12/31/20 Holiday European Games Schedule, PSG Fires Coach, CFC 05 Boys win College Showcase


Interesting conversations this week as the EPL is discussing at 2 week shutdown because of the recent rash of new Covid cases over the past 2 weeks.  A handful of games have been delayed Man City vs Everton, Fulham vs Tottenham.  All this going on in a season that is as tight at the top of the EPL table as it has been in a long time.  Five teams are tied for 5th and no fewer than 11 teams are within 10 pts of the top.  EPL Table   Big games to watch this weekend include Man City vs Aston Villa on Peacock at 3 pm Friday, and Man City traveling to Chelsea and the reinvigorated Christian Pulisic coming off 2 fine showings on Sunday at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  Sat on NBC we get the beauty of Brighton vs Wolverhampton on NBC at 12:30- my gosh the EPL sucks at scheduling bad games on NBC = but this takes the cake.  I love soccer and I would rather watch paint dry than watch that game- Scary how stupid sometimes !!  And yet we have to pay $6 a month to get Real Madrid vs Liverpool in Champions League – truly mindboggling! Anyway Full schedule below and on the ole ballcoach.  End of Year Review


It sounds like the US is planning a January camp for MLS players again with a late Jan game vs Serbia capping things off. If so this is much stiffer competition and should be a good match to see where the youngsters of MLS might be as we head into what should be a busy summer for US Soccer on the men’s side.  One of the things that caught my eye was this list of soccer movies showing during the holiday’s on different services.  A bunch on Netflix might be worth catching these last few days of vacation – this offers more than She’s the Man or Bend it Like Beckham, and includes the Maradona movie on HBO, and the Game of their Lives about the 1950 US World Cup team on Prime Video. 


Heartbreak city seeing LAFC lose a tight game in Concacaf Champions League to Mexican side ?  It was closest an MLS team has come to winning since the new format almost 20 years ago.  Great Season review here –

MLS 2020 season review: The Crew were worth saving.  It sure is fun seeing MLS being mentioned as a possible destination for Barcelona’s Messi!  Won’t happen yet – but someday I hope !!

Carmel FC

Huge congrats to the 2005 Boys for winning the top division at the Indianapolis College Showcase in early December at Grand Park with a perfect 3-0 mark and no goals allowed (Awesome job Charlie).  Also excited about the Carmel Dad’s Club Field House to Open in 2021.  Also congrats to former Carmel FC players GK Erin Baker and Brooke Bailey of Carmel High School on being named to the US Soccer Coaches All – Region Team !!


(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                                Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                                Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2  

7:30 am Peacock                           Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBC                                  Brighton vs Wolverhampton

12:30 ESPN+                                     Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                               West Brom vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ESPN+                              RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Stuttgart

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                  Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                      Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                               New Castle vs Leicester

9:30 am ESPN+                              Dortmund (Reyna) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) 

11;30 am NBCSN              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City 

2:45 ESPN+                                     Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                           Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                                   Southampton vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 6

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Man U vs Man City League Cup Semis

2:45 pm ESPN2                   AC Milan vs Juventus (McKinney)  

5:15 pm beIN Sport            Boca Juniors vs Santos  

Fri, Jan 8

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’Gladbach vs Bayern Munich (Carter)

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Aston Villa vs Liverpool (FA Cup)

Sat,  Jan 9

7 am ESPN+                         (FA Cup Games in England 7/10 am, 1 & 3 pm)

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

12:30 pm ESPN+                 Arsenal vs New Castle United (Yedlin) FA Cup

12:30 pm ESPN+                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Roma vs Inter  

8:30 am ESPN+                    Man city (Steffan) vs Birmingham City  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Morecambe FA Cup

12 noon ESPN+                    Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+                     Juve (McKinney) vs Sassuolo

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                               Aston Villa vs Tottenham  

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Juventus (McKinney) vs Genoa Coppa Italia

5:15 pm beIN Sport                            Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 15

3:15 pm NBCSN?                               Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)   

Top Soccer Stories of the Year Avi Creditor SI

Marcotti’s soccer wishes for 2021: Five subs in every league, continued push for reform, Euros must happen  MArcotti ESPNFC


USWNT stars playing in Europe due to circumstance, or start of a growing trend?  ESPN

Seltzer: Top 10 American exports moments of the year
USMNT back reportedly set for club that developed Koulibaly, De Bruyne

Cobi Jones announces US Soccer vice president candidacy

The best soccer films to binge-watch at home over the holidays


MLS 2020 season review: The Crew were worth saving
Messi ‘always had the dream’ to play in US, could leave Barcelona for free in 2021

Seltzer: 5 possible MLS fits for Lionel Messi

Report: Messi, Suarez to team up at Inter Miami?

Tigres break LAFC hearts as MLS’ wait for CCL glory goes on
Boehm: There’s no agony quite like CCL agony

Doyle: What 2020 meant for all 26 clubs

Schmetzer writes letter to Sounders fans after MLS Cup defeat

Report: Juventus eyeing young MLS quartet as they search for “new McKennie”

Americans at home: A look at the Yanks who should move abroad in 2021


Liverpool’s lack of ruthlessness holding champions back, keeping title race alive
Mark Ogden

Chelsea are missing something, and they’re running out of time to find it
Lampard has special praise for USMNT star Pulisic

Pulisic Watch: USMNT star starts again in Chelsea – Aston Villa

Spurs’ winless run a massive test for Mourinho and his managerial style
  Mark Ogden


Liverpool’s glory, Neymar’s tears: Top soccer images of 2020  Chris Wright

Why PSG will replace Tuchel with Pochettino

Why PSG finally moved on from Tuchel, chose Pochettino  Julien Laurens

FIFA cancels men’s U-17, U-20 World Cups

Almost 70% of the world’s soccer balls are made in one city in Pakistan — here’s what it’s like inside one of the factories

 INDY 11  

$25 Down Gets your 2021 Season Tickets on Hold

Get to Know: Cal Jennings

Former Butler University Standout Jared Timmer Signs with Indy Eleven

Three More “Boys in Blue” Confirmed for 2021
2021 Roster Starts to Take Shape with Return of Six “Boys in Blue”

Tampa Bay’s Doherty Claims Fans’ Choice Goal of the Playoffs Award

New Mexico’s Mizell Takes Fans’ Choice Save of the Playoffs Award

Charleston Battery’s Joe Kuzminsky Wins Championship’s Fans’ Choice Save of the Year

Carmel FC

Carmel Dad’s Club Field House to Open in 2021

Lampard has special praise for USMNT star Pulisic

Joe Prince-WrightTue, December 29, 2020, 10:56 AM EST·2 min read

Christian Pulisic has been a consistent bright spark for Chelsea despite their recent slump in form.The USMNT star, 22, has been injury free over the last month and has been doing his best to drive Chelsea on.Speaking about Pulisic’s performance following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Monday (Pulisic was involved in Chelsea’s goal), Lampard praised his fitness and his form.“Christian was really bright all game. That’s great for him, fitness-wise, to play two games in such a short space of time,” Lampard said. “He created plenty of chances, he had an opportunity himself when he hit the side-netting and it looked like it was in but overall, he was really bright.”

Premier League news

Manchester United – Wolves: How to watch live, team news, odds Report: Premier League considers short break due to COVID-19 cases Report: Tottenham – Fulham in doubt after COVID-19 increase

Pulisic is clearly one of the first names on the teamsheet for Chelsea right now.

After an injury-ravaged start to the 2020-21 season, Pulisic has finally found fitness and his form wasn’t far behind.

What next for Pulisic?

In defeats against Wolves and Arsenal he was the shining light, and even though Chelsea dropped more points against Villa he was again their best forward player.

Pulisic was surging forward time and time again, went close on multiple occasions and he spent the game against Villa out on his favored left wing. In previous weeks Lampard had swapped him to the right wing to accommodate out-of-form forward Timo Werner, but Pulisic on the left and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right look like his starting wingers until Hakim Ziyech returns from injury.The next step for Pulisic is scoring goals and getting assists, as he has scored once in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season. After his fine form in the summer during ‘Project Restart’ and his goal in the FA Cup final, Pulisic has proven he can add end product to his surging runs.Chelsea need him to deliver, big time, in the coming months as the Blues and Lampard are under pressure after a poor run of results in December.It will be intriguing to see if he starts against Manchester City on Sunday, as three starts in nine days is a lot for a player who has been hampered by hamstring and upper leg injuries over the last 12 months.

Marcotti’s soccer wishes for 2021: Five subs in every league, continued push for reform, Euros must happen


https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.432.0_en.html#goog_1033063715 Dec 29, 2020Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

It’s not remotely original to say that 2020 can’t end soon enough. Most of us have experienced the single biggest collective disruption of our lives. Many of us have lost loved ones. Some have lost livelihoods. We know better than to believe that just because the Earth has made another (imperfect) revolution around the Sun doesn’t mean anything is likely to change substantially at the stroke of midnight. But that doesn’t make the sense of renewal that a change in the calendar brings any less real.If you’re reading this, football is part of your life, however big or small a slice you devote to it. And that means it too carries with it wishes for something brighter and better. I’ve shared mine below, as I’ve been fortunate to do each December for the past seven years.Roll on 2021…

Gab’s wishes from: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

1. That we reflect on the enforced hiatus from the game back in the spring — and the continued absence of supporters in most grounds — and use it to guide us. What did we miss? What matters? What matters less? Professional football is a relentless, commercially driven 24/7 operation that sits somewhere between collective spirituality and escapist entertainment. It is not set in stone. We — or, at least, the institutions at the top — can mold the future.2. That the legacy of players feeling empowered enough to take a knee, and other forms of protest, not be dissipated by the passage of time. That was — and is — about systemic racism; others may be about the environment, human rights abuses, whatever. Players have a platform. It’s at once a privilege and a responsibility. Let them feel empowered to use it when they feel it is necessary.

3. That Euro 2020 takes place, even in 2021. Even (if necessary) in another form, in different venues, with different formats. I miss international football tournaments. For many of us, they’ve defined every other summer for our entire lives.

4. That FIFA’s new regulations on agents and transfers are approved and, just as important, are applied with uniformity and integrity. Agents and intermediaries serve an important purpose but they, and the clubs that empower them, shouldn’t be allowed to operate in darkness and without regulation.

5. That we get clear rules on who can own a club and under what conditions, and that decisions be swift and transparent. No more of this nonsense that saw Newcastle’s takeover bid being strung along for months by the Premier League without explanation.

6. That, while we’re at it, we also start having a conversation about what owners can and cannot do. Among the “cannot-do list,” I’d include stuff like piling on debt irresponsibly, taking out cash for their own purposes, being entirely beholden to intermediaries and generally not being good stewards. A club, ultimately, is at the heart of a community. Whether it’s a community of a few thousand supporters in a provincial team or a few hundred million dotted around the world, that has to come first.

7. That the single biggest decision to come in the next 12 to 18 months — the reform of the International Match Calendar — not be guided by greed, power games or a handful of self-interested clubs. The year 2024 is the witching hour, when the FIFA calendar that governs virtually every aspect of club, international and youth football has to be agreed, and the stakes are huge. We could see more games, we could see Champions League games on weekends and internationals relegated to a single window every year. Everything is in play, and these reforms will dictate how the game develops for the next decade.

8. That all the breakaway European Super League talk remains just talk, unless it’s based on something other than greed. We’ve had more than 120 years of the European game existing on a pyramid structure with promotion and relegation between the various tiers. It has worked remarkably well, too. If we’re going to talk on the basis of growing the game even further and making it more sustainable, fine. But if it’s going to be — as it appears to be of late — primarily driven by some clubs’ avarice and other clubs’ need for fresh revenue after overspending or suffering economic damage because of the pandemic, no thank you.

9. That fans and media — especially those who focus on big clubs and big leagues — don’t deride and ignore the UEFA Europa Conference, which launches this summer, as just another big joke. One of the side effects of the big leagues’ flexing has been to push out the rest of football and ensure that the Champions League is stocked with clubs from the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1. This competition gives others a chance to play.

10. That while it’s great that rich folks from Asia and North America (and the corporations they control) pour money into Europe’s elite clubs, at least for the clubs themselves, we create the right conditions for them to invest locally and, indeed, in the rest of the world. Otherwise, we’ll always have an uneven playing field.

11. That the world outside Europe and South America realize what worked there might not necessarily be what works elsewhere to best grow the game. UEFA and CONMEBOL have a 100-year (or more) head start. Maybe that talked-about merger of LigaMX and Major League Soccer makes sense. Maybe the Gulf nations, where there’s plenty of money, could use a regional league of their own. Maybe the notion of a pan-African league isn’t that far-fetched. Let’s be open-minded. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

12. That the concussion protocol be taken seriously. That means temporary substitutions and independent assessments pitch-side. Until then, it won’t be.

13. That we at least explore the possibility of making the five-substitution rule permanent. Looking at the league tables in FranceGermanyItaly and Spain — where, unlike England, it has been adopted — that doomsday scenario about bigger, wealthier clubs dominating doesn’t quite seem to have materialized, does it?

14. That Lionel Messi stay at Barcelona. Yes, this is a personal wish. Sorry, but I love the idea of a legend spending his entire career at one club.

15. That Barcelona make themselves a club that Messi finds worth staying at. This might take a bit more work given the dumpster fire in which they find themselves — some of it self-inflicted, some of it out of their control — but elections are coming up. Believe it or not, Barcelona fans have

16. That Cristiano Ronaldo keeps defying gravity and reinventing himself. We first defined him as a quick-as-a-whip winger unleashing whup-ass with an intoxicating array of tricks. Now among his signature moves is the Jordan-esque hang time on his far-post headers.

17. That Juventus fans and critics understand that what they’re going through this season with Andrea Pirlo at the helm is necessary. The attacking football, the belief in young players, the high line, the counterpressing, the possession game… yeah, it’s a seminal philosophical change. And maybe Pirlo, in his first senior gig, might not have the tools to deliver it. But somebody had to do it, because their previous model was unsustainable in the modern game. And even if he fails, it will make the job of his successor that much easier.

18. That Eden Hazard stay fit. Not so much for Real Madrid‘s sake — they’ll find a way without him — but more so for his sake and for the sake of all of us who loved his mazy, low-to-the ground runs, his eyes-on-the-back-of-the-head awareness and pinpoint finishes. (Oh, and because Belgium project to be among the favorites at 2021’s rescheduled Euros.)

19. That even if Marcus Rashford doesn’t develop into the world-beating superstar his precocious success suggested, everyone will remember what he has already achieved as a caring, selfless individual in public life. Inspiring others by taking a public stand isn’t for everyone, and he does it with passion and dignity. From what we can tell, he’s a better person than he is a footballer. And that’s high praise.

20. That people realize that Marcelo Bielsa plays the way he does because he believes it’s the best way to win. He’s not on some philosophical mission to entertain, he doesn’t enjoy giving away cheap goals, and he truly believes that this is the best way for him to get the best out of his players at Leeds United. And guess what? It’s working, and it’s entertaining. Next guy who calls him naive gets a boot to the head. Bielsa knows what he’s doing.

21. That this generation of young American talent — Giovanni ReynaChristian PulisicWeston McKennie and others — go on to lift the sport as a whole in the United States. Why? So that one day we can laugh at that old joke “soccer is the sport of the future in America… and always will be.”

22. That Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira find some place to play when their contracts expire next June. Both joined Real Madrid a decade ago, both have been shut out for most of 2020 in part because of their enormous contracts and because they couldn’t be moved on (and did not want to take a pay cut). I don’t want to remember these two World Cup winners as sad-sack figures training by themselves while being called greedy.

23. That Kai Havertz finds a place to play on the pitch at Chelsea even if it takes time. Especially when you see him in person, you realize what a singular talent he is. But equally, how accommodating him at this stage of his development is far from easy. He’s young. Be patient.

24. That Jurgen Klopp sees out his contract with Liverpool. Yes, he has already delivered the Premier League and Champions League. Yes, he has built a team that is once again top of the league. So if someone comes calling, sure, few would begrudge him leaving despite having committed himself to the club through 2024. But what he’s doing is pretty special and the Premier League is richer for having him around.

25. That Manchester United find their mojo, with or without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s true that it was good for other clubs to emerge after the hegemony of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era. But it’s been a long time since United ruled, and what’s most perplexing is the sense of perennial drift that’s been around since then. Managers have come and gone, but the decision-makers above them have stayed the same. And yet it still doesn’t feel they’re building toward anything. It can’t all be down to the manager.26. That Paul Pogba regains his smile, whether it’s at Old Trafford or elsewhere. The punditocracy — mostly ex-pros, mostly ex-United “Golden Era” players who seem hellbent on holding everyone to the standard they set (or that they think they set) — appears to take great delight in pointing out his every flaw. He’s not perfect, but he’s supremely talented and fun to watch. And that word “lazy” gets thrown around far too much when it comes to Pogba.

27. That all three of Milan’s high-profile free agents — Gianluigi DonnarummaHakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic — stick around after their deals expire in June… but if it’s going to be too expensive, there’s no question who you prioritize. (It’s Donnarumma, by far the youngest of the three.) All three have played a big part in Milan’s renaissance and Scudetto challenge this season, but none of them is indispensable. The system that has been built and the young players that have come on board… that’s what will drive Milan going forward.

28. That Neymar stays fit and stays productive. I feel like I say this every year. He’s not in the Messi/Ronaldo conversation, and he never will be. But I don’t want to see a guy of his ability somehow be surpassed by the next generation — the Erling Haaland/Kylian Mbappe cohort — either.

29. That Borussia Dortmund keep this crew together for a while and get them the leadership they need to succeed. They’ve gotten plenty of pats on the back as the “smartest guys in the room” for assembling that hugely impressive corps of young talent: Jadon Sancho, Haaland, Reyna, Jude Bellingham and, now, Youssoufa Moukoko, too. They’re also honest in admitting that they can’t retain them long-term. OK. So sacrifice one, get a coach who can squeeze the best out of them and persuade them to win something big — something really big — before they’re sold on.

30. That kids who fall in love with the sport be given the chance, first and foremost, to support their local club before jumping on the big juggernaut/club bandwagon simply because it’s pumped relentlessly onto their screens. Yes, this is cut-and-pasted from last year, but it’s worth repeating. And it’s the one wish over which we hav

The Top Stories From an Atypical Year Across World Soccer

2020 has been full of unprecedented obstacles, sadness, revitalization and triumph, and that’s been represented across multiple levels of the beautiful game.


Well, it certainly has been a year.The story of 2020 will always be told through the lenses of the coronavirus pandemic and the quest for social justice, and the same is true of global soccer’s last 12 months (more specifically, the last nine). It’s impossible to separate one from the other when considering how much leagues, players and organizations around the world were forced to adapt, postpone, acknowledge and sacrifice.For a time in the spring, the only active leagues in the world were found in Belarus, Tajikistan, Burundi and Nicaragua. Slowly, the beautiful game returned elsewhere, but not in a way we were accustomed to seeing and enjoying it. The bubbles, empty stadiums, fake crowd noise and COVID-19-related postponements and player absences provided the ultimate wrinkles and norm-shattering elements to a regular schedule that we all take for granted.Through it all, champions were crowned, players progressed and broke through, the business sides labored and new heroes, stars and focal points emerged. Here’s a look back at the year in global soccer, the most impactful moments, individuals, story lines and events that occurred on and off the field, accompanied by some of Sports Illustrated’s top stories of the year that told it all:

How Europe brought its leagues back

The Bundesliga was the first major league in Europe to resume play, setting a model for those that would follow. Countries had to abide by local guidelines and governmental decisions, and not all chose to resume. France’s Ligue 1 and the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, for instance, did not, and champions, relegation and European places were determined in ways that clearly left some unhappy parties.

The Champions League was postponed until all the remaining leagues could finish their domestic seasons, and even then, it was reduced to a single-elimination sprint in one country from the quarterfinals on. That UEFA and the individual associations reached the finish line at all deserved the plaudits they received and set the parameters for how to resume in the fall.


STRAUS: Behind the scenes of behind closed doors: How the Bundesliga returned

STRAUS: The inside story of La Liga’s return to action

CREDITOR: Fake fan noise on broadcasts provides comfort, but it’s disingenuous

Player of the year

The cancellation of the Ballon d’Or robbed Robert Lewandowski of one player of the year award, but he took him FIFA’s best honor, and rightly so. With 55 goals in all competitions in the 2019–20 season, Lewandowski cemented his status as the world’s preeminent striker. He won the golden boots in the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Pokal, three competitions that his Bayern Munich side not-so-coincidentally won as well.

At 32, he’s in the form of his life, and with 17 goals in 13 Bundesliga games, he’s well on his way to a fourth straight Bundesliga golden boot and sixth in eight years. He just became the third player ever to score 250 goals in Germany’s top flight, and he finally has the individual accolades to recognize his greatness. 


WILSON: Robert Lewandowski’s unusual, volcano-altered path to becoming The Best 

 Team of the year

Dovetailing with Lewandowski’s success is that of Bayern, which was ruthless after the Bundesliga’s restart and resurgent after Hansi Flick replaced Niko Kovac on the bench. The club has lost a total of one (1) match in 48 across all competitions this calendar year (42-1-5), winning the treble, adding the German Super Cup and eyeing the FIFA Club World Cup this coming February.

Its dominance peaked in an 8–2 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, which sent the Spanish power reeling and into full-blown crisis mode.

Its true that the repeated and expected domestic titles for clubs like Bayern, PSG and Juventus say plenty about the state of affairs across the European game and can be tiring, but there’s often a breathtaking element to the accomplishment—especially when it comes to Bayern and its relentless approach.


WILSON: Bayern Munich beats PSG with one of its own to win Champions League 

WILSON: Bayern maintains its dominance while undergoing a rapid transition

 Top breakout players

Alphonso Davies, Erling Haaland and Ansu Fati are just three in a rising generation of talents in their teens and low 20s taking the world by storm. 

Davies, the 20-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps academy product, cracked the FIFPro World XI, making him the first North American to ever do so (and only the third who does not hail from Europe or South America). His ascent and transition to left back were surpassed in speed by only the pace he possesses on the field, an attribute that led Thomas Muller to dub him “The FC Bayern Road Runner.”

Haaland’s power and precision have made the 20-year-old Norwegian the apple of every big-spending club’s eye. His rise under Jesse Marsch at Salzburg quickly materialized into a transfer to Dortmund, and he hit the ground running in January with his German club, where he’s formed a productive partnership with U.S. rising talent Gio Reyna.

Fati, meanwhile, has become the breakthrough talent that both Spain and Barcelona need. His current injury has impeded his progress, but there’s a reason he was getting preferred to Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona. Still just 18, he can be the star of Barcelona’s revival for the next decade, should the club elect to defy his many suitors.


WILSON: Alphonso Davies’s meteoric rise, and the future of the left back position

STRAUS: Gio Reyna may be young, but he’s ready for club and country right now

 Liverpool ends its 30-year drought

Liverpool’s Premier League dominance crested over the winter, and by the time it won its first domestic league title in three decades, it was all a bit anticlimactic. But that takes nothing away from the achievement. 

After winning the Champions League the season before, Liverpool was sensational, losing its run at invincibility just before the pandemic’s onset, with a late-February defeat to Watford. Regardless, it ended Man City’s reign by winning the title with an 18-point gap over Pep Guardiola’s side, a true sign of how exceptional its season truly was. Only some late faltering after the restart prevented Liverpool from setting more single-season standards.

Jürgen Klopp and the technical staff have built a dynamic and balanced club, one that has the ability to press, recover, strike, counter, defend and dominate. Injuries have put that to the test this season, but it’s a testament to the culture at the club that Liverpool remains in the driver’s seat, looking to win a second straight title.


WILSON: There’s no asterisk next to Liverpool’s dominant, wait-ending title

WAHL: Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool manager’s infectious aura

 Barcelona’s Messi mess

There was perhaps no soccer-related bombshell bigger than the one Lionel Messi dropped in August, after Barcelona’s Champions League demise followed its capitulation in La Liga. Messi wanted out of the only club he’s ever known as a pro, claiming he had an agreement with now-ex-president Josep Bartomeu that he could leave for free at the end of last season, despite having a year to run on his deal. The wording of the contract evidently stated that clause expired in June, and with the end of the season pushed until August, it was no longer valid when Barcelona’s campaign actually ended.

That set off a few days of uncertainty and intensity at Camp Nou, where Messi ultimately stayed, saying that no matter his conviction, he could never take the club he loves to court. With Bartomeu out and a new president set to be elected Jan. 24, the next month will be pivotal in determining whether Messi will play out his career at Barcelona or head elsewhere. As it stands, he just became the world record holder for most goals at a single club, passing Pelé with his 644th tally in a Barça shirt.


CREDITOR: Messi stays, but the war vs. Bartomeu is far from over

 The voice and power of the player

Both in the USA and abroad, player power became quite evident. It was evident in the NWSL’s bubble in Utah, where players, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota, kneeled for the national anthem and amplified their voices. It was evident in MLS’s bubble in Florida, where the league’s Black Players for Change started their initiatives with a moving demonstration prior to the opening match. 

It was evident abroad as well, with U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie among the first to use his platform to call attention to injustice after the events in Minneapolis. Others like Jadon Sancho, Marcus Thuram and Achraf Hakimi followed, with clubs regularly kneeling in unison at the opening whistle to make a statement afterward.

The player platforms extend beyond racism. Marcus Rashford has become a hero to the children of the U.K., taking on the government and using his voice and stature to an immense degree to ensure impoverished children are fed.

The power of a club to take a stand was also on display in the USL, where Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal walked off the field in a match that had playoff implications for the club, following the antigay abused suffered by one of its players.

All of these individuals and groups deserve the highest commendation for their actions and for using their platforms for good.


ECHEGARAY: MLS’s Black Players for Change and the long-term plan 

WILSON: Marcus Rashford takes on the UK government again

GEARY: NWSL’s return and the Black player movement within it

STRAUS: The story behind USMNT’s ‘Be The Change’ jackets 

STRAUS: Donovan’s San Diego Loyal takes a stand 

 U.S. Soccer’s transformation at the top

U.S. Soccer has been through some significant change this year. After a disgraceful defense against the U.S. women’s national team players from the federation’s legal team in the ongoing battle for equal pay and gender equality, Carlos Cordeiro resigned as president in mid-March, just as the pandemic was starting to hit the U.S. Ex-U.S. women’s player and USSF VP Cindy Parlow Cone stepped into the role, and she was joined at a remade top of the federation’s organizational chart by new CEO Will Wilson, who replaced longtime chief executive Dan Flynn.

The two struck a new tone in the case against the U.S. women and have moved to settle many of the federation’s other outstanding lawsuits as well. There’s still work to be done on all fronts—legal, competitive and elsewhere—and with the pandemic negatively impacting the federation’s finances, dynamic and steady leadership is required to keep things on an upward trajectory.


STRAUS: At another inflection point, will U.S. Soccer learn from past failings?

WAHL: Who Cindy Parlow Cone is, from the teammates who knew her best

 The Americans abroad golden age

The U.S. men’s national team has evolved ever since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the evolution of its player pool is a big reason why. There are now young Americans at—and some featuring prominently for—Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, playing in some of the biggest matches in the world against some of the best talent in the world on a regular basis.

It seems like it was ages ago now, but Christian Pulisic was a star after the Premier League’s restart, one of the league’s most consistently dangerous attacking players until a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final (in which he’d already scored) derailed his progress.

But Pulisic is far from alone in drawing the spotlight. Tyler Adams scored a Champions League quarterfinal-winning goal for RB Leipzig, helping bring the club to its greatest heights on a European stage. McKennie moved to Juventus, Sergiño Dest signed with Barcelona and there’s a genuine feeling that this is a golden moment for U.S. youth, with more moves to clubs of global significance in the offing.

Women’s national team players have been testing themselves abroad at new levels as well, with NWSL’s atypical season and lengthy offseason coinciding with the run-up to a postponed Olympics. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle have gone to Man City, while Tobin Heath and Christen Press are across town at Man United. Alex Morgan spent the first half of the FA WSL season at Tottenham, while Emily Sonnett won a Swedish title with her short stint at Goteborg.

There’s never been a more intriguing and essential time for Americans abroad.


STRAUS: Why the moment for Americans at elite European clubs is happening now

STRAUS: The play-by-play of how Weston McKennie wound up at Juventus

STRAUS: Tyler Adams scores the most significant goal for an American abroad

STRAUS: Christian Pulisic isn’t just competing in big games, he’s changing them

STRAUS: Sergiño Dest knows he hasn’t ‘made it’ simply by signing with Barcelona

STRAUS: Zack Steffen puts game time vs. training environment to the test at Man City

STRAUS: Chris Richards begins his breakthrough

STRAUS: After failed Milan move and heart scare, it all works out for Antonee Robinson


As for on these shores…

MLS’s 25th season was completely derailed, but completed nevertheless. What began with Chicharito’s landmark signing, Miami and Nashville’s introductions and plans for a grand celebration turned into months of labor negotiations, coronavirus protocols and uncertainty. But the league, to its credit, reached the finish line, becoming the first American league to complete a playoff season in home markets. The Columbus Crew wound up lifting the trophy at home to cement a massive turnaround in that market, months after the Portland Timbers emerged as the best in the bubble at MLS Is Back.

The first successful bubble experiment in U.S. team sports belonged to the NWSL, with the Houston Dash commanding respect and changing their narrative by winning the Challenge Cup. The league resumed play with a Fall Series won by the Portland Thorns, and excitement continues to build with the addition of Racing Louisville FC in 2021 and Angel City FC–with its loaded ownership group–in 2022.


STRAUS: Nobody knows resilience like the Columbus Crew

GEARY: A U-Turn in H-Town for the NWSL’s Dash

STRAUS: Finding perspective amid Chicharito’s unfulfilled hype

 Gone, but never forgotten

Sadness has been a constant throughout everything this year, and the soccer world knows that quite well. Three World Cup legends, Diego Maradona, Paolo Rossi and Papa Bouba Diop, all died within two weeks of each other, with the passing of such a titanic figure like Maradona, especially, grabbing the world’s attention.

They were unfortunately far from alone. Among the many other former players, managers and administrators to lose their lives this year–for COVID-19 reasons or otherwise–were four players from England’s 1966 World Cup title team (Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Peter Bonetti and Norman Hunter); Argentine left back great Silvio Marzolini; Argentina’s 2014 World Cup manager Alejandro Sabella; and treble-winning former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

May their memories be a blessing, and may the holiday season and year ahead be filled with way more joy and significantly less pain.

WILSON: Diego Maradona’s greatness and legacy go well beyond the trophies and goals

WAHL: Diego Maradona was a timeless icon

STRAUS: Rubio Rubin: The American who played for Maradona, and his tales of their time at Dorados de Sinaloa

WILSON: The significance and reach of Paolo Rossi

MLS 2020 season review: Columbus Crew SC were worth saving

eMajor League Soccer concluded its season with Columbus Crew SC‘s MLS Cup victory on Saturday night, and with preseason preparations for the upcoming campaign set to begin as early as one month from now, attention is already turning to 2021. But before we look too far into the future, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Austin Lindberg look back on a 2020 season that won’t soon be forgotten.

Jump to: Crew worth saving | Impacts of COVID-19 | Debuts of Miami, Nashville | Black Players for Change | Philly legitimizes homegrown blueprint | Young players departing | New low for labor relations | Best XI

The Crew were worth saving

Three years ago, Columbus Crew SC seemingly had no future in Ohio’s capital. Owner Anthony Precourt announced in October 2017 he intended to move the club to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if a new stadium in downtown, partially funded by public tax dollars, couldn’t be secured.

He told ESPN shortly after the announcement that the club needed “to see a dramatic change” in attendance and other factors if it was to remain in Columbus. Reading between the lines, it was clear that in his mind there was little that could keep him from taking the Crew from the capital of Ohio to the capital of Texas.What he didn’t count on was the fierce resistance, the organization and the persuasion of the fans and local community. He didn’t count on the #SaveTheCrew movement.The fans made an almighty racket, making their voices heard at the capitol and in stadiums across MLS — and in many cases, stadiums hosting teams that had nothing to do with the Crew. The city of Columbus canvassed business leaders throughout the region as it sought to put together an ownership group that would keep the club in town.

A year after Precourt’s announcement, the Haslam and Edwards families entered into negotiations to buy the Crew. By the end of 2018, the Crew had been saved. Barely a week later, Caleb Porter was named manager and Tim Bezbatchenko was appointed president.

With significant investment from the Haslams and Edwardses — which included the signing of $7 million designated player Lucas Zelarayan and a privately financed downtown stadium scheduled to open in 2021 — and the vision of Porter and Bezbatchenko, the Crew embarked on a reimagining of the club that culminated with last Saturday’s MLS Cup win.

For so many reasons, 2020 has been miserable, with few bright spots. The Crew’s championship, on the back of their fans’ righteous, successful campaign to keep their club — the league’s original club — in town, is a sliver of sunshine we could all do with more of. — Austin Lindberg

The impacts of COVID-19

Give MLS credit. The league made it to the MLS Cup finish line, even as an outbreak of COVID-19 made its way through champions Columbus Crew during the postseason, with a total of 10 positive cases. This was on top of outbreaks earlier in the year within the FC DallasNashville SC and Colorado Rapids organizations.

None of this seemed possible on March 12, when in the first days of the pandemic, MLS engaged in a shutdown that would last four months. Yet the league managed to get off the deck, first with the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

That competition was among the first of several in the U.S. that proved the efficacy of a bubble environment, and it helped get the league back in front of fans. Matters proved more difficult when teams resumed league play in August. The MLS’ three Canadian teams, after first playing a series of games against each other, were forced to relocate to the U.S. because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada. A total of seven games were canceled, forcing the league to go to points per game to determine a team’s placement in the conference standings.

The wounds — some financial, others physical — will take time to heal. The MLS Players Association reported that “almost 20%” of the league’s players contracted COVID-19 at some point during the year. The long-term impact of those infections is still to be determined. There were also layoffs across the league, both at league headquarters and within MLS teams.

But the league is still here, highlighting a resilience that has long been one of its hallmarks. One can only hope that the 2021 campaign proves easier to navigate for all involved. — Jeff Carlisle

A tale of two expansion teams

When Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF began the season, it was Nashville that looked like an econobox sedan, while Miami bore a closer resemblance to a flashy sports car. But sometimes the sedan does a better job of getting you to where you want to go, and that proved to be precisely the case in this instance.

General manager Mike Jacobs fashioned a defense-first side that saw Nashville finish seventh in the Eastern Conference — which would have qualified it for the postseason even without the generously expanded playoff field — while Miami finished 10th. And as fate would have it, that saw the teams meet in the play-in round of the postseason, with Nashville proving it was by far the better team in a 3-0 victory.

Granted, it’s impossible to avert one’s eyes from Miami, which is quickly approaching car-wreck status. Chief operating officer and sporting director Paul McDonough paid the price for too many swings and misses in the international transfer market and stepped down last week. Then on Monday, ESPN confirmed a story in The Athletic that manager Diego Alonso exited an end-of-year meeting with ownership thinking he had been fired, and told players and staff about it, only for that to not be the case. Alonso is still the manager, although his continued presence seems awkward at best. After a six-year wait to take the field following the team’s inception, owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas have some cleanup work to do. — Jeff Carlisle

The formation of Black Players for Change

It wasn’t just the coronavirus that had some players on edge. The death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police galvanized the community of Black MLS players and brought about the formation of Black Players for Change. The organization aimed to advocate for social justice and put in place programs to further that end, both inside and outside the game of soccer.

There were powerful demonstrations of support of social justice, with MLS teams taking a knee at kickoff when play resumed at the MLS is Back Tournament, a statement that continued for the rest of the season. Following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the BPC helped orchestrate a protest of most the league’s games on Aug. 26.

Away from the field, the BPC was impactful as well, partnering with the LeBron James-led nonprofit More Than A Vote to encourage minority communities to register to vote and engage in the electoral process. That included getting 95% of the league’s players registered.

The BPC also dedicated its first mini-pitch in Newark, New Jersey. The project, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, is the first of 12 such pitches to be built in Black communities across the country in a bid to get more kids involved in the sport of soccer.

Earlier this month, the BPC earned the league’s Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of its efforts in 2020. — Jeff Carlisle

Philadelphia further legitimizing homegrown blueprint

After 11 years of existence, the Philadelphia Union finally won their first trophy, claiming the Supporters’ Shield in 2020. It was a just reward for a fan base whose passion delivered the city a club in the first place and never let up in the ensuing lean years.

For the fans, it probably means a bit more that this silverware was secured by academy products Brenden Aaronson (who’s off to FC Salzburg in January) and Mark McKenzie (who’s attracting plenty of interest from European clubs himself) and SuperDraft selection and Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. For everyone else in MLS, it means a great deal, too: Philadelphia’s success further solidifies a familiar blueprint for success.

The Union is the fourth team in the past six years (New York Red Bulls in 2015, FC Dallas in 2016 and the Red Bulls again in 2018) to win the Shield following a formula reliant on homegrown talent. Thirteen years after the inception of U.S. Soccer’s academy program, the past six seasons have been demonstrable proof that cultivating talent in-house is a viable path to success.

As MLS sees spending increase year in and year out, primarily on burgeoning stars imported from South America or Europe, Philadelphia (along with the Red Bulls and Dallas) is demonstrating that clubs can win in this league without spending a fortune on exotic imports — although that helps. — Austin Lindberg

Young players are departing — and that’s a good thing

For years, MLS had had a reputation for practically holding young players hostage, rarely transferring players out of the league before their contracts ran down. But recent campaigns have shown that to be changing. According to data on the league’s website, in 2017 only four players were transferred out of MLS. In 2018 that number grew to 12, and then to 14 in 2019. In 2020 that number climbed to 19.

And it hasn’t been just guys exiting in search of one last payday. In 2019, you had the likes of Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies, of RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, respectively, leaving the league. In the just-concluded season, there were Reggie Cannon and Alberth Elis both being sent to Portuguese side Boavista. In 2021, the Philadelphia Union’s Brenden Aaronson will move to FC Salzburg, and New York City FC‘s Joe Scally will head to Borussia Monchengladbach.

It all has amounted to a revenue stream of which MLS teams are taking greater advantage. And the league’s academies are producing players that are catching the eye of foreign clubs.

Is there room to grow? Absolutely. But there’s no doubting that transfers out of the league are becoming more of the norm. — Jeff Carlisle

Labor relations hit a new low

All seemed rosy in February when the MLS Players Association and the league agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that left both sides — at least outwardly — feeling as though they gained something. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and because neither side had ratified the new CBA, the league used its leverage to force the MLSPA back to the bargaining table.

With the league threatening to lock out the playersthe two sides ultimately reached an agreement in June, just a month before the MLS is Back Tournament was scheduled to take place. But the MLSPA membership emerged demoralized and with $150 million less than what it had agreed to in February due to cuts in salary, bonuses and a revenue-sharing plan tied to the next media rights deal.

Even worse, the league managed to get the MLSPA to accept the presence of a force majeure clause in the CBA. While the clause would allow either side to terminate the agreement in the case of catastrophic conditions, it gives considerable leverage to ownership in that it could once again force the union back to the bargaining table.

Labor tensions usually crop up only every five years, but for now they are a continual fact of life between owners and players. — Jeff Carlisle

Best XI

Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defense: Anton Tinnerholm (New York City FC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas)
Midfield: Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC), Diego Chara (Portland Timbers), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC), Diego Rossi (LAFC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

12/24/20 Holiday European Games Schedule, McKinney & Reyna, Mewis win US Players of Year

Great to see Weston McKinney win the US Player of the Year this year.  What a year for McKinney as he gambled on himself on loan to Juventus and has become a starter and full out star with the Old Lady!  Gio Reyna is a worthy winner of the Young Player of the Year – with his breakout year at Dortmund this year.  I truly think he has the chance to be better than Pulisic as he doesn’t get hurt. 

Sam Mewis wins the USWNT Player of the year – after her big year – especially overseas for Man City.

Huge news that Dortmund fired their coach and American Jessie Marsh might be on the shortlist of candidates.  Marsh has does wonderous things as head man at Redbull Saltzburg as part of the Red Bull organization.  Two great runs in the Group Stages the last two years where he scared the pants off huge clubs and almost qualified for the Sweet 16 Knockout stages each time despite a huge difference in quality of player.  Dortmund would be smart to give the American coach a chance.  Wow would that be awesome. 

Not much time this week – except to say I hope you have a Wonderful and Safe Holiday and Best Wishes for the New Year.  I have updated the TV game schedule in case you have time to mix in some soccer watching with your Holiday festivities.  Pulisic should be on Boxing Day – Sat for Chelsea at Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC. 


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat Dec 26 – Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN                   Leiester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN                      Aston Villa vs Cyrstal Palace

12:30 NBC                   Arsenal vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm  NBCSN                       Man City vs New Castle

Sun, Dec 27

11:30  pm NBCSN                                Liverpoool vs West brom

2:!5 pm NBCSN                   Woverhampton vs Tottenham

Mon, Dec 28 

10 am NBCSN                      Crytsal Palace vs Leicester

12:30 pm NBCSN                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Aston Villa

3 pm Peacock                       Everton vs Man City

Tues, Dec 29

1 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Arsenal 

1:15 pm beIn Sport                              Barcelona (Dest) vvs Eibar

3 pm NBCSN                        Man United vs Wolverhampton

Weds, Dec 30

1 pm NBCSN                        Tottenham vs Fulham (Robinson)

3:30 pm beIn Sport                              Elche vs Real Madrid

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle vs Liverpool

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                       Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                       Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2 

7:30 am Peacock                  Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBCSN                           Everton vs Arsenal

12:30 ESPN+                                    Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                     West Brom vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ESPN+                    RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Stuttgart

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                   Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                            New Castle vs Leicester

9:30 am ESPN+                   Dortmund (Reyna) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) 

11;30 am NBCSN         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City 

2:45 ESPN+                          Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                   Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                       Southampton vs Liverpool


Mueller shows Berhalter’s USMNT options run deep

US Weston McKennie Wins Player of the Year for US –  SI  
Reyna voted U.S.’s Young Male Player of Year

Man City’s Mewis named U.S. top women’s player   Jeff Carlisle

USWNT’s support for racial justice ‘a long time coming’ – Becky Sauerbrunn

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

United States defender Becky Sauerbrunn said the USWNT had failed its Black players by not taking a stand against racial injustice sooner.The U.S. women displayed their support before a 2-0 friendly defeat of the Netherlands in late November, with the players wearing warmup jackets with the words “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the front, and nearly every member of the team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.Accompanying the pregame show of solidarity was a statement posted to team members’ social media accounts.peaking on USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara’s podcast called “Just Women’s Sports” on Tuesday, Sauerbrunn said she regretted the team’s lack of awareness for so long.

“I’m actually conflicted that it took us thing long as a national team to get to this point because we for so long we have fought for so many things,” she said. “For gender equality, for pay equality. We wear jerseys for LGBTQ, for military, and we’ve never as a group come together to fight for social justice and racial inequality.”It has been a long time coming and in a way I feel we’ve failed the Black women on our team, on our program and our Black supporters by not being more aware to this fight. I’m glad we came together and I’m glad we got all the Black women together and as a team and a small group decided what we could do to bring more awareness to BLM [Black Lives Matter].”It’s amazing that we got to do that but it’s also, I feel like, it’s been too long for this to finally come to fruition and hopefully it’s just the first of many things we do to continue this fight.”Nine out of the 11 starters knelt for the anthem against the Netherlands. O’Hara, a defender, and midfielder Julie Ertz were the two who stood. Sauerbrunn said the team understood their reasons not to participate.”As you know, it was the first time as a team that we ever had a conversation about race. And it was awkward at times and there was tension and it was emotional, but I think people really got to speak their truths for the first time in that group setting. So, I’m proud about that, and even though people decided to participate in the anthem the way that they did, at least it was done with an understanding for one another’s motives.”Still work to be done, but it was a really big step for the group,” she said.ue to a pause in international play caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the match in November was the first for the USWNT since the death of George Floyd — a Black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 — sparked worldwide protests and calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality.Earlier in the month, the United States men’s team wore messages calling for justice on its tracksuits prior to its 0-0 friendly draw with Wales in the team’s first match back since Floyd’s death.

USWNT stars Morgan, Heath, Lavelle went to Europe due to the pandemic, but don’t expect a larger movement


Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood describes how Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have benefitted the team this year. (1:10)

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

When whispers began circulating at the end of the summer that a number of high-profile United States women’s national team players would be making their way to England, there was curiosity on both sides of the Atlantic as to what this might mean for the global game.

Several players had done stints in Europe before, of course, but the arrival of five of the 2019 World Cup winners’ top stars — Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, and Sam Mewis — to England was a marked difference to previous moves that had drawn criticism and even seen national team careers threatened.

Jump to: A few minutes with Matthew Hoppe | Stock watch | Scouting report: Chris Richards

In 2018, Portland Thorns and USWNT star Crystal Dunn cut her time at Chelsea short over fears her national career would suffer, while Morgan (Lyon) and Carli Lloyd (Manchester City) also previously faced criticism after leaving for opportunities abroad.

Former United States manager Jill Ellis was a strong advocate of players remaining in the USA and the USWNT’s existing pay structure makes playing outside of the U.S. quite complicated for players, especially if they don’t have the support of U.S. Soccer. The federation pays the players’ international salaries and game bonuses, as well as the club salaries for USWNT players who play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). While teams own the league, U.S. Soccer are employed through a contract to manage aspects of the league. This includes paying national team salaries for some players as well as salaries for at least 22 other players. In exchange for these salaries, the teams and the league limit the amount of players who can go overseas, though this contract is revisited periodically and the next review is due at the end of 2021. It all means that the USSF has an extra interest in its big stars staying home and playing in the States.

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around United States stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players, and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

However, these controls have been loosening in the last year due to a number of internal and external factors. The league has been looking to lessen the control U.S. Soccer has on its players while Ellis’ successor as USWNT coach, Vlatko Andonovski, has said he sees the benefits of players getting experience abroad.

“Every player that is Europe-based, if they’re healthy and performing well, they’re going to be in our plans and will be called for upcoming camps,” Andonovski said when asked about the Europe-based members of his squad.

However, one factor undoubtedly pushed the balance for the players this year: the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the NWSL was the first professional sports league to return to play in the United States after the initial pandemic-enforced shutdown, uncertainty led to Press and Heath opting out of the league’s Challenge Cup, while Morgan’s club side, the Orlando Pride, were forced to withdraw from the tournament entirely due to a spate of COVID-19 tests.”It was a really impossible situation,” Heath told ESPN. “I haven’t played a real game of football since March, and it was a long time to press pause on my career. It was a very tough decision because I have given so much of my career and my heart there.

Alex Morgan leaving Spurs for Orlando in 2021

“The NWSL is a great league. It’s so competitive from every single team and every single game. They have the right people and they are invested in it. It’s unfortunate that the outcome right now isn’t players staying.”Man City’s Mewis (North Carolina Courage) and Lavelle (OL Reign) did compete in the tournament, but the chance for regular football ahead of an Olympic year was a massive draw.”I think the NWSL did such a good job with the Challenge Cup,” Mewis told ESPN. “I think it is such an individual decision to switch teams or change leagues, and the opportunity is so great that I personally was like this is a chance for me to add some depth to my game and continue to evolve as a player.”

Not only was the certainty of England’s FA Women’s Super League (WSL) season a draw for the players, but their coaches also backed them for pursuing regular game time and continuing their development. “Most important for Sam right now are competitive games, especially leading into an Olympic year, and she will be able to play 20 games over the next six to seven months, which is hugely valuable,” North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley said when her transfer was announced.While the winds may be slightly changing for the USWNT, it is unlikely — especially with the return of the NWSL and several new expansion teams coming soon, like Racing Louisville FC and Angel City FC in Los Angeles — that these moves will herald a mass exodus to Europe. The role of COVID-19 and subsequently a lack of domestic options for players also cannot be understated, with Morgan announcing on Monday she will be leaving Spurs to return to Orlando in January.

However, as women’s football becomes a more global game and the ties between U.S. Soccer and the league continue to loosen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the USWNT’ stars make the move across the pond in the future. — Kathleen McNamee

A few minutes with … Matthew Hoppe

Schalke 04‘s Matthew Hoppe is the latest young American to break through in the German Bundesliga, the 19-year-old having recently made his Bundesliga debut against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Matthew Hoppe explains why he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and take his skills to the next level in Europe.

The Californian, who has made three appearances to date for Schalke, is hoping to make his USMNT debut soon and sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to discuss the future of the USMNT, his unlikely rise at Schalke and which strikers he models his game after.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

Tobin Heath, Manchester United — On the rise : Coach Casey Stoney’s work to secure the signatures of USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United was one of the biggest coups of the summer transfer window. Heath in particular has made her presence felt since her arrival at the club, with her distinctive and confident play helping United head into the Christmas break top of the WSL table. With United still a relatively young side, Heath’s four goals have been impressive, but her leadership and experience have undoubtedly been just as important to the Red Devils’ success so far this season.

– Gio Reyna voted U.S. Soccer’s young male player of the year

Tim WeahLille — On the rise : After a lost 2019-20 season due to multiple hamstring injuries, Weah is finally starting to make his mark in France. The American attacker has made the most of his appearances of late, scoring goals against Celtic and Dijon and adding an assist against Slavia Prague in the month of December. Weah has yet to start a game in Ligue 1, but it seems as if that is only a matter of time now.

“He has improved massively. He is getting better and better. We forget sometimes that he is only 20 and that he had a very serious injury last year. He is working really hard, and we have great hopes for him for this season,” a Lille source tells ESPN’s Julien Laurens. Healthy and confident again, Weah looks as if he is getting back to his best, which is great to see after an injury-marred 2020 for the ex-PSG man.Tyler AdamsRB Leipzig — Trending downAdams remains a contributor for RB Leipzig, but some around the team worry about his form and his competition for the starting defensive midfield role. After scoring the goal that sent RB Leipzig into the Champions League semifinals in August, the 21-year-old has endured a mixed start to the season, marked by inconsistent playing time and a minor knee injury.

The American has started seven of Leipzig’s 13 games in the Bundesliga, six of those as a defensive midfielder, but faces competition from both Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl in the heart of the pitch. Ulli Kroemer of NTV rates him behind Sabitzer and Kampl in terms of ball control and adds that at the moment, Adams lacks the class and experience that the other two possess. Maybe more troubling is that Kroemer also says that Adams has struggled to win back balls of late, which is one of the attributes the former New York Red Bulls product typically hangs his hat on. Adams will need to turn it around soon or he could be the odd man out in Julian Nagelsmann’s constantly changing midfield.

Rose Lavelle, Manchester City — Trending downPicked to the NWSL Challenge Cup’s Best XI, Lavelle’s arrival at Manchester City was met with real excitement. However, it feels like we’ve yet to see the best of the midfielder across the Atlantic. Manager Gareth Taylor has said that she arrived to the WSL with a different level of fitness to teammate Sam Mewis, which is why her game minutes have been somewhat limited. A goal against the Netherlands for the USWNT in November was a timely reminder of what she is capable of, however an injury soon after set her back again. Many will be hoping 2021 is the year she banishes any fitness doubts and establishes herself as a key cog in the Man City machine.

Scouting report: Chris Richards

The young American defender has enjoyed a fairytale 2020-21 season so far. In the space of a few eventful months, the Alabama-born center-back has gone from a talent to a proper pro, starting for Bayern in the Bundesliga and the Champions League and making his debut for the USMNT against Panama. The 20-year-old’s journey to the German champions hasn’t been the easiest — he had to undergo a trial and a loan move before his permanent €1.1 million move from FC Dallas — but he’s passed every exam along the way with flying colours.

Fielded mainly as a centre-back for Bayern’s second team in the third tier of German league football, Richards has alternated between his preferred position in the middle and as a right-back for the senior side. Despite being mobile, he doesn’t have the extreme pace of his teammate Alphonso Davies and at centre-back, but his obvious qualities — aerial power (he’s got a great leap), composure on the ball, and one-on-one defending — come to the fore much more readily.

While not quite yet ready to permanently replace Jerome Boateng or David Alaba (whose contracts expire at the end of the season) in the first team, the accumulated playing time and faith he’s been shown by Bayern head coach Hansi Flick will work wonders for his further development. With work on his positional and game-reading skills, he’ll have every right to envisage a future as a regular starter for the reigning Champions League holders. – Tor-Kristian Karlsen

12/19/20 Columbus wins MLS Cup, Lewandowski wins Player of Year, Busy Holiday European Games on TV

MLS Columbus Wins its 2nd MLS Cup

Wow Columbus got off to a fantastic first half and knocked the defending Champion Seattle Sounders off last weekend.  The 3-0 score line is really misleading – as after getting off to a surprising 2-0 lead Columbus really buckled down and defended with occasional counters.  After playing their worst half of the year/decade in the first half – Seattle attacked with reckless abandon in the 2nd half.  Shots to the left of goal, shots over the post – 3 times, shots just over the goal.  In all Seattle peppered Columbus with 15 shots in the 2nd half – but they just couldn’t put them on target and late in the game – 1 final counter attack made it 3 – 0 for Columbus as the title returned to Columbus for the first time since in 25 years.  Great story for Columbus who this time last year were headed to Austin.  Until the Owner of the Browns stepped up on the ownership side with begging from the Columbus fans holding one of the original 8 MLS franchises at its home in Columbus.  The first ever soccer specific stadium built – hosted its last game – a Championship Win – bookcasing a fantastic 25 Years of MLS.  I for one am happy Columbus stayed – Columbus is still the home of the USMNT in games that must be won vs Mexico – and I can’t wait to be there next time the game takes place with fans.  Congrats Columbus – I guess its ok you beat my Seattle this time. 

On the CCL – Atlanta won their 2nd game but only LAFC will advance to the final 4 Tuesday on FS2 at 10 pm in the annual battle between MLS and LigaMX. The Finals are Sat night on FS2. (See the schedule)

 Champions League last 16 schedule

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City

Lazio v Bayern Munich

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

FC Porto v Juventus

Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

Atalanta v Real Madrid

The first legs of these games will be played on Feb. 16-17 and 23-24, while the second legs will take place on March 9-10 and 16-17.


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 19 

7:30 am Peacock                  Liverpool vs Cyrstal Palace  

9:30 am ESPN+                    RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Koln

10 am beIN Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Valencia  

12:30 pm NBCSN              Everton vs Arsenal

12:30 ESPN+               Bayern (Richards) vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm               Parma vs Juve (Mckinney)

8 pm FS2                                           Tigres vs Olimpia CCL 

10:30 pm  FS2                                 LAFC vs America  CCL

Sun, Dec 20 

9:15  am NBCSN         Tottenham vs Leicester

11:30  am NBCSN                Man United vs Leeds

12 pm ESPN+                       Geonoa vs Juve (McKinney)

12 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim

2:15 pm NBCSN                   West Brom vs Aston Villa  

3 pm beIN Sport                   Eober vs Real Madrid  

Mon, Dec 21  

1 pm NBCSN??                    Burnley vs Wolverhampton

3 pm NBCSN                       Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Westham

Tues, Dec 22

1 pm NBCSN                        Brentford vs Newcastle United

3 pm NBCSN               Arsenal vs Man City  

8 pm FS2                     CONCACAF Champs Final  

Wed, Dec 23 

1 pmEPSN+                          Stoke City vs Tottenham  League Cup

3 pm NBCSN??                    Everton vs Man United 

Sat Dec 26

3  pm NBC                    Arsenal vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

Sun, Dec 27

11:30  pm NBCSN                                Liverpoool vs West brom

2:!5 pm NBCSN                   Woverhampton vs Tottenham


US Weston McKennie Wins Player of the Year for US –  SI  

Key USMNT questions heading into a busy 2021 that includes the start of World Cup qualifying

Pulisic Starts and plays full 90 in Weird game for Chelsea in loss to Wolves

USMNT golden generation? Why Pulisic, Reyna & Co. are on course to make a run at 2022 World Cup 

Weston McKennie earns 2020 US Male Player of the Year award


News Analysis: Was it worth it to have an MLS season amid coronavirus?

Zakuani: Three takeaways (and a little more) from MLS Cup 2020

Unbelievably special” Zelarayan delivers ultimate prize for Crew

MLS Cup Player Ratings: Perfection from Zelarayan, Porter

“Our worst half of the season”: Sounders not deflecting blame after MLS Cup loss

Columbus Crew win MLS Cup 2020! Sounders repeat denied

St. Louis celebrate stadium construction milestone

Carlos Vela relishing CCL run as LAFC star helps oust another Liga MX foe

Atlanta beat Club America, but exit CCL quarters on aggregate

MLS vs. Liga MX: Is the tide turning in CCL?

History! Davies first North American named to FIFA Men’s World XI

Zlatan’s stunner wins “The Greatest Goal” vote


Which Premier League club in Europe dealt best with fixture congestion?

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and 

The growing number of USMNT players featuring for top clubs overseas is reflected in the 2020 voting, won by Weston McKennie.


It’s noteworthy, perhaps historic, that the winner of the 2020 U.S. Soccer male player of the year award is a 22-year-old midfielder who, after standing out for struggling Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in the spring, became the first American player to sign for mighty Juventus.It’s equally noteworthy that Weston McKennie, who’s played 13 times and already scored twice for the Bianconeri, beat out U.S. teammates at Barcelona, Chelsea and RB Leipzig for the American game’s most prestigious honor.After a couple down years for the men’s national team program, not only has the player of the year award recouped some of its luster, it’s also become much tougher to win. And that trend is likely to continue as more U.S. players climb the club pyramid in Europe and play games at the highest level. MLS players are eligible as well, of course, but the bar for contention has been raised considerably. It’s yet another sign that the USMNT has entered a new era.McKennie, 22, won the award after being named on 44% of the ballots cast by national team coaches, players who were called up to the USA in 2020, members of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors and Athletes Council, MLS and USL head coaches, media members and “former players and administrators,” according to the USSF. Each voter selects just one nominee. Last year’s winner, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, finished second with 27% of the vote and Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest placed third at 14%. The other finalists were Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).McKennie was informed Friday after training in Turin by new National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Carlos Bocanegra, who met McKennie in 2006 when he was a child growing up at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. McKennie has said that meeting, which also included Landon Donovan, sparked his dream to play for the national team.“I want to thank everyone for this huge honor. It’s been a journey, especially through these difficult times during the pandemic,” McKennie said. “Our fans have stuck with us throughout and we really appreciate it. Hopefully in 2021 we can have many more memories together.”The pandemic limited the USA to four friendlies in 2020, and only two of those came during a FIFA window and were open to players based in Europe. McKennie started and excelled in those October games, a 0-0 draw at Wales and a 6-2 win over Panama. But this was a year in which club performance was going to take precedence, and McKennie’s was good enough at Schalke to earn the move to Juventus. Once there, he attacked the opportunity. He’s made eight starts already, including three in the UEFA Champions League, and there are reports that Juventus is ready to make his loan from Schalke a permanent transfer.McKennie is the fourth-youngest recipient of the award, which was first handed out in 1984. He finished third last year, but the 2019 honor was a two-man race between Pulisic and Morris. It was an uneven period for the USA as coach Gregg Berhalter looked to get comfortable and implement his system during his first year in charge. ADVERTISING

U.S. Soccer's Player of the Year winners

U.S. Soccer The Americans advanced to the Concacaf Gold Cup final but were beaten by Mexico on a frustrating night outside New York City. Then there was the embarrassing Nations League defeat to Canada in Toronto. By year’s end, only Pulisic and Morris really stood out. Pulisic tallied three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup and then completed his move to Chelsea, for which he scored five times. Morris was outstanding for Seattle in MLS, notching 13 goals and eight assists, but no one else really staked his claim during a year of national team transition.Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was named player of the year in 2018, an even stranger period marked by coach Dave Sarachan’s interim tenure, a lot of friendlies and a voting dynamic that saw Adams and McKennie split the “exciting European prospect” vote. Steffen started in five of the USA’s 11 games and backstopped the Crew to the MLS Cup quarterfinals as he was named MLS’s goalkeeper of the year. In 2018, that was enough.The year before, untainted by the USA’s World Cup qualifying failure, Pulisic won the first of his two awards with a ridiculous 94% of the vote. That type of landslide won’t happen again. That year, the voting was an indication of crisis. This time and in the future, it’s likely to reflect the unprecedented growth and progress of the American player pool.

12/11/20 MLS Cup Columbus vs Seattle Sat 8 pm Fox, Manchester & Madrid Derby’s Sat, US Men Dominate, UCL Final 16 Set

MLS Finals Set Seattle vs Columbus Sat 8 pm on Fox

Seattle came back from 2 goals down to Minn United at home with 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to snatch away the victory. The 2nd goal in the 89th minute and the final goal off a corner header in the 93rd minute to secure the victory as MLS’ new dynasty the Seattle Sounders will look to complete a Back to Back at Columbus on Saturday night. The defending MLS Champs were taken to the woodshed in the first 30 minutes by upstart Minn United. The 4th year team – just 2 years removed from having the worst record in the league has made steady progress under coach Adrian Heath and looks to be set to compete moving forward in the West. Meanwhile, Seattle has set the standard in MLS this decade as this is their 4th MLS Cup in 5 years with Championships last year and in 2016. Columbus Crew SC are the home team and they’re 12W-1L-0D at MAPFRE Stadium this season, including Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs wins over the New York Red BullsNashville SC and the New England Revolution. The Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are the defending champions and are looking to join D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy as the only teams in league history to win back-to-back titles. This is honestly a toss-up and the way this MLS Playoff season has gone – is much watch TV Sat Night at 8 pm on Fox.  Also CONCACAF Champions League kicks off next week Tues/Wed/Sat between MLS and Mexican teams on Fox Sports 2 – see schedule below as Atlanta United, NYCFC, LAFC and Montreal will all be in action with the Semi’s on Sat eve.    

What to Watch in Europe This Week

Its Derby weekend in England and Spain this weekend as the Manchester Derby between Man United and Man City is Sat 12:30 pm on NBC (finally as good game on NBC!!) and the Madrid Derby with Real Madrid and Athletico is Saturday at 3pm on beIN Sport.  A lot of good games on Sartuday as American Christian Pulisic should be available vs a sliding Everton at 3:30 pm on Peacock.  In Germany Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig host Werder Bremen and forward Stewart at 9:30 am on ESPN+, while Dortmund and Gio Reyna host Stuttgart at the same time on ESPN+.  Sunday gives us Fulham and American’s Ream and Robinson trying to hold down high scoring Liverpool at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  Juve and American Weston McKinney (fresh off his wondergoal in Champions League Wed) will travel to Genoa in Italy at 12 pm on ESPN+, and finally Sergio Dest will travel with Barcelona to face Levante at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  There are bunch of midweek games headed by Liverpool vs Tottenham on NBCSN at 3 pm Wed. 

US Men Wallop El Salvador 6-0. 

Wow want goals – how’s 6-0.  So this is how we are supposed to handle 3rd tier CONCACAF teams when our 3rd team plays their first team.  Quite impressive of the the young American squad and of course veteran’s Llegget and Paul Arrieola.  Overall I thought the entire squad was impressive on the night.  It certainly sets up some interesting choices for coach Gregg.  Hopefully they can pull together another – MLS camp in January – as we prepare for the busy summer of the Olympics, Gold Cup and Nations League this summer. 


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 12 

7:30 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Aston Villa

9:30 am ESPN+                    Dortmund (Ryna)  vs Stuttgart

9:30 am ESPN+                    RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am beIN Sport                 Getafe vs Sevilla  

12:30 pm NBC                       Manchester United  vs Man City

12:30 ESPN+                        Bayern (Richards) vs Union Berlin

3 pm beiN Sport         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid  

3:30 pm Peacock              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

8:30 pm FOX              Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders MLS CUP

Sun, Dec 13  

9:15 am  NBCSN                  Crystal Palace vs Tottenham

11:30 am NBCSN                 Fulham vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                       Geonoa vs Juve (McKinney)

12 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim

2:15 pm NBCSN                   Arsenal vs Burnley

3 pm beIN Sport                   Barcelona (Dest) vs Levante

Tues, Dec 15  

1 pm NBCSN??                    Wolverhampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm NBCSN??                    Man City vs West Brom

8 pm FS2                                           Atlanta United vs America  CCL

10 pm  FS2                                       LAFC vs Cruz Azul  CCL

Wed, Dec 16 

1 pm NBCSN??                    Arsenal vs Southhampton

3 pm NBCSN               Liverpool vs Tottenham

8 pm FS2                                           Olimpia vs Montreal Impact  CCL  

10:30 pm  FS2                                 NYCFC vs Tigres    CCL

Thur, Dec 17 

1 pm NBCSN??                    Aston  Villa vs Burnley

3 pm NBCSN??                    Sheffield vs Man United  

Fri , Dec 18 

2:30 pm ESPN+                     Dortmund (Ryna)  vs Union Berlin

MLS – Champ Game Sat 8:30 pm FOX

Jones: Your neutral’s guide to who to support in MLS Cup
Columbus Crew midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Pedro Santos out for MLS Cup vs. Seattle Sounders

MLS Cup storylines: Are Seattle Sounders a dynasty in the making? Can Columbus Crew be defeated at home?
Wiebe: Do Sounders need to win MLS Cup to cement dynasty status?
Zakuani: An insider’s guide to the two MLS Cup coaches
An MLS title is in view for Columbus Crew, a club saved by fan power

Soccer-Seasoned Seattle seek third MLS Cup title in five years

Sigi Schmid’s influence still felt in Columbus, Seattle
538: Who will win MLS Cup 2020?
Sounders Score 3 Goals in last 15 Minutes to Stun Minn
What a comeback! Seattle beat Loons 3-2, reach fourth MLS Cup in five years
“One of our best games ever”: Seattle back in MLS Cup after classic
Bruin & Svensson the super-sub heroes for Sounders: “I knew what I needed to do”
Minnesota: We were “running on empty” at the end vs. Seattle.
USMNT Abroad weekend preview

Pulisic, Reyna, Mewis, Dahlkemper headline U.S. Soccer award nominees

USMNT youngster Ledezma tears ACL in 6th appearance for PSV

USMNT – El Salvador player ratings from a six-star show

Three things we learned from USMNT – El Salvador

Chris Mueller leads six-goal barrage as U.S. men’s national soccer team defeats El Salvador in friendly

Dominant U.S. soccer still making progress, routs El Salvador in friendly
Lampard says Pulisic fit for Everton – Chelsea despite ‘tiny’ hamstring fright

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 12

Manchester derby ‘best game’ to lift United, says Solskjaer

Solskjaer in the spotlight for Manchester derby

Managers are paid to handle the pressure, says Guardiola

Fulham – Liverpool: How to watch, start time, stream link, odds, prediction
 WORLD & Champs League
Atletico favourites to win Spanish title says Zidane

Lewandowski facing Messi, Ronaldo for FIFA best player award
 Crazy final day: Champions League group stage winners and losers
UEFA Champions League wrap: Gladbach, Madrid sides take final spots

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Champions League knockouts?

Real Madrid, Atletico into Champions League last 16 as PSG win suspended game

Atletico brush Salzburg aside to reach last 16

Inter Milan crash out of Europe after Champions League stalemate

Europa League: Tottenham, Leicester win groups; USMNT’s Weah scores


SBI SoccerJust Now

Zack Steffen’s UEFA Champions League debut may have felt like a bit of a formality for a Manchester City side that had already clinched its group before Wednesday’s match against Marseille, but the goalkeeper’s shutout performance still carried significance as a worthy cap to a record-setting group stage for Americans.

Steffen became the ninth different American to play in this season’s Champions League group stage, further shattering the previous record of six. He became just the third American goalkeeper to start in Champions League (joining Tim Howard and Ethan Horvath), posting the first shutout since Horvath posted three shutouts in a row with Standard Liege in 2018.The end of the group stage offers a moment to reflect on a collection of matches Americans aren’t going to forget any time soon, a period highlighted by Weston McKennie’s stunning goal and man of the match performance for Juventus against Barcelona on Tuesday.

The American contingent in Champions League set new records for matches played (30) and goal scorers (three), with several playing key roles on top teams. Sergino Dest has become a regular starter for FC Barcelona while Gio Reyna has continued to develop into a top threat for Borussia Dortmund.

The knockout rounds could produce even more magic, with eight Americans set to take part, and five of the eight being part of group-winning squads, including Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic

Monday’s Round of 16 draw could help setup the first knockout-round match to feature American players on both sides. Potential clashes between Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest, or Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, could put a finishing tough on a special Champions League season.

The ultimate goal for all eight remaining Americans in Champions League will be to try to become the second American to win a Champions League winner’s medal, joining Jovan Kirovski, who won one as part of the 1996-1997 Borussia Dortmund title squad.


Gregory Caltabanis

Just Now

Derbies have often served as turning points in seasons, something Real Madrid and Manchester United will be hoping for this weekend.

Manchester United is coming off a disappointing Champions League exit ahead of its clash against Manchester City, while Real Madrid will be eager to get its title defense back on track against Atletico Madrid.

The Galacticos just punched their ticket into the Round of 16 in midweek and will now shift their attention on cutting into Atletico’s six-point lead atop La Liga. Elsewhere, Barcelona’s struggles continued under Ronald Koeman, losing out on first place in their group following their defeat against Juventus. The Blaugrana takes on Levante, while Real Sociedad hosts Eibar.

Chelsea’s affair with Everton presents an intriguing clash of styles, with the Blues looking to maintain the pace atop the table with Spurs and Liverpool. Jose Mourinho’s men return to action against a fellow London side, Crystal Palace, while the reigning champions take on the newly-promoted Fulham. All eyes in England will be on the Manchester Derby, as the fierce rivals lock horns on Saturday at Old Trafford.

In Germany, Bayern Munich engages in an intriguing affair with Union Berlin, hoping to extend its lead atop the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen faces off against Hoffenheim, while Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to claim its first Bundesliga win in three games against Stuttgart. RB Leipzig hosts Werder Bremen, in what promises to be an enthralling matchup.

In Italy, Juventus travels to take on Genoa, in search of its sixth win of the season, while Inter Milan take on Cagliari on Sunday. League-leading AC Milan takes the field on Sunday against a tricky Parma side.

Here is a closer look at this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues and competitions:

Premier League

The latest iteration of the Manchester Derby headlines the action in England this weekend, as the Red Devils welcome Manchester City into Old Trafford. Manchester United will be eager to put its Champions League disappointment behind them on Saturday and continue its recent surge up the table. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men have won their last four in league action, sitting just five points behind first with a game in hand. Manchester City enters the derby in fine form as well, having yet to concede a goal on its latest five-game unbeaten run. As just one point separates them in the table, the English giants will be raring to go.

Chelsea’s title credentials will be put to the test when they travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. Frank Lampard’s men most recently punched their ticket into the Champions League Round of 16 in convincing fashion and are currently riding a 14-game unbeaten streak. Chelsea’s recent resurgence has them within two points of the league leaders ahead of the crucial holiday stretch. Everton has slowed down since its hot start, picking up just one win in its last seven encounters. Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to find the back of the net despite the Toffees’ struggles and leads the league with 11 goals. The Blues will be hoping to confirm their contender status and return to winning ways following their draw in mid-week.

Tottenham has taken the Premier League by storm this season, marching to first place in recent weeks. Jose Mourinho’s men will now shift their attention to the in-form Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s side is coming off a 5-1 win over West Brom, with Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke each netting braces. Spurs will be hoping to keep its momentum going, most recently emerging victorious over Arsenal in last weekend’s North London Derby. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were once again on target and will be hoping to continue their productive start on Sunday. Spurs currently sit in first place, level on points with Liverpool, and are yet to lose since their surprise defeat against Southampton back in September.

The reigning champions’ next stop takes them to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham on Sunday. Liverpool enters this clash off the back of a comprehensive victory over Wolves and will be looking to create some breathing room atop the table against the newly-promoted side. Scott Parker’s men are languishing dangerously right abovethe drop zone, sitting just one point ahead of Burnley. Fulham most recently lost to Manchester City in a fiery affair, indicating they can compete with England’s elite. Liverpool may still be without key men but has demonstrated its impressive depth in recent weeks, extending its unbeaten run to seven games.

La Liga

Real Madrid hosts its fierce rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday, in hopes of reigniting its title hopes. The Galacticos sit six points behind Diego Simeone’s men, having played one more game than them and will be eager to make up some crucial ground. Both clubs are coming off successful weeks in Europe, booking their place into the knockout stages of the Champions League. Real Madrid put an end to its recent skid, recording back-to-back victories against Sevilla and Borussia Moenchengladbach to get its season back on track. Their crosstown rivals – Atletico Madrid – have since emerged as the favorites to dethrone them, kicking off the La Liga season on a 10-game unbeaten run. Joao Felix and Luis Suarez have provided the firepower, scoring five goals apiece.

Barcelona will be looking to bounce back following its disappointing defeat against Juventus, welcoming Levante into the Camp Nou. The Spanish giants have struggled under Ronald Koeman, opening their season with four defeats in their opening 10 games. Barcelona currently trails the league-leading Atletico by 12 points and will be hoping to put its recent woes behind them. Levante has stumbled out of the gates themselves and hovers dangerously above the drop zone. Despite this, Paco Lopez’s men are unbeaten in their last five games, albeit having drawn four of their clashes. As their title hopes slip away, Barcelona needs to start picking up results.

Real Sociedad relinquished the top spot for the first time this season last week and will be hoping to overtake Atletico Madrid when they square off against Eibar. The Basque outfit most recently played out to a stalemate against Alaves, dropping points for the second consecutive weekend. Real Sociedad has only lost one of its 12 La Liga encounters this season and has since propelled itself in the title race. Imanol Alguacil’s men have their sights set on first place, sitting just one point behind Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros, however, have played two games in hand on Real Sociedad. Eibar enters this clash in decent form, currently riding a four-game unbeaten run in league play. 


Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to return to winning ways on Saturday, hosting a resurgent Stuttgart side. Lucien Favre’s men punched their ticket into the Champions League knockout stages as group winners but have dropped points in consecutive matchdays in the Bundesliga. Erling Haaland has missed his side’s last three games and is expected to be sidelined until January, forcing Dortmund to make do without its towering hitman. Stuttgart has proven incredibly hard to break down in the early goings of the season, losing just twice in 10 games. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side will be looking to confirm its European credentials, hoping to put its name in the conversation for the Europa League. Bayern Munich heads into its clash with Union Berlin in top form and is yet to lose since its defeat on matchday two. The German giants may be leading the Bundesliga, but just two points separate them and third place. Union Berlin has impressed in its second season since returning to the top-flight, emerging as unlikely contenders for a place in Europe. Max Kruse has led the charge for the capital-based club, registering six goals and five assists in eight starts. Urs Fischer’s men will be eager to put its recent skid to an end, having failed to win their last two games. Bayern Munich’s high-powered attack has propelled them past the competition thus far, netting 34 goals in its opening 10 games. Robert Lewandowski leads the league with 12 strikes already and will be on the hunt for more on Saturday.RB Leipzig will be looking to carry the momentum from its midweek triumph over Manchester United into matchday 11. Julian Nagelsmann’s men host Werder Bremen, who is winless in its last eight games. Florian Kohfeldt’s men have struggled in recent weeks, dropping to 13th place. RB Leipzig will want to confirm its title credentials and maintain the pace atop the table with Bayern Munich. The German giants are coming off a taxing game against Manchester United but will need to be at their best on Saturday. Werder Bremen may be struggling, but they have proven they can compete with any side in the Bundesliga on their day, holding Bayern Munich to a draw.Bayer Leverkusen will put its unbeaten record on the line when they welcome Hoffenheim into the Bay Arena on Sunday. Peter Bosz’s men are currently riding a 10-game unbeaten streak and sit just one point behind Bayern Munich in first place. Leverkusen most recently overcame a winless Schalke side, emerging comfortable winners in a 3-0 victory. Hoffenheim has turned its fortunes around following an indifferent start to the season and will be hoping to extend its three-game unbeaten streak. The German side has already booked its place in the Europa League’s Round of 32 and will be eager to throw a wrench in Leverkusen’s title hopes. Hoffenheim remains the only side to have beaten Bayern Munich this season, putting four past the Bavarian giants.

Serie A

With first place in its Champions League group secured, Juventus can now turn its attention on boosting its title defense against Genoa this weekend, with the Italian champions making the trip to the Luigi Ferraris on Sunday. Andrea Pirlo’s squad enter this clash off the back of a comprehensive victory against Barcelona and will be hoping for much of the same against Genoa. Juventus has struggled for consistency in the opening rounds of league play, drawing five of its opening 10 games. The Bianconeri currently trail AC Milan by six points and cannot afford to fall any further behind Stefano Pioli’s men. Genoa will be eager to turn its season around, having won just one of its first 10 games. Davide Nicola’s men are flirting dangerously with the drop zone and are winless in their last nine encounters.

AC Milan welcomes Parma into the San Siro on Sunday, looking to maintain its sizable lead atop the table. The Rossoneri sit five points above fierce rival Inter Milan. Pioli’s side is coming off a narrow victory against Sampdoria, extending its unbeaten run in Serie A to 22 games, dating back to last season. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Parma will be looking to continue its recent resurgence. Fabio Liverani’s men have only lost once in their last eight encounters in all competitions, indicating a hard-fought battle ahead. 

Inter Milan will not have much time to lick its wounds following its European elimination, traveling to Sardegna Arena to take on Cagliari on Sunday. The Nerazzurri are unbeaten in their last five league encounters, recording three consecutive wins. In fact, Inter Milan’s only defeat in league action came in the Derby Della Madonnina against their fierce rivals. Antonio Conte’s men will try to cut into AC Milan’s five-point lead atop the table but will not have it easy against Cagliari. The Sardinian outfit has proven to be a free-scoring side under Eusebio Di Francesco, with Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone combining for 11 goals already this season.


Paris Saint-Germain hosts Olympique Lyonnais on Saturday, with just two points separating the sides. Rudi Garcia’s side has undergone a recent resurgence and is unbeaten since its loss against Montpellier back in September. PSG heads into this intriguing matchup off the back of a dominant performance against Istanbul Başakşehir, putting five past the Turkish side. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe combined for five goals between them and will look to translate their goalscoring exploits into this game. Lyon possesses a dynamic attack of its own, having scored six goals in their last two convincing victories. 

PSG’s encounter with Lyon may dominate the headlines, but Marseille’s upcoming clash against AS Monaco will be just as compelling. Andre Vilas Boas’s side is coming off an abysmal European campaign, but still sits just two points behind PSG with two games in hand. Monaco will be looking to return to winning ways after losing narrowly to Lille last weekend. Niko Kovac’s men were previously riding a four-game winning streak, including a come-from-behind win against PSG. Only five points stand between a fifth-place Monaco and first place, indicating an intense title race ahead.

Portuguese football is on pause this weekend, as the fourth round of the Taça de Portugal is set to resume. Sporting CP hosts Pacos Ferreira on Friday, while Porto welcomes Tondela into the Estádio do Dragão on Sunday. Elsewhere, Benfica takes on Vilafraquense while Braga makes the trip to CO Montijo.

Champions League group stage winners and losers: Manchester United headlines early exits


Yahoo Sports StaffWed, December 9, 2020, 5:54 PM EST·5 min read

The most condensed UEFA Champions League group stage in the history of Europe’s top club competition came to an end Wednesday as the final slate of Matchday 6 games concluded.

Despite the breakneck pace of the schedule — the 2020-21 campaign started a month later than normal because of fixture congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in games almost every single week — there was absolutely no drop-off in drama. Now that the first round is over, with the knockout phase set to begin February as usual, a look and the biggest winners and losers is in order.

Champions League group stage winners

Real Madrid: The most successful team in tournament history came into its sixth and final match sitting third in a tricky Group B, meaning Real Madrid needed to beat then-leader Borussia Monchengladbach to emerge from a foursome that also included Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk.

But Zinedine Zidane’s team made no mistake, strolling to a comfortable 2-0 victory over the German side, with veteran striker Karim Benzema scoring both of the goals. Not only did the triumph vault Real into the next stage, it was enough to take the group, too.

Juventus: The Italian titan came into its final Group G contest knowing that following a 2-0 loss to Barcelona in Turin in October, only a three-goal margin in the rematch in Spain would be enough to leapfrog Barca and top the group, guaranteeing (in theory anyway) an easier Round of 16 foe. For a club looking for its first European title this century following a pair of fruitless appearances in the finals since 2015, every advantage matters.And in the first meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in more than two years, Ronaldo got the better of his fellow living legend by scoring twice from the penalty spot — including the all-important group clincher — in a 3-0 rout at the Camp Nou.

Borussia Monchengladbach: After losing to Real, the only hope Gladbach had of advancing was if Inter and Shakhtar played to a stalemate in the other Group B contest. Yet that’s how it shook out, allowing the Germans to move on.

Chelsea: Frank Lampard’s Blues were the favorites to win Group E from the start. But after opening the tourney with a disappointing scoreless draw with Sevilla, Chelsea was lights-out in advancing, stringing together four consecutive wins — including a 4-0 drubbing of the Spaniards in Seville — en route to the top spot.

U.S. men’s national team: When Manchester City keeper Zack Steffen made his debut in the competition Wednesday in the already-qualified Sky Blues’ group finale, he became the record ninth American to play in the Champions League this year.

Steffen kept a clean sheet in 3-0 win over Marseille, and he’ll join seven of his other eight compatriots — Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Konrad de le Fuente, Sergino Dest (both Barcelona), Weston McKennie (Juventus) Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) — in next year’s knockout round. The only USMNT regular who didn’t advance was Club Brugge’s backup backstop Ethan Horvath, who starred in a last-gasp win over Zenit St. Petersburg in his only appearance this campaign.

Champions League group stage losers

Manchester United: The Red Devils’ furious comeback was too little, too late in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Leipzig, relegating once-feared United to third place behind last season’s surprise semifinalists and Group H winners Paris Saint-Germain. (PSG trounced İstanbul Başakşehir 5-1 behind Neymar’s hat trick Wednesday, a day after the match was abandoned following a racist incident.)

Despite being drawn into arguably the most difficult of the eight groups, it was an embarrassing exit for the three-time European champs. And it heaped more pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who now must balance trying to win the Europa League with climbing up the standings in the Prem, where United sits sixth.

Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk: Both teams came into their final day meeting with the chance to move on from Group B. A win for either would’ve been enough; a draw would result in mutually assured destruction. Inter attacked like crazy, but put just four of 20 shots on frame, while defensive-minded Donetsk clearly was content to settle for the Europa League rather than risk finishing last.

Lionel Messi: Watching a visibly frustrated Messi in Tuesday’s thumping by Juventus, it was hard not to think back to the historic drubbing Bayern Munich put on Barcelona in the 2019-20 quarterfinal. This one wasn’t as bad, granted. But it also inspired zero confidence that this Barcelona squad, as currently constructed, has any realistic chance of competing for the Champions League title, either this year or in the near future.

However long Barcelona is able to survive in the knockout stage, those matches could well mark the last handful of Messi’s incomparable Blaugrana career. The 33-year-old, who tried to leave his only professional club last summer in a bid to win another European crown before he retires, has just six months remaining on his contract.

12/8/20 Champs League Tues/Wed Real or Man U out?, USMNT vs El Salvador Wed 7:30 pm ESPN News, MLS Finals Sat Columbus vs Seattle on Fox 8 pm.

MLS Finals Set Seattle vs Columbus Sat 8 pm on Fox

Seattle came back from 2 goals down to Minn United at home with 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to snatch away the victory. The 2nd goal in the 89th minute and the final goal off a corner header in the 93rd minute to secure the victory as MLS’ new dynasty the Seattle Sounders will look to complete a Back to Back at Columbus on Saturday night. The defending MLS Champs were taken to the woodshed in the first 30 minutes by upstart Minn United. The 4th year team – just 2 years removed from having the worst record in the league has made steady progress under coach Adrian Heath and looks to be set to compete moving forward in the West. Meanwhile, Seattle has set the standard in MLS this decade as this is their 4th MLS Cup in 5 years with Championships last year and in 2016. Columbus Crew SC are the home team and they’re 12W-1L-0D at MAPFRE Stadium this season, including Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs wins over the New York Red BullsNashville SC and the New England Revolution. The Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are the defending champions and are looking to join D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy as the only teams in league history to win back-to-back titles. This is honestly a toss-up and the way this MLS Playoff season has gone – is much watch TV Sat Night at 8 pm on Fox.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – FINAL Group Matches – Real & Man U on Edge, 7 spots up for grabs, Renaldo vs Messi

The Champions League group stage has reached its climax, with seven places in the round of 16 still up for grabs.  The crucial action comes in Group H as Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig fight it out for the two places, while Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk are in a titanic battle in Group B.  With that in mind, we run you through all the action ahead of what promises to be another unpredictable, dramatic week of Champions League action. Who will seal their places in the knockout stages?  It’s a Winner advance game today at 3 pm on CBS All Access and TUDN between RB Liepzig and Man United as American Adams looks to help RB Leipzig advance to the Sweet 16.  A PSG win or tie puts them into the next round.  Dortmund and Gio Reyna – fresh off a goal over the weekend – will look to claim first place in their group with a win at 1 pm at Zenit- either way they are thru.  Also Tuesday with 1st place in the group on the line is a rematch of Messi vs Ronaldo as Juventus and American Weston McKinney travel to Barcelona with American Serginio Dest at 3 pm on CBS AA.  Wednesday’s marquee matchup is Real Madrid hosting Borrusia MGladbach with the winner advancing to the Knock-out stages at 3 pm on CBS AA and TUDN.  At the same time Inter and Shakhatar are playing their own winner goes on – loser goes home match.  Atletico must win or tie to hold on their spot in the next round vs American Coach Jesse Marsh and Salzburg also at 3 pm Wed.  At 1 pm Ajax and Italy’s Atalata will face off on CBSAA for a shot to the next round.  Finally American GK Zach Steffan gets the start for Man City vs Marseille – as Man City has basically clinched top in group B.  Today and Wednesday just might be the day to watch the Goalazo show on CBS Sportsnetwork with so many games of such importance!   Here’s the Table going into the final matchday of group play.

USA Men face El Salvador Wed 7:30 pm ESPN News

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.  Some things to watch for Wed night are who makes a mark.  Lots of players are battling for a chance to be on the roster this summer as the US looks towards the Olympics (U24s), Gold Cup and Nations League Finals this summer.  Can the US score will be once question as Sebatian Soto looks to start up top.  Line-up prediction – This team should win by at least 2 goals! 

Soto //Akinola

Acosta, Aaronson, Lletget


Vines, McKenzie, Zimmerman, Araujo



GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Efrain Alvarez (LA Galaxy), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)


(American’s in parenthesis)

Tues, Dec 8 

               Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Zenit vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Man United  (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Barcelona (Dest) vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm CBS AA                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Krasnodar

3 pm CBS AA                     PSG vs Instanbul

 Wed, Dec 9  

                              Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA                     Ajax vs Atalanta

1 pm CBS AA                     Midtjylland vs Liverpool

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Real Madrid vs Borrusia MGladbach (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Inter vs Shakhatar Donetsk

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Salzburg (US Manager) vs Athletico Madrid (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA                     Manchester City (Steffan GK) vs Olympique Marseille        

7:30  pm  ESPN News TUDN USA Men (MLS guys) vs El Salvador 


 Champions League: How teams can qualify for round of 16  Dale Johnson

Man United, Real Madrid could bow out of UCL in pivotal week  Tom Hamilton
Messi will face Ronaldo in UCL clash – Koeman
  Sam Marsden

Zidane: I’ve never felt untouchable as coach  dAlex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Solskjaer’s had many ‘make or break’ weeks but this one will define his season
  Mark Ogden

Ole: Players must prove they belong at Man Utd  Rob Dawson


USMNT stars make Euro leagues scoring history
Berhalter issues challenge to Aaronson ahead of El Salvador friendly
Arriola: USMNT now have “different sense of urgency” now
Berhalter impressed by Efra Alvarez, leaving “open door” for US switch
Doyle: Latest USMNT roster has an Olympic flair
Jackson Yueill added to USMNT roster
Scouting El Salvador


538: Who will win MLS Cup 2020?
Sounders Score 3 Goals in last 15 Minutes to Stun Minn
What a comeback! Seattle beat Loons 3-2, reach fourth MLS Cup in five years
“One of our best games ever”: Seattle back in MLS Cup after classic
Bruin & Svensson the super-sub heroes for Sounders: “I knew what I needed to do”
Minnesota: We were “running on empty” at the end vs. Seattle

Complete Bracket: MLS Cup is set!

USA vs. El Salvador | How to watch, stream and follow | 2020 International Friendly

Dylan Butler Nov 25, 2020

2020 International Friendly
United States vs. El Salvador
Inter Miami CF Stadium – Fort Lauderdale
December 9 – 7:30 PM ET

TV: UniMás, TUDN, ESPN News

After the young, largely European-based US men’s national team impressed last month with results against Wales and Panama in the team’s first matches in nine months, a young crop of MLS players will look to impress Gregg Berhalter in an international friendly against El Salvador at Inter Miami CF Stadium Dec. 9. It is the last competitive match of the calendar year ahead of what will be a very busy and very important 2021, which includes World Cup qualifiers and the Concacaf Gold Cup. Of the 23 players called up, with Benfica goalkeeper CJ Dos Santos the lone player not from MLS, 13 are looking to earn their first USMNT cap. There’s some interesting storylines as well ahead of this match. Berhalter called in a handful of players who are either dual nationals or available to compete for several national teams, including Efra Alvarez from the LA Galaxy who has represented both the US and Mexico as a youth international. Young forwards Daryl Dike from Orlando City SC and Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola both have multiple international options with each impressing in the 2020 season. Brenden Aaronson’s year started with his first USMNT cap in January and included playing a starring role in the Philadelphia Union’s historic Supporters’ Shield run as well as a Best XI presented by Home Depot selection. Berhalter challenged Aaronson, who will join Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg in the new year, to show what he did in MLS on the international level against a tricky El Salvador side. “What we’re looking for him now is to validate it. Validate it on the field,” he told reporters in a video conference call. “It’s a good opponent we play. Against El Salvador, it’s going to be a tight game and this is where he should be able to be very effective. We’re really looking forward to him capping off a strong season with a good performance against El Salvador.”Paul Arriola, who spent much of the season working his way back from a preseason ACL injury, returns to the fold and the D.C. United midfielder has more goals (5) and appearances (33) than any other player on this roster. And there’s an open competition at the center back spot to earn regular starts with Aaron Long of the New York Red Bulls, newly-minted MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman from Nashville SC and Mark McKenzie of the Union leading the charge. While Berhalter has one eye on the the USMNT future of some of these young players, many are also eligible to compete in Olympic qualifying, which should also take place in 2021. “They’re here for a reason, they’ve here because they’ve earned this call-up based on what they do well and keep doing that well and we’ll fit them in to what we do,” Berhalter said of the young players in camp. “That’s the important message for these guys.”Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren and Andres Flores from the Portland Timbers, who have a combined 125 appearances, have been called into the El Salvador team for this match. The USMNT hold a 17-1-5 all-time advantage in the series dating back to 1977. This is the first friendly meeting in more than a decade with Brian Ching and Sacha Kljestan scoring in a 2-1 win in Tampa on Feb. 24, 2010. The most recent match was a 2-0 USMNT win in the 2017 Gold Cup quarterfinals with Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj scoring first-half goals.

Champions League: Who can reach last 16?

Joe Prince-Wrighton, December 7, 2020, 10:30 AM ESTThe UEFA Champions League group stage will enter its finale next week, and only nine of the spots in the last 16 have been decided.

[ MORE: Champions League odds, picks ]

Groups B and H will be intriguing as seven of the eight teams across those groups head into the final 90 minutes knowing they can reach the last 16. There is also plenty to sort out when it comes to third place and which teams will move down to the Europa League Round of 32.

While below we look at the Champions League permutations and who needs what on the final day.

Who can reach UEFA Champions League last 16?

Group A

Reigning champs Bayern have won the group, while a final day showdown sees USMNT legend Jesse Marsch lead Austrian champs RB Salzburg against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid at home. A win for Salzburg would seal their first-ever passage to the last 16. Atleti only need a draw to reach the last 16.

Qualified: Bayern Munich (group winners)
In the hunt: Atletico Madrid, RB Salzburg

Final day games: RB Salzburg v Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich v Lokomotiv Moscow

Group B

This is the most exciting group. All four teams can still qualify, as Shakhtar’s two wins against Real Madrid have really mixed things up. Real have never failed to qualify from the group stage, but it is a straight shootout between themselves and Monchengladbach for a spot in the last 16. Inter Milan have to beat Shakhtar to have a chance of advancing, and hope that Madrid v Monchengladbach doesn’t end in a draw. Wow.

Qualified: Nobody
In the hunt: Borussia Monchengladbach, Shakhtar Donetsk, Real Madrid, Inter Milan

Final day games: Real Madrid v Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk

Group H

Another belter of a group. Manchester United head to RB Leipzig knowing a point will be enough to reach the last 16, but Leipzig need a win to guarantee their path to the last 16. PSG host already-eliminated Basaksehir and a win would see them qualify. However, there is a scenario that if United and Leipzig draw and so too do PSG, then Les Parisiens will go through by virtue of away goals scored in their head-to-head record with Leipzig. Wild. Root for chaos.

Qualified: Nobody.
In the hunt: Manchester United, PSG, RB Leipzig

Final day games: RB Leipzig v Manchester United, PSG v Istanbul Basaksehir

Group F

This is interesting. Borussia Dortmund are through but need a win against Zenit to guarantee top spot. Lazio host Club Brugge in a straight shootout to see who joins them in the last 16. Lazio need a point to seal their place in the last 16.

Qualified: Borussia Dortmund
In the hunt: Lazio, Club Brugge

Final day games: Zenit v Borussia Dortmund, Lazio v Club Brugge

Group D

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have eased through as group winners, while Ajax v Atalanta is a straight showdown to see who joins them. A draw for Atalanta is enough to reach the last 16 and send Ajax to the Europa League. Ajax have to win.

Qualified: Liverpool (group winners)
In the hunt: Atalanta, Ajax

Final day games: Midtjylland v Liverpool, Ajax v Atalanta

Group C

Easy in this group, as City have already won the group and Porto will finish second. Marseille and Olympiacos are battling for third and qualification to the Europa League as they’re both locked on three points.

Qualified: Manchester City (group winners), FC Porto

Final day games: Manchester City v Marseille, Olympiacos v Porto

Group E

Chelsea have eased through as group winners, while Sevilla join them in the last 16. Krasnodar have also sealed third place and Europa League qualification. Nothing to play for in Group E, other than pride for Rennes.

Qualified: Chelsea (group winner), Sevilla
In the hunt: Nobody. Krasnodar have sealed third place

Final day games: Chelsea v Krasnodar, Rennes v Sevilla

Group G

Barca need a point at home to Juve to seal top spot, but a defeat could see Juve jump above them (as long as they better the result from Barca’s 2-0 win at Juve in October). Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros square off for third place with both teams on one point after their 2-2 draw in Hungary earlier in the group stage.

Qualified: Barcelona, Juventus
In the hunt: Dynamo Kiev, Ferencvaros in battle for third.

Final day games: Barcelona v Juventus, Dynamo Kiev v Ferencvaros

Group H

Another belter of a group. Manchester United head to RB Leipzig knowing a point will be enough to reach the last 16, but Leipzig need a win to guarantee their path to the last 16. PSG host already-eliminated Basaksehir and a win would see them qualify. However, there is a scenario that if United and Leipzig draw and so too do PSG, then Les Parisiens will go through by virtue of away goals scored in their head-to-head record with Leipzig. Wild. Root for chaos.

Qualified: Nobody.
In the hunt: Manchester United, PSG, RB Leipzig

Final day games: RB Leipzig v Manchester United, PSG v Istanbul Basaksehir

JPW’s Champions League predictions

Group A – December 9

Bayern Munich 3-1 Lokomotiv Moscow
RB Salzburg 2-2 Atletico Madrid

Group B – December 9

Inter Milan 3-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid 2-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

Group C – December 9

Olympiacos 1-2 FC Porto
Manchester City 4-1 Marseille

Group D – December 9

Ajax 2-3 Atalanta
Midtjylland 1-2 Liverpool

Group E – December 8

Rennes 1-1 Sevilla
Chelsea 4-0 Krasnodar

Group F – December 8

Zenit 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Lazio 2-1 Club Brugge

Group G – December 8

Dynamo Kiev 1-1 Ferencvaros
Barcelona 1-3 Juventus

Group H – December 8

Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Istanbul Basaksehir
RB Leipzig 1-1 Manchester United

 Champions League Matchday 6 preview: Man United, Real Madrid could bow out in pivotal week

10:40 AM ETTom HamiltonSenior Writer

  • The Champions League group stage has reached its climax, with seven places in the round of 16 still up for grabs.The crucial action comes in Group H as Man United, PSG and RB Leipzig fight it out for the two places, while Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk are in a titanic battle in Group B.

With that in mind, we run you through all the action ahead of what promises to be another unpredictable, dramatic week of Champions League action. Who will seal their places in the knockout stages?

Jump to groups:
— Wednesday’s matches: A | B | C | D
— Tuesday’s matches: E | F | G | H

GROUP A: Bayern MunichAtletico MadridFC SalzburgLokomotiv Moscow

Standings: Bayern (13 pts), Atletico Madrid (6 pts), FC Salzburg (4 pts), Lokomotiv Moscow (3 pts)

Bayern Munich are through as group winners but second place is up for grabs. If Atletico Madrid avoid defeat against FC Salzburg, they go through, but if Salzburg win in Austria then it’s Jesse Marsch’s team who will progress.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Reigning champions Bayern Munich are already through as group winners so coach Hansi Flick may opt to rotate his squad following their 3-3 draw with RB Leipzig at the weekend. English wunderkind Jamal Musiala scored alongside a brace from Thomas Muller against Leipzig leaving Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga. They have Javi MartinezAlphonso DaviesJerome BoatengLucas Hernandez and Joshua Kimmich all out injured but should have too much for Lokomotiv.

Lokomotiv may yet need a result in Munich to secure a spot in the Europa League and will take heart from their 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan at the weekend where Vladislav Ignatyev scored twice. They have Mikhail Lysov, Dmitri Barinov, Daniil KulikovZe Luis and Feder Smolov all out injured.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Both Salzburg and Atletico have a shot at reaching the knockouts, with the Austrians needing to beat Diego Simeone’s side to go through. Jesse Marsch’s Salzburg suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Flyeralarm Admira at the weekend but will hope for more of the same from their last Champions League match where they won 3-1 at Lokomotiv. Antoine Bernede misses out through injury while Noah Okafor is a doubt.

Atletico beat Real Valladolid 2-0 on Saturday with Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente scoring. They have conceded just two goals in 10 La Liga games so Salzburg will have it tough to get through the Atletico defence. Simeone’s side will be without Yannick CarrascoJose Gimenez and Diego Costa but will be favourites to go through.


GROUP B: Real MadridShakhtar DonetskInter MilanBorussia Monchengladbach

Standings: Borussia Monchengladbach (8 pts), Shakhtar Donetsk (7 pts), Real Madrid (7 pts), Inter (5 pts)

This is all to play for. All four teams can progress: Gladbach need to avoid defeat to go through, while Real Madrid need to beat the German side to qualify. Shakhtar need to beat Inter to keep fate in their hands, while Inter need to win and hope for anything other than a draw in the other game.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group is beautifully poised with all four teams still hopeful of gate-crashing the knockout stages.

Internazionale will go through to the knockouts if they beat Shakhtar Donetsk and the Real-Borussia match does not end in a draw. They won 3-1 on Saturday against Bologna with Romelu Lukaku scoring and Achraf Hakimi grabbing a brace. Aleksandar Kolarov and Matias Vecino are unavailable.

Shakhtar will progress if they win in Milan and travel with plenty of confidence having won 5-1 over Mynai at the weekend with Fernando, Manor Solomon and Mykola Matviyenko all scoring alongside a pair of own goals. Shakhtar drew 0-0 with Inter first time out, and will be without Ismaily, Viktor Kornienko, Yevgen Konoplyanaka and Junior Moraes. Inter should have too much for the visitors here.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Real Madrid’s topsy-turvy season continued with a 1-0 win at Sevilla win at the weekend, thanks to a Yassine Bounou own-goal, but the pressure’s on Zinedine Zidane’s side to get a result against the impressive Borussia MonchengladbachSergio Ramos could play while Dani Carvajal has trainedm but Eden Hazard, Martin Odegaard and Federico Valverde will all miss out.Gladbach drew 2-2 at Freiburg on Saturday with Breel Embolo and Alassane Plea scoring. They lost to Inter Milan in the last round, but know they may need a draw to go through. Jonas Hofmann and Ramy Bensebaini will both miss out for Marco Rose’s side but there is a slim chance Nico Elvedi returns. We think Zidane will pull this one out of the hat and Madrid will progress.

GROUP C: FC PortoManchester CityOlympiakosMarseille

Standings: Man City (13 pts), FC Porto (10 pts), Olympiakos (3 pts), Marseille (3 pts)

Man City and FC Porto are already through while Olympiakos and Marseille are competing for the Europa League spot.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT


Pep Guardiola’s side are through as group winners so expect some rotation against Andre Villas-Boas’ team. City saw off Fulham at the weekend 2-0 thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, leaving City sixth in the Premier League. They have Sergio Aguero still out injured but Guardiola’s team should see off Marseille.

Marseille will be hoping to get a result in Manchester to book a spot in the Europa League and will travel over the Channel buoyed by their 2-0 win at Nimes on Friday. Dario Benedetto and Valere Germain both scored in their Ligue 1 victory and Villas-Boas only has winger Nemanja Radonjic absent.


Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Like MarseilleOlympiakos will be gunning for third and qualification to the Europa League and won 4-1 against Volos in Super League Greece on Saturday. Youssef El-Arabi grabbed a hat trick in that comfortable win, and they will fancy their chances against Porto on Wednesday. Veteran midfielder Mathieu Valbuena misses out through injury.

FC Porto drew with City last time out and edged past Tondela at the weekend in a 4-3 thriller. They had Mateus Uribe sent off late on, but moved third in the Primeira Liga thanks to Moussa Marega’s double and other goals from Zaidu Sanusi and Mehdi TaremiIvan Marcano and Pepe both miss out. We think this will end in a draw with Olympiakos taking third spot.

GROUP D: LiverpoolAjaxAtalantaFC Midtjylland

Standings: Liverpool (12 pts), Ajax (8 pts), Atalanta (7 pts), FC Midtjylland (1 pts)

Liverpool are through as group winners while Ajax and Atalanta face each other for the second spot. If Atalanta avoid defeat in Amsterdam, they go through.


Wednesday, 12:55 p.m. ET / 5:55 p.m. GMT

Danish champions FC Midtjylland will finish at the foot of Group D while Liverpool head into the knockouts as group winners so hopefully this’ll lead to an expansive, end-to-end match. Midtjylland won 2-0 at Vejle BK on Saturday with Erik Sviatchenko and Alexander Scholz scoring. Liverpool breezed past Wolves 4-0 on Sunday with Jurgen Klopp juggling his squad with precision. Mohamed SalahGeorginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip all scored, alongside a Nelson Semedo own goal, but expect Klopp to shuffle his pack again for Wednesday’s trip to Denmark.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain long-term absentees while James Milner is also sidelined, but Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita returned in their win over Wolves. Liverpool should have too much for the hosts.


Wednesday, 12:55 p.m. ET / 5:55 p.m. GMT

This will be one of the games of Matchday 6 with everything on the line as Atalanta travel to Ajax. If Atalanta avoid defeat, they’ll go through to the knockout stages but a win for Ajax will see them leapfrog the Italians into second.

Ajax suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Twente on Saturday with Dusan Tadic’s second-half penalty not enough to earn a point, so they’ll hope to fare better against Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. Noussair MazraouiDavid Neres and Mohammed Kudus are all likely to be unavailable.

Atalanta’s match at Udinese at the weekend was called off due to a waterlogged pitch so their previous match was the 1-1 draw at home to Midtjylland last week. Mattia Caldara and Robin Gosens will both miss out. We think this will end in a draw, with Atalanta going through.

GROUP E: SevillaChelseaKrasnodarRennes

Standings: Chelsea (13 pts), Sevilla (10 pts), Krasnodar (4 pts), Rennes (1 pt)

This group is already sorted: Chelsea go through as winners, Sevilla as runners-up and Krasnodar are in the Europa League.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Chelsea will top Group E and impressed at the weekend in their 3-1 win over Leeds with goals from Olivier GiroudKurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic. Giroud now has five in two, following his four-goal haul against Sevilla, and Hakim Ziyech is Chelsea’s only injured player.

Krasnodar swiped aside Rotor 5-0 at the weekend thanks to braces from Ari and Viktor Claesson, and another goal from Magomed Suleymanov. They are already secure in third spot in this group. They will be without Dmitri Stotskiy and Sergey Petrov and will do well to get anything out of this trip to Stamford Bridge.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group’s standings are cemented with Rennes finishing fourth, and Sevilla going through as runners-up. Rennes’ Champions League campaign has been disappointing and they fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Lens at the weekend to leave them ninth in Ligue 1. Manager Julien Stephan said afterwards he was concerned by the team’s “negative spiral” and said they have to behave like they are in a “fight against relegation.” Rennes have a number of injury concerns with Daniele RuganiJonas Martin, Nayef Aguerd, Serhou Guirassy, Martin Terrier and Alfred Gomis all absent.

Sevilla lost 1-0 at home to Real Madrid at the weekend and have Marcos Aruna, Sergio Escudero, Munir and Tomas Vaclik all injured while Jesus Navas and Joan Jordan are rested. But they are already through in second and should get a result in France.

GROUP F: Zenit St. PetersburgBorussia DortmundLazioClub Brugge

Standings: Dortmund (10 pts), Lazio (9 pts), Club Brugge (7 pts), Zenit (1 pt)

Borussia Dortmund are through but need a win to cement top spot. The winner of Lazio-Club Brugge will go through as runners-up with a draw enough for the Serie A side.


Tuesday, 12.55 p.m. ET / 5.55 p.m. GMT

Anything other than defeat will see Lazio through and they’ll hope to carry momentum into Tuesday’s game from their 2-1 win over Spezia on Saturday. Ciro Immobile grabbed his 10th of the season alongside another from the incredibly talented Sergej Milinkovic-SavicSenad Lulic and Vedat Muriqi are both unavailable for Tuesday’s match but we expect Lazio to finish this group with a victory.

Club Brugge edged past Sint-Truiden 1-0 on Saturday thanks to David Okereke’s second-half goal. They beat Zenit 3-0 last time out and have a fully fit squad for the trip to Rome.


Tuesday, 12.55 p.m. ET / 5.55 p.m. GMT

Zenit hammered Ural Yekaterinburg 5-1 on Saturday in the Russian Premier League with Sardar Azmoun scoring a hat trick alongside goals from Artem Dzyuba and Douglas SantosDejan Lovren is out injured and will miss Tuesday’s game.

Borussia Dortmund are struggling for goals without the injured Erling Haaland and needed a brilliant effort from Gio Reyna to grab a draw at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. Borussia Dortmund are already through to the round of 16 and will want to finish top of the group but will have to do it without Manuel AkanjiRaphael GuerreiroThomas DelaneyMarcel Schmelzer and Haaland. We can see this ending all-square.

GROUP G: JuventusBarcelonaDynamo KievFerencvaros

Standings: Barcelona (15 pts), Juventus (12 pts), Dynamo Kiev (1 pt), Ferencvaros (1 pt)

Barcelona are in the driving seat and will keep top spot if they avoid defeat by three goals (or two goals, if the score is 3-1 or higher) against Juventus. Dynamo Kiev need to avoid defeat against Ferencvaros to get the Europa League spot.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This is a tantalising battle between two European giants for the top spot in Group G – and we’re all hoping to see Lionel Messi up against Cristiano Ronaldo. But Barcelona head into this clash off the back of impressive European form, but a dismal performance in the league as they lost 2-1 to Cadiz on Saturday. Ronald Koeman has rotated Messi in their last two European games and he should start but Barcelona’s injury list is ever-lengthening with Ousmane Dembele out with a hamstring injury. Gerard PiqueAnsu Fati and Sergi Roberto are all long-term absentees while Ronald Araujo should come back into the side.

Juventus need a victory to top Group G and edged past local rivals Torino at the weekend in Serie A, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Weston McKennie and Leonardo Bonucci. They sit fourth in the Italian top flight and will be without veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defenders Merih Demiral and Giorgio Chiellini. Nothing will separate these sides on Tuesday evening.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This is a battle for the Europa League spot, which Dynamo Kiev will take if they avoid defeat. Dynamo beat Mariupol 2-1 at the weekend thanks to goals from Denys Harmash and Viktor Tsyhankov, while Ferencvaros won at Diosgyori 3-1. Dynamo will be without Oleksandr TymchykNazariy RusynMikkel DuelundMykyta Burda and Volodymyr Kostevych while Ferencvaros are at full-strength.

GROUP H: Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedRB LeipzigIstanbul Basaksehir

Standings: Man United (9 pts), PSG (9 pts), RB Leipzig (9 pts), Istanbul Basaksehir (3 pts)

PSG, Manchester United and RB Leipzig are all tied on nine points. A draw will see PSG through. Manchester United go out if they lose, but need a point at Leipzig to go through. Leipzig realistically need to beat United to go through.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group is evenly poised with three teams all in with a shout of getting through to the knockout stages.

PSG know a win over Istanbul Basaksehir will see them book their spot in the round of 16 and they won 3-1 at Montpellier on Saturday thanks to goals from Colin DagbaMoise Kean and Kylian MbappeJuan Bernat will miss out through injury, while Mauro IcardiJulian Draxler and Pablo Sarabia are also doubts, but Thomas Tuchel will likely recall Neymar to the starting line-up.

Basaksehir lost 4-3 to Leipzig on Matchday 5, and drew 1-1 at Yani Malatyaspor on Saturday with Giuliano de Paula scoring. Martin Skrtel is suspended while Basaksehir will also be without Boli Bolingoli, Alexandru EpureanuMehmet Topal and Ifran Kahveci. PSG should win this comfortably.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Manchester United need to avoid defeat in Leipzig to go through, while Julian Nagelsmann’s side will be looking for revenge having lost the return game 5-0 at Old Trafford.

Leipzig are playing some wonderful football at the moment and caused Bayern Munich all sorts of difficulty in their 3-3 draw on Saturday. Christopher NkunkuJustin Kluivert and Emil Forsberg all scored against Bayern but Nagelsmann’s side will be without Benjamin HenrichsHwang Hee-ChanLukas Klostermann and Konrad Laimer for Tuesday’s match, while Dayot Upamecano is suspended.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham on Saturday thanks to goals from Paul PogbaMason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford. They will be without suspended Fred, who saw red against PSG in their 3-1 defeat last week, while Luke ShawAnthony MartialEdinson Cavani and Phil Jones are all absent. David de Gea remains doubtful with Dean Henderson on hand to deputise in goal. We think this will end in a win for Leipzig.

12/4/20 MLS Finals Sun, Mon, US Men Play Wed 9 pm, UCL Final Day at play Tues/Wed

MLS Playoffs Are Spectacular – Finals East & West Sun 3 pm ABC/Mon 9 pm FS1

While the games were not as spectacular the results were certainly interesting as the bottom seed in the East the New England Revs knocked of Orlando on the road to match up against the 3rd seeded Columbus Crew.  The game will be Sunday at 3 pm on ABC – and should be good as 3 time MLS winner Bruce Arena looks to spring another upset vs a stalwart in the East over the past few seasons Columbus.  In the West it’s the mighty Loons of Minnesota – just 4 years removed from expansion looking to unseat the defending Champion and MLS’ top dynasty of the 2000’s Seattle on Monday night at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

USA Men face El Salvador Wed 9 pm ESPN/TUDN

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.  I promise I will have more preview stuff for this and Champions League Tues/Wed early next week!!


GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Efrain Alvarez (LA Galaxy), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 5 

7:30 am NBCSN                   Burley vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                    Frnaksfurt vs Dortmund (Ryna)

10 am beIN Sport                 Sevilla  vs  Real Madrid  

10 am NBCSN                      Man City vs Fulham

12:30 pm NBC                  West Ham vs Manchester United

12:30 ESPN+             Bayern (Richards) vs Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm beiN Sport                Cadez vs Barcelona (Dest)  

3:30 pm NBCSN               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs leeds United 

Sun, Dec 6   

11:30 amPeacock            Tottenham  vs Arsenal

2:15 pm Peacock                 Liverpool vs Wolverhampton  

3pm ABC                     Columbus Crew vs New England MLS East Finals

Mon, Dec 7  

9:30 pm FS1                Seattle Sounders vs Min United -MLS West Finals

 Tues, Dec 8 

               Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Zenit vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Man United  

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Barcelona (Dest) vs Juve (McKinney)

 Wed, Dec 9   

                              Champions League Final Group Day

3 pm CBS All Access/TUDNReal Madrid vs Borrusia MGladbach

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Salzburg (US Manager) vs Athletico Madrid       

9:30 pm                       Seattle (Morris) vs FC Dallas (Carmel’s Matt Hedges)

9  pm   TUDN/Fubutv            USA Men (MLS guys) vs El Salvador  


MLS Playoffs

Doyle: Tactical preview of the Conference Finals

Predictions: Which teams will make MLS Cup?

FiveThirtyEight: Does a Seattle-Columbus MLS Cup final await?

MLS Cup hosting scenarios: Where the 2020 final could take place

Zakuani: Three takeaways as Minnesota set up showdown with Seattle

Boehm: Sounders find a way, yet again, with champions’ performance

Boehm: Loons deliver on big night to arrive as a true MLS power

Sporting: We had “unbelievable” chances, then the Loons stormed us

Porter not buying the Revs as underdogs: “It’s going to be a hell of a test”

Seltzer: Why Nashville, Orlando will remain East contenders

FC Dallas: This defeat to Seattle stings even more than 2019 loss

Zakuani: Three takeaways as Seattle top Dallas in WC Semifinal

Wiebe: Why Vanney is a perfect fit for the LA Galaxy

Coaching carousel: Four MLS clubs looking for new head coaches



USMNT weekend viewing guide: Looking to build something
Berhalter issues challenge to Aaronson ahead of El Salvador friendly
Arriola: USMNT now have “different sense of urgency” now
Berhalter impressed by Efra Alvarez, leaving “open door” for US switch
Doyle: Latest USMNT roster has an Olympic flair
Jackson Yueill added to USMNT roster
USWNT and USSF reach partial agreement on equal pay lawsuit


Predictions for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Finals | Greg Seltzer

December 4, 20202:18PM EST

Greg SeltzerContributor

As we get down to the nitty gritty of the Audi 2020 MLS Playoffs, picking winners becomes harder if only because everyone left fully deserves a place in the final four.One can make a reasonable advertisement for the virtues of each team left in the title chase, and well, we’ve already seen over the past couple weeks that anything can happen when the MLS postseason arrives.Before we get into Eastern Conference and Western Conference final predictions, a quick update of my playoff track record after a successful last round. I hit on three of the final four, with only New England making m look foolish. That brings my playoff mark to 10-4, which is quite acceptable to me.  That’s squared away, so let’s set up the next episode.

Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution

Sunday, Dec. 6 @ 3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN4, TVA Sports in Canada

Both conference finals hold a similar vibe. Each features a balanced favorite at home against a visiting side that one would struggle to call an underdog based on form. Fitting half the bill, Columbus have conceded just eight goals in winning 11 of 12 games at MAPFRE Stadium in 2020. Ably spelling the other half, the Revs have bumped off both Philadelphia and Orlando City, and are 7-4-1 on the road this year spanning the playoffs and regular season.

The fun part about New England’s run (aside from the chance to watch Bruce Arena field more media questions) is they’re just coming out of their shell offensively. Matt Turner and his crew at the back have carried the Revs most of the season, but Carles Gil’s return from injury has them excelling at both ends. Further back, I tabbed New England as the team nobody in the East should want to face in the playoffs. They’ve made me look good – well, only partially, as they’re responsible for half my four missed playoff predictions. Arena’s postseason game plans have worked a charm, with his charges jumping ahead early to control the game states.

On the other hand, Caleb Porter’s Crew tend to write match narratives through patience around whether they can strike early or not. Their defeat of Nashville SC marked the fifth time they’ve emerged victorious from a second half that began scoreless. They’re also 7-1 when carrying a 1-0 lead into the break.

In other words, it’s not about how long it takes them to score (they’re probably going to score eventually, having been shut out just three times in 2020). Playing Columbus often boils down to how long they keep you from scoring. New England have the cogs necessary to pull off what should be considered a minor upset, but can’t quite match the Crew’s overall balance. Being partial to teams that dictate the game with oppressive possession, I’m going with a tense 1-0 Columbus triumph.  

Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United FC

Monday, Dec. 7 @ 9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US, TSN, TVA Sports in Canada

Fresh off slaying a road demon in Kansas City, could the Loons possibly do it again against the oft-rampant defending champs? That is a big question, of course. Minnesota have dropped all three previous games in Seattle (even if each was close at the end), and are yet to beat them anywhere in seven series tries. And this is the Sounders we’re talking about. In the postseason. At home. This is no small ask.

Despite everything they’re up against, it’s a question worth considering. Adrian Heath’s boys are gutsy, perhaps more complete than they’ve been since March and unbeaten since late September. They’re also brimming with hot hands, from Dayne St. Clair and Michael Boxall to Kevin Molino and Emanuel Reynoso. This team will definitely bend, but they just find ways to get the job done. Another away upset almost feels possible.

Then you remember who they need to tackle, and where, and when. You remember that the Sounders come in playing their best defense of the year and that they’re on the verge of their fourth final in five years. You remember that Brian Schmetzer has his own swarm of players in championship form, and not for the first time.

Once you also note that Minnesota will have a long-ish flight with two fewer days of rest at the tail end of a long, strange season, an inevitable outcome seems clear enough. The Loons will give them a good fight, but the firm of Nicolas LodeiroJordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz will be the ones who find a way this time. Let’s say Seattle 2-1.

 Too bad this amazing Orlando City season has to come to an end | Commentary


No, it can’t be over, can it?Please don’t let it be over.Don’t let Orlando City’s amazing, trailblazing season come to an end.Don’t let the Lions go home just yet.

They’ve been too much fun; they’ve spread too much joy; they’ve actually given us something to root for and rally around during this abysmal, awful pandemic-plagued year.

“I could not be prouder of this group,” said first year coach and franchise savior Oscar Pareja. “It has been an honor for me to coach them.”

Orlando City magical playoff run ends with loss to New EnglandNOV 29, 2020 AT 7:00 PM

But, sadly, Pareja’s fabulous first season is over by virtue of Orlando City’s 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday at the Purple Palace. It was the final game in this season of firsts: First playoffs. First playoff victory. And, sigh, first playoff loss.

Too bad a season of such celebration and jubilation had to end like this: In bitterness, in frustration, in anger; with emotions erupting, tempers flaring and Orlando City’s players and coaches feeling as if they weren’t just playing against their opponent, but also against MLS officiating.

Whatever inner ill will the Lions were harboring, it caused them to lose their composure and make mistakes, including one monumental blunder in the 60th minute. That’s when Orlando City veteran midfielder Mauricio Pereyra was rightfully given a red card and ejected from the match after he came in spikes-up and gouged New England’s Matt Polster in the back of the calf.The referee immediately showed the red card and Orlando City players, including team captain Nani, went berserk, argued vehemently and even made physical contact with the official. But they were arguing a call that was inarguable. Pereyra made a huge mistake that changed the complexion of the game.“Today, there was a moment where we lost our head and that cannot happen,” Pareja said in his postgame news conference. “… At this moment, there is a lot of pain and frustration that we have been carrying in the last 10 days.”Obviously, Orlando City’s coach and his team haven’t taken kindly with having at least one of their players red-carded and having to play a man down in three of their last four home matches. In last week’s incredible playoff victory over NYCFC, Orlando City had two players tossed out of the match, including starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who was suspended from Sunday’s game because of last week’s ejection.

“Every game we play at home, it seems like there’s zero tolerance [from the officials,]” Nani said. “That makes it tough on us emotionally.”

Even so, Orlando City has won matches before when they were a man down. They did it last week against NYCFC, playing the final 43 minutes with 10 men to send the game into penalty kicks. The Lions, trailing 2-1, actually had chance to tie the match on Sunday even after they went a man down following Pereyra’s ejection.Orlando City rookie Daryl Dike was taken down from behind in the box and earned a penalty kick. That’s when everybody started to wonder: Could it be another miracle? Could Orlando City win another playoff game while playing 10-on-11?

Ah, but this time it wasn’t to be. Nani, the team captain, was chosen to take the kick and fired his shot to the left side of the net, but New England goalkeeper Matt Turner guessed right and made a massive save to keep the score 2-1. If somehow Nani had converted, it might have swung the momentum of the match and put all the pressure on New England.According to teammates, Nani cried after the game because he felt he had let his teammates down at the moment they needed him most.

“I will take responsibility,” Nani said. “Today, I couldn’t make the penalty kick. I feel sorry for my teammates because the dream finished right there.”

But what a dream and a dream season it was. Yes, this final loss is disappointing, but not when you put it in perspective. Unlike past seasons when Orlando City left the pitch for the final time, there’s actually a feeling of hope and optimism about the future.

Who will ever forget the previous five seasons of disenchantment, discontent and dysfunction? In the past, the hapless, hopeless Lions were simply playing out the string at the end of another miserable, depressing season; fans were grumbling; ownership was anxious; the head coach’s job was perennially in jeopardy.Not anymore. Pareja, in one magnficient season, has put some pep in the step of Orlando City’s beleaguered, bedraggled franchise. He and this Orlando Gritty team have restored the emotion and devotion of a fan base that had begun to lose faith.

“We made history this season,” said midfielder Junior Urso, who scored the Lions’ only goal Sunday. “Orlando City had never been to the playoffs, but I want more. We want more. So let’s try to get it next season.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.For the first time in Orlando City history, this season ended way too suddenly and next season can’t get here quick enough.

This column first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on FM 96.9 and AM 740.