. “I just wanted to come in and start moving a little bit early…getting ready for the year thinking about all the competitions coming up, the MLS season and some fine games that you circle on the calendar,” Altidore told U.S. Soccer. “The last couple of years have been rough, so I just want to stay healthy, stay fit and try to help my team the best that I can.”He managed six goals in 13 U.S. appearances last year, including a pair in the November qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and scored 13 times in 26 MLS appearances for Toronto. He’s looking for more this year. Dempsey hopes to stick around long enough to play in the Copa América and break Landon Donovan’s scoring record (Deuce is nine goals behind), while Morris, Bobby Wood and others remain prospects.The mantle of ‘go-to’ finisher is Altidore’s to seize.“He has big goals,” Klinsmann said. “He’s dreaming about the next World Cup. He’s dreaming about the Copa América. .He’s dreaming about winning the MLS Cup with Toronto. He wants to put his stamp on the national team program. And so over the years in his maturing process. He’s gathered all that information from the other older players, and now he becomes one of those as well. So he now wants to make sure that he makes the right decisions. So we see a Jozy now coming in prepared. He’s eager to take advantage of every training session, not wasting a minute on the field, preparing himself the best way possible for the next day.”
Nagbe, Finlay, Nguyen, Diskerud looking to make move at U.S. camp
CARSON, California — The annual January camp for the U.S. national team has long been a vehicle for catapulting players into bigger roles.The list of performers who have taken advantage includes World Cup veterans Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron. Last year it was Gyasi Zardes, who went on to make a whopping 19 appearances for the U.S. in 2015.In the current incarnation, opportunity is beckoning once again, even as manager Jurgen Klinsmann hints that the concept of the January camp is nearing the end of its shelf life.One question that has plagued the U.S. team in the past year is where the next wave of creative players is going to come from. Landon Donovan has retired. Klinsmann indicated last week that Clint Dempsey is still in his plans, but at age 32, it’s fair to wonder for how long.The CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico, as well as the friendly loss to Brazil, stand out as games in which the U.S. struggled to impose itself offensively. For all the talk about forwards like Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris, getting them the ball in good positions remains a significant area of need.So for the likes of Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay, New York City FC midfielder Mix Diskerud and New England Revolution attacker Lee Nguyen, the camp and subsequent games against Iceland this Sunday and Canada five days later amount to an opening that is there to be exploited.The aforementioned players each offer something different. Nguyen is the conventional No. 10, Finlay provides more of a classic wing presence, Nagbe is more of a two-way player — although his strengths lie more on the offensive side of the ball — and Diskerud is a crafty, attacking player.”You always hope for the next player around the block to bring this piece of being a difference-maker,” Klinsmann said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC. “So if you come in, I think Lee [Nguyen] could be a player that brings a lot of vision on the field. Darlington [Nagbe] has this natural gift to keep things flowing.”Nagbe has moved up the depth chart in the past few months after receiving his U.S. citizenship back in September. He appeared as a substitute in two World Cup qualifiers in November, and looks to have the inside track to take on more responsibility.At club level, a move late in the season to more of a central-attacking role alongside Diego Valeri proved to be a boon for Nagbe, culminating in an MLS Cup triumph with Portland. The move allowed him to get on the ball more and bring both composure and chaos to the game. Under Klinsmann, Nagbe has been placed in a wide midfield role, but with a brief to use his playmaking ability in central positions.”My mentality here is the same as it is with the Timbers: Be patient and wait for the opportunity to show what you can do,” Nagbe said. “Keep it simple, make sure you’re clean with your touches, and then when you do get gaps and opportunities you try to take them.”Nguyen has been on the fringes of the U.S. team for much of the past year. He made three appearances, but all of them were off the bench and amounted to just 78 minutes. Nguyen’s previous appearances in national team camps giv him a good idea of what Klinsmann wants. Now it’s a question of impressing under game conditions.”The coaching staff, they have high demands and they’ve been watching us during the season, so they know what to expect,” Nguyen said. “This camp is to push ourselves not only fitness-wise but to get to that higher level. For me, it’s always an honor to be here, no matter what. Whatever piece I have to play, I’m grateful. But you always want to push for more. That’s what these camps are for, to keep pushing and make a statement.”Diskerud remains something of an enigma. He’s a player who has had his opportunities, including as a member of the 2014 World Cup squad, yet he remains a man in search of a dedicated midfield position. Is he better off starting out wide and then tucking inside when the opportunity allows? Is he a deep-lying playmaker or better off further up field? Diskerud’s strength appears to lie further up field, but he appears to have been passed up by others.As for Finlay, this is his first foray into the international game. By his own admission, his game “is not super elaborate” but he can threaten both with his crossing ability and his penchant for cutting inside and striking at goal.”Off-the-ball movement remains extremely important in my game, and then when I get the ball, be dynamic,” Finlay said. “I think when you get in the final third, whether you’re playing for your national team or you’re playing for your club team, try to make something happen and make an impact on the game. Those are two things I look to hopefully bring to the squad.It is now up to Klinsmann to see to what extent these attacking pieces can be fused into the lineup alongside mainstays like Michael Bradley, and it’s up to the players to take advantage. There always seems to be one who does, and the ensuing months will reveal precisely who will take that next step.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley top the list of the U.S.’s best 25 players
Ranking the 25 best U.S. players is a quick way to get called stupid. As we acknowledged at about this time last year, there’s never going to be consensus on the proper pecking order at a particular moment.That also goes for people who get paid to know: coaches, former pros and other close followers of American players around the world. Once again, we picked their brains. And once again, their opinions on certain players varied greatly. All of their points were valid, though, as was whatever criteria they used to arrive at their conclusions.After all, ranking players is often completely subjective. Don’t believe it? AskBenny Feilhaber, who won 38 caps under former U.S. coach Bob Bradley but couldn’t get a sniff last season from current coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the best period of his career. The hard truth is that Feilhaber doesn’t fit as far as Klinsmann sees things, just as it is fair to wonder if Kyle Beckerman, whom Bradley never seemed completely sold on, would have gone to the 2014 World Cup (where he was among the better American performers) had Klinsmann not been appointed selector-in-chief.And that’s OK. Different people like different players. It’s part of what makes this subject endlessly intriguing. So, after careful consideration and much deliberation, here’s a snapshot of where we think the United States’ talent pool stands.
- D/M Fabian Johnson, 28, Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany)
The quiet German-American has come into his own this season, starring for the Foals in the UEFA Champions League. It’s a far cry from how 2014-15 started for Johnson, who initially rode the bench following his summer transfer from Hoffenheim. The big difference now is he’s settled. “I’m very comfortable at ‘Gladbach,” Johnson told ESPN FC in November. “I like the club, my teammates, everything.”Monchengladbach didn’t qualify for the competition’s knockout stage, but Johnson credits the Champions League experience for helping improve his game. “I think it does,” he said. “Everything goes quicker; the players you play against are stronger. Their touches are better.” Right now, no American is better than Johnson.Fabian Johnson has established himself as one of the Bundesliga’s top midfielders this season.
2 M Michael Bradley, 28, Toronto FC (Canada)
Because he has served as the national team’s heart and soul for so long, it’s easy to forget that Bradley — who was named U.S. Soccer’s top player in 2015 — has barely entered the prime of his career. He’s in his first full year as U.S. captain and despite more than 100 caps for his country, he insists he has room to improve.
3 D/M Geoff Cameron, 30, Stoke City (England)
The only American outfield player who is a regular starter in the English Premier League, the versatile Cameron was playing some of the best soccer of his life before suffering an ankle injury against Liverpool on Jan. 5. He was also the national team’s best defender at the end of last year.
- F Clint Dempsey, 32, Seattle Sounders (United States)
Simply put, Dempsey remains America’s best pure goal scorer. One could even argue that the Texan — with nine goals in 10 international appearances in 2015 — deserves to be in our top three overall. But Dempsey did start to show signs of slowing down a little last season, with nagging injuries limiting his production in MLS play for the Sounders.
- M Alejandro Bedoya, 28, Nantes (France)
The South Florida native is approaching the height of his powers in Ligue 1. He’s consistent, he’s a leader and he’ll be counted on heavily in qualifying and at the Copa America Centenario, although whether he’ll play on the wing or behind the forward(s) remains unclear.
- G Tim Howard, 36, Everton (England)
Howard has been criticized for making mistakes at times this season, but he’s still more than capable of stealing games at the highest level. He’s also well positioned to win his starting job back for the U.S. after Brad Guzan lost his place at Aston Villa.
- D John Brooks, 23, Hertha Berlin (Germany)
The imposing young centre-back is maturing rapidly; this is his third season in the Bundesliga, and it has been his best. A Berlin native, Brooks has his hometown club on pace for a Champions League berth next season.
- M Jermaine Jones, 34, unattached
Just because Jones remains a free agent doesn’t mean he can’t still play. The German-American was excellent against Trinidad and Tobago in November in the Americans’ most recent World Cup qualifier, and he figures to play a key role at this summer’s Copa America if he’s employed and stays healthy.
- G Brad Guzan, 31, Aston Villa (England)
It has been a brutal year for everyone at Villa, but especially so for Guzan, who recently lost his starting role to understudy Mark Bunn. But the benching doesn’t undo Guzan’s previous 3½ seasons at the club, where he proved himself a reliable Premier League starter.
- F Jozy Altidore, 26, Toronto FC (Canada)
Still the top U.S. forward, Altidore managed a respectable 13 goals in 25 games in his first season back in MLS after bouncing around Europe the previous six years. The former teenage phenomenon also has matured off the field after a decade spent in the spotlight.
- M Darlington Nagbe, 25, Portland Timbers (United States)
The technical, slick-passing playmaker made his international debut in November, less than a month before he helped Portland win the MLS Cup. If he claims a starting U.S. spot in 2016, his stature will continue to grow.
- D/M DeAndre Yedlin, 22, Sunderland (England)
The Seattle-born speedster has acquired valuable top-end experience this season on loan from Tottenham to Premier League struggler Sunderland, where he has started 10 games (eight in the Prem).DeAndre Yedlin has picked up plenty of Premier League experience on loan at Sunderland this season.
- M Kyle Beckerman, 33, Real Salt Lake (United States)
The dreadlocked destroyer is in the twilight of his career, and his national team future is uncertain. But even as he celebrates his 34th birthday in April, Beckerman still is perhaps the top dedicated defensive midfielder in the American player pool.
- D Matt Besler, 28, Sporting Kansas City (United States)
The Kansas native struggled mightily in the year following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he started all four games for the United States. But he won back his starting spot in central defense by the end of 2015.
- D Omar Gonzalez, 27, Pachuca (Mexico)
Moving to Mexico in December has rejuvenated the longtime Galaxy centre-back, who badly needed a change of scenery after six seasons (and three MLS Cups) in Los Angeles. Gonzalez has been superb in his three games withLos Tuzos.
- F Aron Johannsson, 25, Werder Bremen (Germany)
Nobody doubts Johannsson’s talent or potential. But in his two-plus years with the national team, the Icelandic-American — whose first Bundesliga season has been beset by injuries — seems no closer to winning a full-time job with the U.S.
- F Gyasi Zardes, 24, LA Galaxy (United States)
The hard-running Zardes got more comfortable in each of the 19 international games — more than any national team rookie in 21 years — he played in 2015.
- F Bobby Wood, 23, Union Berlin (Germany)
The Hawaiian striker’s confidence grew during a breakout year for the U.S. After scoring important goals off the bench against Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands in 2015, he’ll now vie for a bigger role.
- D DaMarcus Beasley, 33, Houston Dynamo (United States)
The four-time World Cup veteran’s experience is unmatched in the U.S. player pool. Whether his national team days are over — he came out of international retirement at Klinsmann’s request in 2015 — Beasley is still playing at a high level in Houston.
- D Tim Ream, 28, Fulham (England)
After being overlooked during most of the Klinsmann era, Ream started the first two qualifiers of the 2018 cycle as the coach’s first-choice left-back.
- D Brad Evans, 30, Seattle Sounders
Evans isn’t a world-beater in terms of talent, but he’s proven to be a serviceable international player who rarely makes mistakes — no small thing for a defender at the top level.
- M Alfredo Morales, 25, Ingolstadt (Germany)
The tri-national (American-German-Peruvian) is leading all Bundesliga-based U.S. players in minutes played in 2015-16.
- M Eric Lichaj, 27, Nottingham Forest (England)
Lichaj has made just two substitute appearances (both in 2013) in Klinsmann’s four years in charge, but the Illinois-born full-back is quietly having a career season in the English second tier.
- D Jorge Villafana, 26, Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Villafana was the best left-back in MLS last season, helping Portland hoist the hardware in December before heading to Liga MX.
- F Jordan Morris, 21, Seattle Sounders (United States)
As an established international player, the former Stanford University standout will be expected to produce immediately in his maiden season as a pro.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
Darlington Nagbe getting up to speed for U.S., Jozy Altidore early for camp
CARSON, Calif. — For many U.S. fans, Darlington Nagbe’s November debut with Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad in a pair of World Cup qualifying games provided a badly needed bright spot at the end of a mostly disappointing 2015 for the national team.The Liberia-born Portland Timbers midfielder had recently become an American citizen. At 25, he was still three or so years from entering his prime. And in his two brief substitute appearances, against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, he showed off the Velcro-like touch on the ball that he has displayed since arriving in MLS in 2011.The expectations on Nagbe only grew when he led the Timbers to the league title in December, to the point where it’s easy to forget he’s currently participating in only the second U.S. camp of his career.”I’m still trying to figure it out,” Nagbe told reporters before the U.S. trained Thursday, three days before Sunday’s friendly here against Iceland (3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN). “But I feel confident being here. It’s a lot of good players and hopefully I can show what I can do.”So far, circumstances haven’t made putting his best foot forward easy. Nagbe joined the group late, following the birth of his second child. The demands are different this month than in shorter get-togethers, with fitness the primary focus. Practices are fast and grueling and it’s still unclear exactly where Nagbe’s best spot on the field with the Americans might be. That question isn’t likely to be resolved before the full contingent of European-based players return for a pair of qualifiers against Guatemala in March.Which is why U.S. captain Michael Bradley, for one, would like to see the hype surrounding Nagbe toned down just a bit”I think everyone needs to be a little bit careful in terms of trying to put too much on his plate too soon,” Bradley said of Nagbe, who has been deployed at the tip of a midfield diamond as well as on the wing this week. “He’s still young — certainly young in terms of the national team. He will start to get his chance now o come into the group and see where it all fits in.”He has natural ability, for sure. But again, I think for any new player who comes into the group, you want to be careful not to expect too much.”U.S. fans would be wise to listen.
U.S. camp notes
– Despite two fast-approaching friendlies (after Iceland, the U.S. plays Canada at StubHub Center on Feb. 5), the American players are still very much in preseason mode. Overall, though, Bradley is pleased with how 2016 has started.”It’s been a good few weeks,” he said. “I think the mix in the group has been good. The younger guys are excited and motivated and certainly see their two [Olympic] qualifiers with Colombia right on the horizon. The older guys are committed to leading and showing them, as much as possible, the right way on a daily basis. Guys have come in every day ready to train and compete.”What they’re not doing, however, is spending a lot of time dwelling on last year. Not that they haven’t talked about it some. “We’re certainly very aware that we let ourselves down in big moments last year. That’s sports,” Klinsmann said. “You play big games, you play in big moments where everything is on the line, and one team has to lose. That’s reality. We’ve looked back at things. We’ve thought about things. The way we played in certain moments weren’t good enough.”[But] It’s the start of a new year, a lot of big things ahead of us: qualifying, Copa America. We’re excited.”- After being plagued by hamstring issues in recent years — injuries that prevented him from completing Gold Cups in 2011 and 2015, as well as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — Jozy Altidore has made some adjustments to his lifestyle. “I’ve definitely changed my diet, sleep habits, little things like that to try to adjust,” he said Thursday. “I’m trying to keep myself as lean as possible. [The hamstring problems] have been unfortunate for me but it’s something I’m looking at this year to try to take away.”Part of that process included arriving in Carson a week early, on his own dime, to train ahead of his teammates. “I think I needed to just come in a little bit and get myself moving and get going.”I’m feeling good. I’m excited. I’m just trying to get myself fit and excited for what looks to be a long, long year.”- U.S. U-23 coach Andi Herzog doesn’t have all his players available this month, and lost another when defender Matt Miazga left camp Tuesday to complete his reported transfer to Premier League champions Chelsea.”Obviously we’re missing some from Europe, but we have 10 or 11 players here, which is really good for me,” Herzog said. “So at least they’ve started. They’re in OK shape right now. We train real hard, so their [fitness] is getting better and better.”So what does he make of Miazga’s move?”It’s not easy to get the starting job there, but it’s huge for him,” Herzog said, adding that he expected Miazga to be available for his team in March. “It’s good for U.S. Soccer that a young player gets the opportunity and signs with one of the best clubs in Europe. It will be a huge adventure for him, because everything will be new. He trains and plays with the best players in Europe. It’s amazing.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN
Here is the updated USMNT camp roster by position (all US Based Players in Camp): Game on Sunday 3:45 pm vs Iceland
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (unattached), Perry Kitchen (unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (unattached), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
5 USMNT players with the most to gain in upcoming friendlies
The U.S. national team’s January camp is all about opportunity — opportunity to get your foot in the door; opportunity opportunity to be seen by USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann; opportunity to adapt to the USMNT program; opportunity to establish yourself as a regular on subsequent 23-man rosters; opportunity to audition for a job, for those currently without a club team.This year’s January camp consists of 26 players (25, now that Matt Miazga has departed to reportedly to complete his transfer to Chelsea), all of whom with something to prove in a Copa America and World Cup qualifying year, no matter their previous standing (or lack thereof) with the USMNT.Five players with the most to gain (or lose) from a strong (or weak) showing in this year’s January camp and friendlies against Iceland (Sunday) and Canada (Friday, Feb. 5)…
- Jozy Altidore, forward (Toronto FC) — Altidore has competition for minutes now, perhaps for the first time in his career; Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood are (in the eyes of Klinsmann) hot on his heels, and that pesky, young prospect Alan Gordon just won’t go away. Seriously, though, Altidore is the epitome of a “confidence player,” and 2016 is a big year for the USMNT, as well as TFC. A striker who’s full of goals has the ability to mask so many other flaws within a squad, so no pressure, Jozy, but you’re 26 now and everyone’s kind of counting on you. [ MORE: Zardes, Parker talk youth-heavy January camp]
- Ethan Finlay, midfielder (Columbus Crew SC) — Finlay is the type of player the USMNT doesn’t currently have, and has needed for quite some time — he’s not really a midfielder, he’s not really a forward, and he’s definitely not a winger; he’s a guy that plays between the opposition’s midfield and defense, and wreaks havoc with very good movement, vision and delivery of the final ball in a number of different scenarios. The three USMNT players starting behind the center forward on a given night is anyone’s guess these days, so Finlay’s got as much a case as anyone at this point.
- Perry Kitchen, midfielder (free agent) — Kitchen is currently without a club job after his contract with D.C. United expired last year and the two sides have reportedly moved on from negotiations to re-sign the 23-year-old. That’s not Kitchen’s only incentive; there’s also a massive void at defensive midfield with Kyle Beckerman about to turn 34 and seemingly on his way out of the picture. Positive buzz from the friendlies -> getting signed by a peripheral European club -> his stock rises in Klinsmann’s eyes -> the USMNT’s no. 6 for a decade. You see how these things go hand in hand?
- Jermaine Jones, midfielder (free agent) — This camp’s elder statesman (he turned 34 in November) needs work. After letting his contract with the New England Revolution expire in 2015, Jones is free to sign with any club anywhere in the world. Just one problem: they’re scared off by the six-game suspensionhanging over his head. Beyond his uncertain club situation, Jones needs to prove he’s still got something tangible to give to the USMNT (i.e. gas left in the tank). Sidebar: remember this time last year when Jones was being groomed as USMNT center backof the (near) future? Those sure were fun times. [ MORE: Schalke in transfer negotiations for USMNT’s John Brooks ]
- Darlington Nagbe, midfielder (Portland Timbers) — Nagbe made “the jump” in 2015, from promising prospect to actually delivering two-plus months of the kind of game-changing, dominant performances we’ve been crying out for for years. With that leap forward comes the expectations of reaching yet another level in 2016. There’s a massive opportunity for someone — anyone— with a creative bone in their body to take ownership of the central midfield spot just ahead of Bradley and a more stationary no. 6 sitting in behind. Is 2016 the year of Darlington? It could be, with a strong showing in January camp and a pair of dynamic displays against Iceland and Canada.
Crucial stretch arrives for Bob Bradley, Le Havre in Ligue 1 promotion fight
Bob Bradley’s French adventure with Le Havre has so far flown under the radar. Now, things are starting to heat up.Le Havre AC — proud to be France’s, and continental Europe’s, oldest team after being founded way back in 1872 — currently sit fifth in Ligue 2 and are embroiled in an all-out battle to gain promotion to France’s top-flight.[ MORE: Bradley new Le Havre coach ]
The top three teams in France’s second-tier are automatically promoted to Ligue 1 and a pivotal stretch has now arrived for Bradley, 57, and his players.Speaking to ProSoccerTalk last week before a disappointing defeat to fellow promotion hopefuls Clermont on Monday, Bradley knows a crucial time in the season is coming up as they face rivals Lens, Auxerre, Dijon and Metz in their next five games. Just five points separates Auxerre in ninth and Clermont who occupy third place and that all-important final promotion spot.
“The fight for the top three spots at the moment is very tight,” Bradly said. “We have a very important stretch coming up. This next stretch is very important. As a team, the way I try to do these things is establish some ideas on the structure of the team so that we have got a solid way of moving and staying as a unit but then how do we start to build up the football ideas within the structure, how do we start to find the right ways to move the ball. Can we play forward? How do we create chances? A lot of the football stuff but just as important is creating an identity as a team, that we are going to be a team that works hard, play with passion and energy and that there’s a real enjoyment as a team when we show up here every day. There is going to be a real push to create a football environment that can be successful.”
The former head coach of multiple MLS franchises (Chicago Fire, the MetroStars and Chivas USA), the U.S. national team, Egypt and most recently Stabaek in Norway’s top-flight, Bradley took charge of Le Havre on Nov. 10 and since then has had three wins, three draws and two defeats in league play.So, how has he settled into life in the second-largest port in France?“It’s been so busy, long days, and Lindsay and I are still in the hotel but we found an apartment we will get into next month. The apartment is in Le Havre and as much as there are nice options outside we thought it was important to live in Le Havre and that is always the way we tried to do things,” Bradley explained. “The owner Vincent Volpe [an American businessman from Texas], for him this has always been a socio-economic project. He was running Dresser-Rand operations out of Le Havre for many years and this is where he met his wife.“When the team ran into some difficulties Vince quietly came into the picture and his interest now is that this club Le HAC as they call it, is very important to the city. Obviously Stade Oceane is a fantastic stadium, a couple of years old. For me to come and start to settle into Le Havre, get to know the supporters, the different coaches in the academy and start to share new ideas and get a feel for how everything works. This is all part of the work in addition to the focus of the first team and how we can improve ourselves.”[ VIDEO: USMNT man Bedoya scores again for Nantes ]
The challenge of getting to know a new league in a new country isn’t something that’s new to Bradley, but coming in midway through a campaign provides plenty of challenges. He’s following the same formula which has led him to success throughout his career and most recently in Norway where he took newly-promoted Stabaek to a second-place finish and Europa League qualification in just two years before leaving for Le Havre.
“When you come in during the middle of the season it makes the challenge even greater,” Bradley said. “Philippe (Bizeul), Francois (Seguin) and Christophe (Revault) had been here from the start this year so hearing their thoughts and discussing things with them, Oswald (Tanchot) had worked with a club he bought from the fifth league to the fourth league to the third league, so he has very good knowledge, along with Philippe, of Ligue 2. I remember, it was the same in Norway, you get there and you try to get a good as feel for every team and different players so that every week you make sure your team is ready. That part, so far has gone well. I’ve done that in enough different places that the way you do that never changes.”
One thing Le Havre has always been know for is its youth program. Its famed academy is one of the best in France and is highly regarded throughout Europe.
Riyad Mahrez, Paul Pogba and Lassana Diarra are just some of the star names to be nurtured in Upper Normandy and with Bradley’s experienced of working closely with young players during his days at Princeton, then in MLS, plus with the U.S. and Egypt and more recently with a youthful squad at Stabaek, he seems like a good fit to make the most out of Le Havre’s historically excellent academy.Has he seen any news stars coming through right now?
“There are some great names that have come through the academy. I think the pure ability in the academy, in terms of the recruiting top talent has been challenged a little bit when the club as a while isn’t quite as strong. Qe are all trying to make sure that we are keeping that part going,” Bradley said. “For me I have gotten to know the director of the academy, Johann Louvel, and he also coaches the second team which is the same setup as we had at Stabaek. A lot of the academy coaches have now started to come out and watch our training so they start to get a feel for things that we believe are important. At first it is everybody getting to know each other and sharing ideas. It would be early for me to say ‘the next Paul Pogba here or the next Mahrez is here’ look, let’s wait and see. But certainly, some great players have come through the academy and hopefully we can make sure that good work continues and plays a big role in the success of the first team.”
Source: Chelsea will not loan Matt Miazga upon transfer from Red Bulls
When ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga was soon to be sold to Chelsea, the first reaction of most in the U.S. soccer community was: Surely Miazga won’t play for Chelsea but rather be sent out immediately on loan like so many other players owned by the Blues.Not so fast, SI.com has learned. A source close to the Miazga deal tells SI.com that if the deal goes through, Chelsea would keep Miazga with its senior team for the remaining four months of this season and then evaluate his performance this summer.At that point, Chelsea would decide either to keep Miazga or loan him out to another team. That would give Miazga at least four months to train (and perhaps play) with Chelsea’s first team and make his case for inclusion moving forward.Miazga, 20, is set to move for around $5 million to Chelsea. He had a promising season with the Red Bulls last year and made his U.S. senior debut in November. Miazga turned down a contract extension from New York at the end of last season and would have been entering the final year of his MLS deal. When that contract refusal happened, the chances increased that New York would sell Miazga to avoid letting him go on a free transfer at the end of the 2016 season.Because Miazga owns a Polish passport, he wouldn’t need a U.K. work permit.
Source: Tim Howard “highly likely” for Colorado Rapids, MLS move in May
A few days ago the rumor mill was suggesting that Everton and USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard could be heading back to Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids.The rumor had died down for a few days but just got very interesting as a source has told ProSoccerTalk that Howard has held “serious talks” with Colorado and after 10 years at Goodison Park he looks highly likely to sign for the Rapids and supposedly wants a return to the U.S.If all goes to plan in negotiations between Everton and MLS then Howard could sign this month but would only move to Colorado in May following the conclusion of the 2015-16 Premier League season.[ MORE: LVG’s time at United up? ]
Veteran U.S. international Howard, 36, has recently put in a string of fine displays for the Toffees but throughout this campaign he has also been criticized by some sections of the Everton support, especially following a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal earlier in the season. An up and down season for Howard has also seen him criticized for giving away a penalty kick in the 2-1 home defeat to Swansea on Sunday, plus his role in Diego Costa‘s goal inEverton’s 3-3 draw at Chelsea last weekend.
Further reinforcing the notion that Howard could be on the brink of a surprising potential move back to MLS — especially to a Rapids franchise who finished rock bottom of the Western Conference in 2015 — last Monday the Rapids announced they had traded starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin to Toronto FC for targeted allocation money, their highest natural third round selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft and a conditional first round selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Plus Colorado currently holds the number one allocation ranking in MLS after making a trade with the Chicago Fire for that position less than two weeks ago.That means any current U.S. national team player looking to sign with the league will be offered to them first and Colorado’s VP of soccer operations, Paul Bravo, has been quoted as saying that the move up to No. 1 in the allocation order is “the most significant deal we’ve done in this club’s history.” That says it allHoward’s boss at Everton, Roberto Martinez, was asked by the media following Sunday’s defeat to Swansea if the Rapids had been in contact with Everton: “At the moment there is nothing” was his response. Now, it seems like things are moving forward.Losing their long-time starting goalkeeper would not be ideal for the Toffees but given Howard’s commitment to the Merseyside outfit for over a decade, you get the sense that Everton wouldn’t stand in his way and would be unlikely to demand too high of a transfer fee from MLS to complicate negotiations.In a 0-0 draw at Manchester City on Jan. 13, Howard pulled off probably his best performance since his World Cups heroics for the U.S. against Belgium in the last 16 of the 2014 tournament, and he still has plenty to offer at the top level. With his young family based Stateside, Howard took a self-imposed sabbatical from the USMNT from Sept. 2014 until Sept. 2015 and even though he has a contract at Everton until the summer of 2018, getting to spend extra time with his kids and returning to the U.S. after 13 years abroad will play a huge factor in his potential move.With Joel Robles pushing him all the way for a starting spot at Goodison Park, is this the right time for Howard to return to MLS and play out the remaining years of his career? We shall see…
Howard, a New Jersey native, made his name in MLS for the MetroStars from 1999-2003 but was transferred to Manchester United where he spent three years before signing for Everton permanently in 2007 after a successful loan spell during the 2006-07 campaign.It seems as though one of the greatest goalkeepers the U.S. has ever produced is closer than ever to returning home.
UPDATE: Jeff Carlisle of ESPN is reporting that there would likely be no transfer fee paid by MLS to Everton for Howard and he would become the highest paid goalkeeper in the league, earning between $2-3 million per season.
LE HAVRE, France — In the conference room of a smart hotel in the center of this port city, four Frenchmen were talking loudly over one another and gesticulating toward a flip chart in front of a row of empty chairs.Bob Bradley, the recently appointed coach of the city’s second-tier soccer team, Havre A.C. — more commonly known as Le HAC — sat nearby. Bradley was awaiting the arrival of his players for a team meeting before that evening’s league match against Paris F.C., the French capital’s second team.As the voices of his four assistant coaches rose, Bradley drew half a soccer field onto the flip chart — free hand, but with perfectly straight lines — before writing the names and numbers of his players and their possible opponents in different colored pens. He quietly checked the names and spellings with a translator. At the top of the flip chart, he carefully wrote the words “Corners Defensifs” before sitting down and waiting with restrained impatience as the Gallic-style argument among his coaches continued. At last, Bradley had heard enough. “Look,” he said loudly and suddenly, stopping the argument in its tracks. With a few swipes and arrows drawn with his pen, he issued instructions as to how his players should defend corner kicks when the match began in two hours. “It’s football,” he said finally. The coaches nodded in agreement. Bradley does not speak French. At least not yet. But then, language has not been much of a barrier to his success. After he was fired as coach of the United States national soccer team in 2011, Bradley guided Egypt’s national team to within a game of the World Cup and led the small Norwegian club Stabaek into the Europa League. Now he has landed at Le Havre, France’s oldest soccer club but one that has been generally absent from the country’s top tier in recent years.It is here on France’s north coast that Bradley has come to teach a new group of players, and to continue the pursuit of the kind of job — the bigjob — that he really wants, the one that some suggest his résumé has earned.“I’ve accepted challenges to prove myself,” Bradley said of his recently meandering coaching path.Referring to a riot in 2012 that killed more than 70 people after a match between two Egyptian clubs, Bradley said, “When I was in Egypt, after Port Said, people asked me: ‘Why are you still here? Why didn’t you leave?’ Then I went to Norway, to this small team, and people would say, ‘Why did you come?’ ”It is a question, Bradley conceded, that he hears regularly.“What it amounts to is, this part of you — on the inside — wants to show people what you can do,” he said. “You want to prove yourself. You want a chance.”A native of New Jersey, Bradley, 57, spent the first three decades of his coaching career in the United States, in college, in M.L.S. and, finally, with the national team. In 2011, after a disheartening loss to Mexico cost him his job, Bradley and his wife, Lindsay, moved to Cairo before the January 25 Revolution and before the riot in Port Said, one the worst soccer stadium disasters in history.His Egypt team lost just once on the long road to the 2014 World Cup, but that was enough to spoil its dreams of qualifying. “It was a disappointment,” Bradley said, that “sticks with you forever.”A few months later, he arrived in Norway to take charge of Stabaek, a small, recently promoted club that was only just emerging from a financial meltdown. Bradley spent two years there, taking the team to a cup semifinal, a third-place finish in the league and, with it, a qualification spot for next season’s Europa League.Yet despite Bradley’s successes, he faced an employment landscape that offered few opportunities for him in top European leagues. “In England, they talk about having Premier League experience,” Bradley said, “and, to be fair, I don’t have it.”His assistant Pierre Barrieu puts it more plainly. “I am 100 percent convinced if he wasn’t American he would have got a big job somewhere,” he said. “There is this U.S. tag on his back.”Lacking a direct path to a job in a top league, Bradley concluded that Le Havre offered just what he needed: the chance to earn one through promotion. Last year, Le Havre had been acquired by the American businessman Vincent Volpe, who was on the lookout for a new coach when Bradley’s agent contacted the club.“My first thought was, I think our search is over,” Volpe said. Three days later, Bradley arrived to discuss the position. “The only reticence was how would he do with the language,” Volpe said. “But we thought about the fact that he did a great job in Norway, and a great job in Egypt. It clearly wasn’t an issue.”Shortly before leaving for the match against Paris F.C. on Jan. 15, the Havre players filled the empty seats in the hotel conference room as Bradley gave his team talk. He spoke to them through Barrieu, an assistant during Bradley’s United States national team days who has rejoined him in France.“Be proud of the colors and the club,” Bradley told the team. “Show no fear. Play the game. Enjoy it.”fterward, the players filed out quietly, onto a bus that would take them to the match.At Stade Océane, a modern facility wrapped in a translucent blue shell reminiscent of Munich’s Allianz Arena, Havre supporters were still surprised to have a coach who has led a team at a World Cup finals.“We have never known such a good coach in Le Havre,” Yann Simon, 39, said in the supporters’ bar under the stadium. “But we don’t know if he’s a good guy for Le Havre. We will know at the end of the season.”Promotion is the aim. That would be a rare foray into France’s elite for Le Havre, but it would also deliver the coaching job in a top European division that Bradley has coveted. Both goals are within reach: Le Havre beat last-place Paris F.C., 2-1, to temporarily move into third place in the league — and into one of Ligue 2’s three automatic promotion spots.Early the next morning, he would be off to Oslo to sort out the last paperwork he needs to complete qualification for his UEFA pro license, which is now a prerequisite for any top job in Europe. If the season ends as well as it has begun, he will need it.“I am the same with every job: I put my heart and soul into it and show what I am all about,” Bradley said, adding, “If you keep working, someone, somewhere along the line will work it out.”
While a mostly domestic-based group continues to train ahead of the U.S. MNT’s first friendly of 2016 next week against Iceland, a number of Americans plying their trade abroad were active for their clubs this weekend.
In France, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya capped a fantastic week for himself with FC Nantes. On Wednesday, the veteran attacker had barely gotten on the field before running on to a header and tallying the only goal in extra time of Nantes’ 1-0 victory at Mantois 78 in the Coupe de France (WATCH). With the win, Nantes setup a Round of 16 clash away to Bordeaux. Bedoya and Nantes then got a preview of Les Girondins in Ligue 1 action on Saturday, and the U.S. international bagged his second goal of the week in the 30th minute. Already with a 1-0 lead thanks to Kolbbein Sigþórsson’s first half effort, teammate Ermir Lenjani beat his man on the left before sending a cross to the back post where Bedoya was unmarked and able to head past Bordeaux ‘keeper Cedric Carrasco to take the score to 2-0 (WATCH). Bedoya went 90 minutes in the match, but Bordeaux poured on the pressure late, getting two goals back inside the final six minutes to force a 2-2 draw.
In Mexico, a pair of U.S. MNT center backs faced off as Omar Gonzalez’s Pachuca ran out of Estadio Azteca with a 4-1 win against Ventura Alvarado’s Club America. Both defenders went the full 90 minutes for their sides, with Alvarado conceding an own goal in the 19th minute while Gonzalez was part of a back line that never looked too bothered in the victory. Since transferring to Pachuca from the LA Galaxy just before the new year, Gonzalez has appeared in all three of Los Tuzos matches, helping the side to a 2-0-1 start to the 2016 Liga MX Clausura campaign.
In Germany, a number of U.S. internationals returned from the Bundesliga’s winter break on Saturday. Center back John Brooks anchored the back line for third-place Hertha Berlin in their 0-0 home draw with Augsburg, marking the fourth straight match across all competitions that he’s played and helped the side to a clean sheet.
Fabian Johnson played the full 90 minutes for Borussia Moenchengladbach as they began the second half of the season with a tough 3-1 home defeat to second-place Borussia Dortmund. Notably, 17-year-old U.S. youth international Christian Pulisic, who featured in first team matches during Dortmund’s winter break, made the game day 18 for the side, but did not appear in the match. Alfredo Morales started and went 68 minutes in midfield during Ingolstadt’s 1-0 victory against Mainz.
In the English Premiership, goalkeeper Tim Howard and Everton were undone by Gilfy Sigurðsson’s 17th minute penalty kick and Andre Ayew’s 34th minute winner as the Toffees felt 2-1 to Swansea City on Saturday.
In the English Championship, Danny Williams went 90 minutes in midfield as Reading drew 1-1 at home with Sheffield Wednesday. Tim Ream started and went the distance while midfielder Emerson Hyndman entered in the 7th minute as Fulham fell 1-0 to Hull City at Craven Cottage.
The framework of this January camp built by U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is “identification and development,” and that theme plays through the list of goalkeepers. While the coach has made it clear that the three ‘keepers who represented the team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil – Brad Guzan, Tim Howard and Nick Rimando – remain at the top of the pecking order, he has an opportunity to look towards the future with this group in Carson. Fortunately, the U.S. has a long history of producing international-level goalkeepers. Here’s a snapshot of the guys getting a look this month:
Robles was named 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and earned 2015 MLS Best XI honors. The Fort Huachuca, Arizona, native last appeared for the MNT in 2009 as the third goalkeeper during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, followed by his lone MNT appearance in a 2-2 draw with Haiti on July 11 in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
The 26-year-old has earned five career caps since his MNT debut on Jan. 22, 2011 against Chile. He most recently stopped five shots on goal in 45 minutes of action, completing a 2-0 shutout against Panama at StubHub Center on Feb. 8, 2015. The Lilburn, Georgia, native is entering his seventh season with the Chicago Fire.
Chelsea remained unbeaten in the Premier League under Guus Hiddink a month into his tenure as interim manager, winning at Arsenal, 1-0, on Sunday.Arsenal, which had been unbeaten at home in league play since opening day, was undone by a five-minute spell in the first half. Per Mertesacker was sent off for tripping Diego Costa, and Costa then scored the game’s only goal in the 23rd minute.“He got Mertesacker sent off,” Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger said of Costa. “A fact is a fact. I do not accuse him of anything; it’s just what happened.”Arsenal dropped from first to third place over the weekend, behind Leicester, the leader, and Manchester City. Chelsea, despite three wins and four draws under Hiddink, is in 13th place, and the fourth Champions League place — occupied by Tottenham, 14 points away — looks unobtainable.Wenger was jeered by Arsenal fans for replacing striker Olivier Giroud with defender Gabriel after losing Mertesacker.“You want to make a poll for every decision to see who does what?” Wenger told reporters. “I made the decision, and for me it was quite normal. We had to go for long distances, and we needed pace to go from one goal to the other. We knew we had to drop deeper and use pace to get forward.”Arsenal has not beaten Chelsea since November 2011.In Sunday’s other Premier League game, Everton lost to visiting Swansea, 2-1, leaving the team a point and a place ahead of Chelsea.Gylfi Sigurdsson put Swansea in front from the penalty spot in the 17th minute. An own goal by Jack Cork tied the game, but Andre Ayew scored before halftime to give Francesco Guidolin a winning start as Swansea’s coach.Swansea is now 4 points above the relegation zone.“I dreamed of working in Premier League, but I didn’t dream of winning the first match,” said Guidolin, formerly the coach at the Italian club Udinese.
DISAPPOINTMENT IN MADRID Real Madrid drew at Real Betis, 1-1, dropping its first points under Coach Zinedine Zidane, and a scoreless tie at home against 10-man Sevilla kept Atlético Madrid from regaining the lead in the Spanish league from Barcelona.Real Madrid mustered only a second-half goal by Karim Benzema, which canceled out a stunner by Álvaro Cejudo.Atlético Madrid and Barcelona each have 48 points, but Barcelona is ahead on goal difference thanks to Saturday’s 2-1 win at Málaga.Zidane had overseen two lopsided Real Madrid wins at home since taking over from the maligned Rafael Benítez. But the team’s setback in Seville showed that it will take more than a change of coach to remedy Real Madrid’s ills on the road, where it has won just four of 10 league games this season.
RACE IN ITALY REMAINS TIGHT Juventus secured an 11th successive Italian league win as it beat visiting Roma, 1-0, to keep the pressure on Napoli, which won at 10-man Sampdoria, 4-2. Gonzalo Higuaín, the league leader in goals, scored again for first-place Napoli, which leads Juventus by 2 points.Inter Milan trails by 6 points, having drawn, 1-1, at home against 10-man Carpi, which got a last-minute equalizer. Fiorentina moved above Inter on goal difference with a 2-0 home win over Torino.Juventus needs just two more victories to match the club record for consecutive league wins.
MONACO STRENGTHENS GRIP With Paris St.-Germain 21 points ahead in a lopsided race in the French league, Monaco solidified its hold on second place with a 4-0 home win against struggling Toulouse. Monaco, which got off to a stuttering start this season, is 3 points ahead of third-place Nice.
SHOCKING DEFEATS IN GERMANY Eintracht Frankfurt’s captain, Alexander Meier, scored three goals against visiting Wolfsburg in a 3-2 victory, one of two surprising results in the Bundesliga. In the other stunner, Schalke lost, 3-1, at home against relegation-threatened Werder Bremen despite taking a fourth-minute lead. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)
DROGBA SENDS SIGNAL Didier Drogba indicated he would be returning to the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer, effectively ending speculation that he could be joining the coaching staff of Chelsea, his former club. Drogba wrote on Twitter that he was “on way to Qatar to do some preparation work for pre-season”; the M.L.S. season starts in March. (REUTERS)
COACH’S AGENT REJECTS REPORT José Mourinho’s agent dismissed as “absolutely ridiculous and totally absurd” a report in The Independent, a British newspaper, that Mourinho wrote a “love letter” to Manchester United to trumpet his case to be the team’s next manager.(REUTERS)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s ongoing battle to be the top goalscorer in European football remains perhaps the sport’s greatest drama of our age, but both need to raise their game considerably if they are to scoop the following European Champion Clubs’ Cup and UEFA Champions League records.
- South American stars
- Ballon d’Or reaction
- Pick of the Ballon d’or photos
- Greatest group stage hauls
- Group stage record-breakers
Most goals in European Cup finals: 7 – Alfrédo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás (both Real Madrid)
Goals in most European Cup finals: 5 – Alfrédo Di Stefano (Real Madrid, 1956, 1957, 1958. 1959, 1960)
Most goals in a single European Cup final: 4 – Ferenc Puskás (Real Madrid, 1960)
Most goals in a single UEFA Champions League final: 2 – Daniele Massaro (AC Milan, 1994), Karl-Heinz Riedle (Borussia Dortmund, 1997), Hernán Crespo (Milan, 2005), Filippo Inzaghi (Milan, 2007), Diego Milito (Internazionale Milano, 2010)
With two finals goals each – and only one in any single final (Messi in 2009 and 2011, Ronaldo in 2008 and 2014) – Ronaldo and Messi both have a way to go to emulate the all-time final star strikers. Two other players have also scored in two UEFA Champions League finals: Raúl González (Real Madrid, 2000, 2002) and Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona, 2006, 2009).
Goals in European Cup/UEFA Champions League stages
Most UEFA Champions League group stage goals: Raúl González (53)
Most European Cup/UEFA Champions League quarter-final goals: Alfrédo Di Stéfano (14)
Most European Cup/UEFA Champions League semi-final goals: Alfrédo Di Stéfano (11)
Raúl’s twin records as the leading UEFA Champions League and UEFA club competition goalscorer have been surpassed by Ronaldo (who now holds both) and Messi, but the ex-Madrid ace retains his status as the all-time top marksman in the UEFA Champions League group stage; Messi on 47 and Ronaldo on 49 may surpass that mark yet.
Di Stéfano remains king in terms of quarter-final and semi-final goals, though his throne appears increasingly vulnerable. Ronaldo has registered 12 in the quarters and eight in the semis; Messi has notched 10 and four respectively at those stages.
Success with different sides
Final wins with the most teams in the UEFA Champions League: 3 – Clarence Seedorf (Ajax 1995, Real Madrid 1998, Milan 2003, 2007)
Highest number of teams scored for in the UEFA Champions League: 6 – Zlatan Ibrahimović (Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain)
Cristiano Ronaldo is unique in having scored in UEFA Champions League finals for two different winning sides – Manchester United in 2008 and Madrid in 2014. The luckless Velibor Vasović is the only other player to net in European Cup finals for two clubs, as a loser with Partizan in 1966 and Ajax in 1969. Ronaldo will require a transfer if he is to match Clarence Seedorf’s unique achievement of winning the competition with three separate teams.
Ibrahimović’s record looks even safer from Messi and Ronaldo, who would have to start moving clubs regularly – while still scoring – to make it to six. All of Messi’s goals to date have come for Barcelona, while Ronaldo has only found the target for United and Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.
UEFA Champions League final: Paolo Maldini (36 years 333 days) Milan v Liverpool (25/05/2005)
UEFA Champions League, group stage to final: Francesco Totti (38 years 59 days)
CSKA Moskva v Roma (25/11/2014)
European Cup: Manfred Burgsmüller (38 years 293 days)
Werder Bremen v Dynamo Berlin (11/10/1988)
If our dynamic duo are to eclipse Maldini’s record as the oldest final scorer, they will have to be patient. Ronaldo’s first chance will be in the 2021/22 final, while Messi will not be in line until the 2023/24 showpiece – and only then provided it does not take place before 23 May, in which case he would have to wait another year.
To overtake the UEFA Champions League oldest scorer mark, Ronaldo will need to register in the competition, group stage to final, after 1 April 2023, and Messi after 22 August 2025. To become the European Cup’s all-time oldest scorer, Ronaldo will have to hit the target after 22 November 2023, and Messi after 13 April 2026.
Fastest UEFA Champions League goal: Roy Makaay (10.12 seconds)
Bayern München v Real Madrid (07/03/2007)
Fastest UEFA Champions League final goal: Paolo Maldini (53 seconds) Milan v Liverpool (25/05/2005)
Roy Makaay has established a somewhat daunting target with his strike pretty much straight from the kick-off against Madrid. Ronaldo and Messi’s earliest UEFA Champions League efforts both came in the fourth minute – Ronaldo for Madrid against Juventus in October 2013, andMessi
Paolo Maldini’s quickfire final goal versus Liverpool is also a mark neither Ronaldo nor Messi have come close to achieving; both of Messi’s final goals were in the second half, with the earliest of Ronaldo’s two coming 26 minutes into the 2008 decider with Chelsea in Moscow.
Fastest UEFA Champions League hat-trick: Bafétimbi Gomis (8 mins)
Dinamo Zagreb v Olympique Lyonnais, 07/12/2011
Hat-tricks in consecutive UEFA Champions League games: Luiz Adriano (2)
FC BATE Borisov v Shakhtar Donetsk (21/10/14) & Shakhtar Donetsk v FC BATE Borisov (05/11/14)
Messi and Ronaldo now share the record for UEFA Champions League hat-tricks – five each – though neither has outstripped Bafétimbi Gomis’s lightning-quick treble against Dinamo. The swiftest of Messi’s hat-tricks – his first – took 22 minutes (v Arsenal FC, 06/04/10), though a mere 16 minutes separated his second and fourth strikes in his five-goal salvo against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on 7 March 2012. Ronaldo’s 12-minute treble against Malmö on matchday six is his fastest to date.
Sporting CP did not get through qualifying in Ronaldo’s only attempt with the club, and the forward then failed to net in his first two UEFA Champions League seasons with United. However, he has registered in the last ten campaigns – and ten in all – meaning he must keep playing and scoring for five more seasons to catch Raúl. To replicate Giggs’s total he may – like the Welshman – need to play on until he is over 40.
Falcao’s glorious exploits in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League set a mark that Messi and Ronaldo have been unable to emulate. The Colombian’s haul included one goal in qualifying and 17 in the competition proper. Messi’s best year came in 2011/12 when he ended the European season with 14 strikes, while Ronaldo set a new European Cup/UEFA Champions League record with 17 in 2013/14.
Goals in most consecutive appearances:Ruud van Nistelrooy (9), Manchester United, 2002/03
Best goals per game average in European Cup/UEFA Champions League: 0.97 – Gerd Müller (Bayern)
Best goals per game average in UEFA club competition*: 0.90 – Radamel Falcao (Porto, Club Atlético de Madrid)
Ruud van Nistelrooy did not figure in all United’s games in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League but managed to score in nine straight appearances in that campaign – ten if you include his goal in qualifying. Ronaldo has come the closest to bettering that mark, with strikes in eight successive 2013/14 outings.
However, when it comes to goals per match, Ronaldo cannot compete with the all-time record holders. His UEFA Champions League record stands at 0.71 a game – 89 goals in 125 games – and it is 0.71 in all UEFA club competitions – 91 in 128. Messi has registered more consistently (0.78 in the UEFA Champions League – 80 goals in 102 games; 0.78 in all UEFA competitions – 83 in 106). While Falcao’s awesome total may yet come down if he returns to regular European action, Gerd Müller’s European Cup ratio still seems unbeatable.
The San Siro will witness Europe’s champions crowned for the fourth time in its history this season. We look back at the previous finals that have graced the iconic stadium.. The San Siro hosts the showpiece of Europe’s premier club competition for the fourth time this season, giving us the opportunity to look back and discover the stadium’s finals legacy.
Inter 1-0 Benfica
27/05/1965, European Cup final
The Nerazzurri became the third side to win successive European titles, seeing off two-time champions Benfica on home soil as they adapted better to the muddy and waterlogged conditions. The Portuguese club – led by Eusébio – had blown away Real Madrid and Hungary’s Vasas in the previous two rounds, but the heavens opened to stymie their passing game. A Catenaccio-drilled Inter took advantage, with Brazilian Jair scoring two minutes before the interval to give ‘La Grande Inter’ a second crown.
Feyenoord 2-1 Celtic (aet)
06/05/1970 European Cup final
The great Ajax team of the early 1970s put Dutch soccer on the map with a trio of consecutive titles from 1971, yet it was their rivals from Rotterdam who beat them to the trophy by a year. Under the guidance of famed Austrian coach Ernst Happel, Rinus Israel equalised two minutes after Tommy Gemmel’s opener for 1967 winners Celtic. Prolific Swede Ole Kindvall struck with three minutes of extra time left to kick the door open for Dutch supremacy.
Bayern 1-1 Valencia (Bayern win 5-4 on pens)
23/05/2001 UEFA Champions League final
Bayern ended 25 years of waiting for their fourth European title as penalties dominated the day. Gaizka Mendieta and Stefan Effenberg traded regulation-time spot kicks and the game went to a shoot-out, clinched when Oliver Kahn denied Mauricio Pellegrino as the Spaniards lost the final for the second year running. “I remember that Santiago Cañizares, the Valencia goalkeeper, lay down on the goal line and started to cry. I felt for him,” said match winner Kahn, who had endured similar pain in 1999.
Inter 2-0 Roma
08/05/1991 UEFA Cup final first leg
Lothar Matthäus’s penalty and Nicola Berti’s 67th-minute strike established a first-leg lead which Roma could only halve with a 1-0 success in the return match.
Inter 1-0 Salzburg
11/05/1994 UEFA Cup final second leg
After Berti again scored in the first leg to give Inter a 1-0 victory in Austria, Dutch midfielder Wim Jonk sealed the trophy triumph with the only goal of the second leg in Milan.
Juventus 1-1 Parma
17/05/95 UEFA Cup final second leg
Following a 1-0 defeat in Parma, Juve had to play their home leg in Milan and despite going ahead through Gianluca Vialli were pegged back by Dino Baggio’s second goal of the tie, which earned a draw and the trophy for Parma.
Inter 1-0 Schalke
21/05/97 UEFA Cup final second leg
Iván Zamorano decided the second leg for Inter six minutes from time to herald the lottery of penalties; however, the Chilean forward missed in the shoot-out along with Aron Winter, allowing Schalke to land the prize.
CONCACAF nationals in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League round of 16 squads
Joel Campbell (CRC – Arsenal)
Julian Green (USA – Bayern München)
Andrés Guardado (MEX – PSV Eindhoven)
Raúl Jiménez (MEX – Benfica)
Héctor Moreno (MEX – PSV Eindhoven)
Keylor Navas (CRC – Real Madrid)
Most appearances by a CONCACAF national player in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup/UEFA Champions League (including qualifying)
46: Rafael Márquez (MEX – Monaco, Barcelona)
40: Javier Hernandez (MEX – Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen)
30: Emilio Izaguirre (HON – Celtic)
27: DaMarcus Beasley (USA – PSV Eindhoven, Rangers)
27: Jermaine Jones (USA – Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke)
27: Hugo Sánchez (MEX – Real Madrid)
25: Carlos Vela (MEX – Arsenal, Real Sociedad)
22: Christián Bolaños (CRC – København)
21: Atiba Hutchinson (CAN – København, Beşiktaş)
21: Carlos Salcido (MEX – PSV Eindhoven)
Top-scoring CONCACAF national players in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup/UEFA Champions League (including qualifying)
17: Hugo Sánchez (MEX – Real Madrid)
13: Javier Hernandez (MEX – Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen)
11: Dwight Yorke (TRI – Manchester United)
6: DaMarcus Beasley (USA – PSV Eindhoven, Rangers)
6: Nery Castillo (MEX – Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk)
5: Tomasz Radzinski (CAN – Anderlecht)
5: Carlos Vela (MEX – Arsenal, Real Sociedad)
4: Hector Herrera (MEX – Porto)
3: Christián Bolaños (CRC – København)
3: Sacha Kljestan (USA – Anderlecht)
Most appearances by CONCACAF national players in UEFA club competition*
85: Atiba Hutchinson (CAN – København, PSV Eindhoven, Beşiktaş)
56: Rafael Márquez (MEX – Monaco, Barcelona)
51: Dwight Yorke (TRI – Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers)
45: Hugo Sánchez (MEX – Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid)
43: Javier Hernandez (MEX – Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen)
41: Emilio Izaguirre (HON – Celtic)
40: Brad Friedel (USA – Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur)
40: Tim Howard (USA – Manchester United, Everton)
39: Christián Bolaños (CRC – Odense, København)
39: Jermaine Jones (USA – Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke)
Top-scoring CONCACAF national players in UEFA club competition*
24: Hugo Sánchez (MEX – Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid)
17: Julio Dely Valdés (PAN – Cagliari, Paris Saint-Germain, Málaga)
16: Tomasz Radzinski (CAN – Germinal Beerschot, Anderlecht)
15: Javier Hernandez (MEX – Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen)
13: Dwight Yorke (TRI – Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers)
7: Clint Dempsey (USA – Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur)
7: Giovani dos Santos (MEX – Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Galatasaray, Villarreal)
7: Bryan Ruiz (CRC – Gent, Twente, Sporting CP)
6: Michael Barrantes (CRC – Aalesund)
6: DaMarcus Beasley (USA – PSV Eindhoven, Rangers)
6: Nery Castillo (MEX – Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester City, Aris Thessaloniki)
Nation-by-nation: Most appearances by CONCACAF nationals in UEFA club competition*
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: none
BARBADOS: 5 – Emmerson Boyce (Wigan)
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS: none
CANADA: 85 – Atiba Hutchinson (København, PSV Eindhoven, Beşiktaş)
CAYMAN ISLANDA: none
COSTA RICA: 39 – (Odense, København)
CUBA: 2 – Alain García (Nõmme Kalju)
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: none
EL SALVADOR: 7 – Didier Ovono (Dinamo Tbilisi)
GRENADA: 12 – Brendon Batson (West Brom)
GUATEMALA: 8 – Carlos Ruiz (Aris Thessaloniki)
HAITI: 28 – Kim Jaggy (Grasshopper Club)
HONDURAS: 41 – Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic)
JAMAICA: 12 – Frank Sinclair (Chelsea, Leicester)
MEXICO: 56 – Rafael Márquez (Monaco, Barcelona)
NICARAGUA: 2 – Juan Barrera (Altach)
PANAMA: 38 – Julio Dely Valdés (Cagliari, Paris Saint-Germain, Málaga)
PUERTO RICO: none
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS: none
SAINT LUCIA: none
SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES: none
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: 51 – Dwight Yorke (Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers)
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: none
UNITED STATES: 40 – Brad Friedel (Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur)
US VIRGIN ISLANDS: none
*UEFA club competitions means European Champion Clubs’ Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, European/South American Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Intertoto Cup
Financial fair play was approved in 2010 and the first assessments kicked off in 2011. Since then clubs that have qualified for UEFA competitions have to prove they do not have overdue payables towards other clubs, their players and social/tax authorities throughout the season. In other words, they have to prove they have paid their bills.
Since 2013, clubs have also been assessed against break-even requirements, which require clubs to balance their spending with their revenues and restricts clubs from accumulating debt. In assessing this, the independent Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) analyses each season three years’ worth of club financial figures, for all clubs in UEFA competitions, The first sanctions and conditions for clubs not fulfilling the break-even requirement were set following this first assessment in May 2014. The conditions relating to non-compliance with break-even requirements were effective for the 2014/15 campaign.
From June 2015, UEFA updated its regulations (as it does from time to time for all regulations) to address some specific circumstances with the aim to encourage more sustainable investment while maintaining control on overspending. Situations addressed include clubs requiring business restructuring, clubs facing sudden economic shocks and clubs operating with severe market structural deficiencies in their operating region. For the first time the work of the CFCB is potentially expanded to include clubs not yet qualified for UEFA competitions but who anticipate and want to participate at some stage in the future.
To be exact, clubs can spend up to €5million more than they earn per assessment period (three years). However it can exceed this level to a certain limit, if it is entirely covered by a direct contribution/payment from the club owner(s) or a related party. This prevents the build-up of unsustainable debt.
Non-compliance with the regulations does not mean that a club will be excluded automatically, but there will be no exceptions. Depending on various factors (e.g. the trend of the break-even result) different disciplinary measures may be imposed against a club. There is a catalogue of measures:
d) deduction of points
e) withholding of revenues from a UEFA competition
f) prohibition on registering new players in UEFA competitions
g) restriction on the number of players that a club may register for participation in UEFA competitions, including a financial limit on the overall aggregate cost of the employee benefits expenses of players registered on the A-list for the purposes of UEFA club competitions
h) disqualification from competitions in progress and/or exclusion from future competitions
i) withdrawal of a title or award
In addition the CFCB have decided in numerous cases that the objectives of FFP can be best achieved by taking a rehabilitative approach rather than a punitive approach. This has led to the conclusion of settlement agreements between a club and the CFCB, combining certain financial contributions with numerous restrictive conditions, which provide a roadmap for clubs to reach break-even in the foreseeable future (see further detail in points 11–16).
If a club’s owner injects money into the club through a sponsorship deal with a company to which he is related, then UEFA’s competent bodies will investigate and, if necessary, adapt the calculations of the break-even result for the sponsorship revenues to the level which is appropriate (‘fair value’) according to market prices.
Under the updated regulations, any entity that, alone or in aggregate together with other entities which are linked to the same owner or government, represent more than 30% of the club’s total revenues is automatically considered a related party.
Every club that has qualified for the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League needs a licence, which is granted to a club by the national associations (or sometimes leagues). This is based on the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. UEFA then verifies documents and figures from all clubs which have been registered for one of the UEFA competitions.
A certain level of debt is part of a normal financing approach for any business. However the build-up of net debt is restricted by the break-even rules, which require owners or investors to recapitalise and cover any losses. In addition, in the future any investors looking to conclude a voluntary agreement with the CFCB will be expected to commit funds in advance, ex ante rather than ex post. Finally certain debts with added importance, such as debts to players or key staff, social/tax authorities and other clubs are monitored on a regular basis by the CFCB.
The UEFA club licensing system was introduced in the 2003/04 season. Since then 53 clubs on 57 separate occasions, which have directly sportingly qualified for either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League were not admitted because they did not fulfil the licensing or financial fair play criteria. Financial fair play has been introduced and added to the licensing criteria in 2011. Since then six clubs have been denied access to the UEFA competitions because they have not paid wages to players or fees to other clubs for transfers and one club has been excluded from UEFA competitions due to a failure to comply with break-even requirements.
UEFA has been in permanent dialogue with the European Commission about financial fair play and has received continued support for this initiative. There is also a joint statement from the UEFA President and the EU commissioner for competition, emphasising the consistency between the rules and objectives of financial fair play and the policy aims of the EU commission in the field of state aid.
There are large differences between the wealth of different clubs and countries, which predate and are irrespective of financial fair play. The aim of financial fair play is not to make all clubs equal in size and wealth, but to encourage clubs to build for success rather than continually seeking a ‘quick fix’. Football clubs need an improved environment where investing in the future is better rewarded so that more clubs can be credible long-term investment prospects.
By favouring investments in youth and stadium infrastructure and by setting the acceptable deficits in absolute million € terms and not relative percentage terms, the break-even assessment has been structured to be less restrictive to smaller and medium-sized clubs. In time, more smaller and medium-sized clubs will have potential to grow.
The CFCB’s investigatory chamber can offer clubs settlement agreements, a common instrument for financial regulators to help facilitate compliance. Article 15 of the Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body states that “settlement agreements may set out the obligation(s) to be fulfilled by the defendant, including the possible application of disciplinary measures and, where necessary, a specific timeframe. The CFCB chief investigator monitors the proper and timely implementation of the settlement agreement. If a defendant fails to comply with the terms of a settlement agreement, the CFCB chief investigator shall refer the case to the adjudicatory chamber.”
The Club Financial Control Body felt that it was imperative that clubs face sporting restrictions as well as financial measures as a result of non-compliance with the break-even requirement. The restriction on the number of players to be registered on the A list serves the dual purpose of limiting the on-field benefits arising from non-compliance while also assisting in achieving the overall objectives of the break-even requirement. The A list restriction is further supported by the restriction on the number of new registrations that clubs can add to the A list and on limits on their net transfer spend.
Any decision of the CFCB chief investigator to conclude a settlement agreement or to apply disciplinary measures may be reviewed by the adjudicatory chamber at the request of a directly affected party within ten days from the date of publication of the decision.
Settlements require the clubs to become compliant with financial fair play within a short period of time. Failure to meet settlement terms will lead to the club being automatically referred to the adjudicatory chamber.
Conversely if a club fulfils each individual requirement of the settlement, it may be released from the limitation on the number of players for UEFA competitions for the following season. If a club becomes break-even compliant during the course of the settlement, all sanctions shall cease to apply for the following season, with the exception of the non-conditional element of the financial measure.
UEFA will not keep any of the money. UEFA will distribute money from financial contributions by making solidarity payments to other European clubs according to an agreed formula. The exact details for redistribution of funds will be decided by UEFA and its Executive Committee in due course.
Manageable debt geared towards the long-term development (stadium, academy, infrastructure etc) of the club is efficient for financial planning and is standard practice in most industries. Debt taken on board, including the monetisation of future income, to fund day-to-day operating activity such as wages and transfer fees or to fund short-term cash flow shortfalls can create problems and must be managed effectively.
The Old Ballcoach – Coach Shane Best