9/6/18 USA vs Brazil Fri 7:30/Mex Tues 8:30, World Nations League Starts Today, Indy 11 Win at home as playoffs loom  

USA

So the US will bring a youthful group into their friendlies with Brazil Friday night 7:30 pm on Fox Sports 1 in NJ, and vs Mexico in Nashville at 8:30 pm in Nashville on ESPN.  Sad to see the injured Pulisic will be not with the team again – but it is really nice to see center back John Brooks back into the fold along with Acosta in the middle.  Will be interesting to see how Dave puts up top with Woods, Zardes and Weah available.  Also what’s our center mid and D mid look like with this young group without Pulisic?  Interesting set of games vs 2 Powerhouse teams – we’ll see if the youngsters can play like they did in France last time out when they grabbed the tie?

WORLD

Excited to see how this Nations League thing looks today as the best teams in Europe begin play this weekend.

MLS

So I got a chance to watch DC United and Wayne Rooney this weekend as they just destroyed 2nd place Atlanta United and man talk about well used Allocation money.  Rooney has lit a fire under this squad as they have won 4 games in 6 as they soar up the Eastern conference standings from last to just 2 games off the last playoff spot.  Perhaps more though – the DC fan based as been re-energized – it was another packed house and it sounded like an EPL game on Sunday night on FS1.  Great to see the passionate fans of DC United packed into the new stadium – the Screaming Eagles are back man.  Oh and Bill Hamid back in goal is spectacular!  You will get a chance to see DC United twice in the next week as they face NYCFC this Sat at 4 pm on Univision and ESPN+, and again next Wed vs Minn United at 7 pm on ESPN+.

Indy 11

Our Boys in Blue have moved up to 4th overall in the USL with their big win over NYRB II at home Wednesday night.  The Eleven will be on the road for a couple of weeks now before returning home Wed night, Sept 26 vs the Tampa Bay Rowdies as the 11 present Faith and Family night. and of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.   Just 2 home games left before the playoff so get plans to catch a game before the playoffs get underway.   

CHS

The 4th ranked Carmel High Girls picked up a huge 1-0 win over the #6 Ranked team in the State Penn this past weekend.  They’ll face #2 Noblesville 9/17 away and  Brebeuf at home next week Sept 20.

indy11926game

USA

Weah and US Youngsters Look to Impress vs Brazil – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic Out hurt, Tim Weah in for US vs Brazil/Mex – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Without Pulisic Brooks and Acosta Return as US faces Brazil and Mexico Brian Struas SI

Youth Leading the Way but Acosta and Brooks Still have  a Role or US – Jeff Carlisle SEPSNF

Why is US Still Looking for a Full time Coach? – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

3 GK vie for Open spot for USA Men

John Brooks to Miss Mexico Game to return to club

What’s the State of the US Team heading into huge Friendlies this week

US Callup May Cost Bobbby Wood at Hannover

18 year old Josh Sargent scores for Werder Breman U23s for 5th time

US Can Be a Top 3 Soccer Country Infantino Says at White House

US Ladies Blank Chile as Lloyd Scores Twice

US Ladies win 2 as World Cup Field Takes Shape – Graham Hayes ESPNW

U.S. roster to face Brazil, Mexico

Goalkeeper: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)

Defense: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (Nantes), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

Midfield: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Julian Green (Greuther Furth), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forward: Andrija Novakovich (Fortuna Sittard), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)

WORLD

Nations League Gets Started Today

What is the Nations League and How Does it Work? – Dale Johnson ESPNFC

Why a Global Nations League would Outshine the World Cup – Simon Kuper EPSNFC

MLS

Miami Expansion Team unveils name and logo —

Rooney & Villa face off for just 2nd time Ever

Orlando’s Stajduhar Cancer Battle

Goalkeeping

France’s GK Areola was spectacular in Goal vs Germany

Areola Great Save Again

Life as a Third Choice Keeper in the EPL

Indy 11

Indy 11 Claim 3 Pts at Home vs NY Red Bulls II

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Sat’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Indy 11 Game Schedule

USL League Standings

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Parking passes at Gate10  Events is $11 with advance purchase. $15 day of.  Save $$$ by buying early.

indy11926game

GAMES ON TV

Thurs, Sept 6                 

2:45 pm ESPN2             Germany vs France (Eufa Nations League)

Fri, Sept 7

2:45 pm ESPN2      Italy vs Poland  (Eufa Nations League)

2:45 pm FS1?          Scotland vs Belgium

7:30 pm FS1           USMNT vs Brazil (Metlife)

10 pm FS1?             Mexico vs Uruguay

10 pm Lifetime        Portland Thorns v Seattle Riegn (NWSL)

Sat, Sept 8                      

9 am ESPNews               Northern Ireland vs Boznia

12 pm                                 Switzerland vs Iceland (Eufa Nations League)

12 pm                                 Finland vs Hungary (Eufa Nations League)

2:45 pm                             England vs Spain (Eufa Nations League)

4 pm univsion               NYCFC vs DC United (Rooney)

10 pm ESPN+                 Portland vs Colorado

Sun, Sept 9                     

12 pm ESPN News      Bulgaria vs Norway  (Eufa Nations League)

2:45 pm ESPN+             France vs Netherlands (Eufa Nations League)

2:45 pm ESPNnews   Cypress vs Slovenia (Eufa Nations League)

Mon, Sept 10               

2:45 pm ESPN +           Portugal vs Italy (Eufa Nations League)

2:45 pm ESPNews       Sweden vs Turkey (Eufa Nations League)

Tues, Sept 11

2:45 pm ESPNews       Spain vs Croatia (Eufa Nations League)

3 pm ESPN+                    England vs Switzerland

8 pm beIN Sport??     Colombia vs Argentina

8:30 pm beIN sport Brazil vs El Salvador

8:30 pm ESPN               USA vs Mexico in Nashville (anyone want to go?)

Weds, Sept 12   

6:30 pm ESPN+             Penn vs Indy 11

8 pm ESPN+                    DC United vs Min United

Fri, Sept 14 

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1      Dortmund (Pulisic)  vs Frankfort

2:45 pm beIN Sport  PSG (Weah) vs St Etienne

Sat, Sept 15     

7:30 am NBCSN     Tottenham vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS 1          Bayern Munich vs Bayern Leverkusen

12:30 pm NBC               Watford vs Man United 

12:30 pm Fox Soccer       Mgladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (McKinney) 

Sun, Sept 16     

8:30 am NBCSN      Wolverhampton vs Burnley

9:30 am FS 1           Werder Bremen vs Numberg

11 pm NBCSN                Everton vs West Ham United

1 pm ESPN                       DC United (rooney) vs NYRB

5 pm FS1                           Chicago Fire vs Orlando City

Thurs, Oct 11

7:30 pm FSI                     USA vs Colombia (Tampa)

Thurs, Nov 15

3 pm ESPN2                    England vs USA (Wembley)

Sat, Nov 20

3 pm ESPN2                    Italy vs USMNT

Indy 11 Game Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

EPL Schedule

Christian Pulisic out, Tim Weah in for U.S. roster to face Brazil, Mexico

Sep 3, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan has continued with his youth movement for the upcoming international break in naming a 24-man roster for friendlies against Brazil and Mexico, although as expected, the list doesn’t contain injured Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic.All told, 14 of the 24 players named are 23 or younger, while the split between domestic players and those playing abroad is relatively even, with 11 players performing in MLS. Ten of the players are even age-eligible to take part in the 2020 Olympics. “For these matches against Brazil and Mexico, the theme remains the same in that we are using the opportunity against these high-powered opponents to continue building on the foundation that we’ve laid,” said Sarachan. “We felt it was right to continue allowing this group to get valuable experience for the big picture that includes competitive matches in the future with the Gold Cup, Olympic qualifying and World Cup qualifying.”An undisclosed muscle ailment has sidelined Pulisic for the two games. The injury is not believed to be serious, but it was enough for him to miss the Sept. 7 match against Brazil in East Rutherford, New Jersey, followed by the game against archrival Mexico in Nashville, Tennessee, four days later.”I was excited to have Christian be a part of these games in September,” said Sarachan. “As we all know too well, injuries happen and you can never predict timing. It’s disappointing that we won’t have Christian involved.”I know that he wanted to be a part of things, and we certainly wanted him here, but unfortunately he won’t be available. That said, we haven’t had Christian in with the group aside from one game in the past six friendlies, so I feel confident that this group will continue to build on what we have started.”The roster does see the return of some players who were part of the team’s failed qualifying attempt for the 2018 World Cup. Wolfsburg defender John Brooks, healthy after an injury-hit campaign last season, and Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta make their first appearances since the Americans’ 1-1 draw with Portugal in November. Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola and LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget are also back in the frame after lengthy absences. They join veterans such as Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin, fresh off scoring his first Premier League goal on Saturday, as well as Hannover forward Bobby Wood.Conspicuous by their absences are the Toronto FC pair of midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, but Sarachan appeared to leave the door open for them and other players to be brought back into the team later this year. Last month, Bradley told ESPN FC that there had been discussions between him and Sarachan about his possible involvement for the two upcoming games. Now it is clear that any possible return will have to wait.”With six games remaining in 2018, we felt that at the beginning of the Kickoff Series we wanted to continue where we left off with the makeup of the group,” said Sarachan. “Moving forward into October and November, we will look at a broader mix of players.”Overall, we don’t view the pool in categories by age. We look at what we think is the right blend that will help our team progress and ultimately get results.”Earlier this year, Paris Saint-Germain attacker Tim Weah and Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent both made their international debuts. In the European club season that has just begun, Weah has seen time with PSG’s first team while Sargent has been playing with Bremen’s second team. This time around, only Weah was called in.”Weah has been included in our roster primarily because he is coming off a very good preseason with PSG’s first team, has logged a lot of first-team minutes and already has a goal to his name this season,” said Sarachan. “With consideration for the senior national team, Timmy has earned the right to be called in.””The decision to leave Josh Sargent off this roster was one made primarily because he is still getting integrated with Werder Bremen,” added Sarachan. “He’s working his way into the first team but has yet to feature for them. The feeling is that he is getting valuable playing time with the club’s under-23 team, evidenced by the minutes he’s played and goals he has scored so far this season. I felt it was best to allow him to continue to train with the first team with the hope of getting minutes in friendlies during the international break.”

U.S. roster to face Brazil, Mexico Friday & Tues

Goalkeeper: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)

Defense: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (Nantes), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

Midfield: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Julian Green (Greuther Furth), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forward: Andrija Novakovich (Fortuna Sittard), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)

U.S. midfield under the lens vs. Brazil, Tim Weah looks to mimic the rise of teammate Neymar

6:09 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The U.S. men’s national team will face Brazil on Friday at MetLife Stadium in their first match since the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup. The match will mark caretaker manager Dave Sarachan’s seventh game in charge, and he’ll be hoping his youthful side (average age 23) will show well against a Brazil team featuring Neymar and Philippe Coutinho.Here’s what to watch for.

  1. U.S. looking for progress from young midfield

The Americans’ 1-1 draw with France last June was encouraging on some levels, given the pedigree of the opposition and the youthfulness of the U.S. team. The defense and the goalkeeping of Zack Steffen stood out, but France dominated the match territorially, and over the course of the match the play of the U.S. midfield was uneven.With that in mind, the U.S. is hoping to show more fluency when it has the ball. That amounts to a massive challenge for U.S. midfielders such as Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Wil Trapp.”I think we just look at being stingy, being difficult to play against,” Trapp said. “We know that Brazil brings different challenges than France did, than Ireland did. But also building upon: How can we be more dangerous moving forward, scoring goals? Yes, we scored in France, but we also look at it as an opportunity where we could have been better attacking.”Sarachan stressed that his side would need to find “the right balance” between attack and defense, and while Brazil’s roster isn’t comprised completely of A-team players, there is still more than enough talent to trouble the U.S. defense.”You look at the quality of their players in terms of breaking down players 1v1, they can go from zero to 60 in an instant just on the amount of game-changers they have on the field at any one moment,” Trapp said.

  1. Weah hoping to follow in the footsteps of club teammate Neymar

It was eight years ago that Neymar made his international debut against the U.S., scoring his first international goal in a 2-0 win at the same venue where Friday’s match will be held. That no doubt will provide an inspiration for his club teammate and U.S. forward Tim Weah.Yet a look at the lineups from that day reveals a cautionary tale as well. The other Brazilian goalscorer was Alexandre Pato, who at the time was just 20 years old but already on the post-Milan downside of his career.Despite scoring his first Ligue 1 goal last month for Paris Saint-Germain, Weah is at a point in his career where he’s not nearly as hyped as Neymar was back then with Santos. But being the son of a former Ballon d’Or winner — and current president of Liberia, George Weah — carries with it a unique burden.”I can’t imagine that’s an easy thing,” Sarachan said. “But he comes off as though he’s trying to be his own self and find his own way, and that’s a pretty mature way to look at things.”Weah’s comments hint strongly at a player with his feet firmly on the ground, able to tune out any outside noise. “Whatever I do, there’s always going to be hate, always people saying, ‘He’s not as good as his dad,'” he said earlier this week. “I just stay focused on my game. Right now, the national team is the most important thing to me, and that’s what I’m focused on. Whether my name is Weah or something else, I always want to give 100 percent.”Of course, Neymar isn’t the only club teammate Weah will be facing, as Thiago Silva and Marquinhos will also both be suiting up for Brazil.”We actually had a chat with all three of them before I came to camp,” Weah said earlier this week. “We laugh about it all the time, we joke about it. It’s a really cool vibe with all those guys, they love me, I love them, and they’re like my brothers. This is my first time being opponents with them, so it’s going to be a great experience.”But then, Weah couldn’t help letting some youthful exuberance seep out.”I hope they’re ready for us. We’re going to be a challenge for them,” he said.

  1. For Brazil, no time to ease off

The match will be Brazil’s first since the disappointment of its World Cup quarterfinal exit to Belgium, and while there is a tendency to shrug off post-World Cup friendlies, there is plenty of work to do for Brazil’s manager, Tite.The 2019 Copa America is less than a year away, and with Brazil hosting the tournament, the usual pressure to perform well is ratcheted up a level or two. For that reason Tite — who after agreeing to stay on with the Selecao is eager to see what he can do over a full cycle — will be looking to get some answers. In particular he’ll be looking to see if inexperienced national team players like Arthur, Fabinho and Richarlison can become long-term options for Brazil.But Tite will have plenty of familiar faces at his disposal as well. Beyond the aforementioned Neymar and Coutinho, Brazil’s squad is loaded with 2018 World Cup participants. Thiago Silva will anchor the defense, Real Madrid’s Casemiro figures to feature in central midfield, and the likes of Willian, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa will all be available in attck. Given the youthful nature of the U.S. team, that presents a formidable challenge indeed.

Without Pulisic, Familiar Faces Return as a Youthful USMNT Braces for Upcoming Friendlies

By BRIAN STRAUS September 02, 2018  SI

The games—next Friday against Brazil and Sept. 11 and Mexico—will be about the men on the field. Sunday’s roster announcement, however, is as much about the man who’s missing.Neither Christian Pulisic’s stature nor his potential is at risk. The 19-year-old Pennsylvania product—he’ll turn 20 in a couple weeks—remains the leading light of his generation and the player around whom the next era of the U.S. national team will revolve. But that era, at least as far as the Borussia Dortmund midfielder is concerned, is slow getting started.Pulisic has played just once for the USA since last fall’s World Cup qualifying disaster in Trinidad—and it was a listless performance at the end of a long club season—and he’s out of the team again this week thanks to a muscular injury suffered while on Bundesliga duty. His next chance to play for country will come in the October friendlies against Colombia and Peru. That means that over the course of an entire calendar year, which amounts to more than a third of his pro career, he’ll have worn a U.S. jersey for only 89 minutes.It’s far from scandalous, but it’s almost unheard of for such a key player to remain out of the international loop for so long. There are obvious explanations, from the lack of a summer tournament to Pulisic’s club commitment and injury. He’ll have missed only seven matches. But as coach Dave Sarachan begins to build up the national team’s next generation—once again, his roster is dominated by youth and features 15 men (of 25) who are 23 or younger—Pulisic is missing out on some of the chemistry and culture under development. When he’s ready, and if and when there’s a permanent coach, he’ll almost certainly and seamlessly slide right back in. But the wait is a bit frustrating and strange, and it’ll be worth watching how and where he fits once he’s ready.”I was excited to have Christian be a part of these games in September,” Sarachan said Sunday. “As we all know too well, injuries happen and you can never predict timing. It’s disappointing that we won’t have Christian involved. I know that he wanted to be a part of things and we certainly wanted him here, but unfortunately he won’t be available.“That said, we haven’t had Christian in with the group aside from one game in the past six friendlies, so I feel confident that this group will continue to build on what we have started.”Sarachan has given 18 players their senior U.S. debuts since taking over on an interim basis last fall. Although he’s said on several occasions that re-integrating veterans will be important as next summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup approaches, this week isn’t that time. The USA will train at the New York Red Bulls’ facility in Morris County, NJ, as it prepares for Brazil, which is bringing the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Arthur, Willian and Thiago Silva to the Meadowlands. There’s an imbalance on paper, but Sarachan said he has confidence in his young group. They’ve barely trailed during their 2-1-3 stretch, and showed well (without Pulisic) in a 1-1 draw with impending World Cup champion France in June.”Over the course of the past friendlies we have established a core of players that I felt good about offering opportunities,” Sarachan said. “For these matches against Brazil and Mexico, the theme remains the same, in that we are using the opportunity against these high-powered opponents to continue building on the foundation that we’ve laid. We felt it was right to continue allowing this group to get valuable experience for the big picture that includes competitive matches in the future with the Gold Cup, Olympic qualifying and World Cup qualifying.”So if all goes well, Pulisic will return to a team that’s developing a core and a sense of tactical and interpersonal identity, even if there’s a transition in management (GM Earnie Stewart has been on the job officially for a month). For now, here’s a look at the men who will be in New Jersey and Nashville (for the game against Mexico) this month.

GOALKEEPERS

Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)

Steffen, 23, has emerged the clear No. 1 here, although there’s arguably more competition in the player pool than there will be in camp. Brad Guzan, 33, remains part of the long-term picture, and Bill Hamid, 27, soon may get consideration again now that he’s getting minutes in D.C.Steffen has played 225 minutes across three games for the USA this year, yielding one goal.

DEFENDERS

John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (Nantes), Shaquell Moore (Reus Deportiu), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

The story in back is the return of Brooks, who was limited by injury to four caps last year. He missed the qualifying stretch run, and hasn’t been in with the national team since the November friendly against Portugal—Sarachan’s first match in charge. But he’s been a regular for Wolfsburg at the start of the German season and when healthy, seems a likely U.S. starter.“John Brooks had a difficult season with an extended injury last season with Wolfsburg,” Sarachan said. “To his credit, he put in a lot of work in the offseason, had a strong preseason and has also started off well in their opening game, contributing with a goal and playing 90 minutes in their win against Schalke. Given all that, I’m pleased that he’s able to be back with the group. Center back is an important position and he’s proven that he’s very capable at this level.”

Sarachan’s best XI almost certainly features Ligue 1 newcomer Miazga alongside Brooks, with Yedlin (who scored his first Premier League goal this weekend) at right back. It’s a bit more uncertain at left back. Robinson, 21, got the start against France and has been ever-present so far this season for Wigan. He’ll likely feature in the friendlies. Lichaj is primarily a right-side player, but can switch and did so against Portugal last November. The first-choice left back for much of 2017 was Jorge Villafaña, who just returned to the Portland Timbers and wasn’t brought in by Sarachan.

Long is the only one of the 25 call-ups making his senior camp debut. Long and Parker, who made his U.S. debut before the World Cup, have been key contributors this season at Red Bull Arena.

MIDFIELDERS

Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

The midfield is this team’s strength, even in Pulisic’s absence, and it gets better with Acosta’s apparent return to form. His move to the Colorado Rapids, even though it involved a precipitous slide down the standings, has provided a spark, and Acosta is in camp for the first time this year.It’ll be interesting to see how he looks with McKennie, another FC Dallas product. The pair played together at the center of a 4-1-4-1 against Portugal last fall. In a similar alignment, which Sarachan has often preferred, Trapp likely would be the defensive midfielder (it was Danny Williams in Portugal). Roldan can play there as well (or McKennie could slide back).“He has worked his way back to good form,” Sarachan said of Acosta. “The change of scenery to Colorado seems to have worked out in that he’s a consistent starter, logging 90 minutes and back to the strong form that we remember seeing during qualifying and the Gold Cup last year. We’re happy to have him back with us.”The wide options are enticing, starting with Weah and Adams (who can play anywhere), and now including Lletget, another player returning to the U.S. fold after a significant layoff. The creative, hard-working midfielder’s international ascendance was derailed by an injury suffered against Honduras in March 2017. The 18-year-old Weah, meanwhile, already has two goals for PSG.Speaking of Lletget, Sarachan said, “He has put himself back at a level to help contribute to the national team. Having a guy like Sebastian gives us different options and he offers a unique skill set to us in midfield.”

And regarding Weah, the manager said, “[He] has logged a lot of first-team minutes and already has a [league] goal to his name this season. … Timmy has earned the right to be called in.”

FORWARDS

Andrija Novakovich (Fotuna Sittard), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew) 

The U.S. is thinner up front, and Sarachan has deployed the team primarily in a 4-1-4-1 to compensate, in part. Jozy Altidore will turn 29 in November and likely will get another crack down the road, while the likes of Pulisic, Weah, Green, and others can attack from more withdrawn positions. Meanwhile, Sarachan is continuing to give Wood the chance to get back on track while looking at a promising target forward prospect Novakovich.    Wood, 25, scored in the friendlies against Paraguay (penalty) and Ireland and is getting his feet under him at Hannover. Novakovich also made a move, to Sittard in the Eredivisie, and already has two goals.Zardes, meanwhile, has been brilliantly efficient in Columbus, where he leads all U.S.-eligible MLS players with 15 league goals. That’s as many as he scored in 2015-17 combined for the LA Galaxy.

Sarachan saw fit to address Josh Sargent’s absence. The 18-year-old just kicked off his senior club career at Werder Bremen, but he’s already got a senior international goal—he scored against Bolivia in May. Sargent has four goals in six games for Werder’s reserves, who play in Germany’s regionalized fourth tier.

“The decision to leave Josh Sargent off this roster was one made primarily because he is still getting integrated with Werder Bremen,” Sarachan said. “He’s working his way into the first team, but has yet to feature for them. The feeling is that he is getting valuable playing time with the club’s U-23 team, evidenced by the minutes he’s played and goals he has scored so far this season. I felt it was best to allow him to continue to train with the first team with the hope of getting minutes in friendlies during the international break.”Like Pulisic, it would be intriguing to see Sargent in with the national team. But in both cases, there will have to be delayed gratification.

U.S. youth a priority, but experience of Brooks, Acosta still matters

Sep 2, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Little by little, the veterans for the U.S. men’s national team are coming in from the cold.For the entirety of caretaker manager Dave Sarachan’s spell in charge, his emphasis has been on youth. It’s an approach that is as logical as it is necessary: After the debacle of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, it was important to turn the page and begin to usher in a new generation of players.The roster that Sarachan named for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil on Sept. 7 and Mexico four days later is consistent with that approach. Fourteen of the 24 players named are 23 or younger and include 16 players with seven or fewer international appearances. Included in that latter category is New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, the only uncapped player on the roster. The biggest absence, of course, is Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who is sidelined by a muscle injury that a U.S. soccer spokesperson characterized as “not significant,” but there are a few returnees that Sarachan has opted to bring back, the most notable being Wolfsburg defender John Brooks and Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta.Both players have the ability to be future mainstays. Whether they reach that level remains an open question.Brooks endured an injury-hit 2017-18 club season with Wolfsburg that not only limited him to just 12 league and cup appearances, but caused him to miss the fateful last World Cup qualifier as well. Beyond his club struggles, Brooks’ form with the U.S. has been all over the place and seems to hint at a player who doesn’t travel particularly well. His best moments with the U.S. have come after lengthy camps such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Copa American Centenario. During shorter international windows, he’s much been more inconsistent as well as prone to injury or illness, as evidenced by him missing the final four World Cup qualifiers.A return to the level he showed at the Copa America, when the Americans reached the semifinals, would be most welcome for Sarachan and whoever succeeds him. The early returns this season are encouraging.”To his credit, he put in a lot of work in the offseason, had a strong preseason and has also started off well in their opening game, contributing with a goal and playing 90 minutes in their win against Schalke,” Sarachan said about Brooks. “Given all that, I’m pleased that he’s able to be back with the group. Center-back is an important position and [Brooks has] proven that he’s very capable at this level.”Acosta’s performances with the U.S. have been steadier, although in a more limited role, mostly as the central midfield sidekick to Michael Bradley. But his play with FC Dallas earlier this year was so poor that he was eventually benched and then traded to the Colorado Rapids. The trade has had the desired effect in that it looks to have rejuvenated Acosta.”[Acosta] is a consistent starter, logging 90 minutes and back to the strong form that we remember seeing during qualifying and the Gold Cup last year,” Sarachan said.One of the wild cards in the group is LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who broke his foot back in March of 2017 just minutes after scoring his first international goal against Honduras. His craftiness on the ball is something the U.S. has lacked at times. The fact that he played for Sarachan while the U.S. manager was an assistant in L.A. doesn’t hurt either.”Not only do I know him personally but professionally, I believe he has put himself back at a level to help contribute to the National Team,” Sarachan said. “Having a guy like Sebastian gives us different options, and he offers a unique skill set to us in midfield.”Of course, the center of midfield has become a bit more crowded with the emergence of Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams — both of whom are on the current roster — but there are no guarantees in terms of which players will emerge and who will fall by the wayside. The last cycle in particular saw far too many fall into the latter category. The more competition there is, the better.Sarachan appears mindful of the progress of some of some of his younger players as well. While Paris Saint-Germain’s Tim Weah was included, Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent wasn’t.”The decision to leave Josh Sargent off this roster was one made primarily because he is still getting integrated with Werder Bremen,” said Sarachan. “I felt it was best to allow him to continue to train with the first team with the hope of getting minutes in friendlies during the international break.”In addition to Brooks, Acosta and Lletget, the likes of D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola and Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes have also been recalled after long absences. But not every veteran has been welcomed back, although in some cases that seems a matter of time. Midfielder Michael Bradley told ESPN last month that there have been discussions between him and Sarachan; the U.S. manager seems open to his return for as long as he remains in his post. Jozy Altidore also still appears to have something to give to the U.S. even as both he and Bradley remain lightning rods for what took place during World Cup qualifying.But experience will be needed at some point during this cycle, if only to pass the torch onto players like McKennie, Adams and defender Matt Miazga. The future will divulge exactly when that is.

U.S. men’s national team is still searching for a full-time coach. What’s taking so long?

1:04 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

It’s telling that about six months ago, U.S. Soccer Federation news releases stopped referring to Dave Sarachan as the “acting head coach” of the men’s national team. It wasn’t that Sarachan was in the running for the full-time job, but it was more an acknowledgement that a permanent hire — if there is such a thing in the world of coaching — wasn’t going to get made anytime soon.Sarachan’s spell in charge has now stretched to 10 months, a span that will include nine games after upcoming matches against Brazil on Sept. 7 and Mexico four days later. And as the timeline for hiring a new manager has gone on and on and on, Sarachan’s contract has been extended multiple times and now stands to run until the end of 2018. With that reality come the inevitable questions. When exactly will the USSF hire a full-time manager? Why is it taking so long? And, of course, whom will they hire? The answer to the second question lies partly in the upheaval since that night in Couva, Trinidad, last October when the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. That ultimately begat Sunil Gulati’s decision not to run for re-election as USSF president, and not wanting to make a decision as a lame duck, the decision of men’s national team manager was left to his successor. Along the way, it was decided that whomever was elected would appoint a general manager of the U.S. national team to oversee the search.

Carlos Cordeiro was duly elected as USSF president, and in parallel with the mad dash that occurred in order to secure the hosting rights — along with Canada and Mexico — for the 2026 World Cup, Earnie Stewart was hired as GM in early June. Except Stewart’s tenure didn’t begin (officially, at any rate) until Aug. 1 amounting to another delay, though he could be seen making the rounds in the days leading up to the MLS All-Star Game.So here we are, into September, and a U.S. Soccer spokesperson has confirmed that no interviews have been held, keeping with Stewart’s statement upon being hired that, “It will be process over speed.” One USSF source said the search could drag into November or December.As for what Stewart has been doing with his time, sources indicate he has been reaching out to former players, coaches and executives and getting their input on what they would like to see in a coach. His remit also includes spelling out the broad strokes in terms of style of play; this has figured into Stewart’s conversations as well.There is a question of how much say Stewart will ultimately have in terms of the decision. He will be the one to make a recommendation to the USF hierarchy and board of directors, but it will be USSF CEO Dan Flynn who will do the negotiating in terms of a contract. It may be that Flynn has the final say.For now it is up to Stewart to lead the search. One source indicated that Stewart is leaning toward making a “legacy hire,” one that would leave a lasting imprint on the national team program, as opposed to one whose sole aim is to get the U.S. men back qualifying for World Cups. Granted, legacy was what Gulati had in mind when he hired Jurgen Klinsmann back in 2011, though the USSF technical hierarchy — which, in addition to Stewart, includes chief sport development officer Nico Romeijn and chief soccer officer Ryan Mooney — has stressed that the working environment will be collaborative in nature as opposed to having the manager or the GM make all the decisions.Such an approach points away from proven international managers such as Louis van Gaal and Dick Advocaat, who would no doubt want total control of all team-related matters. That said, Frank de Boer, whom Stewart knows well, is one name that keeps popping up and he’s available, though his most recent managerial stint with Crystal Palace ended after a mere five games.If that doesn’t sound inspiring, it merely points to the fact that the U.S. job isn’t one to attract a slew of international candidates with impressive résumés. Sure, there is less pressure than in other more soccer-mad countries but it isn’t the kind of stepping stone for a manager on the outside to get back to the European elite.It’s also one not worth waiting around for as former Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio, whom sources say was very interested in the U.S. job, has already signed on with Paraguay. Opinions vary as to whether the USSF missed out or dodged a bad hire but at minimum it would have been prudent to talk to a candidate that is as familiar with the U.S. setup as Osorio.With all that in mind, the signs are pointing to the hiring of a manager currently in MLS or at least one with strong ties to the league. Sources have said Stewart prefers a manager familiar with CONCACAF, MLS and the current player pool.Of the coaches currently operating in MLS, Atlanta United’s Tata Martino has the most impressive résumé given his vast experience managing not only Barcelona and Argentina, but also more modest sides like Newell’s Old Boys. But his inability to communicate in English remains a huge stumbling block, not so much in terms of talking to the team — Atlanta seems to have done just fine under such a scenario — but there is a public facing aspect to the job that requires proficiency in English. That could be seen as too big an obstacle and while his contract is up at the end of the season, he seems to be enjoying his time building a juggernaut in Atlanta.LAFC manager Bob Bradley has the most experience of any American given his stints overseas. While Bradley suffered during his time with Swansea City, then of the Premier League, his spell with the L.A. expansion club has been superb. And with Gulati now gone — he was the one who dropped the hammer on Bradley’s stint as U.S. manager back in 2011 in favor of Klinsmann — the dynamics for a return are better than they might have been otherwise.Bradley is no doubt a better manager than he was back then, except that the U.S. has already gone back to an old standby once already with Bruce Arena, an appointment that ended in the aforementioned qualifying failure. The desire to start fresh is likely too strong to overcome.That leaves Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter as the front-runner; in fact, the job appears to be his to lose. His experiences as a player and coach tick plenty of boxes. He spent the bulk of his playing career abroad and secured the UEFA A coaching license, in German no less. He did have a relatively unimpressive spell in charge of Swedish side Hammarby but has since enjoyed a successful five-season spell with Columbus, reaching an MLS Cup final while operating under considerable financial constraints as well as the club’s overt attempt to relocate to Austin, Texas.Berhalter has also drawn praise from MLS international managerial contingent — be it Martino, former NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira, or current Blues boss Domenec Torrent — for his attacking style and tactical acumen. The only question is whether the presence of Berhalter’s brother Jay as USSF chief commercial officer might create the appearance of a conflict of interest, though the credentials compare well to the competition.There are other American candidates as well, including Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes, current RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch and Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney. Current U.S. U20 manager Tab Ramos also figures to get an interview given his links to the younger elements of the current U.S. player pool, though his lack of experience managing at the club level figures to be a mark against him.Of that group, Vermes in particular seems to be the manager most likely to get strong consideration but the SKC manager has operated in a situation where he has had full control of all technical matters, which is at odds with how the USSF says it wants to operate.Meanwhile the search goes on. So too does the wait for a new manager.

Goalkeeper trio called into US camp know they have a unique opportunity

September 5, 20184:35PM EDTDylan ButlerContributorHANOVER, N.J. —

It’s a door that hasn’t really been open for almost a generation.Tim Howard and Brad Guzan clearly established themselves among the pecking order of US national team goalkeepers over the last decade. Before that, it was Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel, and before that Tony Meola. But now a new, younger generation is getting their chance to prove themselves on the international stage. That includes the trio of Alex Bono, Ethan Horvath and Zack Steffen who are among the 25-man roster for upcoming friendlies against Brazil Friday (7:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, Univision Deportes) at MetLife Stadium and next Tuesday against Mexico in Nashville. Each are under age of 25, with six combined caps among them. And yet the door for all of them, it would appear, is wide open.“There’s always open competition, even with the veteran guys,” US coach Dave Sarachan said before training Wednesday. “I think we have a good core of young goalkeepers and I think the margins between what we would consider the starter for Friday [and] the next guy that wouldn’t start is very thin. I’m encouraged, but they’re young and they need experience.”The goalkeepers themselves are trying not to put too much emphasis on a somewhat rare opportunity to establish themselves for the year to come. “If you’re looking at it that way then I think it’s only going to cloud your judgement and cloud your mind of what you should be focusing on,” Toronto FC‘s Bono said. “For me it’s about coming in one training session at a time and making sure I’m preparing myself and making sure that I’m making the guys around me better.”At first glance, the favorite would be Columbus Crew SC‘s Steffen. The 23-year-old has three caps, including a spectacular performance in a 1-1 draw against France in Lyon in early June.“It’s a feeling of motivation to get out there and get better and push yourself each day to learn from the coaching staff and players on the field,” Steffen said Tuesday. “We have a long road ahead of us and every spot is open for grabs. We just got to go into training everyday and train like you want to be out there.”After a stellar MLS Cup-winning season a year ago, the 24-year-old Bono has had a rollercoaster third season with Toronto. Clint Irwin has started the last two games — a pair of losses to the Portland Timbers and LAFC — and the defending champions have struggled throughout a trying campaign.

But he views the change of scenery with the USMNT as a positive and something he hopes he can take back with him for the stretch drive of the MLS season. “Obviously I want to have success when I’m in Toronto,” Bono said. “It’s not something that’s easy to push aside, but the change of environment is definitely nice to refresh and get a new staff and some new guys around you to kind of reset yourself and make sure when I get back to Toronto, I’m bringing that confidence back with me and getting geared up for the rest of the season.”Just like the rest of the young core who are hoping to be the backbone of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle, the goalkeepers see these games as a chance to prove they belong. “I think it’s important for us as young players within the national team to take with us that it’s our path to create for ourselves,” Bono said. “We have to rely on ourselves to make sure that we continue to get called in and we continue to progress with the national team.”

International break W2W4: Nations League takes its first steps, world champions meet

Sep 5, 2018Nick AmesESPN.com writer

With the international break upon us, and friendlies and Nations League action beginning on Thursday, Nick Ames looks ahead to the biggest story lines of the week of international football.

UEFA’s new brainchild takes its first steps

European football’s governing body must have been doing cartwheels at the way in which this summer’s World Cup breathed life back into international football. It means the first round of Nations League fixtures holds genuine allure, with the prospect of the matches themselves providing more talking points than the competition’s labyrinthine structure. If games like France vs. Germany, England vs. Spain and — next week — Portugal vs. Italy serve up some memorable action, then the prospects will look good, although there are questions lower down the ladder, too.

UEFA Nations League full draw
Watch on ESPN networks in the U.S.
Schedule: Sep. 6 | Sep. 7 | Sep. 8 | Sep. 9 | Sep. 10 | Sep. 11

For teams like Luxembourg and Moldova, who face each other in League D on Saturday, the stakes are higher than you might expect. Fare well in the next 10 days and suddenly a shot at backdoor Euro 2020 qualification looks a distinct possibility. Fail to pick up points and the risk is that by the end of this international break that prospect has already receded, leaving the losers with what would effectively be four unappetising friendlies against lowly opponents.This competition’s format allows traditional minnows a realistic chance of the limelight, but for many of them the danger is that it will not stay interesting for very long. The immediate measure of its success, though, will no doubt be the extent to which it captures the big guns’ imaginations.

Old and new world champions meet

How quickly the mood has changed around both Germany and France. Thursday’s hosts have spent their summer soul searching after their disastrous World Cup exit, and Joachim Low was in full “mea culpa” mode in dissecting their downfall last week. The row around Mesut Ozil’s departure from international football has hardly helped either, and Germany could do with a win — or at least a rousing performance — in Munich to stop the storm clouds growing darker. The fact that their opponents have only just replaced them as world champions should focus a few minds.For their part, France still feel jubilant after their triumph in Moscow and will not want to let up now. They did not always thrill on their way to the trophy but were worthy winners. Such is their depth of quality that they should be aiming to achieve the kind of dynastic success that once seemed to be within Germany’s grasp. That will be the next big test for Didier Deschamps, who answered many of his critics with his own performance in Russia. The Allianz Arena, and the curtain-raiser to a brand-new competition, would not be a bad stage to announce that France are in this for the long haul.

England seek to build on summer of smiles

The feelgood factor around England’s national team sprang up from almost nowhere, and Gareth Southgate wants to keep the good times rolling. He has been faithful to the core of the squad that took them to the semifinals in Russia, missing only Ashley Young — who has been dropped from the squad — the injured Raheem Sterling and recent virtual retirees Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill.Continuity is king for now and, on Saturday, Spain will provide an opportune test of the lessons they learned during the summer. A harsh reading of England’s performance would be that they ultimately fell short when they faced opposition of genuine quality — in the form of Belgium, twice, and Croatia — so it would do no harm to set down a marker now against visitors with their own point to prove.Spain, now under the charge of Luis Enrique, need to clear the cobwebs from a World Cup that was effectively over when Julen Lopetegui was sent home on its eve. It is a new era for them after the international retirements of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and David Silva; winning at Wembley would not be a bad way to show that their new coach can manage the transition.

Denmark dispute spills into farce

So far so good, then, where Nations League storylines are concerned. How strange and unfortunate that it is Denmark, not exactly a football country you would associate with upheaval, who stand to add a farcical element to proceedings.Unless a dispute surrounding their first-choice squad’s commercial rights is solved — and time is fast running out for that — they will field a team of low-ranking domestic-based players for a friendly with Slovakia and a Nations League tie with Wales. Instead of Christian Eriksen and Kasper Schmeichel, their opponents can expect to face players from the Danish second tier and, according to some reports, the country’s futsal squad. The latter should, at least, not be found wanting technically.There will be a familiar face in the dugout, with former Arsenal midfielder John Jensen stepping in for Age Hareide, who will not take up his own position either. How unseemly it all appears, although the door has been left open for a last-minute change of heart.”Let’s renew the old [commercial] deal by one month,” Eriksen said. “Sign up and we will sit on the plane immediatelyCameroon, newly coached by Clarence Seedorf and his assistant Patrick Kluivert, will be well advised to take their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Comoros seriously. As things stand, they are effectively a “ghost” team in Group B, their qualification for next year’s tournament assured through their status as hosts. But the doubts about that are growing: the Confederation of African Football president, Ahmad Ahmad, admitted last month that he is “not sure Cameroon is ready to host the AFCON,” with a number of stadiums running late and facilities for the expanded tournament barely up to scratch. Instability in the English-speaking areas of the country is also an issue.A decision should be made by the end of the month, with Morocco mooted as a late stand-in. It certainly adds to the early pressure on the Indomitable Lions’ Dutch pair.There are big games elsewhere, too. Nigeria must win in Seychelles to keep pace with Libya and South Africa in Group E, while Ivory Coast and Egypt are seeking three points against Rwanda and Niger respectively to make amends for poor starts of their own. The big hitters will not want to miss out on next summer’s carnival. Where it will take place, though, is anyone’s guess.

What is the UEFA Nations League and how does it work? A complete guide

4 Sep, 2018Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The UEFA Nations League will begin this week, and you can check out the draw. Here’s a guide for all you need to know about the new competition.

What is the UEFA Nations League?

It is a competition between the 55 member nations of UEFA, created because “UEFA and its associations wanted more sporting meaning in national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competitionfor national teams.”

So this means there are no more international friendlies?

There will definitely be far fewer, though there are still a couple of spaces in the calendar. For instance, the top nations will play four fixtures across three international weeks over the next three months, and this will leave two spare dates for international friendlies.

However, Euro 2020 qualifying takes place through 2019 in March, June, September, October and November with two games each month, so the majority of teams (and almost all major nations) will not have free international dates for friendlies next year.

When does it start?

The group games will all be played on the six international dates between September and November 2018.

Matchday 1: Sept. 6-8, 2018
Matchday 2: Sept. 9-11, 2018
Matchday 3: Oct. 11-13, 2018
Matchday 4: Oct. 14-16, 2018
Matchday 5: Nov. 15-17, 2018
Matchday 6: Nov. 18-20, 2018

What format does it take?

The 55 nations were split into four “Leagues.” The strongest nations are in League A, and the weakest in League D.

League A and B: Four groups of three nations (12 teams)
League C: Three groups of four nations, and one group of three (15)
League D: Four groups of four nations (16)

Teams within each group will play each other home and away over the three international weeks.

What about promotion and relegation?

Yes. The winners of each group in Leagues B, C and D will move up, while the nations bottom of Leagues A, B and C will drop down for the next edition of the Nations League, which will be 2020-21.

Will there actually be UEFA Nations League champions?

Yes. The four group winners from League A will playoff in knockout format — semifinals, third-place match and final — in June 2019, with all four matches being played in one host European country chosen from the finalists. Italy, Poland and Portugal have all submitted bids, and as these three countries are in the same Nations League group one will definitely host the finals. Only nations in League A can go on to be overall Nations League champions.

Finals draw: early December 2018
Finals: June 5-9, 2019

How were teams ranked?

The pots are based on UEFA’s national association coefficient rankings released on Oct. 11, 2017. This is different to the FIFA Ranking, only factors in competitive games and gives more credit for scoring goals and deducts points for conceding them.

Why take the Nations League seriously?

Firstly, it will decide each nation’s ranking for the Euro 2020 qualifying draw — so 10 of the 12 nations in League A are guaranteed to be top seeds, but Leagues B and C will each split almost down the middle to create the lower-ranked pots. The better you perform in the Nations League, then you might get a more favourable draw in Euro 2020 qualifying.Also, there is the “second chance” via the Euro 2020 playoffs (see below) as another carrot, creating a safety net if your Euro 2020 qualifying campaign goes badly wrong.But it does remain to be seen just how seriously the bigger nations will take it, considering they are highly likely to be to seeded in the Euro 2020 qualifying draw anyway, and they will feel they are going to make the finals regardless.

So what happens with Euro 2020 qualifying?

A few things. First, rather than starting in September 2018 as it usually would, it is pushed back to March 2019 through to November 2019.

Secondly, as stated above, the final positions and records from the UEFA Nations League will be used to rank nations for the Euro 2020 qualifying draw, which takes place on Dec. 2, 2018. So the four group winners from League A, who go through to the playoffs, will be ranked 1-4, and the other nations from League A will fill places 5-12. That will go down to the worst team in League D in 55th. These positions will be used to form the draw pots.This is where it gets a little more complicated — so stay with us.The qualifying draw will create five groups of five teams and five groups of six teams. The four group winners from League A will be drawn into a group of five, enabling June 2019 to be left free for the UEFA Nations League finals.Now it gets even more complicated…

How do the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs work?

In qualifying for Euro 2016, the eight best third-placed teams from regular qualifying went into November playoffs (similar to the World Cup qualifying playoffs last November).For Euro 2020, the playoff teams will be plucked from the UEFA Nations League. The winners of the four groups in each League will by right go into the playoffs. However, 20 nations will have already booked a place in the finals via regular qualifying, and many of these are likely to be UEFA Nations League group winners too, so it will be the best-placed nation in each group that has not yet qualified who enters the playoffs. If every team in a group/league has qualified, then the next best performing team from that League, or the League below, will take part in the playoffs.

Important dates:

UEFA Euro 2020 play-off draw: Nov. 22, 2019
UEFA Euro 2020 play-offs: March 26-31, 2020

Deep breath. We’re nearly there….

These 16 nations, four from each League, will then play off against other teams from their own League in March 2020 for the final four places at Euro 2020. Thus, one nation each from Leagues A, B, C and D who failed to qualify directly for Euro 2020 will go through via the playoffs.

Will this make any difference?

Yes it will. Most importantly it’s going to give nations who never previously had a real shot of qualifying a chance to make Euro 2020 — and subsequent finals if the idea is a success.Take a look at the nations in League D — and remember that four nations from that League will enter the March 2020 playoffs with the winners guaranteed to go to the finals. These are worst 16 teams in UEFA, and one of them is going to qualify — Azerbaijan, FYR Macedonia, Belarus and Georgia are currently the highest-rated nations. It’s a similar story for League C, with most nations having rarely, or never, appeared at a finals — one of these teams will be there too. It gives hope to Scotland that they can qualify for their first tournament since 1998.

Is the competition a one-off?

No, the next Nations League is due to begin in September 2020, with new divisions based on promotion and relegation, though there is no information at present about how this could affect qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Why a proposed Global Nations League would outshine the World Cup

9:15 AM ETSimon KuperESPN.com writer

We’ve entered a new era in soccer. It’s the debut of the UEFA Nations League, a competition of national teams played throughout the continent. There’s everything from England-Spain at Wembley in the league’s top division, to Liechtenstein-Gibraltar in Vaduz in the bottom one. Meanwhile, international soccer officials are plotting to spread the Nations League across the planet. The idea is that every continent would host its own Nations League, and these would culminate in something even more interesting: a Global Nations League for the winners from each continent.This is a big deal — so big, in fact, it might one day even marginalize the World Cup.

The Nations League would mostly change the sport for the better. National-team soccer, overshadowed by clubs for at least 10 months a year, aims to come roaring back. So what is happening, and why?About five years ago, some officials at the European soccer association UEFA, including its then secretary general, Gianni Infantino, cooked up the UEFA Nations League. The plan was to clear out the dead space in international soccer. For decades, Europe’s national teams spent too much time playing languid friendly matches or dreary qualifiers: Germany thrashes San Marino, France beats Luxembourg, and nobody cares.The UEFA Nations League will be more competitive and exciting. It divides countries into four divisions, based on strength. The top division this fall includes groups like France-Germany-Netherlands, and Spain-Croatia-England. In the fourth division, you’ll find groups such as Azerbaijan-Faroe Islands-Malta-Kosovo.In June, the four winners of the top groups will play off to see who wins the Nations League. The tournament will also help allocate some qualifying spots for Euro 2020. Everyone will have something to play for: teams that finish bottom of their group in the Nations League will get relegated; in the lower tiers, the top teams will get promoted.Fans will probably love it. Far more people care about national teams than clubs: TV audiences for big World Cup matches dwarf those for big Champions League matches. The only problem is the lack of supply of top-class international soccer. England and Spain, for instance, haven’t met in a competitive match since 1996. Their encounter at Wembley on Saturday will have fans buzzing worldwide.The Nations League won’t mean more games for international players, just better games. If it succeeds, the format could quickly become unstoppable. CONCACAF, the confederation for north and central America, has decided to launch its Nations League in 2019. The biggest Asian federations are thought to want a version, too.Then the winners of each continental league would meet in the global Nations League. Imagine a short eight-team tournament once every two years featuring, say, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, the U.S., Morocco, France, Spain and Germany. It would replace the mostly ignored, lossmaking and frankly pathetic Confederations Cup.The only question is who would own the Global Nations League. When the Europeans of UEFA came up with the idea, they wanted to organise it among continental confederations, leaving almost no role for FIFA. But then Infantino, who in 2016 had become president of FIFA, decided to kidnap the plan. He saw the Global Nations League as a new source of funds for FIFA, which has long been almost a single-product company: it gets 90 percent of its revenues from the men’s World Cup. And FIFA needs cash, given that it has lost several mostly western sponsors following its corruption scandals.By this spring, a consortium of huge investors had agreed to put up $25 billion to fund Nations League on every continent, plus the Global Nations League and a bigger, better Club World Cup. Infantino called it “the — by far — highest investment soccer has ever seen.”Under FIFA’s plan, the eight countries that played in the Global Nations League could expect to make $37.5 million to $75 million each. For comparison: Germany got $4.1 million for winning last year’s Confederations Cup. In return for all this lovely new cash, the consortium expected to control Nations Leagues until 2033. However, in true opaque FIFA tradition, Infantino refused to reveal who his funders were. At a meeting in Bogota, Colombia in March, he nonetheless pressured FIFA’s ruling council to rubberstamp his plan within 60 days. The council said no, for the moment. UEFA was irritated, too. “We had an idea about a possible Global Nations League,” its president, Aleksander Ceferin, told the German magazine Kicker. “We first presented it to the FIFA president, then to national associations and to clubs. And all of a sudden FIFA comes and says they are ready to sell it, our idea, to a fund without any explanations. It is really a strange offer.”Meanwhile, my colleagues at the Financial Times newspaper broke through the shroud of non-disclosure agreements to reveal that FIFA’s scheme was funded by Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank with other investors from China and Saudi Arabia. In reality, most of the influence is Saudi. The soccer-mad petro-state is jealous of its tiny neighbour Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup. The Saudis want to make a landgrab of their own, including hosting the first Global Nations League. Infantino is a frequent visitor to the Gulf state, where he has become chummy with the ruling young crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman (“MBS”).

UEFA Nations League full draw Watch on ESPN networks in the U.S.
Schedule: Sep. 6 | Sep. 7 | Sep. 8 | Sep. 9 | Sep. 10 | Sep. 11

Given the squabble over ownership, the Global Nations League may not even happen. If it does — and the idea is so lucrative that it probably will — it wouldn’t start until about 2022. But once the global event embeds itself in the calendar, it has the potential to surpass the World Cup in prestige and attention (much as the World Cup from 1930 surpassed the Olympic soccer tournament).Right now, the World Cup is by some estimates the most watched event of any kind. But its status is shakier than it looks. Its average audience per match has fallen this century in countries such as Portugal, Spain and Argentina, chiefly because many games have disappeared from free-to-air TV onto pay channels.And FIFA has made another decision that seems almost designed to put off fans: starting in 2026, it is expanding the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.The Euros, also recently expanded, have shown that more means worse. The average group game at 24-team Euro 2016 attracted 23 percent fewer viewers than at 16-team Euro 2012, according to consultancy Futures Sport. That was partly because most of the eight additional qualifiers were weak teams playing defensive soccer. At Euro 2016, average goals per game dropped to 2.12, a 20-year-low for the competition. A 48-team World Cup will probably also feature lots of boring Cinderellas. There simply aren’t enough good national teams to justify such a big tournament. This summer’s World Cup showed that Africa and Asia, in particular, don’t deserve more berths: only one of these continents’ 10 representatives, Japan, even squeaked into the second round.”There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting soccer in a country than participating in a World Cup,” Infantino has said. But not if it’s a dull World Cup, which would be outshone in quality by a Global Nations League. Viewers may get into the habit of watching the World Cup only from the knockout stage. And very few countries have the stadiums to host a 48-team competition.FIFA expanded the World Cup chiefly for the money. The bigger tournament will produce more income from broadcasters, sponsors and ticket sales. Much of that cash will go to the 211 national federations. But a bigger World Cup means a diminished World Cup. Luckily, fans should be able to console themselves with the Global Nations League. Its winners may eventually come to be regarded as the true world champions.A decade from now, we may look back on September 2018 as the month that soccer changed … for the better.

U.S. women prep for qualifying as 2019 World Cup field takes shape

By Graham Hays | Sep 5, 2018espnW.com

Labor Day weekend marks at least the symbolic end of summer in the United States, but recent days found the soccer world already hard at work on preparations for next summer.With European qualifying now complete, save a four-team playoff for one final spot, we know 15 of 24 teams that will compete in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. We also now know the path the U.S. women will need to navigate in CONCACAF qualifying next month to add their own reservation. From qualifying drama across the Atlantic Ocean to new schedule entries for the United States and final warm-ups for qualifying against Chile, here’s a look at what changed in the past week.

U.S. women (still) control their own path to France

At least if things go terribly wrong for the United States in qualifying, it can still salvage matters with a result against Trinidad and Tobago in its final group game. That always works out well.

The truth is that as much as the recent U.S. men’s qualifying disaster was a reminder not to take even seemingly simple qualifying assignments for granted, the draw for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship is necessary but not illuminating. Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago join the United States in one group in Cary, North Carolina, while Costa Rica, Cuba and Jamaica join Canada in Edinburg, Texas.

Who has qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup?

Asia (5): Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand

Europe (8): England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden

South America (2): Brazil, Chile

Yes, the U.S. women got arguably the least favorable draw possible. It not only ended up in the same group as Mexico but opens with that game, thereby missing out on any chance to play itself into the tournament. But the team most likely to get in the way in the group stage was never Mexico or any of the six teams that joined the United States and Canada in the field. The biggest risk at that stage has always been, and remains, the U.S. women getting in their own way.As long as that doesn’t happen, this is all a matter of scheduling. Dating back to 2010, when then-host Mexico famously stunned the Americans in qualifying, the United States is not only unbeaten in 10 games against its neighbor but outscored it 43-4. Yes, Mexico scored three of those goals in a pair of games this year and was entertaining in the process, but it also conceded 10 goals.And imagine a disaster scenario in which the U.S. women lose to Mexico in the opening game of the group, finish second and then lose to Canada in a semifinal. They would still need only win the third-place game to reach the World Cup — or lose that game and beat Argentina in a playoff. If they somehow failed to do any of those things, there would be much bigger problems than missing one World Cup.CONCACAF is still too top heavy, with too many paths to the World Cup, for the United States to fail.If only that didn’t sound so familiar.

USWNT warms up for qualifying

Two comfortable wins against Chile, already booked to its first World Cup, offered nothing that suggested the United States is ill prepared for its own upcoming qualification endeavors.The Americans at peak form might have finished a few more chances — and arguably did finish more than the referee allowed in an opening game that begged for video replay. But even with Megan Rapinoe injured, the available rotation was both abundant and effective around Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz, who are locks down the spine of the field. Rose Lavelle played a lot of minutes and created a lot of defensive disarray. Carli Lloyd looked more and more comfortable in a No. 9 role in the second half of each game. Any extended absence for McCall Zerboni, who left Tuesday’s game with a broken elbow, is deeply depressing with regard to someone whose particular skill set and personality were carving out a place on the roster (and worse news, still, for the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage ahead of the playoffs). But that mixing and matching in midfield and the forward line is likely to continue through qualifying and beyond. It’s a feature, not a bug.What Kelley O’Hara’s return at right back after a six-month absence underscored was how much the back line also remains a rotation, which seems at least unusual if not also a little worrisome.O’Hara and Crystal Dunn seem at the moment like the odds-on favorites to start at outside back next summer, but they have yet to play on the same back line this year. Dunn and Rapinoe have developed good chemistry on the left side but Dunn and Tobin Heath, the other player who will see time on the left side, have barely played together since Dunn’s return to defense. (It’s worth noting, in the spirit of all ideas eventually being new again, that Dunn also played outside back the last time the U.S. women warmed up for qualifying in 2014, but was subsequently injured.)Tierna Davidson and Becky Sauerbrunn, who Julie Foudy identified Tuesday as the favorites to start at center back next month in an assessment many would reasonably sign on to co-sponsor, have started together just five times. For that matter, Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper, who spent 2017 developing chemistry, have started together as center backs just once in 2018.And that isn’t even getting to Casey Short, who came out Tuesday with an apparent injury, and Emily Sonnett, who figures to see ample minutes in qualifying with O’Hara still rounding into form.Chile didn’t pose the back line many problems. It remains to be seen how many CONCACAF opponents, save Canada, will pose. But it also remains to be seen if the United States will settle on a favored four any time soon.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN CLAIM THREE POINTS AGAINST NEW YORK RED BULLS II, 3-0

By James Higdon, 09/06/18, 12:00AM EDT   “Indiana’s Team” retain nine-game undefeated streak with a clean sheet

ndy Eleven march away with three points after a clean sheet victory over New York Red Bulls II, 3-0. The “Boys in Blue” end a seven-game stretch in 22 days with a win after a brace from forward Eugene Starikov and a goal from defender Reiner Ferreira in the first half. The team remains unbeaten in nine games, having last lost against Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 21.“I think it was one of our best performances of the season,” said Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “I think we started the game well. We scored three great goals and managed the game and defended very well after that.”“Indiana’s Team” obtained the lead just 101 seconds after the match started. Eleven midfielder Dylan Mares chipped a pass deep into New York’s penalty box after winning possession near the edge of the field in the opposition’s half. Starikov was on the receiving end of the pass when he managed a shot as he slid into the six-yard box. The Ukrainian’s light touch was just enough to put the ball into the lower left corner of the net. The goal was Starikov’s first of the night and Mares’ first assist since returning to the Circle City last month.Red Bulls II attempted to respond in the fifth minute. Forward Andreas Ivan put his free kick attempt on target from the top Indy’s 18-yard box, but Eleven keeper Owain Fon Williams leapt up and knocked the shot away from the frame. The 31-year-old keeper also managed a massive save in the 60th minute with Red Bulls II midfielder Andrew Tinari’s shot off a crossbar deflection.Fon Williams’ stellar performance, which included four saves throughout the 90 minutes, saw the Welshman tally his 10th clean sheet of 2018.Indy’s lead doubled in the 21st minute. Midfielder Matt Watson played a cross forward into New York’s box after gaining control of defender Carlyle Mitchell’s interception. There was only enough time for the ball to bounce once before Starikov rushed in for another shot on goal, this time into the upper left corner of the goal.“He’s been scoring quite a lot when he’s been available,” said Rennie. “Unfortunately, he’s had a few injuries and he was out for a long time. Once we got him back he started scoring and once we got him back he was off for a little bit with a fever, but stopped him playing for a couple games. So he’s not had that kind of rhythm but showed what he can do and that was clinical for us.”Starikov’s two goals were his fourth and fifth on the season, respectively. With five goals, Starikov is Indy Eleven’s second highest goal scorer of the season, trailing behing forward Jack McInerney’s nine on the year.Indy scored its third and the final goal of the match in the 43rd minute. Midfielder broke away on a solo run into New York’s half. His eventual shot was knocked out of the Red Bulls II box by keeper Evan Louro, only to be collected by Mares. Quick passing play to midfielder Seth Moses led to another short pass to Ferreira at the top of New York’s box. Ferreira fought through three defenders for his shot that landed in the bottom right corner of the net.The goal was Ferreira’s first and Moses’ first assist since the pair signed with the “Boys in Blue” before the start of the season.Indy’s 3-0 victory concludes the longest run of back-to-back games in the club’s history. The team resumes play in seven days on the road against Penn FC, giving the team much needed downtime before continuing its playoff push.“I think first of all its get some good rest. Be thankful that we’ve gone unbeaten in nine games, in that seven game spell. Be thankful that we’re moving at the right time and becoming a stronger team,” Rennie said. “At the same time, we’ve got a lot of work to do and to build on what we’ve been doing well. We’ve got a lot of improvement I think we can make and it puts us in a good place. I think it gives us that kind of confidence boost I think we needed because we’ve had to grind so hard for every single point we’ve got.”The “Boys in Blue” return home on Wednesday, September 26, for Faith and Family Night against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Fans can claim tickets to the midweek match at IndyEleven.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

USL Regular Season –Indy Eleven 3:0 New York Red Bulls II
Wednesday, September 5, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.  Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Indiana

Scoring Summary:

IND – Eugene Starikov (Dylan Mares) 2′
IND – Eugene Starikov (Matt Watson) 21′
IND – Reiner Ferreira (Seth Moses) 43′

Indy Eleven lineup (4-3-3, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Reiner Ferreira, Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette, Brad Russin, Dylan Mares, Nico Matern (Brad Ring 65′) , Matt Watson (C), Eugene Starikov (Jack McInerney 75′), Seth Moses, Elliot Collier (Soony Saad 83′)Indy Eleven bench: Lundgaard (GK); Brad Ring, Ayoze Garcia, Ben Speas, Juan Guerra, Soony Saad, Jack McInerney

New York Red Bulls II lineup (4-3-3, L–>R): Evan Louro (GK), Lucas Stauffer (Niko De Vera 90′), Kevin Politz, Ndam Hassan(C), Ethan Kutler, Chris Lima, Andrew Tinari, Jose Aguinaga, Andreas Ivan (Jared Stroud 58′), Anatole Abang (Tom Barlow 72′), Brian WhiteNew York Red Bulls II bench: Scott Levene (GK), Niko Ve Vera, Jordan Scarlett, Steven Echevarria, Jared Stroud, Amando Moreno, Tom Barlow

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