1/14/22 Pulisic and McKennie on fire in Europe, USMNT+USWNT in Camp, Man City vs Chelsea Sat 7:30, Spanish Cup Real vs Athletic Club Sun 1:30

US Men Prepare for Most Important Round of Qualifiers

The MLS based contingent of players is training in LA – battling for a spot in this next round of qualifications in late January.   Huge games include at home Thur, Jan 27-  7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador and former Westfield/Indiana U star Eriq Zavaleta in Cincy (we going!), Sun Jan 30 at 3:30 pm on Paramount+ @ Canada and Tues, Feb 2 at 7:30 pm on FS 1 vs Honduras.  If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured.  Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying.  Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance.  Berhalter is still evaluating the ever changing group of European based US stars to determine who will be ready.  Word is Right Wingers Gio Reyna and Tim Weah will both probably not be ready – while Serginio Dest and Tyler Adams haven’t been seeing much playing time lately.   Of course both McKennie at Juventus (here he is scoring in the Cup Final loss for Juve), and Pulisic are returning to form for Chelsea (see this tying goal vs Liverpool).  Of course our 18 year old new #9  –Pepi just signed with FC Ausberg in Germany which might keep him off the roster – with fellow #9 Jordan Pefok rotating back in from Young Boys.  Fellow forward Daryl Dike signed with West Brom and it will be interesting to see if that prepares him for a WC roster spot later.  Interesting news out of Bayern Munich that Canada’s superstar Alphonso Davies is out with “a slight myocarditis,” or a heart inflammation, after he contracted COVID-19.  That leaves his status for hugely important qualifiers later this month, including the home game against the US, up in the air. 

Christian Pulisic Scored the tying goal vs Liverpool

 What Countries Have Already Qualified For The World Cup this November? 

  1. Qatar
  2. Germany
  3. Denmark
  4. Brazil
  5. France
  6. Belgium
  7. Croatia
  8. Spain
  9. Serbia
  10. England
  11. Switzerland
  12. Netherlands
  13. Argentina

US Women Bring Young Group to Camp for She Believes Cup

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 25 players for the team’s first training camp of the year, a group that includes Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman.  Rodman, 19, the NWSL’s 2021 Rookie of the Year, is accepting a call-up for the first time. But she isn’t alone in terms of uncapped players, with Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury also taking part in the camp. San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma is joining the team for the second time at the camp, which will be held in Austin, Texas. The camp will run from Jan. 19-28, and while there are no friendlies scheduled in conjunction with the gathering, Andonovski is keen to get a look at some rising stars ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, which will take place in mid-February.”Without any matches that we need to prepare for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” said Andonovski.

The roster also sees the return of several veterans, including goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Kelley O’Hara, midfielder Samantha Mewis and forward Mallory Pugh. Naeher has been out since injuring her knee in the Olympic semifinal.  I am still amazed that disgraced former US Soccer President  Carlos Cordeirois back and running to be US President against current US President – former US Ladies player Cindy Parlow Cone – nice letter from her here and below in The Ole Ballcoach

JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Grima (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)

Games to Watch this Weekend

Man City hosts Chelsea and Christian Pulisic who looks to start this Sat morning at 7:30 am on Peacock (sure they are putting games on USA – just not the good ones!!!).  The two teams top of the table and any chance Chelsea or Liverpool would have to catch city would start with a win this weekend vs a Covid struck Manchester City. No word who will be out for City but Pep is expected back after missing the midweek game with a positive test.  Pulisic should start as he was held out of cup play on Wednesday and has returned to form and appears to be healthy.  (Preview below) Also Saturday, Aston Villa and head man Steven Gerrard host Man United and CR7 who backed the manager this week at 12:30 pm on NBC.  Sunday the Spanish Cup Final features Real Madrid vs Athletic Club at 1:30 on ESPN2.  Real Madrid has righted the ship and sits firmly top of the table while Barca and Atletico (who lost to Athletic Club in the semi’s) are squandering.  Also the only good game of the day in the EPL is of course on Peacock (sure they are putting the shit games on USA Network but not the good ones) at 11:30 am as Tottenham hosts Arsenal in the North London Derby – a key battle for top 4 contention.  (See where all the American’s overseas are playing below).  

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 14

8 am be:IN Sport                Senegal vs Guine (African Cup)

2:45 pm USA                       Brighton vs Crystal Palace 

2:30 pm ESPN+                   Dortmund (Reyna) vs Freiberg

Sat, Jan 15 

7:30 am  Peacock              Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

9:30 am ESPN+                   Stuggart vs RB Leipzig

9:30 am ESPN+                   Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Hertha

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Watford

12:30 pm NBC                    Aston Villa vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+                MGladbach (Joe Scally) vs Bayer Leverkusen

2:45 pm Paramount+       Juventus (McKinney) vs Udinese

Sun, Jan 16

9 am  USA                             Liverpool vs Brentford  

9 am Para+ Venezia (Bussio, Tessman) vs Empoli

1:30 pm ESPN2                  Real Madrid vs Athletic Club (Spanish Cup)

2:45 pm Para+                    Atalanta vs Inter

3 pm ESPN+                        Villareal vs Atletico Madrid  

Tues,  Jan 18

3 pm  USA                            Brighton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

3 pm CBS SN                        Juventus (McKinney) vs Sampdoria

Weds,  Jan 19

2 pm beIN Sport                 Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria

2:30 pm  USA                      Leicister City vs Tottenham  

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Valencia vs Sevilla

Thurs,  Jan 20

2 pm beIN Sport                 Mali vs Maurintania  

2:45 pm  ESPN+                 Arsenal vs Liverpool (League Cup)

Fri,  Jan 21

3 pm  USA                            Watford vs Norwich (Stewart)

Sat, Jan 22 

7:30 am  USA                      Everton vs Aston Villa

9:30 am ESPN+                   Hoffenheim vs Dortmund (Reyna)  

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Leeds

10 am Peacock                   Man United vs West Ham

12:30 pm NBC                     Southampton vs Man City

Sun, Jan 23

9 am  USA                             Arsenal vs Burnley  

9 am  Peacock                     Cyrstal Palace vs Liverpool

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

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 1

11:30 Peacock?                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham  

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 2

2:45 pm Para+                    Milan vs  Juventus (McKennie)

Jan 25-

Fri,  Jan 27

7 pm ESPN2                         USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ

7 pm Para+                          Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ

8 pm Para+                          Honduras vs Canada

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 3

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 4

3:30 pm Paramount+       USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Feb 2

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

US Men  

Breaking down Dike’s West Brom move: What it means for his USMNT, World Cup hopes

Berhalter: Status for key USMNT stars still unclear

American’s Abroad – mid-week review

US players Weekend in Review

Americans Abroad Weekend Rewind: Adams, Miazga, and more

Matthew Hoppe returns to action for Mallorca after three-month absence

Year In Review – ASN

US Ladies

Trinity Rodman accepts first USWNT call-up
Washington Spirit star Trinity Rodman gets first USWNT call-up

U.S. Soccer: No single-pay plan yet for teams

Cone on Cordeiro: I’m right person for U.S. Soccer

Letter from US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone

Why FIFA’s push for a biennial World Cup hurts the women’s game

EPL

Catching Man City: How Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United & Co. can close the gap
Manchester City vs Chelsea: Odds, prediction, history, form, projected 

Klopp wants one-game League Cup semis in future

Liverpool vs Arsenal final score: Arteta’s 10-men keep clean sheet in 1st leg

Cristiano Ronaldo urges Manchester United to change mentality

Man Utd must finish in top three, says Ronaldo

Chelsea aim to clip Man City’s wings

Lacklustre Liverpool show Salah’s true value

Klopp searches for striking solution at Liverpool

Coutinho won’t be rushed into action, says Gerrard

WORLD   

As stars speak out over fatigue, is football nearing breaking point?

Canada’s Alphonso Davies sidelined with ‘slight myocarditis’ after COVID infection
Cameroon advances at AFCON behind red-hot Aboubakar’s brace 

Refereeing chaos tarnishes image of Africa Cup of Nations

Porto Coach’s Son scores in Extra Time
Athletic Bilbao down Atletico to reach Spanish Super Cup final

Messi, Kane to rebound, Real Madrid to decline: Soccer’s notable under-performers and over-performers

MLS & Indy 11

VOICES: SAM JONES One reason every MLS team should feel optimistic as 2022 preseason begins

ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE  What each Western Conference team should be worried about in 2022

VOICES: SAM JONES Where Lorenzo Insigne fits into MLS’ most consequential signings

Every MLS team’s 2022 New Year’s wishlist

Indy 11 Schedule is Released

USMNT weekend viewing guide: A Premier matchup

Christian Pulisic and Chelsea look to gain ground on Manchester City.

By jcksnftsn  Jan 14, 2022, 8:47am PST

The USMNT club schedule is starting out a little rough this weekend, as Marco Rose has said that Gio Reyna will not participate in Borussia Dortmund’s match on Friday.Reyna’s continued absence for his club is casting some real doubt on his availability for the USMNT in the upcoming window. With your Friday ruined, let’s jump right to Saturday where we have a good slate of action.

Saturday

Manchester City v Chelsea FC – 7:30a on Peacock

Manchester City already hold a 10 point lead for the EPL title, making Saturday’s visit to the Etihad a bit of a “must win” for Chelsea if they want to make a push for the league title. A loss would drop them 13 points back, while a victory would pull them within 7. Faced with a similar situation two weeks ago in their matchup with Liverpool, Chelsea had to settle for the home draw as Christian Pulisic’s first half stoppage time goal drew the two clubs level at 2-2, which would remain the final score. While the result wasn’t what Chelsea would have hoped, the match was an excellent one, as was Pulisic’s goal.

Christian was an unused substitute midweek as Chelsea came into their Carabao Cup Semifinal match with Tottenham leading 2-0 on aggregate and saw things out smoothly with a 1-0 win. The fresh legs seems like a good indication that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has plans to use Pulisic over the weekend in this marquee matchup.

Other notes:

  • Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig got a much needed 4-1 win over Mainz a week ago and will look to build on that as they face Stuttgart at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • John Brooks and Wolfsburg have lost 8 straight across all competitions and currently sit just 2 points out of relegation playoff position. They face Hertha Berlin, who sit one point ahead of them on Saturday morning at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Chris Richards and Hoffenheim will travel to Union Berlin and look to maintain their Champions League qualifying position in 3rd place. Union Berlin currently sit in 7th, but 3 points back of Hoffenheim. The match will also be on ESPN+ at 9:30a.
  • Josh Sargent missed his club’s midweek match due to the birth of his first child. He’ll look to overcome his sleep deprivation to find the field and the scoresheet as Norwich City face Everton at 10a on Peacock.
  • Matthew Hoppe returned from a long absence (he hadn’t seen the field since September) and saw 16 minutes for Mallorca in their 2-0 loss to Levante last weekend. This weekend, Mallorca will face Espanyol at 10a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally missed last weekend’s matchup with Bayern Munich but could be available again this weekend as Borussia Mönchengladbach face Bayer Leverkusen at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Weston McKennie and Juventus face Udinese at 2:45p on Paramount+. McKennie played the full match, including both extra time periods, on Wednesday as Juve lost to Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana despite McKennie’s goal.

Sunday

Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt – 9:30a on ESPN+

Ricardo Pepi stepped right off the plane and onto the field as he saw 30 minutes in his first match with FC Augsburg. The team scored early only to cough up the lead by giving up two goals in the last 10’ of the half. Pepi came on looking for some instant impact that would draw his club level, but they failed to create the necessary chances and gave up another goal in stoppage time and lost by a 3-1 score. While the outcome isn’t what player or club would have hoped, it was good to see Pepi get some minutes as soon as he was eligible. He will have his first home experience this weekend with Augsburg, though it will be without fans in the stands as the Bundesliga continues their COVID restrictions.

Other notes:

  • Yunus Musah saw the start for Valencia FC against Real Madrid on Saturday in a 4-1 loss. Valencia now face Atlético Beleares in their next Copa del Ray matchup on Sunday morning at 6a on ESPN+.
  • Nicholas Gioacchini’s Montpellier face Strasbourg at 9a on beIN Sports Connect. Gioacchini has not seen the field in the past month.
  • Tanner Tessmann got a rare start and Gianluca Bussio was an unused substitute midweek in Venezia’s 2-0 loss to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia. The club will look to rebound against Empoli at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Julian Green’s Greuther Fürth face Arminia Bielefeld at 11:30a on ESPN+. Green has primarily taken a substitute role recently, including just a couple minutes last weekend in the team’s scoreless draw with Stuttgart.
  • There is potential for a rare American vs. American matchup in Ligue 1 when Konrad de la Fuente’s Olympique Marseille meet Tim Weah’s Lille at 2:45p on beIN Sports. Unfortunately, Weah is also struggling with injury and seems unlikely to be available.

USMNT Notes: COVID-19’s Impact on Camp and Canada; Dest, Reyna’s Outlooks

The U.S. is continuing its preparations for three vital World Cup qualifiers, navigating the circumstances of the pandemic and bracing for the addition of Europe-based talent.

The U.S. men’s national team’s MLS-based contingent continues to prepare for three World Cup qualifiers, the first of which is two weeks away from Thursday. And while more will come into focus in the coming week about what that squad will look like in full, the omnipresent coronavirus wild card continues to loom.Upon arrival screening in Phoenix, there were a small number of positive tests, though manager Gregg Berhalter has had mostly a full complement of the 20 players he called in for this portion of camp, which runs through Jan. 21, available before the abroad-based players arrive. No cases have been contracted at camp itself, and Saturday will be the first time that all 20 players will be on the training field together, U.S. Soccer confirmed. But the threat of more cases, as the omicron variant continues to spread and as players from abroad travel back to the U.S., will be a factor as the coach ponders the size of his squad that’ll face El Salvador on Jan. 27 and travel to Canada for a Jan. 30 bout before returning home ahead of a Feb. 2 clash with Honduras.”COVID has hit us in this camp,” Berhalter said earlier this week. “There have been some cases of guys entering camp with COVID. Fortunately, most are asymptomatic and it’s just about a little bit of a waiting game. But that’s our reality, that’s what all sports teams are dealing with. So we’ll be ready to adapt. We will have a contingency plan in place. We’re not exactly sure how many players extra we’ll take, but we’re going to be thorough and make sure we have a roster that can compete. Because from all indications, this thing spreads quickly, although people aren’t necessarily—at least what we’ve seen—there hasn’t been a ton of sickness, but it has been spreading.”The U.S. has already endured some pre-omicron, COVID-19-related instances, with Zack Steffen testing positive ahead of a September World Cup qualifier in Honduras. Christian Pulisic (Aug. 2021), Weston McKennie (Oct. ’20) and Sergiño Dest (Dec. ’21) are among those who have previously tested positive as well, with Dest returning to training for Barcelona and joining the club in Saudi Arabia for the Spanish Super Cup.There is also the matter of how protocols abroad impact the proceedings. While the U.S. will play in the friendly, if not frigid, confines of Ohio and Minnesota in the first and third matches of the upcoming qualifying window, the second one takes place in Canada, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just deemed a level-four, very-high-risk destination.That won’t impact the U.S.’s travel plans, though, U.S. Soccer confirmed, with the only caveat being that players must be fully vaccinated in order to make the trip, as per Canadian regulations. As of now, boosters are not part of the language, and Sports Illustrated understands that the overwhelming majority of the national team player pool is fully vaccinated. But for those who may not be and are called into camp anyway, travel to Canada will be a nonstarter.Another way protocols could impact the match is crowd size. Current rules regarding the stadium capacity at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, expire three days before the U.S.’s match there, leaving the degree of home field advantage for the first-place Canadians very much unclear. As with most things these days, the situation for the Canadian Soccer Association remains fluid.The U.S., which faced USL Championship’s Phoenix Rising in a scrimmage Thursday, will also face Grand Canyon University and Sporting Kansas City with the current batch of players before the next phase of camp begins.As it relates to two of the U.S.’s most influential talents abroad:Dest‘s destiny

The author of one of the U.S.’s most important goals in World Cup qualifying is in a bit of a quandary. He hasn’t played for Barcelona in over a month, with his last appearance ending in a halftime substitution against Bayern Munich in the club’s Champions League group finale (an injury and COVID-19 have played a part in that). That 38-year-old Dani Alves is getting the call over him surely isn’t a confidence-builder, and neither is being left out of Barça’s squad altogether for Wednesday’s thrilling Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid. With the transfer window open, the rumor mill is abuzz, with the latest suggesting a loan to Chelsea, where he would theoretically team with Pulisic, could be in the works. With the window closing during the FIFA international window, it could make for an intense few days for the versatile fullback. However it works out, Dest has Berhalter’s backing.“He’s a competitor and he’s a guy that I can see waiting for an opportunity, and when he gets his opportunity, performing well,” Berhalter said this week. “He’s resilient, and he has the right mindset to do it. He’s been working hard. He had a little injury setback at the end of the year with his back, but he’s committed to making it work.” Reyna still not ready

Gio Reyna hasn’t played for club or country since injuring his hamstring in the U.S.’s first World Cup qualifier on Sept. 2, and despite returning to training with Borussia Dortmund, he’s not going to be in uniform for Friday’s Bundesliga match vs. Freiburg, coach Marco Rose said. That leaves awfully little time for Reyna to get into match shape for three intense qualifiers. Berhalter said earlier in the week that it was “too early to tell” whether Reyna and Tim Weah (thigh injury), would be called in. If neither is, it would deplete the options on the wing considerably, with Weah filling in so admirably and vitally for the U.S. in the fall.Dortmund has one more match, in the DFB Pokal vs. St. Pauli next Tuesday, before Berhalter names his squad, but it could very well be the case that the U.S. finds itself without one of its key attacking stars for another set of qualifiers.

Tuchel praises Pulisic for valuable versatility for Chelsea

 

Pulisic scored the tying goal vs Liverpool

Christian Pulisic has been called on to play a number of different roles for English Premier League side Chelsea this season and manager Thomas Tuchel has credited the American’s contributions in the squad as he continues to play wherever needed.Pulisic has been used as a forward, winger, midfielder, and wingback for the defending Champions League winners this season, not shying away from opportunities to be on the field. Due to a mixture of injuries and form within the squad, Tuchel has provided chances for Pulisic to play at Chelsea after speculation about his future in London heading into this new year.The 23-year-old has started in six of the last eight matches for the Blues, including five straight in Premier League play, scoring one goal and registering one assist. Pulisic’s versatility has provided the U.S. men’s national team star with a new opportunity to prove his worth to Tuchel and continue developing at the highest level in England and Europe.“Yes it’s true we moved him around a little bit, but in the end they want to play, and it’s a good thing if they can play more positions,” Tuchel said about Pulisic in his pre-match press conference Tuesday. “You can always argue I would have been more consistent or better if I had one clear position, but maybe then you have less minutes or you face even more competition, because up front we have two or three players in every position.“So first of all it’s a good thing, it was also a bad sign because it means we had trouble on the left and right wingback with injuries and he helped us out there,” Tuchel added. “We are happy with the impact that he has. He can play a lot of minutes, he needs to play a lot of minutes, he has a physical ability that can help us.”Pulisic’s performances have continued to impress down the stretch, helping the Blues advance in the Champions League, FA Cup, and sit on the verge of reaching the Carabao Cup Final. He recently helped Chelsea thump Chesterfield in FA Cup play on Saturday and score a magnificent goal against Liverpool in a 2-2 draw in league play.Tuchel will continue to push for the best out of Pulisic as Chelsea aims to get back into the Premier League title race as the Blues also prepares for the Champions League Round of 16 in February. Pulisic hasn’t disappointed since returning to full fitness and Tuchel has backed him to continue improving with more minutes under his belt.“Of course everybody wants him to have numbers, everybody wants him to be effective, and we can improve everybody, we can improve on that,” Tuchel said. “And from there we go, this is the situation.”Chelsea visits Tottenham on Wednesday in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semfinals before traveling to EPL leaders Manchester City on Saturday.

Chelsea aim to clip Man City’s wings

Chelsea need a repeat of their Champions League final victory over Manchester City to rekindle their Premier League title challenge with the English champions threatening to build a realistically unassailable lead just days into the new year.An 11-game winning run has taken City 10 points clear of the Blues at the top of the table, while third-placed Liverpool are 11 points back with a game in hand.Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel appeared to be the one coach with an Indian sign over Pep Guardiola with three wins in quick succession towards the end of last season, culminating in lifting the European Cup in Porto.However, City’s 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September proved to be a telling turning point in the campaign at a time when Chelsea led Guardiola’s men by three points.In contrast to City’s formidable form, Chelsea have faltered during the busiest spell of the Premier League season, winning just one of their last five games.A coronavirus outbreak over Christmas combined with a series of injuries played its part in restricting Tuchel’s options, but they have bounced back over the past week to comfortably see off Tottenham 3-0 over two legs to reach the League Cup final.”Here at Chelsea we don’t make selections of trophies, we go for everything,” said captain Cesar Azpilicueta.”The big ones have more impact, but what we all want is to be able to celebrate silverware with the fans at the end of the season.”City’s own mass Covid outbreak affecting 21 players and staff fell fortunately for the league leaders over a period of just one game in 14 days.  Guardiola was one of those to test positive and was absent for a 4-1 win at Swindon in the FA Cup last weekend as a result, but is expected to return to the touchline on Saturday.  Liverpool can take advantage of dropped points for one or both of the sides above them in the table when they host Brentford at Anfield.  However, the Reds will have to cope without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

– Top 4 up for grabs –

If the title race has descended into a procession over the past month, the race below the top three for a place in next season’s Champions League has heated up. West Ham have moved back into the top four on the back of three straight wins and will be confident of extending their advantage over fifth-placed Arsenal when they host Leeds on Saturday, who they comfortably beat in the FA Cup last weekend. Tottenham are four points back on the Hammers but would go above them should they win two of their three games in hand. However, Spurs are in desperate need of a response from their meek exit in the League Cup when Arsenal visit for the first north London derby played in front of a full house at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.  The Gunners have shot back into contention for a return to the Champions League as young talents such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Aaron Ramsdale have flourished since a miserable start to the season.  But Arsenal’s poor record on the road against the other members of the traditional top six has returned with crowds this season. Mikel Arteta’s men were thrashed at City and Liverpool and blew a lead to lose 3-2 at Manchester United in December. United also need to get back to winning ways in the league to remain in the hunt for the top four when they face Aston Villa for the second time in a week.  Villa were the better side despite losing 1-0 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Monday and have made the most exciting moves in the transfer window so far with Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne in line to make their debuts.

Daryl Dike’s wild ride: What USMNT striker’s move to West Brom means for his national team hopes

Jan 12, 2022  Bill Connelly ESPN Staff Writer

There was a moment in December when, for the first time in two years, Daryl Dike got a moment to reflect. After two years of nonstop soccer, he had earned one.From scoring for Virginia in the NCAA finals against Georgetown in December 2019, to going fifth in the MLS SuperDraft in January 2020, to scoring eight times in 22 matches for Orlando City, to making his national team debut, to taking on a sudden loan move to Barnsley, to scoring nine times for the Tykes as they nearly earned promotion to the Premier League for just the second time ever, to scoring his first goal for the U.S. national team in June 2021, to suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the USMNT rotation, to returning to MLS in the fall and scoring 11 goals in 19 matches, Dike finally stole a moment to breathe.”Physically, it was important,” he told ESPN, “but mentally, being able to look back at going over to England, being with the national team, playing in the Gold Cup, playing with Orlando as well, it was a nice period, for sure.”Even by soccer’s standards, however, Dike’s offseason was brief. On Jan. 1, the first day of Europe’s winter transfer window, England’s second-division West Bromwich Albion signed Dike from Orlando City for $11 million.With Dike moving to England and Ricardo Pepi signing with FC Augsburg in the German Bundesliga, the two most promising young strikers in the American player pool — with the 2022 World Cup just 10 months away — are taking on European challenges at the same time. And as far as Dike is concerned, his ambitions have only grown stronger with each level of success.”At the beginning, I always had big goals,” he said, “I always wanted to play in the Champions League, I wanted to play in World Cups, and those are still my goals. But I think those goals are so much more reachable now, and I can maybe even reach them quicker.”Throughout this process, seeing how quickly I’ve grown in just two years, I think all those goals can happen much sooner than I thought.”

A high-caliber scorer

You can’t blame Dike for dreaming big considering how quickly he became a standout in the most important area for a center-forward to stand out: scoring goals.During his half-season Championship stint (21 matches), Dike’s nine goals landed him in the league’s top 25 and tied for the most among those age 20 and under. And while he missed a decent chunk of the 2021 MLS season, playing just 1,415 minutes — scoring leader Valentin Castellanos, by comparison, played 3,083 for NYC FC — among those with at least 1,400 minutes, Dike was fourth in goals per 90 minutes (0.70) behind only DC United‘s Ola Kamara (0.94), LAFC‘s Cristian Arango (0.90) and the LA Galaxy‘s Chicharito Hernandez (0.88). All three are at least five years older than Dike, who scored just two fewer goals than Pepi in 682 fewer minutes.It took Dike a little while to rediscover his top form after his August bout with injuries, but he scored five non-penalty goals in his last 10 matches for Orlando. His ability to carve out space in the box and put shots away stood out to Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael, and with Ismael now at West Brom, it was the primary reason the club sought him out.”Dike has everything we need from the No. 9 position,” Ismael told local media upon Dike’s signing. “He has energy, strength — he challenges defenders — and he scores goals. I worked with him at Barnsley and I know him very well. He has the mentality.”At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he also has the physicality.”Rather unsurprisingly, it’s his power and physique that first catches your eye,” said ESPN analyst and professional scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen. “He’s really extreme in those departments. Having those attributes in a forward — he’s almost a one-man attack at times — obviously give you some clear advantages: The opponents wouldn’t want to leave him [one-on-one] against their centre-backs.  “He’s not just an athlete, though. I think he’s developing well in terms of where to pick up the ball, and his spatial awareness in and around the penalty area is improving, too.”While his skills and high activity levels initially took him pretty far, the key to Dike’s ability, thriving quickly in new situations, came from his ability to learn quickly.”I think at the beginning of my career, it was just about going into the box and hoping that the pass could come to me,” Dike said. “I’ve been blessed to have great teammates around me, who have some chance creation [ability], and with Valerien, with Oscar [Pareja, Orlando City’s coach], with [USMNT manager Gregg] Berhalter, all of these people have made it a big emphasis for me to be able to find myself in spaces, being able to make runs behind the back line, being above to find spaces in the box with double movements and making my shots easier in terms of getting in a better position.”Ease of shots is an interesting subject. Dike overachieved his expected goals (xG) levels in each season in MLS and the English Championship. At each step along the way, he produced between 4.4 and 4.7 xG but turned that into eight or nine goals. There will almost certainly be some regression to the mean in his future: He has overachieved his xG figures by 47% since the start of 2021, which is the second highest among all players to have scored 20-plus goals in all competitions. (The highest: Leandro Damiao, of Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, at plus-71%.)Even if he turns out to be one of the best finishers in the game, that ratio will likely fall to at least the plus-30% range or so in the future. If he offsets that with a higher shot volume, however, he will continue to thrive.A higher shot volume, however, will require more touches and more involvement in the overall game.

The rest of his incomplete game

Whether or not there is forthcoming regression, Dike’s scoring ability is top-notch for such a young player. Here are some of his percentile ratings over the past 365 days — versus other forwards — according to the scouting reports at FBref.com (powered by StatsBomb):

  • Goals per 90 minutes: 89th percentile
  • Non-penalty goals per 90: 75th percentile
  • Goals per shot: 94th percentile
  • Goals per shot on target: 96th percentile
  • Average shot distance: 92nd percentile
  • xG per 90: 68th percentile

Even if his finishing is still running a little hot, the ability stands out. He creates opportunities from close distances and puts the ball in the net.

Everything else, however, remains a work in progress:

  • Touches per 90: third percentile
  • Shot-creating actions* per 90: 15th percentile
  • Passes attempted per 90: second percentile
  • Passes completed per 90: third percentile
  • Pass completion rate: 53rd percentile
  • Passes received per 90: fifth percentile
  • Assists per 90: 31st percentile
  • Progressive carries per 90: 19th percentile
  • Pressures per 90: 32nd percentile
  • Successful pressures per 90: 16th percentile
  • Pressures per 90 in the attacking third: 62nd percentile

* StatsBomb defines shot-creating actions as “the two offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls.”

“Perhaps the one key area to improve is for him to make a consistent mark on the game,” Karlsen said. “He tends to drop in and out of the action, and he can be somewhat impatient at times — as in, always wanting to make the early, direct run and finish the attacks, even when the movements around him aren’t quite there yet. In that sense, he might at times be too direct in his decision-making.”Dike is well aware of the work still to be done.”My biggest focus, of course, is scoring goals, movement into the box and things that a striker needs to have in terms of instincts and everything,” he said. “But one thing I personally would love to be able to do better is my combination play, my linkup play, in terms of holding the ball up and getting involved a little bit more in the game rather than maybe just finishing at the end. How can I hold the ball up? How can I improve my technique to connect with my attacking midfielders and bring the game up to me?”Throughout the season in Orlando, I think Oscar, the coaching staff and even the players like [veteran winger] Nani, they kept pushing me to get better, and I think it was showing. I felt myself improving. I felt myself being able to get on the end of more things, my movements, my touches. Everything continued to improve, and for me, that’s obviously something that’s super exciting.”

What awaits at West Brom

West Brom has been one of the better teams in the Championship after last spring’s relegation from the Premier League. It’s fourth in the table, firmly involved in the promotion race. But while the Baggies’ defense has been excellent — they’re first in goals allowed per match, second in xG allowed and first, by far, in shots allowed per possession — they have lacked, in a very specific way, in attack.The Baggies are averaging just 1.24 goals per match, 10th in the league and worst among the top five teams in the table. While their raw statistics aren’t terrible — second in shots attempted per possession, ninth in xG per shot — their shots have been wayward. Looking at the xG for shots on target (xGOT) divided by total shots per target, they rank 20th out of 24 teams. Loose translation: They don’t shoot well. They don’t place the ball well when they get a shot on goal.

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“We need someone to show up and score the goals,” Ismael told the media Sunday after West Brom’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City, in which the Baggies managed just three shots on target from 13 attempts. “This is what we are missing at the minute. This is why we signed Daryl Dike, to give us a better opportunity to score goals and win games.”As with Ismael’s Barnsley last season, West Brom plays an intensely vertical style. It’s a style in which Dike thrives, and if he finishes chances as he has for the past two years, his addition could make a massive difference in the promotion race.Dike will also be asked to do his fair share of pressing in Ismael’s system, and it appears he learned from it the last time around. After recording 10.6 pressures per 90 minutes (5.8 in the attacking third) according to Statsbomb during his 2020 MLS season, he returned and averaged 13.6 (8.3) in 2021. His pressure success rate went down, but the increased activity level was encouraging.”I think in terms of pressing, one thing that I have learned from people is, pressing smarter rather than harder,” Dike said. “At the beginning of my career, I think I would sometimes just run to press, and sometimes maybe it wasn’t a smart situation. After understanding systems more and listening to my coaches, that’s something I think I have improved on: when to press as a group, when the team’s ready and those kinds of principles.”With the national team and with Valerien, we are all constant pressure, constant pressure. We’re gonna wear the other team down.”

What this could mean for the USMNT

Dike made his national team debut in January 2021, just before his Barnsley loan was confirmed. By the summer, it looked like he might become a mainstay during World Cup qualification. He scored once in a 4-0 friendly win over Costa Rica in June, then twice in a Gold Cup win over Martinique in July. But his injury limited his effectiveness in the Gold Cup; after attempting four shots against Martinique, he managed just five, all from longer distances (by his standards) in his last three appearances.He has yet to play for the U.S. since. Berhalter did not bring him in for any of the three qualification windows this fall and passed him over for December’s MLS-heavy friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina. The coach explained the latter decision by saying, “He’s beat up. He needs recovery. The most important thing at this time for Daryl is to get rest and recovery that he can focus on coming back in January and building himself up again.” But during qualification, Berhalter made a point to emphasize the word “verticality.””We want more verticality,” Berhalter told CBS Sports in September. “We want players that can stretch the opponent’s back line, run behind the opponent’s back line.”It was confusing, then, that he didn’t bring Dike in, considering his success in Ismael’s system. Regardless, two World Cup qualification windows remain — the U.S. plays El Salvador and Honduras at home and at Canada from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, then at Mexico and Costa Rica and at home versus Panama in late March — and Dike is still hopeful about inclusion.”In terms of [Berhalter’s] plans, I mean, I think he values me, and I think that’s something you always want to have in a coach,” Dike said. “You always want a coach who believes in you and values you. I think he looks at what I am, and he looks at the quality I have, and he tries to push me. That’s all I could ever ask for.”

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter: Status for Gio Reyna, Tim Weah for World Cup qualifiers still unclear Jan 10, 2022

Midfielder Giovanni Reyna and forward Timothy Weah remain uncertain for the United States‘ next three World Cup qualifiers, which start Jan. 27 with a match against El Salvador at Columbus, Ohio.Reyna has not played in any matches since injuring his right hamstring during the opening qualifier at El Salvador on Sept. 2. He dressed for the first time since then when Borussia Dortmund played Saturday at Eintracht Frankfurt but did not get into the match. Weah, who scored in the 1-1 draw at Jamaica in a November qualifier, injured a thigh during training with Lille on Dec. 3, two days after his last match.”With Gio and Tim, it’s too early to tell,” coach Gregg Berhalter said Monday. “We have 14 days until they come to camp, and those 14 days will be important.”Major League Soccer players are training at national team camp in Phoenix through Jan. 21, and several of them will travel to Columbus, where Europe-based players report Jan. 24.Midfielder Weston McKennie and defender Miles Robinson return from one-match suspensions caused by cards.Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Tyler Adams, defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin and forward Jordan Pefok carry yellow cards from the first eight qualifiers and would face a one-match suspension with an additional yellow card.”What we’ve learned is expect the unexpected,” Berhalter said. “You never know who is going to be available to play in each game. You have to be willing to adapt.”The U.S. plays at Canada on Jan. 30 and hosts Honduras on Feb. 2 at St. Paul, Minnesota. With six games per team left, Canada leads with 16 points, followed by the U.S. (15), Mexico and Panama (14 each), Costa Rica (nine), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three).The top three teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify, and the No. 4 nation faces the Oceania champion — likely New Zealand — in a playoff for another berth. A January window for qualifiers is unusual, added only because the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the final round by a year. MLS players and even some based in Europe are in the midst of lengthy layoffs. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson‘s FC Salzburg has been off since Dec. 11. Defender Sergino Dest has been struggling for playing time at Barcelona since Xavi Hernandez was hired as coach in November, but Berhalter sounded as if Dest’s national team position was secure.”He’s a competitor and he’s a guy that I can see waiting for an opportunity, and when he gets his opportunity, performing well,” Berhalter said. “He’s resilient and he has the right mindset to do it. He’s been working hard. He had a little injury setback at the end of the year with his back, but he’s committed to making it work.”  Players at the training camp will have three closed-door scrimmages, a regimen aimed to get them close to 90 minutes by the end.”Then we’ll be able to tell,” Berhalter said. “The most important thing is that we can put a team on the field that can compete at a high level, because we know that’s what World Cup qualifying games are about.”Defender Aaron Long, recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon on May 15, is at his third straight training camp. He might not be ready for a game until the final three qualifiers in March.”I’m not sure he’s going to get there, but hopefully he’ll be close,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully in March we’re having different conversations.”Berhalter said there have been positive coronavirus tests among players arriving at camp.”Fortunately, most are asymptomatic and now it’s just about a little bit of a waiting game,” he said. “But that’s our reality, and that’s what all sports teams are dealing with.”

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada816+8
2 – USA815+7
3 – Mexico814+4
4 – Panama814+2
5 – Costa Rica89-1
6 – Jamaica87-4
7 – El Salvador86-6
8 – Honduras83-10
1-3 qualifies; 4 into playoff

Trinity Rodman accepts first USWNT call-up for January camp

Jan 12, 2022Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 25 players for the team’s first training camp of the year, a group that includes Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman.Rodman, 19, the NWSL’s 2021 Rookie of the Year, is accepting a call-up for the first time. But she isn’t alone in terms of uncapped players, with Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury also taking part in the camp. San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma is joining the team for the second time at the camp, which will be held in Austin, Texas. The camp will run from Jan. 19-28, and while there are no friendlies scheduled in conjunction with the gathering, Andonovski is keen to get a look at some rising stars ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, which will take place in mid-February.”Without any matches that we need to taper for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” said Andonovski said.”We understand that some of the players are coming off a break, so we’ll keep that in mind as we hit the ground running in 2022 for what will be a very important year for these players and our team.”Andonovski’s roster also sees the return of several veterans, including goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Kelley O’Hara, midfielder Samantha Mewis and forward Mallory Pugh. Naeher has been out since injuring her knee in the Olympic semifinal. Rodman, the 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year and 2021 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, at 19 is still age-eligible for the 2022 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. She was called up for the Australian friendlies in November, but opted out. The daughter of former NBA player Dennis Rodman, she has nine career U20 international goals in just seven caps and likely would have played in the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup had it not been canceled due to the pandemic.”She was one of the most exciting players in the league this past season, and she proved that she can be impactful at the professional level in NWSL. And now with that, she earned a call-up for the national team,” Andonovski said about Rodman.”Now, we don’t want to rush anything. We obviously have to be patient. She’s still young player, but we do want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a little bit, and get used to the environment, get used to my coaching and the players that she’s around, and hopefully she can continue growing and show that what she was able to do in the league, she can do that at the international level.”Andonovski said a replacement for Catarina Macario — who was originally on the roster until the draw in the French Cup came out that pitted Lyon against PSG — would be announced before Thursday.”We decided that the best for Cat would be if she stays in, in France, and plays the game against Montpelier and prepares after that and plays the game against PSG in the round of 16,” Andonovski said.”And instead of coming here, traveling overseas, a couple of trainings and then going back or travel again and play in a game. So overall to two exceptional games for Cat, good experience, high stress, intense games, it’ll be overall better for her.”

JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Grima (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)

USWNT Takes Youthful Approach to Start of World Cup, Olympic Qualifying Year

A number of veterans have been left out of January camp, despite the qualifying tournament for two big events taking place in six months.

Six months out from the tournament that will determine whether the U.S. women’s national team qualifies for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics, a number of the squad’s household names are missing from camp. But, as coach Vlatko Andonovski explains, that’s by design.The U.S. women gather in Austin, Texas, for their annual January camp starting next Wednesday, and while it won’t feature any matches, it will still be a proving ground. A post-Olympics transition process that began in the fall will be accelerated in earnest, as a number of younger—and in one significant case, new—players take to the stage. Out are the likes of Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe (Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn are out as well, but for medical reasons), while Trinity Rodman gets her first call-up after her breakout campaign in the NWSL to headline the group called in.“Without any matches that we need to taper for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” Andonovski said in a statement. “We understand that some of the players are coming off a break, so we’ll keep that in mind as we hit the ground running in 2022 for what will be a very important year for these players and our team.”That important year will continue next month with a watered-down version of the SheBelieves Cup (Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand are not quite the Brazil-, Germany-, France-, England-level of opponents that have traditionally been part of the competition) with an eye on July’s W Championship, a new Concacaf event that combines the qualifying process for two marquee global events into one competition.The U.S. and Canada received byes to the final stages of the tournament, while 30 other nations will compete in a group stage starting next month, with the winners of each of the six five-team groups joining them in the eight-team competition.The W Championship is split into two groups of four, where the top two teams in each group qualify straightaway for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, while the two third-place teams go into FIFA’s intercontinental tournament. Separately, the winner of the competition qualifies automatically for the 2024 Olympics, while the second- and third-place finishers go to a playoff for the region’s other berth in Paris.When asked Wednesday, Andonovski didn’t indicate whether he was or wasn’t a fan of the new setup, but it does put more emphasis on rounding out his core group and force him to make some pretty immediate choices when it comes to which newcomers to incorporate and which veterans to lean on for matches with multiple layers of pressure.The true newcomer next week is Rodman, who was vital in the Washington Spirit’s NWSL title run. Andonovski isn’t placing any immediate expectations on the 19-year-old’s shoulders, but with Carli Lloyd retiring and other U.S. attackers aging, there’s a role to be seized.”Trinity, obviously, is one of the most exciting players in the [NWSL] this past season,” Andonovski said on a media conference call. “She proved that she can be impactful at the professional level and now with that she earned the call-up for the national team. We don’t want to rush anything. We have to be patient, but we do want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a little bit, get used to the environment and my coaching.”

The Awful Optics Surrounding U.S. Soccer’s Presidential Election

aomi Girma and Jaelin Howell, the top two picks in last month’s NWSL draft, are also part of the youth movement. Andonovski explained how he laid out a short-term plan ahead of the U.S.’s November camp that the aforementioned veterans wouldn’t be included through the winter, saying, “these players are not out of the picture by any means,” and should be expected to rejoin the fold as soon as the SheBelieves Cup.”A lot of things depend now on how well the newer players do,” Andonovski added.As for those not included for pre-planned coaching reasons, Ertz is “not physically ready to perform in camp” after recovering from her knee injury, while the 36-year-old Sauerbrunn had a setback after undergoing a procedure to freeze her eggs. After conversations with her and the medical staff, Andonovski said, “if she gets back fit, healthy and she’s able to play minutes, for SheBelieves she will be considered for that camp.For Dunn, who is due to give birth in May, Andonovski said there have been no discussions regarding her return-to-play plan, indicating that those would take place when appropriate. The importance, he said, is on her having a healthy delivery and baby before the player and medical and high-performance departments discuss the future. But he did fully expect her return at some point down the line, presumably well after the W Championship.One other player omitted was Catarina Macario, who was initially going to be included. But after her club, Lyon, drew PSG in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France, it was decided that she should remain at her club and play in the high-intensity environment that will provide.As a result, here are the players who will compete in camp, looking to further cement their places for the matches of great importance this summer:

Letter from US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone

January 12, 2022

To our fans:

2021 was a year of both great promise and challenge.

On the field, our National Teams continued to excel at the highest levels across all competitions. For the sixth consecutive year, our Women’s National Team finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world, winning the 2021 SheBelieves Cup and earning a Bronze medal at the Olympics. And our Men’s National Team set a record for most wins in a calendar year, winning the Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup and entering the new year in a strong position to qualify for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar.Last year was an important year for our leadership team at U.S. Soccer as we worked to establish a stronger foundation to support the long-term growth and evolution of soccer in the United States. These efforts were headlined by our new, landmark agreement with Nike announced in November – which represents the most significant commercial partnership in the history of U.S. Soccer, as well as one of the largest investments in soccer around the world. Although progress was made on several fronts in 2021, the year was also marked by profound challenges, including the allegations of unconscionable abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League. U.S. Soccer hired former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into this matter. As she and her team do this important work, we remain committed to giving them the access and resources they need to follow the truth wherever it may lead.2021 also saw U.S. Soccer continue to work toward resolution of the litigation brought by the Women’s National Team. U.S. Soccer remains committed to resolving this case outside of court for the long-term benefit of the sport at all levels. We would happily agree to settle so that we can focus on working together to chart a more positive and collaborative path forward.

Identical Contract & Equalizing Prize Money
As we have over the last several months, U.S. Soccer will continue to share regular updates on our efforts to reach new labor agreements that equalize FIFA World Cup prize money between our Women’s and Men’s National Teams. I speak for our entire leadership team when I say we are ready and willing to meet with both groups of players as often as needed to get these deals done.In September, we offered identical contract proposals to the men’s and women’s players associations, with the goal of aligning both teams under a single collective bargaining agreement (CBA) structure. Our proposal ensured that our Women’s and Men’s National Team players remain among the highest-paid in the world, in part by providing a first-ever revenue sharing structure. In November, we sat down with both unions together for the first time ever and proposed good faith solutions for achieving this goal.While we haven’t received a commitment from either union to move forward with a single pay structure, we have been encouraged that they are willing to join us in discussions about that possibility as we continue to negotiate separate CBAs with each for now. Additionally, we are still focused on taking the important step of equalizing FIFA World Cup prize money, and will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement that does not include that commitment from the two unions.

USWNT CBA Negotiations
We have been encouraged by the constructive nature of our recent CBA negotiations with the Women’s National Team. These discussions have benefited greatly from the consistent and active participation of the women’s players at the bargaining table. Last month, we agreed to extend the negotiation window under their current CBA until March 31, 2022. We believe this development reflects our collective ability to work together and the urgency of both sides to reach a new agreement.

USMNT CBA Negotiations
We still have much work ahead of us in our negotiations with representatives for the Men’s National Team, and we hope they continue to engage in these important discussions. Given their vocal support for our shared commitment to equal pay and the fact that they continue to play under a CBA that expired over three years ago, we trust the Men’s National Team shares our goal of equalizing FIFA World Cup prize money and sense of urgency about getting a deal done.

Looking Ahead 
To find a solution, particularly on equalizing FIFA World Cup Prize money, we need everyone off the sidelines and into the game. We will continue to invite the Men’s National Team to participate in each of our bargaining sessions with the Women’s National Team, including five sessions this month alone, and we hope that the men’s recent participation signals their willingness to be more regularly involved moving forward.We strongly believe it is in everyone’s best interest to find a way to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money and move forward with a single pay structure – and to do so as soon as possible.As we build on important progress made in 2021, our commitment to you – our fans – is that we remain laser-focused on putting these remaining building blocks in place for the good of the game at all levels of play. We continue to be inspired by your passion and are enormously grateful for your support.With every new year comes new opportunities, and we look forward to what we can achieve – together.

Best,
Cindy Parlow Cone
U.S. Soccer President

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