6/19/20  EPL Returns Huge Game today, MLS Tourney July 8, Carmel FC Tryouts Mon afternoon 6/22

So the EPL  is back which of course means that bad calls not overturned by VAR is back.  Yes in the first game back – Aston Villa gave up a goal to Sheffield United (well the GK fell into the goal with the ball) but evidently Goal Line Technology didn’t work (the ref pointing to his watch to say no).  However anyone who could see the replay VAR – it was painfully obvious it was a goal. Hell the keeper knew – he looked up and just threw the ball out and thanked his lucky stars.  I have no problem with it being missed on the field – it was a bang bang play with his own player pushing him into the goal – but the replay was obvious.   If VAR isn’t going to fix this – a 1-0 win turning into a 0-0 tie – costing Sheffield 2 pts in the table moving them down from 6th to 7th possibly.  Just Ridiculous.  Somehow VAR works just fine in almost all countries in the world – except in the EPL?  The “  “ biggest league in the world somehow can’t figure out how to use friggin replay.  Come-on guys get a clue.  Technology – ah dah.  Awesome news that the Champions League is returning with an elite 8 single game elimination tourney in Lisbon, Portugal in August.   The NWSL becomes the first pro team sport in the US to return to play on June 27th and I am thrilled that the opening game will be on Saturday at 12:30 I think on CBS.  However the rest of the entire tourney being limited to CBS online –($6 a month) really ticks me off.  With NO American Sports on TV – why not play more games on CBS – or at least CBS SportsNetwork – which has literally NO live sports programming now?  Why not show the games on that network and online for those who do have CBSSN.  And why not put a game or two on CBS on the weekends – maybe if Saturday’s TV Audience shows up for the 27th 12:30 game CBS might change their minds.

Turning to the field – my favorite GK Gigi Buffon at the ripe young age of 42 – was his normal legendary self in the Copa Italian Final as Juventus was playing Napoli.  Buffon made a spectacular save at the end of the first half and again in extra time down the stretch as he made back to back saves – to keep the goose-egg on the board for Juve.  However in the shootout Juve’s first 2 shooters blew it and Juve and Buffon lost 4-2 on PKs.  A heartbreaking end for what might have been the legend’s last shot at an Italian Cup.

This Weekend Top Games

Tottenham will host Man United in a huge game with Champions League implications today at 3:15 pm as the Spurs welcome leading scorer Harry Kane back from injury.  The only other sort of big EPL game of the weekend has Everton hosting league leading Liverpool in the Mersyside Derby Sunday at 2 pm on NBC.  Great to finally see NBC getting a decent game for a change!! Of course we’ll see if Christian Pulisic gets time off the bench for Chelsea when they travel to Aston Villa with American youngster Indiana Vassilev on Sunday at 11:15 am on NBCSN.  Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig travel to Dortmund and hopefully a well Gio Reyna on Sat at 9:30 am.   Congrats are due to German Champions Bayern Munich who won their 8th straight title.   Of course La Liga, and the Serie A have a full weekend and next week of games on tap.   Full TV Schedule online

Carmel FC Tryouts

Tryouts for kids from U8 -U18 are Monday, June 22.  Carmel FC is a community-based club who has put tons of kids on the local high school teams at Carmel High, Guerin, University and more.  Click here for more info about CFC TryoutsTo register for tryouts/evaluations use the following link:  GotSoccer Registration
Date: June 22, 2020 for all Players
Location: Badger Fields

Times are by Birth year (These are tentative and subject to change)
Birth Years 2011 to 2014 at 5:00pm to 6:00pm 
Birth Years 2010 to 2008 at 6:15pm to 7:30pm
Birth Years 2007 to 2002 at 7:45pm to 9:00pm

To register for tryouts/evaluations use the following link:  GotSoccer Registration

Can’t make June 22nd?  Email Juergen Sommer to schedule a time on one of the following dates for supplemental tryouts.
– Tuesday June 23rd
– Monday June 29th
– Monday July 6th

WORLD

Champions League Moves Finals to Portugal for Elite 8 Single Elimination Rounds
Champions League knockout tournament in Lisbon confirmed

Europa League Return Set as World Cup style Final
Bundesliga: Takeaways from Week 31

Werner Coming to Chelsea from RB Leipzig – ESPNFC

Premier League return: the issues to resolve
Premier League restarts with goal-line howler as players take knee

Tottenham v Man United preview: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Premier League returns with social issues high on the agenda

Premier League return: Previews of all 20 teams

Statement on Aston Villa v Sheffield United VAR, Goal Decision System error

USA

Bruce Arena Weighs in on Anthem Playing and Qualification for US Team
2020 Golden Boy award shortlist announced
– 2 US Players on List

Eric Leiija to leaves Hull City during Break

Eric Wynalda Fired as Las Vegas Lights Coach

Biggest Threats to USWNT Throne – ESPNFC

MLS
Kevin Durant joins ownership group of MLS’ Philadelphia Union

Groups Announced for MLS Tourney – LA Teams in Same Group

MLS Tourney Details on Groups Stages

Indy 11

Club Statement on Black Lives Matter

USL Set to Resume Season July 11

Indy 11 Special to Support Healthcare Workers

Indy 11 Racing Indiana Jersey Released

Raising Their Voyce: Zack Steffen, Legion FC’s Crognale Team on New Initiative

Louisville FC Training Facility Plans Released

From the Pitch –Birmingham’s Asst Coach Talks BLM

GoalKeeping

Legendary Gigi Buffon

Great Saves Last Week

Best Keeper Saves Last Year’s Champions League

Spectacular Saves from Champions League Past

Evolution of the GK Position

Christine Endler Chile/PSG Great Saves 2020

Workouts You Can Do at Home 1

Workouts at Home 3

GAMES ON TV 

Fri,  June 19 

1 pm NBCSN                                     Norwich vs Southampton  

1:30 pm beIN  Sport                         Granada vs Villareal

3:15 pm NBCSN                                Tottenham vs Man United

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Sevilla vs Barcelona

Sat,  June 20 

7:30 am NBCSN                                 Watford vs Leicester City

9:30 am Fox Sport1                          Bayern Munich vs Frieburg

9:30 am FS2                                        RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10 am NBCSN                                    Brighton Hove Albion vs Aresnal

12:30 pm NBC                                    Wet Han vs Wolverhampton

Sun,  June 21

9 am NBCSN                                    New Castle (Yedllin) vs Sheffeld United 

11:15 am NBCSN                            Aston Villa vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

2 pm NBC                                         Everton vs Liverpool 

4 pm beIN Sport                               Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid

Mon,  June 22

3 pm NBCSN                                     Man City vs Burnley 

1:30 pm EPSN+                                  Leccee vs Milan 

3:45 pm EPSN+                                  Bologna vs Juventus

Tues,  June 23

1 pm NBCSN                                     Liecester City vs Brighton

3:15 pm NBCSN                                Tottenham vs West Ham

6 pm beIN Sport                              Barcelona vs Athletic Club

Wed ,  June 24

1 pm NBCSN                                     Man United vs Sheffield United 

3 pm NBCSN                                     Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

Thurs ,  June 25

1 pm NBCSN                                     Southampton vs Aresnal

3:15 pm NBCSN                               Chelsea vs Man City 

Fri  June 26

3:45 pm ESPN+                                  Juventus vs Lecce 

Sat,  June 27 

7:30 am NBCSN                                 Aston Villa v. Wolves, 7:30 a.m. NBCSN

9:30 am Fox Sport1                          Dortmund (Reyna) vs Hoffenhiem

9:30 am FS2                                        Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm ESPN+                                FA Cup Norwich City vs Man United

12:30 pm CBS                                      North Carolina vs Portland Thorns NWSL      

Sun, June 28

5 pm CBSSN                                         Orlando Pride vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL

Sunday, June 28:                       Watford v. Southampton, 11:30 a.m. NBCSN
Monday, June 29:                            Crystal Palace v. Burnley, 3 p.m. NBCSN
Tuesday, June 30:                            Brighton v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. NBCSN
Wednesday, July 1:                         Arsenal v. Norwich, 1 p.m. NBCSN
Wednesday, July 1:                         West Ham v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday, July 2:                    Sheffield United v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday, July 2:                    Man City v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. NBCSN, *

Wed, July 8                                                            MLS Returns

NWSL Challenge Cup schedule

NC Courage vs Portland Thorns FC | June 27 | 12:30 pm CBS

OL Reign vs Sky Blue FC | July 1 10 am | CBS Sports Network,

NC Courage vs Houston Dash| July 2 10 am  | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

C Courage vs Utah Royals FC | July 12 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup quarter finals | July 17-18 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup semi finals | July 22 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup final | July 26 | CBS

Champions League knockout tournament in Lisbon confirmed

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports•June 17, 2020

The dates and details have been confirmed for a UEFA Champions League straight-knockout tournament held in Lisbon, Portugal in August to conclude the 2019-20 competition.UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin announced the news Wednesday, as the tournament will take place from August 12-23. The Champions League was halted on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.The quarterfinals and semifinals will be one-off games instead of the usual two-legged format, while the remaining last 16 games will be played on August 7-8 either at home stadiums or either Porto or Guimares in Portugal if that is not possible.

Below are the Champions League dates, schedule and venue details for how the tournament will work, as UEFA also said they will make a decision in early July about whether or not fans will be allowed to attend. Ceferin said the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is ‘changing rapidly’ and UEFA will adjust accordingly in the coming weeks.The UEFA Champions League 2020-21 tournament will continue as planned, with the 2021 final now in Istanbul (the original 2020 final host), with Saint Petersburg the hosts for the 2022 final, Munich 2023 and Wembley 2024.All games will kick off at 3 p.m. ET for the remainder of the Champions League this season.

UEFA Champions League tournament schedule

August 7-8: Round of 16 second legs

Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (3-0)
Juventus v. Lyon (0-1)
Man City v. Real Madrid (2-1)
Napoli v. Barcelona (1-1)

August 12-15: Quarterfinals

Teams already qualified: Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig

August 18-19: Semifinals

August 23: Final

Venues to be used

Estadio da Luz, Benfica
Estadio Jose Alvade, Sporting Lisbon
Estadio do Dragao, Porto
Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimares

Champions League set to resume in August as Lisbon plays host to remainder of tournament

Goal.com•June 17, 2020

UEFA has announced that the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will be held in Lisbon between August 12-23.The competition is set to resume following an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic with four of the eight Round of 16 second-leg ties still left to be played.The remaining second-leg matches will be played on August 7-8, with a decision still to be made on whether they will take place at the home team’s stadiums or in Portugal.Paris Saint-Germain, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig have already solidified their place in the quarter-final round, which will take place between August 12-15 at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and the Estadio Jose Alvalade.The semi-final round will be held on August 18-19 with the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica hosting the finale on August 23.With the condensed schedule, all remaining rounds will be played as single-leg ties with extra time and penalty kicks to decide winners.Istanbul, which was originally selected host this year’s final, will now host in 2021 with St. Petersburg hosting in 2022, Munich in 2023 and London in 2024 as host cities have seen their duties pushed back by one year.The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played as a straight knock-out tournament in  Germany, with Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen serving as hosts.In addition to the continuation of club competitions, UEFA confirmed that the 12 original host cities for Euro 2020 have been confirmed as venues for the rescheduled tournament in 2021.“I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans’ absence for long and that they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.“UEFA took a bold decision when it decided to postpone EURO 2020.  But in doing so, we created the space which has allowed domestic club competitions across the continent to resume, where possible, and play to a conclusion.  While the game has suffered huge difficulties as a result of the pandemic, those blows would have landed much harder if we had not shown leadership in those early days.“The football community has worked together and shown tremendous unity during this unprecedented crisis. I would like to thank FIFA, our sister confederations, national associations, clubs, leagues, players and the relevant authorities for their continuous support and commitment and I am convinced that we come out of this crisis stronger and with closer links than ever before.

Bayern’s eighth straight Bundesliga title is both incredible and a problem

When it comes to underscoring Bayern Munich‘s dominance over German football, you can pick your poison. There’s the fact that the Bundesliga was formed in 1963 and the Bavarians have won it more times (29) than every other German team combined. There’s the fact that the Meisterschale they won Tuesday night is their eighth consecutive league title, and they won their previous seven by an average of 14.6 points. There’s the fact that since the Bundesliga moved to three points for a win 25 years ago, Bayern have recorded seven of the eight highest points totals in history in each of the past seven seasons. (Assuming they win one of their final two games, they’ll make it eight of nine.)

But perhaps the most remarkable fact is that they’ve dominated (again) despite so many things not going according to plan. For the second time in three years, they fired their manager in midseason, replacing him with an experienced assistant who hadn’t actually been a No. 1 since 2005.

They suffered injuries in key roles: their record signing, Lucas Hernandez, made only nine league starts, and their second-most expensive signing, Corentin Tolisso, only seven. Niklas Sule, who was supposed to partner Hernandez, suffered a season-ending injury in October. Philippe Coutinho — who is costing them close to $30 million a year in wages and loan fees and was supposed to play a critical role — turned out to be a bust, lasting 90 minutes in a league game only twice since early October. And, until last month, their goalkeeper and captain, Manuel Neuer, was in contract limbo, refusing to extend his deal after they locked down his long-term replacement, Alexander Nubel.

And they still won the title with games to spare.And before we hear the old cliche about the paucity of the competition, consider that RB Leipzig are Champions League quarterfinalists and Borussia Dortmund, who finished just two points back last season, invested heavily in the summer adding Julian BrandtThorgan Hazard and Mats Hummels, and doubling down in January with the arrival of Emre Can and Erling Haaland.There are two ways to read this and, yes, both can be true.

The first is that Bayern’s title is a prodigious feat because of the adversity the club had to overcome. Hindsight is 20/20 and we take things for granted, but think of the number of times we’ve heard about the importance of managerial stability, about avoiding injuries, about getting the big decisions right, about spending money wisely. Well, Bayern overcame all that, going on a prodigious tear that saw them take 52 of a possible 54 points since December. Credit manager Hansi Flick, credit the players, credit the strength and determination and winning culture of the club … whatever you like. But please credit them, because winning when so much goes wrong — whether it’s your fault (Niko Kovac, Coutinho) or whether you’re just unlucky (Sule, Tolisso, Hernandez) — is something special.But the other thing worth noting is that this is not normal. And, in fact, it hasn’t been normal in the history of football until very, very recently.

European football isn’t like U.S. pro sports. There’s no pretense or expectation of a level playing field; there is an acceptance that some teams are bigger and better resourced and, therefore, will win more. And winning more creates a virtuous cycle in which they earn more money and buy better players and continue winning. Yet if a team goes through as much adversity — both external and self-inflicted — as Bayern went through this season, you reasonably expect a closer finish.Not anymore — and it’s obviously not just a Bundesliga issue. Paris Saint-Germain have won seven of the past eight titles in France, while in ItalyJuventus are competing for their ninth in a row. Barcelona or Real Madrid have won La Liga in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Even in the Premier League, where the size of the TV deal means there are more wealthy clubs, only twice in the past five seasons has a “Big Six” team finished outside the top six.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve heard all this before. A combination of factors — from globalization to the boom in commercial rights, from the growth of broadcast revenue to the Bosman rule — have led to unprecedented polarization. And this has led to the scratching of heads and a search for fixes from salary caps and luxury taxes to super leagues. Heck, you can read my own modest proposal here.A lot of this is based on two assumptions that come from opposite sides of the spectrum. One is that this is somehow morally and ethically unfair and damages the spirit of competition, which is at the heart of the concept of sport. The other is that there’s a commercial imperative to make leagues exciting and hard fought, and that some semblance of parity is good for business: After all, a league where the same guys win year after year gets boring.Both arguments have their merits, but both ignore the reality. At the risk of sounding cynical, the moral/ethical/sporting argument has little traction. The big clubs have a stranglehold on institutions at every level. From UEFA to the Premier League right down to Greece and Scotland, the big clubs dominate with the argument that they bring in most of the money so they ought to get the lion’s share of the revenue. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, but nobody is going to point that out. Especially not now, as leagues are increasingly independent of federations.As for the “bad for business” argument, the problem is simple: It hasn’t been. Germany is a perfect example. Bundesliga revenue has nearly doubled since 2012, when the current period of Bavarian hegemony began. Attendance has remained constant. Empty seats are a rare sight … obviously, before the pandemic.

Fans care about their teams and are willing to pay to see them. And while it necessarily doesn’t mean they’re happy with the lack of social mobility, it’s not enough to keep them away.There’s another wrinkle here, one that strikes deep at the differences between U.S. sports and European football — particularly the Bundesliga where, with a few exceptions, there is no single owner looking for a return on his investment. Sure, maybe the league could be more profitable with a different revenue-sharing model that gave more teams a chance to win. But when instead of an owner chasing profits, there are merely club boards whose sole goal is to reinvest everything in the club, there’s less of an urgency to milk the cow. Breaking even is more than enough.Obviously this isn’t the case everywhere and there are owners who pay themselves dividends out of club profits (the Glazer family at Manchester United are the obvious example). Elsewhere, there are others who extract money from the club in less transparent (and sometimes less salubrious) ways. But generally, the imperative is the same: Owners make their money, if they make it, when they sell the club, through capital appreciation. And their immediate return — a bit like the people who invest in thoroughbreds or America’s Cup teams — is through fame, networking and a seat at the table with other billionaire owners and private-equity guys.The reality is that two of the main drivers for a more level playing field — fans and owners — simply aren’t as strong in European football in general, but in the Bundesliga in particular. So we might as well get used to the idea of Bayern firing their manager, seeing three starters miss most of the season, spending lavishly on a superstar who turns out to be a dud and still winning the league by double digits.

USWNT’s biggest threats to the Women’s World Cup throne

On a match-for-match basis, France might have been the best team in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Jun 11, 2020  Bill Connelly  ESPN Staff Writer

In 14 combined Women’s World Cups and Olympic women’s soccer tournaments, the United States has failed to make at least the semifinals only once, losing in the quarterfinals to Sweden in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Its record is impeccable, and considering the Americans have won the past two World Cup finals by a combined 7-2, it’s safe to say they aren’t preparing to relinquish their best-in-the-world crown anytime soon.With each passing year, however, women’s soccer grows more tactically advanced. Based on how teams have played recently, and how their rosters are taking shape for 2023, let’s take a look at the 10 teams most capable of knocking the USWNT from its throne three years from now.

1. France

FIFA ranking: Third

2019 World Cup: Quarterfinals

On a match-for-match basis, France might have been the best team in the 2019 World Cup. In four matches against teams that made at least the knockout rounds, the French women averaged an expected goal (XG) differential of plus-1.62, far better than any other team in the past three tournaments. They dominated possession and were easily the most disruptive squad, averaging 13.4 possessions started in the attacking third against knockout-round teams. Opponents averaged only 5.3. If “field position” were a soccer term (and it should be), France would be a field-position master.Going by the box score, the French also probably should have beaten the U.S. in the quarterfinals. Megan Rapinoe’s early goal meant the U.S. was happy to let France possess the ball (60% of the time, with 347 completed passes compared to the 188 for the U.S.), and it could have easily backfired. France finished the 2-1 loss with double the shot attempts (20-10) and a 1.8-1.1 XG advantage. Sure, the French were at home, but at worst they were the USWNT’s equals.While a few key players might be in danger of aging out of the player pool — midfielder Gaétane Thiney (currently 34) and goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi (33) — and longtime midfielder Élise Bussaglia has already retired, France has a young and dangerous core: forwards Valérie Gauvin (24) and Kadidiatou Diani (25), attacking midfielders Delphine Cascarino (23) and Grace Geyoro (22), etc. Plus, they have the best club team in the world to call on for reinforcements. Of the 27 players to have seen action for France in the past two years, eight play for four-time defending Champions League winner Lyon.

2. England

FIFA ranking: Sixth

2019 World Cup: Fourth place

Speaking of expected goals, the tally from the United States’ 2-1 victory over England in the World Cup semifinals was England 1.8, U.S. 0.8. The U.S. went up in the 31st minute, then held on for dear life for an hour straight. Ellen White saw a goal overturned by VAR in the 69th minute, Alyssa Naeher saved a Steph Houghton penalty in the 84th minute, and the outcome was uncertain all the way to the final whistle.It was England’s second consecutive heartbreaking loss in a World Cup semifinal — it fell to Japan in 2015 via an own goal in stoppage time — but it was also a reminder of how close England is. Over the past two years, 75% of its national team minutes have gone to players who will be between the ages of 28 and 35 in 2023. While Manchester City stars White (31), Houghton (32) and Jill Scott (33) are the veterans, they should still have something to offer, and the reinforcements — Lyon’s Nikita Parris, Arsenal’s Beth Mead, Chelsea’s aptly named Bethany England — will be entering their prime.Increased investment in the Women’s Super League in England can only help. Seventeen English players have logged at least 700 minutes for the national team in the past two years, and while three play for Lyon (Parris and fullbacks Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood), 12 play in the Super League, including six from Manchester City and three from newly crowned champion Chelsea. As this league improves, so will the competition level for national team candidates.

3. Germany

FIFA ranking: Second

2019 World Cup: Quarterfinals

Easily the second-most successful country in the history of women’s soccer, Germany is, like its men’s team, really good at hanging around. In 14 total World Cups and Olympic tournaments, the German women have reached at least the semifinals nine times. It was jarring to see them knocked out by Sweden in the quarterfinals last year.They, too, could take a peaking team to the next World Cup. Of the 12 players who have logged at least 500 minutes for the national team in the past two years, 11 will be between the ages of 28 and 33 in 2023. That’s pretty much exactly where you want to be, even if it means there might be some heavy roster churn after ’23.While they’ve got key contributors playing for Lyon (midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan) and Paris Saint-Germain (midfielder Sara Däbritz), they are also able to call on two very good club teams for depth: 37 players have logged time for the national team in the past two years, 11 play for Bayern Munich and eight play for a Wolfsburg team that is currently running rampant through both the Frauen-Bundesliga and Champions League (four wins and a 22-0 scoring margin in the first two knockout rounds). Forward Alexandra Popp, midfielder Svenja Huth and defender Sara Doorsoun-Khajeh are all Wolves and all in their prime.

4. Netherlands

FIFA ranking: Fourth

2019 World Cup: Runner-up

The Netherlands have overachieved its statistics of late, but it’s hard to ignore the simple fact that the Dutch won the 2017 Euros and reached the 2019 World Cup finals. Sure, they didn’t have to face France, England or Germany last summer, but the record is still awfully impressive for a rising team that didn’t even qualify for its first World Cup until 2015.Also impressive: Vivianne Miedema. The Arsenal forward has already scored 69 goals for her country and 203 goals in her club career, and she’s 23. Arsenal teammate Daniëlle van de Donk has been a mainstay for club and country and is still only 28, and they have excellent 27-year-old wingers in Lyon’s Shanice van de Sanden and Barcelona’s Lieke Martens.So if the Dutch have big wins and big stars, how are they not higher than fourth? For starters, their XG margin while winning the 2017 Euros was only plus-0.27 per match, seventh best in the tournament. Against knockout-round teams in the World Cup last year, it was minus-0.01. That’s not much margin for error. They also don’t appear to have the depth of the teams above them here, leaning on a smaller player pool for most of their minutes.Still, with Miedema the Dutch will contend.

5. Canada

FIFA ranking: Eighth (tie)

2019 World Cup: Round of 16

Canada has easily the strangest player pool among contenders. Over the past two years, only one player currently aged between 26 and 30 (defender Shelina Zadorsky) has logged serious minutes. Quite a few mainstays, such as forward and captain Christine Sinclair, might age out of the player pool soon. But the roster is littered with players who have both carved out national team niches and signed with big clubs: Manchester City’s Janine Beckie (25), Lyon’s Kadeisha Buchanan (24), PSG’s Ashley Lawrence (24) and Jordyn Huitema (19), OL Reign’s Rebecca Quinn (24), etc. Talent shouldn’t be an issue.No one dominated the ball like Canada at the 2019 World Cup — against teams that made the knockout rounds, the Canadians averaged 61% possession and took 6 more shots per match. Against Sweden in the round of 16, they had 59% possession, completed 132 more passes and attempted three more shots, but four of them were blocked and only one was on goal. Sweden didn’t manage much more than that but scored the lone goal. It was a missed opportunity.

6. Australia

FIFA ranking: Seventh

2019 World Cup: Round of 16

No contender has given more minutes recently to younger players than Australia. Of the 12 players to log at least 500 minutes in the past two years, eight are 26 or younger. That includes best-player-in-the-world candidate Sam Kerr (26) and fullback Ellie Carpenter, who has led the Matildas in minutes over these past two years despite just recently turning 20.Maybe this means Australia won’t be ready for true title contention until 2027, when this group is in peak age range and younger, and high-upside players such as Montpellier’s Mary Fowler (17) are further developed. But depth appears decent, and Kerr — the ESPYS winner for the best international player in 2018 and 2019 — makes the Matildas dangerous at all times, even if she’s been battling injuries since joining Chelsea this past fall. A large majority of their minutes go to players in the National Women’s Soccer League, but only a couple play for the same team. That makes familiarity and continuity tricky, but the upside is high.

7. Sweden

FIFA ranking: Fifth

2019 World Cup: Third place

Like Germany, Sweden always hangs around. The Swedes reached four World Cup semifinals and have only once failed to advance out of group play. They perhaps overachieved their stats last year in reaching the finals — they had a minus-0.3 XG differential per match — but they took only great shots (79% of them were in the box, easily the most in the tournament), blocked shots and crosses and scrapped like a veteran team should.They might be a little too veteran. Of the nine players who have logged at least 800 minutes for Sweden in the past two years, six will be at least 33 in 2023. There are interesting young players in the pipeline — Wolfsburg attacking midfielders Madelen Janogy (24) and Fridolina Rolfö (26) and Chelsea fullback Jonna Andersson (27). But while Sweden’s got talent and a track record, it might find itself between generations in 2023.

8. Japan

FIFA ranking: 11th

2019 World Cup: Round of 16

Japan has a strong women’s league to call on — the Nadeshiko League employs 10 of the team’s top 11 recent minutes-earners (eight play for either Nippon TV Beleza or INAC Kobe Leonessa). And like Canada and Australia, the Japanese women have already begun to get a look at their future: 18 players have logged at least 370 national team minutes in the past two years, and 12 are 24 or younger.

As far as known quantities, though, the lineup is a bit of a mess. Forwards Yuika Sugasawa and Mana Iwabuchi have been productive, but a large cast of midfield candidates hasn’t. Among players who are in the prime age range, only Lyon center back Saki Kumagai is a truly known entity. Having lots of young options is great, but some of them have to become key contributors — and quickly.

9. Norway

FIFA ranking: 12th

2019 World Cup: Quarterfinals

One of the sport’s early powers, Norway’s women have, of late, been most notable for who doesn’t play for them. For the past three years, they have been without Lyon striker and 2018 Ballon d’Or Féminin winner Ada Hegerberg. Only 24, she has already scored 220 goals in 182 appearances for the best club in women’s soccer. She would immediately make Norway a top-eight team at worst. (At least she would once she’s recovered from her current ACL injury.) She quit the national team in 2017 in protest of poor support of the women’s squad, so her future with the squad is uncertain.

What-ifs aside, Norway still has dynamite midfielders in Chelsea’s Guro Reiten (25) and Wolfsburg’s Ingrid Engen (22). Strikers Caroline Graham Hansen, Isabell Herlovsen and Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland are decent Hederberg stand-ins. It beat Australia to reach the World Cup quarterfinals last year, and the core roster should enjoy solid continuity in 2023.

10. Spain

FIFA ranking: 13th

2019 World Cup: Round of 16 (best finish)

In terms of raw talent, Brazil should probably hold a spot on this list. But it is still alarmingly reliant on 42-year-old Formiga and 34-year-old Marta, and an iffy home league means it has players in basically every league in the world. It’s hard to get home for international matches, and the Brazilians have played 49 players in the past two years. Even with former USWNT manager Pia Sundhage in charge, it’s going to be awfully hard to build a strong, familiar squad.

Instead, Spain gets the final spot. It had the second-best possession rate in the most recent World Cup (61%), attempting 177 more passes and creating 7.3 more chances per match than opponents. The Spanish women gave the U.S. fits in the round of 16, too, before falling via a late Rapinoe penalty.

Finishing was an issue. Against teams that made the knockout rounds, they averaged just 1.1 XG per match and actually scored 0.3 per match. Midfielders Virginia Torrecilla and Alexia Putellas will assure that the possession game remains strong, and 21-year-old Athletic Bilbao winger Lucía García has massive potential, but Spain needs a little more bite to move further up this list.

BACK TO WORK for Indy 11

By Spencer Sharpe, 06/17/20, 10:30AM EDT

Indiana’s Team Returns to Training at Grand Park Sports Complex

Indy Eleven took the field on March 7, kicking off the 2020 season with a match away to Memphis. It was a resounding 4-2 victory and laid down a strong benchmark for what was to come.  In the three months since, they have not taken the field again.As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, sports became one of the many institutions put on standby as the nation tried to flatten the curve.In the interim, both the staff and players of Indy Eleven found themselves in limbo, awaiting a return to training and a chance to be back on the playing field.

“Obviously having that preseason, get one game under our belt and then suddenly have this big break was a bit weird,” Eleven captain Matt Watson said. “That’s something I’ve never experienced before in my career.”New signing Nick Moon shares that sentiment. As a younger professional, he got his first taste of action with Indy in that season opener, appearing off the bench and tallying two assists on his debut. Unlike many others on the squad and as a newcomer to Indianapolis, Moon does not have the commitments they do. As such, his lifestyle has become quite different.“[I] basically just have training, games, traveling, all that stuff is what I spend most my time, or my energy doing,” Moon said. “It’s such a weird time.”In recent weeks, that training portion has become more prevalent, as Indiana’s Team has returned to its home at Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield. Adhering to a strict set of safety protocols might seem like the most obvious change, but another difference to get used to has been having to train for a team sport as individuals – just one of several steps to check off in anticipation of when the season restarts.“The league set up a lot of different points that we have to align with,” Head Coach Martin Rennie said. “Since we’ve been back in practice it’s been really good to see the players.”Even though the players are back to soccer activities, training is not quite what the squad is used to. Split into groups of 10, based on roommates and those that live close to each other, the players are doing what they can to stay fit and focused on the resumption of the USL Championship season, with a provisional start date currently set for July 11.Simple, non-contact drills have replaced the typical five-a-side and 11v11 scrimmages the players would normally be engaged in. More shooting practice, more passing and more technical work is getting done in this time.“The shooting’s been fun though,” Watson said smiling. “I’ve had a lot of fun [shooting].”Rennie says that even though it is small groups, it is better than the individualized workout regiments the players were doing previously at their respective homes. Watson says that he prefers it to having to work-out by himself. “It’s good to get back out there, see the boys more,” Watson said.Rennie recently spoke to Soccer Saturday host Greg Rakestraw, expressing his happiness about the return to training.“It’s a really positive step forward,” Rennie said. “It’s fun to be a bit more involved in the training. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”Though the players have been apart, Rennie believes the squad has done well to stay motivated during this time. Now back in practice, that motivation is being used to get back in the swing of things.“We have to make the most of the situation that we have,” Rennie said.Before the shutdown, the squad took the necessary steps to keep fit and so the transition has not been as rough as it could have been.“Obviously, we did a lot of work in preseason on the tactics and the team shape and so it shouldn’t take us too long to refresh everybody’s memory. Everybody is itching to get started,” Coach Rennie told the radio show.Come mid-July, Indiana’s Team will be prepared to continue their challenge for the USL Championship Cup.

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