8/26/22  Leeds America 2nd in EPL, CHS host tourney Sat, former CFC Coach/Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr returns for San Antonio Sat @ the Mike, Big TV Games

Former Carmel FC GK Coach & Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr returns w/ league leading San Antonio Sat 7 pm

Despite being in the midst of a 12-game winless streak, Indy Eleven’s defense continues to keep it in games, with Indy allowing just one goal in 7 of its outings during its winless streak. Of the 10 losses in the streak, seven have come by a one-goal margin – with last week’s match serving as the fifth heartbreaking 0-1 scoreline during the stretch. Overall in 2022, the Eleven’s 38 goals allowed through 24 games ranks 14th in the USL Championship, placing it squarely in the middle of the 27-team pack.

Defense is where the Alamo City outfit shines, its 21 goals allowed ranking second in the league behind only Louisville (16).  Former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr has stood tall when called upon his 10 clean sheets are just one behind a trio of league leaders in the category and he has won Goalkeeper Save of the Week multiple times this season helping San Antonio to the 2nd best record in the league.  The 3-1-7 Special offer this weekend includes $3 drinks, $1 popcorn and $7 tickets if you buy them online before game time. Learn More

Games to Watch

A big weekend of Soccer action on TV starts tonight with MLS at 8 pm on ESPN as league leading LAFC travels to 2nd place Austin.  Both teams coached by former USMNT players LAFC (Steve Cherundolo) and Austin (Josh Wolff) features 2 of the hottest teams in the MLS right now (Preview).  At 10 pm also on ESPN is the Cascadian Cup Match of the biggest rivals in American Soccer Seattle and Portland.  Both teams are struggling to make the playoffs this year – which makes this game as important as ever.  Just flip over and catch a bit of these games to see what MLS soccer has become! 

Saturday we move overseas as Brighton hosting Leeds United States of America at 10 am on USA Network takes center stage.  The 12:30 NBC game also features American’s as Fulham (Tim Ream, Jedi Robinson) travel to league leading Arsenal and US GK Matt Turner.  Other big games Sat have Juventus (Mckinney) hosting Roma in Italy on Paramount + at 12:30 pm along with the huge German match-up of Bayern Munich hosting Borussia Mgladbach and American outside back Joe Scally 12:30 Sat on ESPN+.     American’s overseas viewing guide

EPL Wk 3 – Leeds United States of America Arrives – 2nd in EPL

That thud and huge roar you heard on Sunday morning last week was Chelsea falling to the ground and Leeds United States of America stepping on their faces !!  Yes if you actually play your American’s Tuchel – good things might just happen.  Leeds didn’t just beat Chelsea with American youngster Brendan Aaronson scoring his first EPL goal in dramatic fashion.  They slaughtered the former European Champions 3-0 at Elland Road (from the stands)– with fellow American Tyler Adams being named Player of the Match for his midfield performance as the ultimate #6 – shutting down Chelsea’s attack before it could get off the ground.  At least 3 times he cut off fast break opportunities and was seemingly all over the field.  Even the insertion of American Christian Pulisic in the 65th minute did nothing for the blues who have basically disintegrated now that Chelsea manager Tuchel is inserting his “own” players.  Tuchel has made even the best attackers looks like bums with the 3rd worse offense in the EPL..  My favorite of the weekend might have been American coach Jesse Marsch reaction after Aaronson scored the first goal (its spelled Soccer you English bums!).  Yes this American coach who has this former formidable club Leeds United back near the top of the table, can coach.  And these American’s he signed – Brendan Aaronson, Tyler Adams and even Jack Harrison really (he’s English but played his formative years in MLS) CAN PLAY SOCCER.  There is room on this bandwagon American Soccer fans – join us as the next 2 week’s games are on USA Network at 10 am on Saturday’s– a sign that Leeds United States of America is here!!  Cool Story on Leads and Jesse Marsch  Nice piece on Brendan Aaronson

Other EPL news had Man United shocking Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford Monday –(as protesters burned American owners the Glaziers in effigy) while Liverpool is limping along at 0-2-1 on the season just 1 point above the relegation zone. The win for Man United moved them to 1-2 L on the season.  Fulham America stands at 7th with a win and 2 draws and one of the stingiest d’s in the EPL with the left side of defense manned by American’s Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream.  It leads some to believe Tim Reem might get a call up to the USMNT for their September set of 2 games 9/23 & 9/27.

Champions League draw has 10 Americans in the 22-23 Competition

Group A: Ajax, Liverpool FC, Napoli, Rangers FC (James Sands, Malik Tilman

Group B: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge (Owen Otasowie)

Group C: Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona (Dest), Inter Milan, Viktoria Plzeň

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (Chandler), Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille

Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea FC (Pulisic), Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb

Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic FC (Carter-Vickers)

Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen

Group H: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus (McKinney), Benfica, Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cowen GK)


Nice to see Benzema of Real Madrid win the FIFA Player of the Year award – lets hope this means a BallonD’Or for him in the future.

High School Local – CHS Girls host tourney Sat @ Murray

Check out the local team rankings for Girls and boys teams below in the Ole Ballcoach.  The Carmel Girls are hosting the Carmel Invite with $6 Admission (Kindergarten and younger admitted free).  

Varsity Schedule

Murray Stadium is located directly behind Carmel High School.

9:00 am Murray Stadium Carmel (Guests) vs. Avon (Home)

10:45 am Murray Stadium Cathedral (Guests) vs. Fishers (Home)

5:00 pm Murray Stadium Avon (Guests) vs. Cathedral (Home)

6:45 pm Murray Stadium Fishers (Guests) vs. Carmel (Home)

Junior Varsity Schedule

Football Practice Fields are north of Murray Stadium behind the football stadium.

9:00 am FB Practice Fields Carmel JV Blue (Home) vs. Avon (Guests)

9:00 am FB Practice Fields Cathedral (Home) vs. Fishers (Guests)

3:00 pm FB Practice Fields Avon (Home) vs. Cathedral (Guests)

3:00 pm FB Practice Fields Fishers (Home) vs. Carmel JV Blue (Guests) (I will be reffing this one)

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules 


Fri, Aug 25

2:45 pm Para+                   Lazio vs Inter Milan

7pm Para+                          Orlando Pride vs Seattle OL Reign

8 pm ESPN                          Austin vs LAFC 

10- pm ESPN                      Portland Timbers vs Seattle

Sat, Aug 27

7:30 am USA                       Southhampton vs Man United 

9:30 am ESPN                     Dortmund (reyna) vs  Hertha

10 amUSA                           Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) @ Brighton

10 am Peacock                  Chelsea vs Leicster

12:30 pm NBC                    Arsenal  vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)

12:30 pm Para+                 Juventus (Mckinney) vs Roma

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs MGladbach (Scally)

12:30 ESPN+                       Union Berlin vs RBLeipzig 

3:30 pm Univision            Minn United vs Houston

7 pm Ch 8                   INDY 11 vs San Antonio (GK Jordan Farr)

7 pm ESPN+                        Charoltte vs Toronto

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy vs Columbus

7:30 pm Para+                   Racing Louisville  NWSL

10 pm Para+                       San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Houston Dash NWSL

10  pm ESPN+                    LA FC vs San Jose 

10:30 pm Para+                 Portland  vs San Diego Wave (Morgan)

Sun, Aug 28

9 am USA                             Aston Villa vs West Ham

11:30 am USA                    Nottingham Forest vs Tottenham

1:30 pm ESPN +, D           Barcelona vs Real Valladolid

2:45 pm Para+                   Forentina vs Napoli

2:45 pm beIN Sport         PSG vs Monaco

4 pm ESPN+                        Real Sociedad vs Barcelona (Dest) 

4 pm Univision                  Atlanta United vs DC United

5 pm Para+                         NY Gothem FC vs Angel City  NWSL

7 pm Para+                         KC Current vs NC Courage NWSL

7:30- pm FS1                      Orlando City vs NYCFC

Mon, Aug 29

4 pm ESpN+                        Valencia vs Atletico Madrid

Tues, Aug 30

12:30 pm Para+                 Sassuolo vs Milan

2:45 pm Peacock              Fulham (Reem, Jedi) vs Brighton

3 pm USA                            Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) vs Everton

Wed, Aug 31

2:30 pm Peacock              Arsenal vs Aston Villa 

3 pm USA                            Liveerpool vs NewCastle United

7 pm FS1                              Philly Union vs Inter Miami

9 pm ESPN+                        Austin vs Portland 

Thur, Sept 1

3 pm USA                            Leicister City vs Man United  

Fri, Sept 2

3 pm ESPN+                        Dortmund (reyna) vs  Hoffenheim

Sat, Sept 3

7:30 am USA                       Everton vs Liverpool

9:30 am ESPN                     Dortmund (reyna) vs  Hertha

9:30 am ESPN+                  Union Berlin (PefoK vs Bayern Munich

9 am Para+                          Forentina vs Juventus (Mckinney)

10 am USA                          Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) @ Brentford

10 am Peacock                  Fulham (Reem, Jedi) @ Tottenham

12 noon para+                   AC Milan vs Inter

12:30 pm NBC                    Aston Villa vs Man City

3 pm ESPN+                        Sevilla vs Barcelona

3 pm beIN Sport               PSG vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Detroit vs Indy 11

Sun, Sept 4

11:30 am USA                    Man United vs Arsenal 

5 pm Para+                         NY Gothem FC vs NC Courage NWSL

Fri, Sept 23

8:25 am ESPN                     USMNT vs Japan in Germany

Tues, Sept 27

2 pm ESPN                          USMNT vs Saudi Arabia in Spain

Fri, Oct 7

3 pm ESPN                          US Women  vs England in London

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

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Indiana high school girls soccer: Hamilton Southeastern takes top spot in Fab 15 rankings

Brian Haenchen Indianapolis Star

There’s a new No. 1 in the Central Indiana girls soccer Fab 15 with Hamilton Southeastern opening the season with wins over Class 3A finalists Carmel and Homestead. The Royals will have a chance to solidify their grip on the top spot this weekend, with their game against Noblesville one of many powerhouse clashes scheduled for this week. In the meantime, here’s where the area’s best rank after the first eight days of the season.

1. Hamilton Southeastern (5-0)

LW: 5

The Royals opened the season with a 4-1 win over Carmel, against whom they were 0-6-1 with a mere four goals scored since 2010. Seniors Caroline Kelley (nine goals, two assists) and Tatum Coleman (eight assists) have been top-notch on the attack, while goalkeeper Hailey Wade has allowed just one goal on 11 shots, including a shutout vs. Homestead (W, 2-0). HSE will try to defeat Noblesville for the first time since 2014 on Saturday. 

IHSAA girls soccer:2022 IndyStar preseason Super Team upperclassmen standouts lead team

More:Inside Indy Eleven’s plan to take a booming girls soccer scene to the next level

2. Noblesville (2-0)

Last week: 1

Smooth start to the year for the Millers, whose first two wins came by a combined score of 7-0. Four different players (Sydney Elliott, Meskerem James, Meredith Tippner and Ava Bramblett) scored against Cathedral; Lily Ault joined Bramblett and James in the goals column against West Lafayette. Noblesville hosts Avon on Wednesday before HSE comes to town for a rematch of last year’s sectional thriller. 

3. Carmel (3-1)

LW: 2

The Greyhounds bounced back from a lopsided loss to Hamilton Southeastern with wins over Plainfield, No. 5 South Bend St. Joseph and Class 2A No. 3 Guerin Catholic (shortened by storms). Clare Simmonds netted the winner vs. SBSJ (assisted by Annika Nelson); Olivia Cebalo scored the lone goal against Guerin (assisted by Sophie Shepherd). Carmel hosts Avon and Fishers on Saturday. 

4. Center Grove (2-0-1)

LW: 11

The Trojans started the season with three ranked opponents. They beat East Central and Columbus North, then tied Bloomington South. Five different players had scored for CG entering the Bloomington South game (Taylor Wert, Brooklyn Brown, Ella Dewitt, Addie Crowe and Madi Kramer). 

5. Brebeuf Jesuit (1-1-1)

LW: 3

Brebeuf suffered its first loss of the season — a 1-0 decision at Avon — on Saturday, despite outshooting the Orioles 8-2. It let a second-half lead get away vs. Zionsville in the opener (tied, 2-2), but bounced back with a win over Brownsburg. Three quality tests for Brebeuf, which has three conference games upcoming: Bishop Chatard (Tuesday), Covenant Christian (Thursday) and Guerin Catholic (Saturday). 

6. North Central (1-0-2)

LW: 4

It was a busy, but good week for the Panthers, who tied with Zionsville and Cathedral (shortened by storms) and knocked off Lawrence Central. Five different players have scored goals for NC, led by senior Samantha King with four, plus two assists. Maryn Weiger has allowed only two goals on 10 shots through three games. 

7. Bishop Chatard (3-0-1)

LW: 6

Chatard started the season with a couple 3A wins (Brownsburg and Mt. Vernon), and a triumph over Class A champion Heritage Christian. Note from the 5-3 win over Heritage Christian: senior Bri Buels scored a hat trick; Cece Leffler registered three assists. Tough stretch upcoming with Brebeuf on Tuesday, followed by Roncalli and Guerin next week. 

8. Cathedral (1-1-1)

LW: 9

It would have been nice to see if the Fighting Irish could have broken through against North Central, but Mother Nature had other plans with inclement weather ending the game in the 60th minute. Couple more of those measuring-stick games upcoming with Roncalli on Wednesday, then Fishers and Avon on Saturday. 

9. Zionsville (0-0-3)

LW: 13

Three draws against three quality opponents for the Eagles, whose week one dance card featured North Central, Brebeuf and Guerin. Reese Nehlsen scored both goals against Brebeuf (scored the game-tying goal in the second half), fellow senior Katie Chadwick scored against Guerin. Nehlsen and Bryn Maxwell accounted for the two goals against North Central. 

10. Heritage Christian (1-2)

LW: 10

The Eagles wasted no time putting themselves to the test with games against Roncalli and Chatard. They have just one game this week (Danville), with a visit from Brebeuf scheduled for next week. 

11. Guerin Catholic (1-1-1)


Alex Soucie scored a second-half goal to secure a tie vs. Zionsville, then the Golden Eagles limited 3A foe Carmel to just one goal in a weather-shortened clash on Saturday. Soucie and Sutton Worman are tied for the team lead with two goals apiece. 

12. Roncalli (3-0-1)

LW: 14

Summer Fishel has the Royals rolling early on. The sophomore has six goals and three assists through four games, highlighted by a season-opening hat trick vs. Heritage Christian. Roncalli travels to Cathedral on Wednesday. 

13. Fishers (4-0)


After winning their first two games by a combined score of 12-0, the Tigers had to grind against Westfield and Franklin Central, coming away with matching 2-1 victories. It’s worth noting Fishers’ scoring has come from a variety of players in its past two games. Elise May and McKinley Boland scored against the Shamrocks; Addie Allgeier and Emmy Streeter accounted for the goals against Franklin Central. Fishers has five players with multiple goals. 


14. Park Tudor (2-0-1)

LW: 15

Goalkeeper Lucy Furqueron has allowed just one goal for the Panthers, who beat Avon and Brownsburg, and tied with Chatard. They’re off until Saturday when they travel to Columbus East. Park Tudor’s schedule does not include a Class A opponent until September when it faces Fort Wayne Canterbury (Sept. 2) and Heritage Christian (Sept. 6). 

15. Tri-West (1-1)


The Bruins will try to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Cathedral on Monday against Brownsburg. Clare Donald and Paige Halford scored goals against Greencastle last Tuesday, with Danica James securing the shutout. 

Follow IndyStar high school sports Insider Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @brian_haenchen.

IHSAA boys soccer: Northside continues to rule Fab 15 after opening week

Brian Haenchen Indianapolis Star

With a week’s worth of games to work with, there was a healthy amount of shuffling beyond the top two teams in our first boys soccer Fab 15 of the regular season.

1. Fishers (2-0-1)

LW: 1

The Tigers surrendered the game-tying goal in the second half of a 1-1 draw with Westfield, but sandwiched that result between blowout wins over Franklin Central and Harrison. Junior Kyle Clayton, who scored Fishers’ goal against Westfield, has six on the season, while seniors Noah Reinhart and Santi Morales have combined for seven goals. Miles Hardy and Gavin Clayton have split goalkeeper duties through the first three games. 

2. Hamilton Southeastern (2-0-1)

LW: 4

Brady Strawmyer made four saves, and Logan Puls and Rex Randy provided the offense (with assists from Grady Garrand and Rodrigo Silvestre Muniz) to lift the Royals to a come-from-behind win over Carmel on Saturday. That’s big for HSE, which could (maybe even should) be unbeaten entering the month of September, which starts with matches against Brebeuf Jesuit and Fishers — and doesn’t let up from there. 

3. Zionsville (1-0-1)

LW: 3

The Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak vs. Carmel with a scoreless draw in the season opener. They followed that with a rout of McCutcheon on Thursday, a nice tune-up for what’s to come: Fishers on Tuesday, then Westfield a week later. 

4. Noblesville (2-0)

LW: 10

AJ Tippner and the Millers found a way to win against both Perry Meridian and Carmel, with Cole Thompson and Noel Peña posting matching shutouts in net. They have another series of tests upcoming with Tuesday’s trip to Avon followed by Brebeuf, Fishers and Westfield over the next three games. 

Insider:In state finals rematch, Noblesville sends a message, Carmel looking long-term

5. Carmel (0-2-2)

LW: 2

A late second-half goal burnt the Greyhounds against Noblesville on Thursday, then they failed to close out HSE on Saturday, allowing two goals in the second half of a 2-1 loss. This obviously isn’t the start coach Shane Schmidt and his squad were looking for, but they started slow last season, too, and wound up reaching the state finals. In summation: Don’t read too far into Carmel’s early results. It’s a young-ish team that’s been thrown directly into the deep end. 

6. Brebeuf Jesuit (2-0)

LW: 5

Following wins over Avon and Cardinal Ritter, Brebeuf has one more tune-up (Roncalli) before entering the meat of its schedule with Thursday’s match vs. Noblesville followed by Carmel, Westfield, HSE and Cathedral. Senior Stefan Boes leads the team with four goals; six players have registered assists, led by Alex Kirberger with two. Aidan Wade has yet to allow a goal in 120 minutes played. 

7. Westfield (0-0-2)

LW: 13

The Shamrocks came away with 1-1 draws against two of the better teams in the state (Fishers and Pike). Goalkeeper Liam Lloyd, who had an assist vs. the Red Devils, has made 19 saves (12 vs. Fishers). Cooper Ardiaolo and Oliver Smith have accounted for the scoring, though Aiden Yonkus, Yahir Lopez and Marlon Gomez lead the team in shots (4). 

8. Pike (0-0-2)


The Red Devils played Carmel and Westfield to 1-1 draws to start the season. 

9. Heritage Christian (2-1)

LW: 9

HC found different ways to collect its wins last week. Goalkeeper Landon Hight and the defense shined in a 1-0 win over University in the season opener; three first-half goals carried the Eagles to a wild 4-3 win over Bishop Chatard on Saturday. HC will face another former sectional opponent, Park Tudor, on Saturday. 

10. Perry Meridian (3-1)

LW: 8

The Falcons’ lone loss came to Noblesville, a 1-0 decision on Tuesday. Senior Vicktor Thang had three goals and three assists entering Thursday’s conference clash vs. Decatur Central, and goalkeeper Cung Hmung had made 14 saves (two goals against). 

11. Center Grove (2-1-1)


The Trojans bounced back from a one-goal loss to Bloomington South with a 1-0-1 showing at the Trojan Classic on Saturday. The win came over Columbus East, while the tie came against Castle, which is ranked No. 7 in Class 3A by the coaches. Ely Detty, who scored four goals in a 5-1 win over Roncalli, registered a goal and an assist vs. Castle. 

10 Americans to compete in 2022-23 UEFA Champions League

USMNT fans will have plenty of Champions League rooting interests.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Aug 25, 2022, 10:05am PDT  

The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place today in Istanbul, and 32 teams were drawn into 8 groups of 4 for Europe’s most prestigious club tournament. For fans of the United States Men’s National Team, there are several rooting interests located within those 8 groups, as 10 American players will once again compete in the hopes of lifting the Champions League trophy next June 10th.

The 10 Americans that will compete in the Champions League:

Eintracht Frankfurt (Timmy Chandler)

Chelsea FC (Christian Pulisic)

FC Barcelona (Sergiño Dest*)

Juventus (Weston McKennie)

Borussia Dortmund (Gio Reyna)

Rangers FC (James Sands, Malik Tillman)

Club Brugge (Owen Otasowie)

Celtic FC (Cameron Carter-Vickers)

Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen)

*Assuming Dest remains with Barcelona after the close of the summer transfer window At this point, USMNT fans should be used to this number of Americans playing in the Champions League, with 10 players being in the competition the past 2 seasons. Still, it’s a wonderful sight to see so many USMNT players getting that kind of experience and playing for one of the world’s most heralded trophies.

Here’s how the draw concluded:

Group A: Ajax, Liverpool FC, Napoli, Rangers FC

Group B: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge

Group C: Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Viktoria Plzeň

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille

Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea FC, Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb

Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic FC

Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen

Group H: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa

Vlatko Andonovski announces September USWNT roster

The team will meet up next week ahead of two friendlies against Nigeria.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Aug 22, 2022, 8:09am PDT  

United States v Canada - 2022 Concacaf W Championship Final

CHICAGO (Aug. 22, 2022) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named a 23-player roster for two September friendly matches against Nigeria, the first on Sept. 3 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas (Kickoff at 12:30 p.m. CT / 1:30 p.m. ET with coverage beginning at Noon CT / 1 p.m. ET on FOX) and the second on Sept. 6 at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., presented by Allstate (6 p.m. ET on ESPN2). All 23 players will suit up for both matches. All 23 players were on the roster for the USWNT as they won the Concacaf W Championship in July. After going undefeated without allowing a goal in capturing its 9th Concacaf title, the team’s focus turns to preparation for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which begins next July in Australia and New Zealand. The team will learn who it will play in the group stage when the draw is held on October 22nd. Until then, they appear to be challenging themselves with quality competition with the matches against Nigeria and a friendly against England at Wembley Stadium on October 7th.“All the players on the roster performed well in Mexico at qualifying and have carried that form for their clubs, so we’ll continue the process of growing as a team with this group in what will be two challenging games against Nigeria,” said Andonovski. “Preparing for the World Cup is a long process, and I’ve been very happy with how our team understands that process, is willing to do the work and is making positive strides every camp to get us to where we want to be next summer.”The only player from the Concacaf W Championship that is absent from this roster is Emily Sonnett, who is recovering from injury. Crystal Dunn, who has been on maternity leave, will return to USWNT camp to train with the team, but will not be included on the roster.

The 23-player roster:

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

DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC); Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)

Grant Whal 3 Thoughts on Leeds United-Chelsea – Grant Wahl

Leeds wallops Chelsea 3-0 in a huge win with Americans Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Jesse Marsch playing central roles

 Grant Wahl Aug 21

In a stunning result, Leeds United beat Chelsea 3-0 in the most convincing of ways on Sunday, unleashing a barrage of energy against one of the Premier League’s top teams. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

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• Brenden Aaronson is designed for the Premier League. The 21-year-old American was a devastating mix of skill and energy again, providing constant threats with his passing and turns (see you later, Kalidou Koulibaly, enjoy that yellow card!) while injecting energy and defensive pressure whenever Leeds lost the ball. That resulted in the game’s opening goal, when Aaronson picked the pocket of Chelsea keeper Édouard Mendy in front of an adoring Elland Road crowd. When I interviewed Aaronson in Leeds for my recent magazine story on the Americans there, I asked him what position he would play. “Not the striker,” he said, “but the three under the striker. Any position there. Left mid, center attacking mid, or right mid.” On Sunday Aaronson was deployed in the number 10 role for the first time, and while not everything he tried came off, the sheer verticality of some of his menacing through-balls reminded me of Michael Laudrup. Aaronson’s is also crazy fit. He went 82 minutes at a breakneck pace and has been on the field for all but 13 minutes in Leeds’s first three games. Hats off to one of the Premier League’s top newcomers so far this season.

• This game was a distillation of MarschBall. The philosophy of Leeds’s American coach, Jesse Marsch, is all about constant energy, full-field pressure and striking quickly in transition once you win the ball, especially when it’s in the opponent’s end of the field. Marsch, who emphasizes data analysis, also invests lots of training time into an array of intricate set-piece routines. Look how Leeds scored its goals on Sunday: The first (by Aaronson) came as the direct result of pressure on Mendy. The second (by Rodrigo, his league-leading fourth of the season) came on a well-executed set-piece corner kick. The third (by Jack Harrison) came on a decisive counterattack with Daniel James delivering a terrific cross with zero Chelsea pressure from the left side. No Leeds player knows MarschBall better than Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old American who started playing for Marsch at age 15, and Adams was sneaky-phenomenal on Sunday, seemingly everywhere to win balls in the midfield and showing his smarts to know exactly when to insert himself to stop Chelsea counters. (A particular moment happened in the second half when Adams dispossessed Raheem Sterling on a post-set-piece counter without even drawing a foul.) MarschBall is heavy-metal football, a 90-minute rush, and it was especially fun to see Marsch celebrating that way on the sideline after Leeds goals. (And you know what’s crazy? Leeds really should have a perfect nine points in the league instead of seven after losing a 2-0 lead at Southampton last week.)

• What must Christian Pulisic be thinking right now? Chelsea’s American No. 10 once again didn’t start, even though the ineffective Ruben Loftus-Cheek did in a position where Pulisic could certainly play, and losing to the Premier League’s America’s Team (with Aaronson, Adams and Marsch playing central roles) has to have Pulisic wondering about greener pastures elsewhere. Pulisic didn’t have much impact once he came on in the second half, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have Thomas Tuchel’s trust. If he did, Chelsea wouldn’t be looking to acquire more players in his position. I would almost rather see Pulisic move on loan to Newcastle than to the dumpster fire of Manchester United, but he needs to make a move and get playing time ahead of the World Cup if he wants to have the biggest impact he could at the tournament. That’s the only bummer of an otherwise phenomenal day for fans of United States soccer.

Brenden Aaronson, the USMNT’s fastest-rising star, bosses Chelsea on a banner day for American soccer

Henry Bushnell Sun, August 21, 2022 at 10:52 A

Brenden Aaronson’s meteoric rise from Medford, New Jersey, toward the top of global soccer hit new heights on Sunday in a rip-roaring Leeds United win over Chelsea — and on a landmark day for Americans in the sport.It wasn’t just the goal, Aaronson’s first in the Premier League and Leeds’ first in a 3-0 victory.It wasn’t just the spin that put Kalidou oulibaly, one of the world’s most accomplished defenders, in a blender.It was that everything Aaronson and Leeds did epitomized what he and American men’s soccer have become.In the first 45 minutes alone, the 21-year-old buzzed around Elland Road from his central attacking midfield position. He snapped into tackles. He broke lines with clever flicks. He ran in behind Chelsea’s overwhelmed defense.He popped up on the right wing and the left wing, in the middle third and even the defensive third, and everywhere in between.He wasn’t, and isn’t, flawless on the ball. In fact, mere seconds before tapping it into an empty net, he gave it away with a sloppy pass.But Aaronson’s most coveted skill, despite the “attacker” label, is actually his front-foot defending. He’s one of the world’s premier pressers. He is relentless without the ball, “an annoying gnat, like a fly that you can’t get out of your face,” U.S. teammate Weston McKennie once said.His reaction to losing the ball in the 33rd minute was, and always is, to sprint toward it. He charged down one Chelsea player, then a second, and then, finally, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.Because he did, he had the freedom, and the audacity, to score his first EPL goal with a no-look finish.He also had a U.S. teammate, Tyler Adams, getting stuck in on Chelsea midfielders and supporting him all afternoon long.He has an American manager, Jesse Marsch, empowering him and the rest of Leeds United to swarm opponents, no matter how big or rich those opponents are.Marsch celebrated Aaronson’s goal with a sprint of his own down the touchline, a jump and a fist-pump. He celebrated the third goal — scored by English winger Jack Harrison, a product of an American high school and college and MLS — with a spike of his water bottle. He spent several minutes after the final whistle twirling his jacket and pounding his chest as Leeds supporters sang his name.Christian Pulisic entered the fray off Chelsea’s bench in the second half, and perhaps the most astounding aspect of this astounding day was that, of the five American soccer products to take part in a Premier League game, Christian Pulisic, the country’s most celebrated star, was the least-discussed of the five. After the match, as Marsch made the rounds, commending players and saluting fans, Aaronson, Adams and Pulisic chatted briefly on the field.Adams then wrapped himself in an American flag and paraded around the pitch.Aaronson told NBC Sports in a postgame interview: “It just goes to show people around the world that Americans can play football too.”

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Christian Pulisic of Chelsea with Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson of Leeds United at full time  during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Chelsea FC at Elland Road on August 21, 2022 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson chat postgame. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

The scary part — or, rather, the scary good part — is that Aaronson has found it difficult to even crack the U.S. men’s national team starting 11. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has preferred Pulisic, 23, and Lille forward Tim Weah, 22, on the wings. He has preferred McKennie, a 23-year-old regular at Juventus, as the most advanced midfielder. There is no obvious place for Aaronson in the team.And yet he might, at the moment, be the best American player in the world.He is definitely a sign of the times, a representative of the most promising generation of men’s players that the U.S. has ever produced, and proof of concept for the academies producing them. Just five years ago, he was being trained and educated by the Philadelphia Union academy and the specialized prep school affiliated with it.He is now their postboy. But he’s certain that he won’t be the last.”I can say, there’s gonna be a lot more talents coming out of the Philadelphia Union academy,” he assured reporters earlier this year. “I think that it’s only starting now” — in Philadelphia and, he clarified, “in the whole country,” where “academies are getting better and better.”The next in the soon-to-be-long line might be his brother, Paxten, 18, who some in Philadelphia believe could be as good or better than Brenden.And Brenden is still just 21. Three years ago, he was a teenage MLS rookie. Just last year, he was moving to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Just a few months ago, he was in agony as he watched Leeds try to stay in the Premier League, his move contingent on them avoiding relegation.They did, and now he’s the second-most expensive U.S. player ever, and maybe the most exciting. He is sending Premier League stadiums into rapturous celebration. He is an ultra-modern player in an ultra-modern team that is flying all sorts of flags for Americans in the sport. And there is no telling how good he might become.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21:  Leeds United's Brenden Aaronson celebrates scoring his teams opening goal  during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Chelsea FC at Elland Road on August 21, 2022 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Brenden Aaronson celebrates scoring his first Premier League goal, and Leeds United’s first against Chelsea. (Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images)

 Don’t do it, Christian

BySam FelsWednesday 1:30PM Deadspin

The transfer window is closing soon, and that would normally mean a pretty furious avalanche of rumors, requests, bids, and stories. Deadline day has become the sport’s free agency day in the NHL or NBA (or even election night), with masses of reporters spread out across the European continent breathlessly covering physicals and car types arriving and not arriving. Only on the one day in August and the one in January do you see a cavalcade of journalists standing in a parking lot in the rain hoping to see a car with tinted windows roll by. It’s a little more entertaining than TSN reporters standing in the baking sun outside of empty arenas and practice facilities on Canada Day, but probably only because of the accents.This August’s window is even more fraught, because not only clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United scrambling and clawing for anything they can find on the shelves, and the clubs they eventually buy from needing to find replacements and on down the line, but players are frantic in trying to secure bigger roles to solidify either their spot on a World Cup roster or be as sharp as possible when that tournament rolls around in November. Normally with a summer World Cup, players would be doing this in the January transfer window, and would have a much more solid handle on where they fit with their current team and manager with the season already half-over. Trying to do it in August means trying to do a lot of projection of where you might fit, and then having to guess if that will be enough before everyone decamps to Qatar.Which brings us to Christian Pulisic. Captain America, at least when Tyler Adams isn’t wearing the armband. Still the US’s most accomplished player, and likely still their most talented. When the chips are down in Qatar, and the US need a goal after the 80th minute, he’s still the one you’d count on to do some shit, unless Gio Reyna’s legs stop being made of graham crackers. Both Pulisic, Gregg Berhalter, and every USMNT fan would prefer that Pulisic is playing regularly, at the top of his game, and most importantly healthy come the World Cup.For once, the last part is in place, for now. It’s always “for now” with Pulisic, who has his own graham-cracker ligament tendencies as well. You can never be sure with Christian. And while very few US fans would admit this, the idea of Pulisic just being a super-sub and spot-starter for Chelsea the next two and a half months is a-ok, because the chance of something going TWANG! is that much lower. Maybe he won’t be as sharp as possible, but he’ll be on the field, and given Pulisic’s history, on the field is a relief. Of course, we can all easily imagine the mainstream media’s loudest gaping maws who just drop in for a World Cup belching their pollutant takes about him if he doesn’t rack up a hat trick against Wales. We’ll worry about that then.But Pulisic himself isn’t content to just be a bit-part for Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel. He’s never been able to lock down a spot in the first 11 (even though he played for Tuchel at Dortmund), either due to his spotty injury history or his spotty performances. Pulisic had just 13 starts last year in the league last season, another four in the Champions League. Mostly having his campaign known for this. Hasn’t started in either of Chelsea’s first two games so far this season. This is after Raheem Sterling was brought in to bolster the front three, though Romelu Lukaku was subtracted from it. So was Timo Werner. The numbers are still just about the same. But there are rumors that Chelsea are hot after Everton’s Anthony Gordon, apparently feeling they need to fill out an “awkward looking ginger who dives all the time” quota. Pulisic is feeling the crunch.It’s not that Pulisic would ever lose his place in the USMNT squad, and likely not even the starting lineup. But Pulisic has waited four years for this tournament, to play in it for the first time, and thanks to 2018’s full body dry heave from the entire set-up, he’s only got maybe one or two after this one left. He doesn’t want to go there and be off.And it’s that level of desperation that led to the rumor that not only have Manchester United calling about a loan, but that Pulisic didn’t laugh them out of the building. You know you’re down bad and maybe not thinking straight when you consider the offer of the biggest basketcase team in the league, on the continent, and quite possibly on the planet. Yeah, Pulisic might get to play a lot, and in that playing he may completely lose his desire for the sport or fall into a sinkhole on the Old Trafford pitch, such is the way they’re going.Would Pulisic play at United? That would depend if Marcus Rashford departs for PSG, which is another rumor. That would essentially leave Anthony Martial as just about the only competition on the left side of United’s attack. And though Martial is on his fourth or fifth consecutive year of “best shape of his life!” stories advertising a bounce back campaign to come, if it were going to happen it, would have happened. Pulisic can likely nail down a spot ahead of him. Even if Rashford doesn’t move, he’s been so woeful for so long he’s not a huge obstacle either.But playing in what? Erik Ten Hag is only two games into the season and can’t decide if he can play the way he wants with the players he has or has to rejigger everything to get results to stay high enough in the table to get the players he needs to play the way he wants. Christian Eriksen was trotted out as a defensive midfielder last time out, and he’s in his 30s with a heart defect. This is where they’re at. If Ronaldo stays, Pulisic can look forward to some combo of Ronaldo dropping into his space and then bitching at him when Pulisic doesn’t pass him the ball. Oh, and he’ll have to do Ronaldo’s running and pressing for him while Ronaldo scowls and huffs and makes sure the cameras pick up just how dissatisfied he is and how beneath him he thinks the rest of the team is. And given the pressure already on Ten Hag, one or two iffy performances could see Pulisic rotated out of the team anyway and something else hurled wall-ward.Here’s another thing: Chelsea have 21 games (at least) between now and the World Cup. Fourteen in the league, six in the Champions League, and a League Cup game. Starting at the end of the month, Chelsea will only have basically one week where there isn’t a game midweek until the World Cup. Twenty-one games in 83 days, with an international break thrown in. Pulisic will get starts. The five subs assure that he will likely get on the field a lot, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes at a time. He’s one injury away from starting regularly. And in a team that has a clear plan, a clear style, where his role will be strictly defined. And it’s not all that different from what he is assigned to do with the US. That sounds a lot better than turning out regularly for a team that each week looks more like a community theater production of Marat/Sade. Don’t do it, Christian. Patience, son. Just because the abyss might be staring back into you doesn’t mean you have to dive headfirst into it.

Report: Oh god no, please no. Anything but this.

Seth Vertelney  PRosoccer Wire


August 17, 2022 3:40 pm ET

Do we have to talk about this? Really, do we have to?


Christian Pulisic is being linked with a move to…

*takes a drag off cigarette, lets out long, deep, forlorn sigh*

Manchester United.

The Athletic, ESPN, and Sky Sports are all reporting it so it must have a small sliver of truth, although Manchester United has been linked with every functioning player with two legs and a pulse these days. So yeah, grain of salt.

But why, Christian? Why would you ever want this? Why would you even, as The Athletic says, prefer a move to Manchester United?

In a way, it makes sense. Pulisic hasn’t been an every-game starter at Chelsea for a while now. The World Cup is just three months away, and he wants to be in absolute tip-top form heading to Qatar.

But not Manchester United. No no no no.

United is a complete laughingstock, as you may have heard. The club’s current transfer strategy can best be described as “five-year-old unleashed in a candy store.”

Is there a plan at Old Trafford? No there is not.

There is no way to know if Pulisic would be in United’s long-term plans, because United does not have any long-term plans.

United’s transfers are currently being overseen by a man who has flown to Barcelona and Turin this summer to wrap up deals for two players, and has wrapped up zero deals.

Ralf Rangnick was brought on to temporarily coach the team last season before becoming a consultant for two years. After saying the club needed “open-heart surgery,” he decided after a few months that procedure was best left to someone else.

Would Pulisic play at Manchester United? Perhaps. He may be a fit for Erik ten Hag’s system but like at Chelsea, there are plenty of other options at winger.

But let’s say Pulisic earns Ten Hag’s trust. How long will Ten Hag last anyway? Two games into his tenure, there is already behind-the-scenes sniping.

Oh yeah, the locker room is absolute poison.

So let’s see: Pulisic could stay at a club where he’s still a valuable player, move somewhere stable, or join the club equivalent of the Fyre Festival.

Please, Christian. Just do what Elon Musk did and tell us this whole Man Utd link was really just a joke.

If you need any more advice, we’d recommend you simply call your old pal Jadon Sancho at your earliest convenience.



Leeds' Brenden Aaronson scores past Chelsea's
Brenden Aaronson of Leeds United epitomizes the style of play that has made coach Jesse Marsch’s team, partly owned by 49ers Enterprises, the talk of the EPL in the early going.PHOTO BY CATHERINE IVILL/GETTY IMAGES

If it looked historic, that’s because it was: A jubilant English soccer crowd was literally singing the name of an American manager, Jesse Marsch, at the conclusion of a Premier League match.

An American player, Tyler Adams, paraded around the field draped in the Stars and Stripes, while another Yankee,  Brenden Aaronson, was being interviewed about a wily first-half goal that propelled Marsch’s Leeds United squad to a 3-0 drubbing of powerhouse Chelsea.The victory was Leeds’ first over Chelsea in 20 years, and it marked yet another milestone for the growing U.S. presence in the world game. And not just on the field, where Aaronson became the first U.S. player to score for an American manager in the history of the English Premier League.

Off the pitch, Leeds is 44% owned by 49ers Enterprises, the parent company of the NFL’s San Francisco franchise; Paraag Marathe, president of 49ers Enterprises, is vice chairman at Leeds. Majority owner Andrea Radrizzani holds 56% of the club, but 49ers Enterprises reportedly has an option to buy the Italian businessman’s stake. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the team Leeds beat, Chelsea, is owned by a group led by LA Lakers and Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, who purchased the club in May for $3 billion.Making Sunday’s Leeds lovefest all the more interesting is that 50 miles to the southwest, U.S. ownership faces a very different situation. The Glazer family, who’ve been in control of iconic Manchester United since 2005, are taking the full brunt of fan criticism for the team’s 0-2 start and a woeful outlook on the season. The club’s $4.65 billion valuation hasn’t saved them from the bottom of the Premier League table and tensions remain high. Just three-and-a-half months after fan rioting sparked by the Glazers’ decision to join the failed breakaway European Super League postponed a match, protests were planned ahead of Monday’s game against Liverpool.So loathed are the Glazers right now that a noted Twitter prankster’s musings about buying the club spiked the team’s stock price—and set off a week of media speculation on the chances the team might get sold. (Verdict thus far: not bloody likely.)Man United traditionalist fans have long decried the team’s profit-seeking under the Glazers’ watch. Criticism intensified as the formerly formidable Red Devils have slipped out of the UEFA Champions League, and rose to a fever pitch when the team was humiliated by tiny Brentford, 4-0, last week.Great British griping over Yank ownership is nothing new, nor is respect for American investment, as evidenced by Liverpool fans’ general approval of Fenway Sports Group’s stewardship of the club—with the exception of the club’s own Super League flirtation. But the kind of adoration seen by Marsch and company is something novel.Part of it has to do with Marsch’s success (and good fortune) last spring, when he took over a struggling squad in February and guided it out of relegation peril on the final day of the season.

The excitement can also be attributed to Marsch’s coaching system, which applies relentless defensive pressure, traps opponents deep in their own end, frustrates their attacking plans and forces turnovers. The tactics were epitomized by Aaronson’s goal, in which he harassed Chelsea goalkeeper Benjamin Mendy at full speed, dispossessed the keeper in front of the net, and tapped the ball in for a 1-0 lead as if he were scraping something off his shoe while sprinting to catch a bus.Finally, the fan fervor is celebrating the club’s assembly of talent, which includes not only the signing of Aaronson, but of Adams, a tireless midfielder who seemed to stop every Chelsea threat on Sunday, and who played for Marsch at two of the manager’s previous stops: the New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Leipzig.“It just goes to show people around the world that Americans can play football, too,” Aaronson said after the game.Of course, three games in, all caveats about a long season apply. But on Sunday, in the eyes of the Brits, live at Leeds, the American kids were alright. So was their American manager, and even their American owners.For anyone uncomfortable with that, there’s always Monday’s Man United match.

Inside Jesse Marsch’s Leeds revolution: Work rate, relentless football and good people

  • Aug 23, 2022 Tom HamiltonSenior Writer ESPN

LEEDS, England — Marc Roca lets out a shout of frustration as a move breaks down, and his group head back to halfway to try again. It’s early Wednesday morning at Leeds United‘s training ground Thorpe Arch and the team are preparing for the Sunday match against Chelsea.The whole passage of play restarts. The attack wins the ball off the defence in midfield, Jack Harrison emerges down the wing, zips past a defender and slips it to Roca, who squares it for Tyler Adams to thump it home. Roca turns to two people watching and roars approval, and amid some laughter they head back to start the drill again. All the while Jesse Marsch and his coaches watch, offering tweaks here and there.Once training has finished and the players have had lunch and showered, they head off in various directions, but Brenden Aaronson is left holding a soaked sponge; the USMNT star is covered in water and foam. He lost one of the games in training, and his forfeit was to clean Adams’ car.It’s all very relaxed. Four days later, Leeds hammered Chelsea 3-0 and moved up to second in the Premier League. You wouldn’t know that months earlier, the club were scrapping against relegation.When Marsch took over from Marcelo Bielsa at the start of March, Leeds were fighting for their Premier League life. The environment he encountered was tense, the strain of the situation getting to the players. “I could see the stress when I came in, and I knew the job I thought I had to do was maybe five times harder,” Marsch tells ESPN. But as they hit a midseason reset, they started clocking up the points and on the final day, the club avoided relegation thanks to their win at Brentford and Burnley dropping points elsewhere. Then the focus shifted to the next season in the Premier League under their new boss. The summer saw two star players leave in Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, with that money reinvested in seven new faces, giving Leeds an opportunity to evolve. The players brought in all slot into how Marsch wants his team to play: high-pressing, quick-tempo, relentless, claustrophobic football. The recruits were perfect for Marsch’s system and made an immediate impact. But though there’s a short-, medium- and long-term plan for the club, none of that detracts from the weekly necessity of racking up points and making sure they’re nowhere near another relegation scrap.

“I know the longevity of a person in these positions is not great,” Marsch says. “But every job I take, I treat it as I’m the custodian of the club. I try to operate in the best interests of the club and team, and I find if you do that effectively, you can create both short-term, and long-term success. Now, here at this level, it’s the biggest challenge of my life, right?”

When he was first approached by Leeds, Marsch wasn’t sure if he was ready for a return to the hot seat. The outgoing manager was seen as a footballing deity by Leeds fans, having led the club back into the Premier League for the first time in 16 years and into the ninth spot in their return to the top flight. But their form was troubling in the 2021-22 season and by the end of February, the club and Bielsa went their separate ways.When February ticked around into March, Marsch was enjoying time away from the daily rigours of management. His previous role at RB Leipzig hadn’t worked out, and he left in December after just four months in the post.He spent the intervening period travelling, visiting friends, spending time with his family and soaking up new experiences. Then the phone rang.

“Leeds came knocking before I thought I would get back to work, and my first thought was the timing wasn’t right,” Marsch says. He spoke to his wife, Kim, and to his three children. Hearing he was approached by a club is nothing new. Kim’s message to Jesse has always been to not tell the family of potential interest “until it gets serious because things get tossed around all the time,” he says.

Marsch was approached by the club after sporting director Victor Orta had identified him as the best man from 42 potential candidates to replace the outgoing Bielsa. “I would say Victor and his team do a really good job of scouring the world really looking for — and using data very heavily, data and analytics — the right types of players that can fit into the way that we think about football,” Marsch says. “This was how they found me as the coach.”

Marsch was originally keen to take over at the end of the season, rather than midway through the campaign, but as he thought more about the opportunity, he envisaged these jigsaw pieces clicking together.

“The more I looked at the potential of what I thought the club and the team could be, the more excited I got,” Marsch says. “I changed my mind overnight. I knew I was going to have to dig into everything on a higher level and faster than I wanted to, but that the reward and opportunity was bigger than the threat of failure. I came here because I felt like Leeds was the right place for me.”

On arrival, he knew the potential and ability of the group, but the key was to tap into it amid a period as stressful as the club had endured for some time. “At the start Andrea [Radrizzani, the majority shareholder at Leeds] asked me how quickly I could transform the team from the way Marcelo played into the way I wanted to play. I wasn’t totally sure, because I’d never taken over a team so deeply ingrained in a specific style to what I wanted. But I think we did well; it wasn’t just the style of play, but also the stress of the relegation situation. It meant we had to free the players to commit intellectually, physically and emotionally to what we needed to become.”

Marsch emptied the tank over those two-and-a-half months leading up to the final day. Rodrigo, the Spain striker, speaking back in March, said Marsch’s first on-field steps were to shift the team away from one-vs.-one marking to zonal, and it helped their transitional play from defense to attack. He also emphasised how Marsch “tried to understand everyone” to figure out how to get the best out of the squad. Some players needed picking up, other players needed reminding of their ability.

“As soon as he came in, he’s been brilliant,” Daniel James tells ESPN. “He’s good with everyone, giving information all the time. He’s someone you can approach with anything, anytime.”

After several heart-stopping moments and twists and turns, goals from Raphinha and Harrison gave Leeds a 2-1 win at Brentford, while Burnley losing to Newcastle United meant Marsch’s side had successfully retained their top-flight status. “It wasn’t easy to manage and I was trying to think of ways to help the group tactically and, to be fair, we have had good performances, it’s just trying to put it all together that hasn’t always looked perfect,” Marsch said at the time.

“The stress has been high for three months, I’ve tried to stay calm and focus on us and you see the quality of the mentality and character.”

How a tough conversation led to Tyler Adams’ Leeds move

Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams explain the conversation they had before the USMNT midfielder signed for Leeds.

As he reflects on the end of last season, Marsch smiles, but also exhales. He says it “required all of the experience and insight and expertise that I’ve gathered over my years to get this moving the way I wanted it to,” though his memories of that day aren’t around the goals but instead the fans and that connection they had with the team. After his first three months of working on psychology to get the team out of a relegation battle, the next stage was shifting attention to the football and the future.

Marsch headed back to the U.S. to refuel after the season. A couple of days in, he needed a new pair of jeans. He was in New York at the time, so he headed to the Levi’s shop in Times Square. It was the usual routine he’d done tens of times before: train to Penn Station, 15-minute walk to the store. But this time, he had football fans asking him for a photo.

“That for me was an eye-opening moment, because I’d never been treated like that,” he says. “You know, sometimes here around Leeds people know who I am. But back home, I never thought that that would be the case. So you know, there’s obviously a sense of responsibility in terms of what that means.”

His favourite on-field moment so far is Joe Gelhardt‘s goal against Norwich last term, but his most memorable off-field memories shift daily, from the fans he meets while out walking his dogs, to those waiting outside the training ground asking him to autograph a shirt while advising him which player to sign.

How did it go so wrong for Chelsea in Leeds humiliation?

Janusz Michallik feels Chelsea are severely lacking in attacking options and need to strengthen immediately in that area.

Leeds’ summer outlay to date is roughly the same as the outgoings, with Raphinha moving to Barcelona for a £55 million transfer fee and Phillips to Manchester City for £42m. Both were key players, but the money has been reinvested in new faces: Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen from FC Salzburg, Adams from Leipzig, Luis Sinisterra from FeyenoordJoel Robles from Real Betis, Roca from Bayern Munich and Darko Gyabi from Manchester City.

From their opening three matches, we’ve seen Leeds operate in a 4-2-3-1, which shifts to a 4-2-2-2. The front three players — Harrison, Aaronson and James started there against Chelsea — are largely interchangeable behind Rodrigo leading the line, and it’s their mission to run like hell at the opposition. They hustle the opponents until they give up the ball and then attack at pace, in as quick and direct a manner as possible. Leeds are playing more vertically this season than before, but it’s anchored on fitness and sprinting. You can see how the summer recruits have slotted in: Adams and Roca causing mischief in the midfield but forcing turnovers, and then it’s up to Aaronson and Sinisterra to turn the opportunity of a counterattack into a goal-scoring chance.


Leeds also went for younger players, and it’s their policy to offer such talents long-term contracts. They have the sixth-youngest average age of their starting XI in the Premier League, and it’s all tuned into their policy in the transfer market.”It’s always an opportunity,” Marsch says of the summer’s business. “I don’t care. If you’re talking about failure, success, money, losing players, gaining players, it’s always about seeing the opportunity and then seizing it. And so it’s the reason I came here in the end was because I saw the opportunity even in a relegation fight of what Leeds United could become.”And we tried to, at every moment, see what’s happening within our team, within our transfer politics. Within every decision we make we see where the opportunities are and how to grow and how to get better.”Their vast database includes many matching capabilities, but it comes down to a human touch. “Once the metrics match their metrics, then it’s about really investing in who the person is to ensure the person we’re bringing in honours the environment that we really are establishing and trying to create every day,” Marsch explains. “And I think the balance of the two is what Victor does so well.”Some of the transfers were planned before Marsch’s arrival, such as Aaronson from Salzburg. Leeds went for him in the January transfer window, but he decided to see the season out in Austria. And just days after Leeds’ survival was confirmed, he was the first signing of the Marsch Aaronson remembers his first meeting with Leeds and the appeal of the club. “Just the plan that the club had, you know, and the people surrounding it,” Aaronson tells ESPN. “The club wanted me here and was so supportive and showed me how much they wanted me here and how they wanted me to be a part of that plan. We have high expectations of the club and the fans do, too. And that’s something I want to be a part of developing me as a player and as a person.”He was later joined by fellow USMNT starter Adams. While Aaronson finished the 2021-22 campaign on a high, Adams struggled in his last season at Leipzig while managing some niggling injuries, but his class endured. He was the player Leeds identified to form a double pivot with Roca in midfield, but they had to be sure about where his head was at first.”I had a tough conversation with Jesse before I came here about finding the old Tyler,” Adams said. “I felt like in my time at Leipzig I lost a little bit of confidence. I lost the way of, you know, who I was and what I wanted to become. And I got a little bit too much in my comfort zone.”So we had a tough conversation, we talked over it, not an argument in any way or sense but some difficult points came across.””I’ve known him for so long,” Marsch said. “I’m very proud of him and I’ve always believed in him. Always, but I’ve also known that he’s had challenges, you know, big challenges. And it’s not just about playing or not, it’s about how an environment works and how people interact.What’s behind Brenden Aaronson’s hot start in the Premier League?

Brenden Aaronson speaks about his start to life in the Premier League with Leeds United.

“When I brought him here, I said we just need you to get back to being the kind of player that you are and more freedom in the way that you express yourself as a person, as a player on the pitch. We have a really strong foundation of a team here and we have leaders in the team, but I wanted to make sure that he knew there was a responsibility to commit to the team fully in a selfless manner, because I know what the mentality of the group and the character of the group is here.””We took a week to reconnect,” Adams said, “and I reflected on my time at Leipzig, you know, [and] what I wanted to become as a player and person, and when we reconnected I was all-in and bought into the idea of coming here and finding the old Tyler.”Adams describes the old Tyler as an “absolute beast on the field,” someone who “doesn’t really overthink anything.” He fits the bill of what Marsch pictures as your archetypal Leeds player. Marsch says he wants his team to be known for their hard work, with his players “ready to fight and run and commit and do everything they can for every second of the match.”There may yet be further recruits this summer — Leeds are looking into bolstering their options up front — but only if the right player is there.”I know that those transfers are always a lightning rod in the public and they want to see us continue to invest,” Marsch says. “But we just want to make sure that every decision we make is the right one.”I think the additions we’ve made have been perfect. Perfect. Right, really, I think the seven additions we’ve made have been fabulous. And the key is to keep that 100% rate. And it’s almost impossible to do, but that’s our job.”

Leeds’ season began with Wolverhampton Wanderers coming to Elland Road. The new-look team edged past Bruno Lage’s side 2-1, thanks to goals from Rodrigo and (officially) an own-goal from Rayan Ait-Nouri, though Aaronson still claims he had the final touch. But there were no doubts over Aaronson’s first in Leeds’ win over Chelsea on Sunday, as he hustled Edouard Mendy to force the error that gave the team their opener. Their third was reminiscent of what they were practising in training Wednesday: winning the ball back, countering at pace and punishing the opponent.But Marsch would have loved one statistic above all in that match, exhibiting exactly what he wants from his team: after 80 minutes, Leeds had run 11 kilometres farther than Chelsea. When Aaronson is told that statistic postmatch, the young American smiles and says that’s what they want to be known for: work rate.When you talk to the new signings about their first impressions of the Premier League, Adams says he was “absolutely shattered.” But without prompting, they mention the Elland Road atmosphere. Aaronson says it was “electric,” while Adams adds: “It gave me goosebumps. This kind of support is what pushes you on in the 90th minute to make that extra sprint back to tackle harder.”For Marsch, there are many moments that have emphasised how big a job managing the team is: like when he saw his first Leeds United tattoo on a supporter’s leg on his first day, or when he heard the club’s anthem coming from the stands. “This is what I love. You know, I don’t like when they chant my name. I just don’t, and I know they’re doing it to be unified in what we’re doing. But I love it so much more when I hear ‘Marching on Together’ or Leeds or Yorkshire or whatever, you know, it’s not me I care about, it’s the club and this is why I love being here.”

Jesse Marsch reveals ‘eye-opening’ shopping experience in Times Square

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch recalls the moment he got recognised when shopping in New York.He quickens the pace as he talks more about why he feels so at home at the club. “It’s just a selflessness from every member of this entire sporting organization to help the team and to do whatever they need to do in their role for the on-the-field product to be what we all want it to become.”Marsch has also enjoyed interacting with the San Francisco 49ers, with 49ers Enterprises owning a 44% stake in Leeds. “I liked going to watch the 49ers train, seeing how they work, seeing how organized they are, and how they are structured,” Marsch says, referring to his visit to the 49ers minicamp in the offseason. “That’s been a bit of an eye-opener and very interesting to see. And I think it’s helped me even organize things. And I like to be organized. I like to be on top of things. I don’t like to be caught by surprises.”The focus shifts to what Marsch hopes Leeds achieve in the future. “We can’t feel too good about ourselves, we can’t feel too bad about ourselves. We just have to have a relentless commitment to keep moving forward.”The goal isn’t to have total harmony, but to create a common understanding as to what we are, our identity and to commit to that every day. I don’t have a problem of telling somebody if they’re not carrying their weight, or of telling them how disappointed or angry I am because I will protect the environment above everything. That’s the most important thing: it’s not harmony, it’s about identity, expectation and making sure that in every way we’re maximising the potential of each other and of the group every day.”Marsch and his family are settled in Yorkshire: the Wisconsinite who found a home in Leeds. “I think what I’ve learnt more than anything, it’s just that I belong here,” he says. But he’s just getting going. He’s aware of how managers are an endangered species, and his responsibility in keeping the ship steered in the right direction. “There’s still a lot of work to do and our goals are much bigger than just a couple of good performances,” Marsch says. “But I’m thankful to be here. It’s an important position, an important club and I know that fully.”So yeah, when you asked me how’s Leeds? Leeds is pretty damn good.”



  • We asked for your American soccer questions on Twitter earlier this week – and you delivered!
  • Who should win this year’s MLS MVP award? And what’s up with the USMNT’s midfield shape? Let’s talk about all of that and more.

© Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

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Hey everyone, Joe Lowery here. You know what day it is. You know what time it is. It’s Wednesday, which means we’re back with another midweek mailbag!I asked for your American soccer questions on Twitter – and you delivered. I’ll answer a number of them down below, but if there’s something you desperately want answered that didn’t make it into this mailbag, submit it here and we’ll do our best to answer it on the site.

Alright, let’s do this thing.


Should (or would) Berhalter adapt his USMNT midfield structure to be more similar to Leeds, given the success of Adams and Aaronson in that team? I’m thinking a Musah-Adams pivot with Aaronson centrally.

He already has!

Remember back in June when we saw Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah play as a double pivot in possession with Aaronson hanging out in the right halfspace? That’s exactly how Jesse Marsch uses both Adams and Aaronson. And if I squint just a bit, I can even pretend that Adams’ partner in the double pivot at Leeds, Marc Roca, is Yunus Musah.

Pushing Musah deeper and getting another attacker on the field makes a ton of sense for the USMNT. It likely won’t make sense for every game – there will be times when having three dedicated central midfielders covering ground is more valuable than squeezing an extra attacker on the field. But the fact that the United States can flip back and forth between midfield shapes is a good thing.

Now, I don’t think Gregg Berhalter is copying March’s homework here (especially given that Berhalter made this shift before Adams and Aaronson had played a game in the Premier League). But hey, maybe those two managers text each other little tactical tidbits.

Berhalter: Hey Jesse, was just thinking about using Adams and Musah in a double pivot against Morocco lol could be fun

Marsch: I like it GGG. Might as well toss BA in the halfspace while you’re at it tbh

Berhalter: *sends gif of one of his own behind the back bounces passes*

I’m just saying, I can see it.


Are y’all gonna do a “USMNT for Idiots” guide for us to send our not-really-soccer-fan friends, who will suddenly take an interest when the WC starts?

We’ve got all sorts of World Cup content in the works over the next few months, including some introductory guides to the USMNT. Is there a better time to get people interested in soccer than during the World Cup? I certainly don’t think so.

At Backheeled, we’re excited to bring new fans into the fold.

And don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of fun and interesting things for those of you who know your stuff. You deserve some sort of reward for living through and experiencing the Never To Be Spoken Of Again Dave Sarachan Era.


If Minnesota ends up ahead of Austin in the standings, would the Golden Boot be enough for Driussi to win MVP over Reynoso? Or is Minnesota over Austin a wrap for Reynoso?

Michele coming in with the MLS MVP hypotheticals. I’m here for it. Before I get to Emanuel Reynoso vs. Sebastian Driussi, I want to get my 2022 MLS MVP pick out there: Jose Cifuentes.

I know you’re rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out on this. Cifuentes has been the midfield glue for this year’s best team (who would not be this year’s best team without that midfield glue). He’s an active presser, he moves the ball forward, he crashes the box, he creates chances. and he scores goals. Cifuentes has been the best player on the best team in MLS this year and, unless something crazy happens between now and Decision Day, he’s my pick for MVP.

Now, setting my love for Cifuentes aside, I think Driussi has a stranglehold on this year’s MVP award. He leads the league in goals, he’s in the top 20 in MLS for assists, and he’s been the most impactful attacker on an Austin FC team that has defied all expectations in 2022. Even if Austin fall below Minnesota United in the Western Conference standings, that won’t change the fact that the voters love goals.

Assuming Driussi wins the Golden Boot (and that my #Cifuentes4MVP campaign doesn’t go viral), the MVP award is his to lose.


Are Minnesota United good, great, or elite?

They’re good.

They’re not great and they’re certainly not elite. But Minnesota United are a dangerous team right now. Adrian Heath and Co. have won seven of their last 10 games and are basically locks for the postseason at this point in the year.

The reason why I say that Minnesota United aren’t more than good is because they’re still not creating a crazy amount of chances and they’re still not denying a crazy amount of chances. Even looking back at just their last 10 games, Minnesota’s expected goal difference is barely positive (+0.03, according to American Soccer Analysis).

Don’t get me wrong: no one in the West is going to be excited about coming up against Minnesota United in the playoffs. With Reynoso as the No. 10 and some actually functional attacking pieces around him, this team can do some damage. But I need to see a little more from Minnesota before the end of the regular season if they’re going to get upgraded from good to great.


Hypothetically if Joe Lowery is in this USMNT pool, what position does he play and what club does he play for?

This is self-indulgent, but I love it.

In high school, I played as right back and as a center back. I could read the game from those two spots, organize things in the back, and direct traffic without needing to be on the ball too much. Believe me, me not being on the ball too much was a good thing for everyone.

I think we can connect those positions to today’s USMNT, don’t you? Berhalter’s center backs get on the ball a bit more than the central defensive contingent on my very average high school team did. But hey, I’m not about to apologize for the fact that we didn’t play free-flowing soccer on some random half dirt/half grass field out here in Phoenix in the middle of August.

I see myself in the ‘fullback in defense, auxiliary center back in possession’ role that Berhalter has used a number of times during his U.S. tenure. Daniel Lovitz/Tim Ream played it back in 2019 on the left and Reggie Cannon played it for the U.S. earlier this year. In that role, I’m not getting too far up into the attack, which is good, but I am coordinating things from deeper areas and pulling some of the team’s strings.

I think it works well. Whether Berhalter would agree with me is a different story…

As far as a club goes, I think I’m following Richy Ledezma’s path. Ledezma, who’s from Phoenix just like me, went from playing club soccer in Arizona to playing in the Real Salt Lake academy. From RSL, he moved over to the Netherlands.

Would the Dutch approve of my first touch? Not a chance. Would they appreciate my detailed knowledge of Frank de Boer’s time coaching Atlanta United? I sincerely hope so. Because that’s pretty much all I have to offer.


If MLS wanted you to plan for 30-32 teams, how would you go about it? MLS I and II with internal pro/rel? East and West have their own Supporters’ Shields and only meet in playoffs?

As much as I’d love to see internal promotion/relegation in MLS, I just can’t see it happening. Maybe I’m wrong and three decades from now it becomes a reality. But pro/rel in MLS seems so unlikely, even with limited consequences in a still-closed system.

If we set pro/rel aside, the best way I can think to create a schedule for a 30-32 team league would be to cut out inter-conference play, as the question proposes.

Why? Well, if you cut out inter-conference play, you have a chance of creating balanced schedules for teams within the same conference. The schedules for, say, the Colorado Rapids and the New York Red Bulls would be completely different. But balancing the schedules between conference opponents could help create a level regular season playing field.

Right now, we don’t get the clearest picture of who the best team in the league is because the schedules are wildly imbalanced. If you cut out cross-conference play, you still don’t know who the best team in the league really is, but you do know who the best team in each conference really is.

And maybe that’s an improvement? I think the whole idea behind dividing MLS into two somethings really starts to get interesting when you’re closer to 36 teams. Then you can split things right down the middle and put 18 teams in the East and 18 in the West and balance the 34-game schedules.

But do we really want 36 MLS teams?

Voices: DaMarcus Beasley

Could Brenden Aaronson be the most important US soccer player at the World Cup? 

0823 Beasley BA

With the excitement of the Qatar 2022 World Cup getting closer for the US men’s national team, everyone from the fans to the media will be picking their own squad of 26 players who they think should be on the plane come November.With the three added spots approved by FIFA for this World Cup, it could become a bit easier to pick the USMNT squad, that is if Gregg Berhalter decides to use all 26 roster spots.Back in 2002, I was a surprise inclusion. Not many people would have thought I would make the roster, let alone start the first match of the World Cup against Portugal, so you never know who will prove to be a key player. Still, one player we all can agree on that will not be a surprise come November is Brenden Aaronson. Mr. Silky himself.The only question surrounding his role is whether he’d be better coming off the bench or getting the start with the USMNT in Group B play. In my opinion, the guy must start.

A unique type of talent

I remember watching Brenden play for the first time back in 2020 in the MLS bubble when he was with Philadelphia Union. His nonstop movement and attacking ability caught my eye straight away. Not every play went perfectly, but his desire to just keep going at you was impressive.Fast forward two years, and he is now enjoying a brilliant start to his Premier League campaign with Leeds United as arguably the most in-form USMNT player we have currently (Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok has to be in that conversation as well). Granted, the USMNT have a lot of injury concerns at the moment, but you cannot argue the fact that he will be a key player in Qatar. Could he be the most important? I’m not so sure, but more on that in a minute.The intensity that is required in a World Cup these days is far more demanding than it was in 2002 and Aaronson seems to make that part look easy. Mix that with the quickness and quality he has on the ball, and you cannot leave him out of the starting XI.He can play any position in the attacking front line, as well as the No. 10 role. The friendly match we saw against Morocco on June 1, a 3-0 win, solidified that. He was clean with his passing, linking up well with his front players.We already know about his work ethic and commitment he puts into every match, but I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about how he would do through the middle of the park. Any doubt I had was put to rest after that performance.

Taking the EPL by storm

Playing in the English Premier League is only going to further Aaronson’s development for the better. It is the best league in the world, in my opinion, and he is competing every day, not only with his teammates, but with the rest of the league to show why Leeds paid around $30 million for his services.

He is at a great club, one with a lot of history in English football, and one that suits his style to a T. He has a manager in Jesse Marsch who believes in him, trusts him, and will give him opportunities to succeed. Jesse has not wasted any time in playing him from the start in his first two matches at Leeds United, but why would he? Aaronson has gained a ton of experience playing in big games over the past couple years, from World Cup Qualifying to Champions League matches with RB Salzburg. He doesn’t shy away from a challenge and having that kind of mentality at a young age (21) is rare.

We all have heard the saying “he just needs time to adapt to the Premier League,” which is true in a lot of cases. With Aaronson, however, it seems the bigger the stakes, the better he plays.

Another big factor that plays a part in him settling in England so quickly is having American teammate and New York Red Bulls product Tyler Adams there as well. Going to a new club in another country during an important World Cup year can be tricky, but for a young player to have a teammate that you know well and can vibe with off the pitch is underrated.

Thinking back on my career, I had an American teammate in every club I played at outside of the US, including Lee Nguyen (PSV), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) and Michael Orozco (Puebla). Not every situation for me worked on the pitch, but off it, it helped tremendously.

Brenden Aaronson PHI

Brenden Aaronson had 7g/9a in 51 games (48 starts) for the Philadelphia Union. (Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports)

So, will Aaronson be the key USMNT player in Qatar?

With how great Brenden has been playing as of late, to me it remains that the most important player in Qatar must be Christian Pulisic.

He will most likely wear the captain’s armband and we need to have an in-form and confident Christian in the World Cup. He is a fighter, and all the players look up to him. He is not getting the playing time at Chelsea for him to reach the levels that we have seen in the past, but he is a guy that on his day can win a game for you. Hopefully that changes.

We’ve had other great players with that killer instinct in the attacking third in World Cups; Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey come to mind. This time around? It has to be Pulisic.

From the interviews I have seen of Christian after qualifying for the World Cup, I can tell he is hungry and mad excited for Qatar. We need to score goals and Pulisic has shown he can score on the biggest of stages. Now comes an even bigger test: representing your country at the highest level possible in our sport. Can he do it at the World Cup? My answer is, undoubtedly, yes.

That big game vs. England

If you look at one specific game that is circled on everyone’s calendar that the USMNT will play in the group stage in Qatar, all the hype will be around the match against England on Nov. 25, their second in Group B.

I can imagine all the players, especially the ones that play in the Premier League, will be up for this one. Will it be an advantage to have six players that play in the EPL? Maybe. What I can say is that those players will be full of confidence going up against opponents they see every week. They will know their tendencies and individually how the English players like to play. Mentally, I wouldn’t expect any lack of concentration as they will want to do well and have some bragging rights when they go back to their respective clubs. It is a great matchup for the US. England have never beaten us in a World Cup match in two tries… hopefully that run continues.

There are only three short months left before the USMNT begin their World Cup journey. With the short amount of time that Berhalter will have with his full squad before the first match, form and consistency at club level are essential.

We all know that a lot of decision-making will depend on injuries heading into the final months, but when you look at this core group of players, I can’t help but be optimistic. Aaronson and Pulisic will take a lot of the headlines. The bottom line is that they both need to be on the pitch, and they both need to perform.

Jesse Marsch’s Major Leeds Soccer: Softer approach, set-piece sessions and Elland Road bond

Phil Hay and Adam Crafton Aug 24, 2022 Athletic

Leeds United would not be so bold as to class this summer as entirely plain sailing. It took until this morning for their new home kit to hit the shops and eyes were rolling at Elland Road a few weeks ago when the club learned that a cargo ship carrying merchandise out of Vietnam had spilt several containers into the sea, threatening another delay. Only at Leeds, or so they like to say, but hold-ups in the production of shirts for this season have affected other teams besides them and, all in all, the business of reasserting themselves in the Premier League has come together almost as planned. Sunday’s demolition of Chelsea found Leeds in their element, a club happy in their own skin again. Jesse Marsch is theirs and, by the end of that game, fans in Elland Road were happy about it. Marsch has a phrase he likes to repeat, one he first used when he became head coach of New York Red Bulls in 2015 to the delight of no one in particular: “Some people will like me, some people will hate me and as every coach learns, that’s football.”

But in saying so on Sunday, he misread the groundswell of approval around him. The question now is not whether Marsch has it in him, but whether Chelsea was a fair and attainable benchmark and whether his team are genuinely as good as they looked in that game. Quality football causes no conflict of emotion. The murals of Marcelo Bielsa are proof of that. When Leeds offered Marsch the manager’s job in February they presented it as a two-part role, at least until he showed the longevity to take the club beyond those stages. The final 12 games of last season were a matter of survival — no more, or less — and all Leeds asked of him was leadership to hold the dressing room together and prevent relegation. Emerge safely from that, as he did, and this season would launch his tenure in earnest: a fresh start with a new squad and the open expanse of a full 38-game campaign.

Andrea Radrizzani, the club’s chairman, appreciated the way Marsch motivated the players and prevented the squad from splintering as the walls threatened to close in. Now the expectation was that Marsch would truly shine. Victor Orta, as he had with Bielsa, stuck his neck out by backing the 48-year-old for the job so heavily.

It was agreed in advance of survival that if Leeds fell short and went down, Marsch would stay on. Leeds were all-in on his style, his tactics and his suitability, even when their position in the Premier League looked hopeless.The journey from abject crisis to the sensation of the win over Chelsea has been multifaceted — a combination of transfer business matching Marsch’s requirements and the manager connecting with his squad tactically and mentally. Bielsa liked to keep the players at arm’s length and that arrangement worked for him. Marsch prefers to get close to them, being softer on the squad without being soft. His empathetic style is appreciated, not least because of the stress the club were under last season Leeds were one of several clubs who spent part of their pre-season in Australia. Manchester United were another. Manchester United’s players and staff were asked to stick to strict curfews in the evening but Marsch’s attitude was to tell his team that the line between fun and disrepute was blindingly obvious and he preferred to trust them to stay on the right side of it. He admonished one player who missed a public appearance at a supporters event in a way that quickly cleared the air. Leeds could feel his tactics taking hold

Over the past six months, Thorp Arch has become a world of conversations, one-on-one chats, small group discussions and broader meetings involving the whole dressing room. People who know Marsch well always describe him as a natural communicator and his expansion of Leeds’ leadership group — the collection of senior players who speak for the squad — created a stronger link between him and them

Rodrigo was targeted for specific attention. The forward, Leeds’ record signing, had experienced two mixed years in England and Marsch sensed that Rodrigo was at a crossroads, in need of some support.

Marsch was ridiculed in public when it emerged he was using quotes from historical figures, among them Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, as inspirational tools but his interaction with the squad went further than that. He would encourage them to read books or newspaper articles written about world-class athletes, to find out what made them tick or how they achieved marginal gains, particularly when it came to stamina and fitness.He tried to engage with those players who were not seen as natural leaders, to make sure they felt valued.


Many one-on-one meetings were handled by his assistant, Cameron Toshack, and the topics of conversation varied. Some focused on tactics and technical improvement. Some had an aspirational tone, asking players to think about where they wanted to be in five years. Some would challenge them to think about how much of a life they had outside football; to place importance on finding pleasure and fulfilment beyond the day job. The idea was to create stronger personal relationships and an environment that was not entirely fixated on business.Marsch and Leeds agreed in advance what would happen in the transfer market if they avoided relegation, setting themselves up to press the button as soon as survival was assured. Marsch said recently that he considered the club’s purchases to be “our signings” rather than his alone — deals done collectively — but the targets Leeds chased were identified with Marsch’s tactical model in mind, a strategy built around him.

Brenden Aaronson could press in short, sharp bursts, as he did to force the opening goal against Chelsea at the weekendTyler Adams would give the midfield industry — essential after the sale of Kalvin Phillips — and Marc Roca’s comfort on the ball would dovetail with Adams, complementing the American’s aggression.

leeds-unitedAaronson and Jack Harrison celebrating against Wolves (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Whatever the stereotypes of players from the USA, the rest of the squad at Leeds felt self-confidence oozing from Aaronson and Adams when they arrived.Marsch began adapting training to make those signings work. Bielsa’s strenuous sessions had created a squad with impressive stamina — on Sunday, Leeds were able to outrun Chelsea by more than 10km, having already recorded the highest distance covered of any Premier League side on the season’s first weekend — but Marsch switched attention from distance to intensity.Much of the running in pre-season was tailored to condition the players for his tactics, the hunting in packs that required rapid acceleration on repeat. Drills were designed to provoke high-intensity sprints, to help with pressing and counter-pressing.For all that Bielsa’s shadow loomed large, Marsch was not scared of talking about him. He would tell his side to take the character and personality they developed under Bielsa and apply it to his own model. Set pieces were practised daily and some sessions devoted to them entirely. Above all, Marsch would urge his squad to make sure their football matched the passion and fervour of Elland Road. That intensity was what forged the connection between Marsch and the crowd on Sunday, the mutual desire to intimidate Chelsea and steamroller them. Football like that was an easy sell.The problem for Marsch as last season got out of control was that Elland Road no longer caused fear — at least not to opponents. There was passion and fervour but so much of it was channelled negatively, the consequence of a frightening decline on the pitch. The rout of Chelsea told the league that the crowd had his back and he had theirs. His inauspicious start has been dramatically buried, the vicious tension of spring left behind.When The Athletic interviewed Marsch in March, not long after his appointment, communication and interaction were two of his watchwords, the weapons he planned to use to his advantage. “Through those channels, I felt I could refresh the air and let everyone move forward,” he said.

And five months on, he has.

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8/19/22  CBS pays $250 Million /yr for Champs League, EPL Week 3 Leeds vs Chelsea, Full TV Schedule

Games to Watch

Some big games for American’s this weekend as Chelsea and disgruntled American Pulisic travel to Leeds United States of America on Sunday at 9 am on USA Network.  And yes I now have my Leeds United Jersey and will be wearing it proudly I pick Leeds to win at home and teach that horrific German Chelsea manager Tuchel that Americans can play! Dortmund and American Reyna will host Werder Brennen on ESPN at 9:30 am on Saturday right after Tottenham hosts Wolverhampton Sat at 7:30 am on USA.  Monday gives us Man United vs Liverpool at 3 pm on USA  – Man U is supposedly a preferred landing spot for our own Christian Pulisic. Speaking of Capt America – check out this Pulisic commercial now running in EPL games.   


My 3 Thoughts on Leeds United-Chelsea

Leeds wallops Chelsea 3-0 in a huge win with Americans Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Jesse Marsch playing central roles

Grant WahlAug 21
Brenden Aaronson celebrates his first-half goal against Chelsea, the opener of his Premier League career (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

In a stunning result, Leeds United beat Chelsea 3-0 in the most convincing of ways on Sunday, unleashing a barrage of energy against one of the Premier League’s top teams. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

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• Brenden Aaronson is designed for the Premier League. The 21-year-old American was a devastating mix of skill and energy again, providing constant threats with his passing and turns (see you later, Kalidou Koulibaly, enjoy that yellow card!) while injecting energy and defensive pressure whenever Leeds lost the ball. That resulted in the game’s opening goal, when Aaronson picked the pocket of Chelsea keeper Édouard Mendy in front of an adoring Elland Road crowd. When I interviewed Aaronson in Leeds for my recent magazine story on the Americans there, I asked him what position he would play. “Not the striker,” he said, “but the three under the striker. Any position there. Left mid, center attacking mid, or right mid.” On Sunday Aaronson was deployed in the number 10 role for the first time, and while not everything he tried came off, the sheer verticality of some of his menacing through-balls reminded me of Michael Laudrup. Aaronson’s is also crazy fit. He went 82 minutes at a breakneck pace and has been on the field for all but 13 minutes in Leeds’s first three games. Hats off to one of the Premier League’s top newcomers so far this season.

• This game was a distillation of MarschBall. The philosophy of Leeds’s American coach, Jesse Marsch, is all about constant energy, full-field pressure and striking quickly in transition once you win the ball, especially when it’s in the opponent’s end of the field. Marsch, who emphasizes data analysis, also invests lots of training time into an array of intricate set-piece routines. Look how Leeds scored its goals on Sunday: The first (by Aaronson) came as the direct result of pressure on Mendy. The second (by Rodrigo, his league-leading fourth of the season) came on a well-executed set-piece corner kick. The third (by Jack Harrison) came on a decisive counterattack with Daniel James delivering a terrific cross with zero Chelsea pressure from the left side. No Leeds player knows MarschBall better than Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old American who started playing for Marsch at age 15, and Adams was sneaky-phenomenal on Sunday, seemingly everywhere to win balls in the midfield and showing his smarts to know exactly when to insert himself to stop Chelsea counters. (A particular moment happened in the second half when Adams dispossessed Raheem Sterling on a post-set-piece counter without even drawing a foul.) MarschBall is heavy-metal football, a 90-minute rush, and it was especially fun to see Marsch celebrating that way on the sideline after Leeds goals. (And you know what’s crazy? Leeds really should have a perfect nine points in the league instead of seven after losing a 2-0 lead at Southampton last week.)

• What must Christian Pulisic be thinking right now? Chelsea’s American No. 10 once again didn’t start, even though the ineffective Ruben Loftus-Cheek did in a position where Pulisic could certainly play, and losing to the Premier League’s America’s Team (with Aaronson, Adams and Marsch playing central roles) has to have Pulisic wondering about greener pastures elsewhere. Pulisic didn’t have much impact once he came on in the second half, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have Thomas Tuchel’s trust. If he did, Chelsea wouldn’t be looking to acquire more players in his position. I would almost rather see Pulisic move on loan to Newcastle than to the dumpster fire of Manchester United, but he needs to make a move and get playing time ahead of the World Cup if he wants to have the biggest impact he could at the tournament. That’s the only bummer of an otherwise phenomenal day for fans of United States soccer.


Brendan Aaronson Scores his 1st EPL goal vs Chelsea

LEEDS vs Chelsea Team news breakdown

Starting with Leeds after looking at both team sheets, the team that Marsch has picked won’t surprise too many fans. Bamford has been replaced in the starting XI by Dan James after picking up yet another injury in the 2-2 draw with Southampton last weekend. The Welshman’s vacant spot on the bench has been taken by Joe Gelhardt who has been struggling for fitness himself.

For Chelsea, there is some surprise to see Conor Gallagher drafted into the team – in place of Kante – to partner Jorginho in the middle of the park. The expectation was probably that Loftus-Cheek would move from right wing-back into the midfield but he remains on the right-hand side after a strong performance against Tottenham.

That means that James is likely to be deployed in the right centre-back role, unless Tuchel opts for a back four which seems unlikely. Other than the forced change, the rest of the team for the visitors is exactly the same as the one that started against Spurs.

EPL Wk 2

Wow so the EPL was enthralling this weekend – Man United getting pounded 4-0 to Brentford – yes Brentford (no idea where that is) and then the drama and emotion just dripping in the London Derby Sunday between Tottenham and Chelsea with Harry Kane’s 95th minute header stealing the game at Chelsea (full highlights).  Disagreements between the managers Spur’s Conte (former Chelsea League winning Mgr) and Chelsea’s Tuchel (current German idiot Mgr who won’t play Pulisic) led to this altercation postgame leading to 2nd yellow cards & Reds for both after the game.   Listen I love the emotion – I love it when my coach cares – this was a little over the top but both guys care – and both wanted to will their team to victory.  If you get a chance to go back and watch – this last 45 of this game is classic EPL between 2 teams and fan sets that don’t like each other.  (Think Bears/Packers, Ga/FL or Yankee’s/Red Sox.   In other EPL news both American teams tied this weekend as Fulham tied 0-0 at Wolves & Leeds United with coach Marsch saying they let 1 slip away with a 2-2 finish at Southampton after having a 2 goal lead.  


Are these really the New US Jersey’s for the World Cup ? Weston McKinney agrees – man I hope not!! Cool news that the US will play Japan in the Sept window on Sept 23 from Europe at 8:30 am on ESPN.  Check out American F Josh Stewart score the brace today for Norwich.  

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules 

I will have local high school previews next week  – exciting with Carmel High School Girls and Boys teams coming off of Finals Appearances last year. 


Sat, Aug 20

7:30 am USA                       Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

9:30 am ESPN                     Dortmund (reyna) vs  Werder Brennen

10 amUSA                           Southampton vs Leicester City

10 am Peacock                  Fulham (Reem, Jedi) vs Brentford

12:30 pm NBC                    AFC Bournemouth vs Arsenal  

12:30 ESPN+                       Union Berlin vs RBLeipzig  

6 pm ESPN+                        Cincy v NY Redbulls

8:30 pm ESPN+                  INDY 11 @  Tulsa

10 pm Para+                       San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Houston Dash NWSL

10  pm ESPN+                    LA FC vs San Jose  

Sun, Aug 21

9 am USA                             Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) vs Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

11:30 am USA                    New Castle United vs Man City

1:30 pm ESPN +, D           Atletico Madrid vs Villareal

2:45 pm Para+                   Atalanta vs Milan

4 pm ESPN+                        Real Sociedad vs Barcelona (Dest)  

5:30 pm FS1                        Columbus vs Atlanta United

7:30- pm FS1                      Sporting KC vs Portland Timbers

Mon, Aug 22

2:45 pm para+                   Juventus vs Sampdoria

3 pm USA                            Man United vs Liverpool

Fri, Aug 25

8 pm ESPN                          Austin vs LAFC  

10- pm ESPN                      Portland Timbers vs Seattle

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw


USMNT hopeful Sargent scores twice for Norwich

Marsch wants Tuchel banned from Leeds-Chelsea
Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now


My new Leeds United States of America Jersey has arrived !!

Marsch: Leeds wasted strong performance v. Saints
Southampton vs Leeds: Saints grab point after stirring comeback

Three talking points from the Premier League weekend
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 2

Antonio Conte, Thomas Tuchel clash signifies hunger to join title race

Conte, Tuchel clash in heated Chelsea-Spurs derby

Jesus can take Arteta’s Arsenal to next level after Leicester double

Forest mark Premier League homecoming with West Ham win

Man United bottom of table for first time in 30 years after 4-0 rout

Brentford vs Manchester United: Player ratings, three things learned

Blame me says Ten Hag after Brentford battering leaves Man Utd bottom 

Erik ten Hag would’ve subbed all 11 Manchester United players if allowed


Champions Milan off to winning start, Dumfries steals show for Inter

‘Emotional’ Werner scores for Leipzig on Bundesliga return

Lukaku nets seconds into Inter return at Lecce

Ancelotti confirms he will quit football after Real Madrid

Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

Benzema, Courtois and De Bruyne nominated for UEFA award

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

Unique World Cup start date changes how top players approach club season

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USMNT weekend viewing guide: A Premier matchup

The American trio look for a matchup with Pulisic and Chelsea.

By jcksnftsn  Aug 19, 2022, 9:07am PDT  


Fulham FC v Brentford – 10a on Peacock

Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson and Fulham have opened the season with two draws, which is not a dream start. Still, it is a pretty solid result for a newly promoted side, particularly when you consider they were facing a midtable club in Wolverhampton Wanderers and stealing points off of title-contending Liverpool.


This weekend’s matchup comes against a Brentford side that were bottom half of the Premier League table last year but are notably coming off a 4-0 thumping of Manchester United and have picked up four points in their first three matches to sit 3rd in the early season standings. It will be interesting to see if a matchup against newly promoted Fulham is a letdown game for Brentford or if they are able to maintain some level of momentum from last weekend to come out and start a serious streak.

Other notes:

  • Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen face off at 9:30a in a match that will be broadcast on ESPN. Unfortunately, Giovanni Reyna did not travel with Dortmund last weekend and, based on Edin Terzic’s comments about his squad depth, it seems likely Reyna will be eased along.

Streaming overseas:

  • Ricardo Pepi has found minutes hard to come by early on as he barely saw the field last weekend in Augsburg’s 2-1 win over Bayern Leverkusen. Augsburg face Mainz this weekend at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart look for their first win of the season when they face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Jordan Pefok and Union Berlin take on RB Leipzig at 12:30p on ESPN+. Union are coming off a scoreless draw with Mainz, while Leipzig are looking for their first win of the season.

MLS Mashup (all games streaming on ESPN+):


Leeds United v Chelsea FC – 9a on USA Network

The American matchup in the Premier League is Sunday morning as Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United host Christian Pulisic and Chelsea FC. Leeds are coming off a 2-2 draw with Southampton, not a terrible result in a vacuum but fairly disappointing after they held an early two goal lead. Brendan Aaronson and Tyler Adams have started both matches and shown that they belong, Aaronson through his goal creation and Adams currently leading the league in tackles.

Christian Pulisic has certainly shown over the past couple of years that he can play at an EPL level as well, though recent signs suggest that perhaps this won’t be at Chelsea with reports going so far as to suggest that Thomas Tuchel “doesn’t trust” the American. Pulisic saw just six minutes off the bench last weekend in Chelsea’s explosive 2-2 draw with Tottenham. Chelsea were rather dominant in possession but let a 2-1 lead slip away in the dying moments as Harry Kane’s header drew Spurs level. Both managers received red cards after the final whistle so Marsch (and Pulisic?) won’t deal with a direct confrontation with the manager this Sunday.

Other notes:

Streaming overseas:

  • Timothy Chandler is still looking for his first minutes with Eintracht Frankfurt this season. The club face Köln at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah and Valencia face Athletic Bilbao at 11:30a on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. Musah started in the midfield for Valencia last weekend in their 1-0 win over Girona.
  • Timothy Weah likely remains out this weekend with transfer rumors swirling and Lille set to host Paris Saint-Germain at 2:45p on beIN Sports.
  • Neither Jonathan Gomez nor Sergiño Dest made their respective teams’ gameday squads last weekend, with Gomez still looking to break through at Real Sociedad and Barcelona apparently trying to force Dest out. The two teams meet up at 4p on ESPN+.

MLS Mashup (all matches on ESPN+):

  • Gaga Slonina and the Chicago Fire look to bounce back from a mistake-marred 4-1 loss as they face sliding NYCFC at 6p.
  • Walker Zimmerman and Nashville host FC Dallas and leading scorer Jesus Ferreira at 8:30p. Ferreira was assisted by Paul Arriola again on Wednesday and has 15 goals and 5 assists in 21 matches this season.

Bonus Monday action:

  • Weston McKennie made a quick recovery from his dislocated shoulder to start for Juventus last Monday in their 3-0 win over Sassuolo. The team has another Monday fixture this week as they take on Sampdoria at 2:45p on Paramount+.

Pulisic in limbo at Chelsea with World Cup looming, Man United’s De Gea on borrowed tim


  • Christian Pulisic could be heading out of Chelsea to boost his World Cup prospects — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: David de Gea is on borrowed time at Man Utd.

Chelsea’s Pulisic set for showdown talks

Christian Pulisic is set to hold talks with the Chelsea hierarchy over his future and will push to leave the club if his prospects of regular first-team football look bleak, sources told ESPN.

The possible arrivals of attacking duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona and Everton‘s Anthony Gordon in particular would affect Pulisic, who sources suggest is concerned about playing regularly enough to ensure he heads to the World Cup finals in Qatar with the United States national team in the best possible shape.

This week, Manchester United became the latest club to enquire about the 23-year-old, who has two years remaining on his contract. So far Newcastle UnitedJuventus and Atletico Madrid are the other clubs to have expressed an interest, with intermediaries believing Chelsea would prefer a permanent departure rather than a loan deal. Chelsea had been initially reluctant to allow Pulisic to join a traditional rival — particularly on loan, as United’s proposal suggested — but sources indicate the club are willing to listen to offers and to test the market.
– After Musk’s joke, which other billionaires could buy United?
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

That has left Pulisic in limbo with less than two weeks of the window remaining. The winger featured in both of Chelsea’s Premier League games to date, each time from the bench in two appearances totaling 30 minutes. One source said Pulisic is also frustrated with coach Thomas Tuchel’s handling of the situation, not least that he has played in a variety of different positions including as a False No. 9 and a left wing-back.Pulisic’s role this season appears to be as an impact player, but there are concerns the USMNT international could become marginalised further if Chelsea are successful in bringing in players before the end of the transfer window and his camp are thought to be seeking clarification.Talks are continuing with Barcelona over a move for Aubameyang, Gordon, Leicester City‘s Wesley Fofana and Inter Milan‘s Cesare Casadei while a late move for Barca’s Frenkie de Jong has not been ruled out.Pulisic’s situation may also be affected by departures elsewhere. Callum Hudson-Odoi has been told he can leave on loan while Hakim Ziyech is attracting interest from AC Milan. Chelsea will not allow all three to depart without first strengthening their forward options.

United remain hopeful a loan agreement can be reached with Pulisic, who is open to the idea of joining another club in England, but further clarity is expected on his future in the coming days. — James Olley

Ten Hag’s De Gea concerns

Erik ten Hag was well aware of David de Gea‘s limitations on the ball before the start of the season, but the Manchester United boss decided to stick with him over fears making too many changes in his first summer would cause too much disruption, sources told ESPN.

De Gea has been criticised for his distribution during defeats to Brighton and Brentford and he was culpable for the second goal at the Gtech Community Stadium after playing a dangerous pass into midfield.

– O’Hanlon: The issues Ten Hag must fix… and how to do it (E+)

Ten Hag is keen for his teams to build from the back, and he has been questioned by some supporters over his decision to put his faith in De Gea. Sources told ESPN the goalkeeping situation was identified as a problem ahead of the new season, but Ten Hag believed the best option was to stick with the 31-year-old in his first season while other more pressing issues were solved.

United, meanwhile, made a point of only making Dean Henderson available for loan in the summer and did not allow Nottingham Forest to include an obligation to sign clause in his temporary move to the City Ground. Henderson is considered better on the ball than De Gea but he was desperate for regular first team football after making just three appearances last season.

Sources added United are looking to sign another goalkeeper to compete with De Gea before the transfer deadline on Sept. 1, but they expect Henderson, who has impressed already at Forest, to return to Old Trafford at the end of the season and compete for the No. 1 spot. — Rob Dawson

Is Ten Hag’s job already in danger?

Rob Dawson feels Erik ten Hag hasn’t been given a chance as a manager at Manchester United and explains why he’s a vulnerable target as the club’s manager.

Xavi tells Dest: It’s time to go

United States right-back Sergino Dest has been told by coach Xavi that he should leave Barcelona in search of first-team football, sources told ESPN.

Dest had been told ahead of preseason that he would be used as cover at left-back, but the defender has since been told he can leave due to a change in the side’s intended style of play and the ongoing financial pressure on the club. The LaLiga giants have been struggling to register their new signings, including Jules Kounde, who joined from Sevilla last month, and potentially Marcos Alonso, whose move from Chelsea is at a standstill.

The 21-year-old, who joined Barca from Ajax for €20m in 2020, is a crucial part of the U.S. side that will compete at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which begins in November, and sources told ESPN he would prefer to remain at the Camp Nou despite the club’s change of heart.

His contract at Barca runs until 2025, but options for a move away look slim. Potential suitors Bayern Munich signed right-back Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, while Atletico Madrid added Nahuel Molina from Udinese. Manchester United have been linked with a move for Dest but interest from Chelsea, whose transfer business is being led by new American owner Todd Boehly, has also cooled. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens

Friday Newsletter: The U.S. Has Gone From Being One of the World’s Worst Countries to Watch Soccer on TV in to One of the Best

New men’s UEFA Champions League Deal for CBS (6 years, $1.5 billion) is latest example soccer has passed ice hockey in the U.S. as a major sport; Plus I answer your Mailbag questions

Grant WahlAug 19
CBS Sports/Paramount will broadcast the men’s UEFA Champions League for six more years

The big news landed on Friday: CBS Sports/Paramount has extended its contract with UEFA for the U.S. English-language rights for the men’s UEFA Champions League and other UEFA club tournaments. This time it’s for twice the term length (six years instead of three) and a 2.5-times increase of the annual value for a total of $1.5 billion (or $250 million a year).

The move continues the relentless growth in the value of soccer broadcast rights in the United States. Some perspective: It wasn’t that long ago—like, the late 1990s—when the U.S. was one of the worst countries in the world in which to watch soccer. Just read Steve Rushin’s hilarious 1999 column about it. Now the U.S. is one of the best

Here’s a rundown of some of the major U.S. soccer TV broadcast deals as it now stands:

There’s a lot to digest here:

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• The NWSL seems wildly undervalued given the audiences it has pulled for games on big CBS, which rival and sometimes exceed the over-the-air audiences for MLS games.

• Fox and Telemundo got sweetheart, well-below-market deals on the 2026 World Cup rights when FIFA awarded them on a no-bid basis to avoid being sued for moving World Cup 2022 from June-July to November-December. And that was especially the case when FIFA awarded ‘26 hosting rights to the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

• When you add up the payments for soccer rights, which are much more fragmented than other major sports, U.S. companies are now paying significantly more overall for soccer rights than they are for ice hockey rights (the NHL is currently getting $625 million/year from its U.S. rights holders). Just the incomplete list above of soccer rights is worth $1.44 billion per year. 

Long story short: Soccer is now much bigger than ice hockey in the U.S. as a major professional sport. And the list above doesn’t even include Liga MX, the most popular domestic league in the U.S., which sells its rights by team and not by league.

• The men’s UEFA Spanish-language rights for the U.S. still await being sold. I’m told there’s a delay because Spanish-language streaming platforms like Univision’s Vix are just getting going. Clearly, though, this will be another big number whenever the deal gets done.

• The recent trend is for longer-lasting broadcast deals. The new UEFA, Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and MLS rights deals are all for longer terms than the deals used to be. And that makes more sense, since channels will invest more in long-term promotion of their properties if they know they won’t be losing them in three years.

• Just look at how many different U.S. broadcast companies are now investing in soccer rights. You’ve got all four major over-the-air English-language networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC). You’ve got one giant streaming company (Apple), while another (Amazon) was CBS’s biggest competitor for the Champions League rights. You’ve got a big cable/streaming company (Turner) and the two Spanish-language giants (Univision and Telemundo).

The upside is we have the chance to see basically all the soccer in the U.S. these days. The downside is that if you like watching all the different leagues, the services you pay for to watch them add up.

• Streaming is here to stay, especially for soccer. In the U.S., at least, fútbol is a pillar for the streaming strategies of CBS, ESPN and NBC. (And if you hadn’t noticed, Spanish-language Vix recently went to a pay model.) If you’re a cord-cutter like me, it’s cool that you can get every Champions League game (on Paramount+), every La Liga and Bundesliga game on ESPN+ and every MLS game on Apple TV+ without having to pay for a cable-like package a la YouTubeTV. It’s also why I dislike the way NBC presents the Premier League, which requires you to pay for multiple paywalls and get a cable-equivalent package for USA-exclusive games.

Full disclosure: I do some (non-exclusive) work for CBS.


NBC is sending Peter Drury and co. to Bournemouth-Arsenal on Saturday (on big NBC) and Man Utd-Liverpool on Monday (obviously) but not Leeds-Chelsea on Sunday. Any surprise/disappointment from you?

Media friend who asked not to be named

I’m surprised NBC hasn’t done more to promote the Leeds United games this season, since Leeds now has a U.S. coach (Jesse Marsch) and two USMNT stars (Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams). This decision adds to that surprise. Maybe they don’t want Drury doing three games in the same weekend very often?

How does U.S. Soccer pick jersey designs, and why are they so bad?

Sean H

The best story I’ve read on how kits get designed is by Pablo Maurer for The Athletic on MLS. I’m not sure what the exact process is between Nike and U.S. Soccer, but both deserve blame for the USMNT World Cup kit designs that leaked this week and received near-universal criticism from fans and even Weston McKennie and Tim Weah. 

Which club (other than Leeds United) would you pick to be featured in the next “All or Nothing” season?


Probably PSG. Even the on-field clip showing the uncomfortable interactions between Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi over the past week showed there must be a massive ego situation in that locker room. Woe be unto any coach (good luck, Christophe Galtier!) who has to try and manage that. I’ve changed my mind over the past year and realized that the successful tradition some clubs have (Real Madrid) and some clubs don’t have (PSG) does indeed make a difference in performance. If your players have enormous egos and don’t respect the history of the club, bad things can happen behind the scenes on a regular basis. But I’d love to see those things in a PSG All or Nothing!

You have been a stalwart of the soccer sports journalism scene. Obviously your Substack business model signals a change in the way we consume sports content. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the short-term and long-term outlook of the soccer media landscape.

Bob Lowe

Well, the TV conversation at the top of this column suggests that the long-term outlook for televised soccer in the U.S. is quite good! As for soccer journalism in the U.S., and journalism in general, that’s a bit more murky in the long term. Local newspapers are largely struggling. Free sites have a lot of annoying ads, clickbait and dumb stories. The outlets that actually produce stories you’re going to remember are typically subscription sites like the ones on Substack (including mine), The Athletic and the New York Times (which are actually the same company now). As much as the sport of soccer is growing in the U.S. right now, you’d hope that U.S. soccer journalism would be growing with it. But that’s sadly not the case. That’s why I hope enough people will subscribe to GrantWahl.com! 

How do they fix Manchester United? How long will it take?


The answer to this could be an entire column. Manchester United needs new ownership, needs a real sporting director with a long-term philosophy, needs that sporting director to hire the head coach, needs to have players who fit the long-term philosophy of the sporting director. One thing Man United does have is money, which should help, even if it hasn’t in recent years. But the process to do all the things I just mentioned will take a few years. New cultures don’t get established overnight. 

I am a big USMNT fan. Is there one good website/newsletter that provides a good consolidated synopsis of how each USMNT player played at their respective clubs the past week. If I don’t have time to watch the club games, it is hard to tell how these guys are doing.


I think everyone at Scuffed is doing a good job on keeping people very up to date on USMNT (and lately USWNT) players. Brain Sciaretta also does a good job on this front.

As a D.C. United loyal fan, I would love to hear your thoughts on Wayne Rooney as our coach. Thanks. I read your every published word.

Laurie Kauffman

Thanks for reading! Granted, we don’t have a lot of data points yet, but what Rooney accomplished at Derby County, nearly keeping the team up despite a huge points penalty, was incredible. I think he’s a future Premier League coach, and I like the way he has gone about not trying to take a Premier League job as soon as humanly possible. I don’t think he’ll be in D.C. that long, but if he’s not, that’s actually a good sign for what he’s about to accomplish with a team that looked pretty awful before he took over.

USMNT fans seem to want a serious soccer broadcast and pre/post game. I’m NFL, MLB and NBA too. I hate the nonsense, jokes, bits and comedy and just want pure intelligent analysis. I think NBC Sports has done this with the EPL. ESPN at times has done this with international games. Can we count on the World Cup on Fox treating us, the fans, like adults and not trying to “Americanize” the broadcast?


We could talk for a while on this one. So much of what we like or don’t like in sports studio shows is personal taste. I’m not even sure that your first statement—USMNT fans seem to want a serious broadcast—is backed up by what audiences actually prefer. I mean, the NFL has the most-watched studio shows of any sport, and those studios are what I would generally call “chuckle fests.” I’ve got no problem with having fun, but chuckle fests turn me off and I would prefer more intelligent conversation, analysis and reporting. That includes actual tactical discussions, which so many U.S. soccer studio shows seem afraid of presenting, as if they’ll be deemed “too smart” for their audiences.

Still, that’s my personal taste. One expected benefit of having many U.S. channels broadcasting soccer now (see above) is that each channel will have its own philosophy on how it approaches broadcasts and studio shows. I agree with you that NBC has the most intelligent studio analysis, followed by a tie of CBS/ESPN (though I wish Roberto Martínez was still on CBS; he was so smart and clearly watched a lot of games on the Continent). Fox seems to be mostly about embrace debate. We’ll see which directions Turner and Apple (produced by MLS) go in. I’m hoping Turner learned a lesson from what happened with its previous Champions League experience: Hire producers that are actual soccer people, and don’t strain every vein in your neck trying to be young and hip.

At this point it’s pretty obvious there is more broken at MLS side Atlanta United than Achilles tendons and ACLs. When will the front office (minus the recently departed Darren Eales) be held to account?

Josh Lane

The downward trend in Atlanta is starting to be long-term at this point, and the person with the most pressure on him is probably technical director Carlos Bocanegra. I was surprised he got a contract extension last November, but I don’t think that necessarily takes him off the hot seat, especially when owner Arthur Blank demands results and has already seen success when Tata Martino was the coach.

Have a great weekend!

UEFA strikes record deal with CBS for Champions League US TV rights


By Adam Crafton Aug 19, 2022

UEFA has agreed a deal for the US media rights for its club tournaments with Paramount Global, the owner of the CBS network, who saw off Amazon to agree one of the most lucrative broadcast deals in world sport.Paramount Global have agreed a six-year deal for the rights, in a total package worth $1.5billion, which breaks down to $250million per season.This is a dramatic increase on the $100million per season previously paid by Paramount and Univision.The deal comes after UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) appointed TEAM Marketing and Relevent Sports Group as sales partners for their men’s club competitions.There will be a separate sale for Spanish-speaking rights.“UEFA has been a key driver for Paramount+ since our launch and we are thrilled to extend this successful partnership showcasing even more world-class soccer through the 2029-30 season, building on the incredible momentum we have created the past two years,” said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports. “UEFA is a perfect example of our differentiated strategy presenting marquee properties to drive and strengthen both our streaming and traditional linear businesses. This multiplatform approach allows us to leverage the power of Paramount Global to reach the broadest possible audience and elevate and grow the reach of UEFA in the United States. “We look forward to continuing to provide soccer fans CBS Sports’ best in class coverage that our viewers expect.”

Amazon retain a strong relationship with UEFA, given they already have broadcast deals in the UK, Germany and Italy. It is thought they are concentrating their major efforts in the US market on the NFL’s Thursday Night Football project.UEFA told The Athletic: “Due to ongoing contractual negotiations, we are not in a position to comment.”The contract will start from the 2024/25 season and will cover the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League, as well as the lucrative UEFA Champions League — which is set for sweeping changes.The tournament is set for a new format which will follow the ‘Swiss model’ and see the competition expanded to 36 teams with more matches.The 32-team group stage will be eliminated. Instead,36 teams will participate, in which each club will play 10 group stage games: five at home, five away.The top eight will advance automatically to a 16-team knockout round, and the next 16 teams will go into a play-off round to decide those final eight slots.

Americans in Europe: Where the USMNT’s World Cup hopefuls are playing across the Atlantic

  • Aug 17, 2022 ESPN

With the World Cup looming in November, never before has the start of a European club season been more important for players of the United States men’s national team. Those with aspirations of going to Qatar 2022 will need get off to a flying start to the 2022-23 season to confirm their place on the plane.

With leagues across the Old World kicking into gear, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter will have his eyes on more screens than he can count, monitoring how his players are performing in domestic competitions all over the continent. But where exactly are those Europe-based players playing this season?


ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly, Dan Hajducky, Caitlin Murray, Danny Guerra and Austin Lindberg pin down where every World Cup hopeful is playing in 2022-23 and where they stand within their respective clubs. And while the transfer window remains open for the rest of the month, they’ll update this story with all the latest moves on who’s moving where.

– Stream Bundesliga, LaLiga, MLS and more on ESPN+
– Soccer on ESPN+: FC Daily | Futbol Americas
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Brenden Aaronson | Leeds United | Premier League

Age: 21
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,089 (FC Salzburg)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 842

Has anyone in the U.S. player pool seen their stock rise as rapidly as Aaronson in the past two seasons? After two solid MLS seasons with the Philadelphia Union, the New Jersey native, now 21, moved to FC Salzburg in January 2021 and quickly made an impact. In a season and a half in the Austrian Bundesliga, he scored eight goals with nine assists, and last year in the Champions League he scored twice in qualification, then recorded two assists in the group stage. He proved himself relentless in ball pressure, as well.

All the while, he’s become almost irreplaceable for the national team. With other key attackers battling injuries, he was one of the USMNT’s steadiest players in World Cup qualification, combining two goals with one assist and an endless supply of energy. Former Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch brought him to Leeds United this summer, and he’s been pivotal in playing 174 of 180 minutes against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton— Connelly

Tyler Adams | Leeds United | Premier League

Age: 23
Position: Midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,057 (RB Leipzig)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,219

Leeds manager and English pundits’ favorite American punching bag Marsch has taken heat for the Peacocks barely staying in England’s top flight last season. How did he bolster his squad? By making Adams, 23, the then-fourth-most-expensive American in soccer history.

Marsch may not be favored across the pond, but Adams is. His Leeds debut was met with wide praise: he was one of 12 Premier League midfielders to play 90 minutes, register 50-plus touches and 25 completed passes, take a shot and create a chance. After Leeds were relegated following the 2003-04 season, they didn’t sniff Premier League action for 17 years, but with Adams anchoring their ranks, they look poised to more than stay afloat.

Best of all? Adams is a mainstay in global football’s most competitive league right before a World Cup. — Hajducky

Why Marsch really needs Tyler Adams to succeed at Leeds

Herculez Gomez says there’s more than Leeds’ success riding on Tyler Adams’ performances at his new club.

George Bello | Arminia Bielefeld | 2. Bundesliga

Age: 20
Position: Left-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 427
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 249

Signed from Atlanta United FC in January, the 20-year-old left-back couldn’t help to prevent Arminia Bielefeld from suffering relegation last season. Both he and his club have gotten off to a terribly slow start on defense this season. Thus far, the move to Germany has not aided Bello’s development. — Connelly

John Brooks | Unattached

Age: 29
Position: Center-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,037 (VfL Wolfsburg)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 135

Brooks made just two appearances last season, both of which occurred nearly a year ago, in last September’s international window. Berhalter told the German-born and raised center-back that his physical attributes didn’t mesh with the high defensive line the manager’s tactical setup called for, and Brooks’ improved play in the second half of the season at Wolfsburg didn’t convince Berhalter to change his mind.

The Hertha Berlin academy graduate remains without a club, having left the Volkswagen Arena as a free agent over the summer, and that won’t do his chances of appearing at a second World Cup any favors whatsoever. — Lindberg

Gianluca Busio | Venezia | Serie B

Age: 20
Position: Midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,956
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 121

Busio looked bright in his first season in Europe, playing an hour or more in 14 of his first 18 appearances for Venezia before suffering from the fatigue of playing for a calendar year straight around the turn of the year. He was good enough in Serie A that the Venetian club’s relegation to Serie B prompted speculation that he would depart just 12 months after his arrival, in search of opportunities in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues. He penned a new two-year contract with the Italian club, though, stating his intent to return the team to Italy’s first division, and started and played 69 minutes in Venezia’s season-opening loss to Genoa. — Lindberg

Reggie Cannon | Boavista | Portuguese Primeira Liga

Age: 24
Position: Right-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,873
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 374

With roster sizes increasing to 26 for the 2022 World Cup, Cannon could end up being one of the beneficiaries of the additional three slots — he is not a likely starter, but could add valuable depth. He has played every minute for Portuguese top-flight club Boavista this season, and he will be looking to bounce back from a 2021-22 in which he missed three months to injury.

Although he is primarily a right-back, Cannon is capable of playing as a center-back and spent last season at Boavista in a back five. That versatility could prove useful, especially if Berhalter wants to use something akin to the 3-2-2-3 shape the USMNT has tinkered with. — Murray

Cameron Carter-Vickers | Celtic | Scottish Premiership

Age: 24
Position: Center-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 4,064
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 216

After a delightful loan spell in 2021-22, Celtic signed Carter-Vickers permanently this summer. It means that for the first time in his club career, the 24-year old — a strong passer and aerial presence — will play for the same club for two consecutive seasons. That certainly can’t be a bad thing for his overall development. — Connelly

Konrad de la Fuente | Olympiakos | Greek Super League

Age: 21
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,077 (Marseille)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 72

The ex-Barcelona academy graduate moved to Marseille last summer in hopes of more playing time, but injuries limited his impact. Now on loan at Olympiakos after initial reports of a LaLiga return, Konrad’s chances of a spot on the World Cup squad look slim. With the move to the Greek club, he just needs consistent playing time in order stay in the USMNT mix post-Qatar. — Guerra

Luca de la Torre | Celta Vigo | LaLiga

Age: 24
Position: Midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,043 (Heracles Almelo)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 347

De la Torre played in Europe — largely toiling in anonymity — for almost a decade between Fulham‘s youth ranks and senior squad from 2013 to 2020. Then he surprised in the Eredivisie from 2020 to 2022 as well; among players with 5,000 minutes played, De la Torre was first in passing percentage in the attacking third (86.1%), second in overall passing percentage (87.3%) and 16th in chances created (55).

He’ll contribute under the brightest lights yet, moving to LaLiga’s Celta Vigo this summer, although he didn’t get off the bench in their season opener. If he can get into a rhythm and build momentum in Spain, he could turn heads in Qatar. — Hajducky

Sergino Dest | Barcelona | LaLiga

Age: 21
Position: Right-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,042
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 424

Dest’s future at Camp Nou resembles the club’s finances: shrouded in mystery. The recently “clinically dead” Barcelona welcomed an apocryphal flood of newcomers this summer, casting some doubt on Dest’s future there.

Dani Alves‘ release supported reports that Dest was in Xavi’s plans moving forward, but sources have told ESPN that the manager prefers Dest as a complementary defender, suggesting playing time could be limited — he was an unused substitute in Barca’s season-opening scoreless draw against Rayo Vallecano. Privately, Dest’s camp aren’t against a move; ESPN’s Moises Llorens reported that Barcelona are hearing offers and already beleaguered Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag — who gave Dest his professional debut at Ajax in 2019 — fancies the Dutch-American full-back.

It’s not an ideal concoction with Qatar three months out. Of course, a swift move to Old Trafford could be an elixir. Dest, 21, is an upgrade over United wing-back Diogo Dalot and steady Premier League minutes, with U.S. vs. England looming on Nov. 25, could prove invaluable. But how does the injury-prone Dest fare in the bruising Premier League? And is that club stable enough for him to really show his skills? Wherever Dest’s future lies, it needs resolution … and fast. — Hajducky

Gomez warns Dest against ‘career derailing’ Man Utd move

Herculez Gomez says a switch to Man Utd would be even worse for Sergino Dest than staying on the bench at Barcelona.

Daryl Dike | West Bromwich Albion | English Championship

Age: 22
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 84
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 0

After a hamstring injury dampened his spring arrival to West Brom, Dike had looked good for the Championship side in preseason, only to suffer a “substantial tear” to his thigh muscle in training following the first game of the regular season. If the ex-Orlando City man gets fit again and rediscovers the form he had during his loan at Barnsley in 2021, he will be in the mix for the much-maligned USMNT striker role. — Guerra

Matthew Hoppe | Middlesbrough | English Championship

Age: 21
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 169 (Mallorca)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 17

Hoppe’s single season in LaLiga with Mallorca didn’t go as planned. He made just seven appearances, with one start, although injuries and a bout with COVID-19 played a part. Now he’s secured a permanent move to Middlesbrough in the Championship, and the hope is that he’ll have more opportunities to make an impression on Berhalter, be it as a forward or out wide. — Carlisle

Ethan Horvath | Luton Town | English Championship

Age: 27
Position: Goalkeeper
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 900 (Nottingham Forest)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 90

Playing time has been hard to come by for the 27-year-old, as he ended up as a backup at both Club Brugge and Nottingham Forest the past three years. He’s been loaned to Luton this season, however, which should give him a chance to find his form; he’s started all three of their league games so far in 2022-23. Is it too late to make an impression? — Connelly

Weston McKennie | Juventus | Serie A

Age: 23
Position: Midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,965
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 777

If the USMNT is going to be successful in Qatar, Juventus midfielder McKennie will likely need to play a big role, and he’ll want to avoid a repeat of last season in the run-up to the World Cup. McKennie’s 2021-22 was dogged with on-and-off injuries, as well as disciplinary issues with both the USMNT and Juve, and he finished with four goals in 29 appearances. Despite a preseason injury, he started Juventus’ 2022-23 Serie A opener on Monday, playing 76 minutes in a win over Sassuolo.

In this window, McKennie has been linked to bigger clubs throughout Europe, including Tottenham HotspurAS Roma and Atletico Madrid, but it appears he will stay put at Juve, where his contract runs three more years. Coach Massimiliano Allegri has expressed confidence in McKennie, last month calling him the best American in Europe at the moment. That’s up for debate, of course, but McKennie’s versatility has seen him play in several positions in his career, particularly at his former club Schalke 04, and his ball-winning ability means that looking only at goals stats won’t capture all he brings, even in an attacking midfield role.

It appears Allegri will give McKennie the chances to earn continued minutes in Turin, but McKennie’s biggest challenges may be to stay healthy and out of the newspaper gossip pages. Those are realistically the only setbacks that could prevent McKennie from making the trip and starting regularly for the USMNT. — Murray

Mark McKenzie | Genk | Belgian Pro League

Age: 23
Position: Center-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,128
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 180

After getting his move to Genk in Belgium in January 2021, after helping Philadelphia to the Supporters’ Shield in MLS, McKenzie seemed positioned to compete for a starting role with the U.S. That hasn’t happened. He struggled for minutes in the second half of the club season and hasn’t played for the U.S. since going 90 minutes in a 1-0 qualifying loss to Panama in October. At this point, he’s a long shot to play his way back into Berhalter’s plans. — Bonagura

Yunus Musah | Valencia | LaLiga

Age: 19
Position: Midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,714
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,003

Musah’s decision to represent the USMNT over England was a major coup for Berhalter and the 19-year-old midfielder is among the most promising and versatile players in the pool. Musah will have a new manager in Gennaro Gattuso (an ex-midfield maestro himself) at Valencia, which could bode well for his development. He started their season opener (a 1-0 win over newly promoted Girona) in central midfield and went the full 90 minutes there. — Guerra

Erik Palmer-Brown | Troyes | Ligue 1

Age: 25
Position: Center-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,857
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 55

After a lengthy spell in the Manchester City loan army, Palmer-Brown moved permanently to Troyes last season and started 19 Ligue 1 matches. He looked solid in a back three during the club’s narrow, season-opening loss to Montpellier, and sources have told ESPN’s Julien Laurens that manager Bruno Irles sees him as a key contributor in 2022-23. — Connelly

Jordan Pefok | Union Berlin | Bundesliga

Age: 26
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,164 (Young Boys)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 139

What Pefok did at Young Boys in the Swiss Super League in the past two seasons was quite impressive: 42 goals and nine assists in 87 appearances, which works out to be a direct goal contribution every 96 minutes. That he was rewarded with just 307 minutes for the national team across those two years is rather curious.

If there were questions about the strength of competition in the Swiss league, those will be put to bed by the former France youth international moving to the Bundesliga with Union. Sunday’s scoreless draw with Mainz was just Pefok’s third game with his new team, and it was also the first time he hadn’t scored for Die Eisernen, having netted in his first two appearances. In all three games so far, he’s started, suggesting he will get every chance to prove himself worthy of playing in one of the strongest leagues in the world on a regular basis. — Lindberg

Ricardo Pepi | FC Augsburg | Bundesliga

Age: 19
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 475
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 708

Heading into 2022, Pepi seemed like a virtual lock for the USMNT in Qatar. At just 18 years old, he scored in his first two games for the USMNT — back-to-back World Cup qualifying wins — including both goals in a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in October. Then he made the leap to Europe, joining Bundesliga side Augsburg in January from MLS for a hefty $20 million transfer fee.

But that was end of what was expected to be Pepi’s big breakout. He tallied no goals and no assists in 11 appearances for Augsburg last season, and barely has gotten on the field during preseason and the new Bundesliga season. He hasn’t scored for the USMNT since his first two games either. Meanwhile, the striker’s chances of heading to Qatar keep dropping. — Murray

Christian Pulisic | Chelsea | Premier League

Age: 23
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,207
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 862

Last season was one of frustration for Pulisic. Sure, he made 38 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals, but just 21 of those were starts, and his shifting role — he was used as an attacking midfielder, as a false nine and as a wing-back last year — reveals that he wasn’t one of Thomas Tuchel’s preferred attacking options.

This campaign is shaping up as more of the same, with sources telling ESPN’s James Olley that there are doubts about Pulisic within the Chelsea hierarchy. Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner may be gone, but Raheem Sterling has arrived. Reports state that Chelsea are searching for another forward, and with Tuchel employing a 3-4-3 (at least so far), the American is looking like a depth piece.

That assumes that he remains at Stamford Bridge. Sources told Olley on Wednesday morning that Manchester United have inquired about a deal for Pulisic. And the Red Devils aren’t alone in their interest: Newcastle United are also monitoring the situation, while Juventus and Atletico Madrid are said to be keen on adding the former Dortmund starlet as well. — Carlisle

Gomez: Pulisic has to get out of Chelsea during this window

Herculez Gomez urges Christian Pulisic to find somewhere to get the playing time he needs ahead of the World Cup.

Giovanni Reyna | Borussia Dortmund | Bundesliga

Age: 19
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 647
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 194

Perhaps the most talented player in the pool, Reyna is coming off a nightmarish season during which he spent the bulk of his time rehabbing and watching from the sideline. Thanks to an injury picked up in the first U.S. qualifying match, Reyna made just 10 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund (with two goals and an assist) with his season coming to a teary end five minutes into a start against Stuttgart on April 8.

He has yet to appear for Dortmund this season as the club takes a cautious approach to bringing him back. However, a debut could come at any time.

When he’s healthy, he needs to be on the field for the U.S. Whether that’s on the wing, in central midfield or maybe even at striker can be sorted out later. If he’s healthy, his talent will make a difference in some capacity. — Bonagura

Chris Richards | Crystal Palace | Premier League

Age: 22
Position: Center-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,525 (TSG HoffenheimBayern Munich)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 361

Richards has been gaining considerable experience the past two seasons in the Bundesliga, earning a starting spot while on loan at Hoffenheim before injuries cut short his most recent campaign. He also established himself as a dependable option in Berhalter’s lineup, and with Miles Robinson sidelined by an Achilles injury, Richards figures to be one of the starting center-backs.

He hasn’t completely locked up that position just yet, though, and now that Richards has moved to the Premier League with Crystal Palace, he has made one substitute appearance in the first two games of the season. He’ll need to change that if he’s to maintain his hold on a starting spot. — Carlisle

Antonee Robinson | Fulham | Premier League

Age: 25
Position: Left-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,032
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,284

There isn’t need for a mind trick here, with the player known as “Jedi” expected to heavily feature for both club and country. He’s locked in as the starting left-back for both teams — especially for the USMNT, where the depth is thin — and went the full 90 minutes in Fulham’s pair of draws against Wolves and Liverpool to start the season.

Along with speed and solid defensive skills, Robinson has the ability to stay out wide and contribute to the attack. Playing on the same side as Pulisic in a first-choice XI, Robinson can pressure the opposing outside back with the ball and get in position to send in crosses if the wingers drift toward the middle. — Guerra

Josh Sargent | Norwich City | English Championship

Age: 22
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,976
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 116

Sargent’s first season in England wasn’t a resounding success, contributing directly to a goal every 256 minutes in 2021-22. On paper, the former Werder Bremen striker should find this season more straightforward, contesting the second division with Norwich; he’s started two of the Canaries’ five competitive matches so far, scoring one goal.

While Sargent is unlikely to be a consideration for the national team at any position other than No. 9, he’s divided his time for Norwich between center-forward and right wing. Perhaps worrying for the USMNT, just less than half of the Missouri native’s 199 minutes this season have come up front for Dean Smith’s side. — Lindberg

Joe Scally | Borussia Monchengladbach | Bundesliga

Age: 19
Position: Right-back
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,129
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 135

Of all the Americans in top-five European leagues, none played more minutes last season than Scally. On its own, that’s a remarkable achievement for the New York City FC academy graduate who won’t turn 20 until New Year’s Eve. With the national team, he’s been limited to a 45-minute appearance in the summer friendly against Morocco (with mixed reviews), but as long as he’s playing regularly with Monchengladbach — which will be a tall order with the return to fitness of Stefan Lainer — he’ll be in mix for one of the backup full-back spots. — Bonagura

Zack Steffen | Middlesbrough | English Championship

Age: 27
Position: Goalkeeper
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 810 (Manchester City)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 540

Last season tested — and perhaps exceeded — the limits of Steffen’s role with Manchester City as backup to Ederson. His high-profile blunder in the FA Cup semifinal against Liverpool, when he gifted a goal to Sadio Mane, not to mention some uneven performances for the U.S., validated concerns about Steffen’s lack of game sharpness. So now he’s off to Middlesbrough on loan.

It’s still crazy early, but Steffen’s performances so far have been uneven, especially in the 3-2 defeat to QPR. There is time to turn things around, and he remains a favorite of Berhalter’s, but the reality is that the competition for the starting spot with the U.S. is still open, and Steffen needs to find some consistency. — Carlisle

Malik Tillman | Rangers | Scottish Premiership

Age: 20
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 164 (Bayern Munich)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 70

Tillman only became eligible to play for the USMNT in May after representing Germany throughout his youth career, but lately he has emerged as a player to keep an eye on. The 20-year-old got promoted from Bayern Munich II to the senior side last year, making four appearances, and last month joined Rangers on loan, where he is finding his footing.

He scored his first goal for the Glasgow club over the weekend and then on Tuesday he netted in a win that put Rangers through to the next round of Champions League qualifying. Tillman remains a long shot for Qatar, but more performances like these could change that. — Murray

Matt Turner | Arsenal | Premier League

Age: 28
Position: Goalkeeper
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,100
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 990

By this point, Turner’s rapid ascent has been properly documented, but it’s still worth taking a second to acknowledge his unique path to Arsenal and the English Premier League. When his time playing college soccer at Fairfield (a small Division I school in Connecticut) was up in 2015, there was only cursory interest from professional teams. An invite to train with New England landed him a contract and a place at the bottom of the depth chart before developing into one of the best goalkeepers MLS has ever seen.

Since moving to Arsenal this summer, Turner has been told to fight to be the club’s No. 1, although sources told ESPN’s James Olley that there is an acceptance that he will begin the campaign behind Aaron Ramsdale on the depth chart. Turner has quickly become a popular figure in north London, with staff impressed by his approachability, professionalism and willingness to learn.

There is little doubt he will be with the U.S. in Qatar. He’s been in a battle for the starting job for more than a year, so the only question about his role will be will he start or will he be the No. 2. — Bonagura

Timothy Weah | Lille | Ligue 1

Age: 22
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,888
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 785

Weah, 22, is still positioned to excel in France, but he’s struggled to stay healthy — and has missed Lille’s first two games of the 2022-23 season with a foot injury — perform consistently and meet (admittedly lofty) expectations.

Leaving Paris Saint-Germain was supposed to mean a clean slate, but Weah has found the net just six times since arriving at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in 2019. He’ll be in Qatar, but he’s a long shot for the starting XI. — Guerra

Haji Wright | Antalyaspor | Turkish Super Lig

Age: 24
Position: Forward
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,069
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 119

After years spent in the European wilderness, Wright resurrected his career last season, scoring 15 goals in all competitions while on loan with Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor and earning a recall to the U.S. side. Quite sensibly, he made the move from Danish side SonderjyskE permanent, and that familiarity should maximize his odds of going to Qatar.

His spot is still very much up in the air, however. While he scored a penalty in the 3-0 win over Morocco, overall, with the U.S. he didn’t really make that much of an impact from open play. The forward competition remains wide open, but Wright still has plenty of work to do to get on the plane for Qatar. — Carlisle

Christian Pulisic’s potential Manchester United loan has appeal after years of Chelsea uncertainty

Paul Tenorio Aug 18, 2022 The Athletic

Thomas Tuchel’s comment in his press conference following his first game in charge at Chelsea seemed entirely innocuous.“It was an unfair decision for him today to not start,” the German said of Christian Pulisic, whom he had previously coached as a teenager making his professional debut at Borussia Dortmund. “I told him it was only because I know what he can bring from the bench.”But that thought in January 2021 proved to be a harbinger of what has become a tenuous spell for Pulisic under Tuchel — one that may be nearing its breaking point.Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2019 having altered the perception for what is possible for American players in Europe. If Clint Dempsey opened the door for creative Americans at the game’s highest level, Pulisic introduced the possibility that they can be found at younger ages and fostered to star status. He remains a central figure for a youthful U.S. national team that will go to Qatar with a level of expectation and optimism that is unlike that of any other U.S. men’s team. Even with a Champions League title and some bright individual moments at Chelsea, his time in West London has been far from perfect, though. Over the last 18 months, especially, Pulisic has been in a constant fight to prove his place on the field under Tuchel,at times even when he is producing and playing well.Pulisic has not convincingly grabbed a top role, but it has never felt as though he was backed to win one, either. From the start, it has seemed like an uphill climb. The American winger started just twice in Tuchel’s first 10 games at Chelsea and often found himself on the bench in the biggest contests that first season — in both legs of the Champions League round of 16 against Atlético Madrid; in the FA Cup semifinal and final; in the second leg of the semifinal against Real Madrid after starting and scoring in the first leg; and then in the Champions League final. The dynamics were unchanged last season. Pulisic started just 13 of 22 Premier League games in which he appeared. Even when selected by Tuchel, he was often played out of position — he hasn’t seen regular minutes at his preferred left winger spot in a 4-3-3 but started in central midfield, right wingback and as a false 9.Now 23 years old, Pulisic is difficult to get a read on — in the media spotlight since the age of 17, he’s learned to protect his true feelings — but it became clear that the precariousness of his role with Chelsea last year was taking a toll. “Obviously it has been up and down this year, for sure,” Pulisic said in a press conference ahead of World Cup qualifiers in January. “Not exactly where I want to be and how I want things to be right now. I’m just going to keep going and it doesn’t affect me when I come here.”

Even as he acknowledged the mental strain, Pulisic seemed game to prove himself to Tuchel, just as he had under previous Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. He finished with eight goals and three assists in all competitions last season despite the instability of his position. In April, Pulisic told reporters he was happy at Chelsea, and his attitude this offseason was to once again fight his way into Tuchel’s plans. “I’ve had some good moments and some tougher moments and I’m continuously having to prove myself,” Pulisic told ESPN. “And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”With a total of just 30 minutes played in Chelsea’s first two Premier League games this season, however, and Tuchel lining up multiple options at his position, including the newly-acquired Raheem Sterling, Pulisic may finally be open to a change of scenery.The Athletic reported Wednesday that Manchester United is interested in taking Pulisic on loan for the season and that Pulisic is amenable to the move, where more regular playing time, albeit at a club in the middle of its own mess, could afford him some relief — and better preparation for the November World Cup in Qatar.Three years after arriving at Chelsea with a price tag once unfathomable for an American player, Pulisic seems to be at a pivotal moment in his career. He is three months away from a World Cup that he has been waiting for since missing the 2018 tournament as a teenager. The inconsistencies of his time at Chelsea have hardened his mentality, but left us wondering what potential may have been unfulfilled. He still has so much left to prove.You can’t stand your tallest when you’re on uncertain footing, however, and Pulisic seems set on looking for more stable ground — even if it means going to a club that appears unmoored. 

Pulisic, ChelseaPulisic reacts after a missed chance during the Premier League match against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 19. (Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images)

Four years ago, as Pulisic was figuring out his move away from Borussia Dortmund, the influence of then-Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri played a pivotal role. Pulisic felt he fit into Sarri’s tactics, and despite the Italian’s claim that he was in the dark about the signing, Pulisic’s father, Mark, told the New York Times that his son and his camp met with the Chelsea coach for some time before finalizing the move.

The hope was that the energetic, quick, creative player who thrived in the Bundesliga in the transition style of play at Dortmund could take the next step at a club like Chelsea. In order to get the deal across the line, however, Dortmund required Pulisic to finish out the season in Germany. And by the time Pulisic arrived at Chelsea, Sarri was departing for Juventus and Pulisic was walking into a drastically different scenario. Lampard, not Sarri, would be his manager. In the midst of a transfer ban, Chelsea was also making a push to utilize more of their young, homegrown talent. There would be no red carpet for the American.Leeds manager Jesse Marsch, then at Red Bull Salzburg, recalled a conversation with Lampard in the preseason in which he felt Lampard undervalued Pulisic’s readiness for the Premier League

“Even Frank Lampard, when I spoke to him in preseason a year ago now, I was talking to him about having Christian Pulisic and he was kind of like, ‘Yeah, he’s got a lot to learn so we’ll see how he does,’” Marsch said on MLS’s ExtraTime podcast. “I said to him, ‘Listen, he was at Dortmund, and they had a high level of tactical thinking, of playing, and he was very successful.’ … I could see right away that Frank Lampard’s idea of Christian Pulisic was shaped a lot by the fact that he was American and not that his football education came a lot from what has happened in Germany. Since then, I think Lampard has learned that Pulisic is a lot better than he gave him credit for.”It was a characterization Lampard pushed back on, but even then it seemed Pulisic, a marquee $73 million signing, had to prove his value. And he did. Pulisic started matches in the early portion of the season, but was relegated to the bench in the fall, after a September international window. Following three consecutive substitute appearances, Pulisic got a start and scored a hat trick against Burnley. That performance helped propel him back into Lampard’s preferred 11, and Pulisic would start 27 of 34 games played across all competitions that season, scoring 11 goals with six assists. By the end of the year, Lampard and Pulisic had forged a stronger understanding. Lampard seemed to confirm that this summer, when on tour in the U.S. as Everton manager. Asked about Pulisic, the former Chelsea star backed him to have a big influence at the club, if given the chance.“I’ve got a lot of time for Christian,” Lampard told Pro Soccer Wire. “I think I worked well with him and just tried to develop him and had a really good relationship with him. He’s got incredible talent. He’s a great boy. I found him really pleasurable to work with as well as a talent.“He’s really fast and (has a quick) change in direction and it’s balanced. He’s still a young player. It feels like he’s been around a long time because he broke through so young. So there’s still a lot to come from Christian, but those basics of the speed and balance is not (something) everyday players have. He’s special like that.”Lampard, of course, can now only provide outside perspective because he was sacked in January 2021, once again forcing Pulisic into a battle to prove himself. When Tuchel was hired by Chelsea, the assumption was that Pulisic’s time with him at Dortmund would be an advantage. But the pair had never forged a close relationship in their year and a half together in Germany. And, after that first Premier League game together, it seemed clear that Tuchel had his mind made up about what Pulisic could bring to his squad. Pulisic was asked this summer in an interview with ESPN if he felt Tuchel still saw him as the 17-year-old from Dortmund.“It could be,” Pulisic said. “I guess you’d have to ask him. That’s not who I am anymore. For sure he knows I’ve grown a lot as a player, there’s no doubt. I think I have grown a lot and that’s not how I want him to view me, I want him to view me as the player I am now. I’m just going to continue improving and showing him why I deserve to be on the field as much as I can.”If there has been a theme to Pulisic’s time at Chelsea, it has been that. He has shown a mental fortitude to push through the difficult moments and fight his way back onto the field.  U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter noted as much in an appearance on The Athletic’s Allocation Disorder: 1v1 podcast earlier this month.“I think if there’s one player in our player pool that really understands how to deal with adversity and deal with the competition at a big club, it’s Christian,” Berhalter said. “He’s been doing that at a young age at Dortmund, a big club in Germany, moving to Chelsea and just clawing his way into playing time and results and performance and goals and assists.”

That mentality will surely benefit Pulisic, but it hasn’t been enough to earn him a regular spot at Chelsea. At a point that could determine the trajectory of the rest of his career, Pulisic feels he has much more to give. With his first crack at the game’s biggest stage coming up in November, there is added urgency in finding the right place to be able to grow.

Reaction to the news of Manchester United’s interest in Pulisic was swift for USMNT fans on social media: Why Manchester United? Why now? 

Erik ten Hag became the first United manager since 1921 to lose his first two competitive games in charge. They sit bottom of the table for the first time since 1992 after two hopeless performances. Ten Hag’s replacements are already being bandied about by bookmakers and on fan forums. There has never been less curb appeal for Old Trafford, but the reality is that Manchester United is still a massive club. It’s one a 17-year-old Pulisic once noted was a club he loved to watch growing up, with a player whose passion he so admired: Wayne Rooney. A chance to follow in Rooney’s influential footsteps might be what the U.S. star needs to push forward.On the international stage, Pulisic is still a player around which the U.S. team is built. There is no clear No. 9 for the Americans as they prepare for Qatar. Berhalter’s system is built to emphasize midfield play, and especially the wingers: Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Tim Weah and Brenden Aaronson. Without a true goalscorer, they hoped that Pulisic could ascend into that featured role. But as he’s struggled for consistent form at the club level, it’s been a big ask for him to be the star man for the U.S. That Pulisic led the team in goals in qualifying with five, however, shows that he is still their biggest difference-maker when he is in form.A chance to get a regular run of games in a consistent position is enticing, even as poor as United have looked so far. Pulisic faces less competition for a starting role with United than at Chelsea in Ten Hag’s 4-3-3. Jadon Sancho has struggled and Anthony Martial is only just returning from injury, while Marcus Rashford hasn’t had his best start to a season. Theoretically, Ten Hag’s style of football should fit Pulisic’s abilities. Pulisic has shown how difficult he is to defend when he’s on the left wing, running at defenders in space. His ability to press defensively, progress the ball forward and get into dangerous positions in and around the box — one of his strongest attributes is arriving in the box to finish plays — could give United an element they’re clearly missing. 

In addition, moving to Manchester United instead of Newcastle, another club rumored to be interested in Pulisic, presents plenty of short- and long-term benefits. United will play in Europe this season, Newcastle won’t. Manchester United has the funds to buy Pulisic if he performs well. Newcastle has the ownership cash to do it, but might face financial fair play challenges. Globally, Manchester United is still seen as a massive club. Newcastle is in the early stages of what they hope is a Manchester City-like build, but even with a massive influx of cash, that transformation took time.There’s also very little risk for Pulisic in a one-year loan, which is how this deal would likely be structured. Manchester United’s current position only elevates the potential reward for Pulisic should he perform, and aid a turnaround at the club. If things continued to go south for Manchester United, however, Pulisic could extricate himself from the situation and return to Chelsea next season.From a U.S. perspective, the risk is very much worth the potential reward. There is very little drawback ahead of the World Cup. Playing regularly at Manchester United would certainly help Pulisic hit his stride before Qatar. And the U.S. will want Pulisic playing regularly, if possible — though it’s notable that they found ways to keep Pulisic productive with the U.S., even during last year’s tumult. Regardless of where Pulisic is, or how much he is playing, he will be on the U.S. roster and in contention to play and start in Qatar. He’s simply too important to the squad to think otherwise. But the U.S. needs him to be more than just in the squad and in contention to start. Pulisic’s creative ability and effectiveness around the box is elite. The U.S. needs him to be a star. They need him to be the type of player that a $73 million move to Chelsea represented.Ultimately, the potential move to United will come down to whether Chelsea is willing to let him go on loan, and whether Pulisic feels its best for him, both in the short- and long-term. Pulisic’s time with Chelsea accomplished plenty — it changed how Americans are perceived, even despite his irregular playing time; he was the first American to play and win a Champions League final; and he showed he can be productive in the Premier League. Mostly, though, it’s left us wanting more —

Christian Pulisic to Manchester United: Does it make sense for him, USMNT and Chelsea?

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Christian Pulisic of Chelsea battles for possession with Alex Telles and Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on November 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

By Philip Buckingham Aug 17, 2022

On Tuesday, The Athletic revealed Manchester United are considering a move to sign Christian Pulisic on loan.

It is an interesting time, and possible temporary transfer, for Pulisic.

The United States men’s captain has a World Cup around the corner but is struggling for game time at Chelsea. Going to United could help him and his national team, but there are doubts over whether Old Trafford is the best place for any player right now.

Here, The Athletic takes a look at those issues.

Does Pulisic need to leave Chelsea?

Over the last 12 months, there has been a creeping sense that Pulisic’s future lies away from Stamford Bridge. For all head coach Thomas Tuchel commands an important place in the American’s story after ushering him into Borussia Dortmund’s senior ranks in 2016, he has been unconvinced by Pulisic’s value in the Premier League.Just 13 starts came in the 38 league matches last season as his progress was derailed by COVID-19 and an ankle injury, and Pulisic has again had to settle for a peripheral role in the opening weeks of this one. He came off the bench to play a combined total of 31 minutes in Chelsea’s two fixtures so far — a 1-0 win away to Everton and Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham.Pulisic spoke in the summer of his “tough moments” at Chelsea and having a will to prove himself to Tuchel but a lack of first-team opportunities has become an increasing source of irritation. With the World Cup just three months away, the USMNT captain will be desperate to arrive in Qatar in peak form and fitness.He does love being at Chelsea — both the club and his team-mates. Pulisic is just keen to play more football though and, in that sense, the only issue is what Tuchel thinks of him.

What has happened there?

Like others at Chelsea, including Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, Chelsea’s sizeable investment in the American has brought no guarantees of a long-term future. Pulisic has struggled to make a lasting impression at the west London club since signing for £58million ($70m) in 2019, with the good form of Mason Mount and Kai Havertz at positions he could play limiting his chances.The summer signing of England-team regular Raheem Sterling from Manchester City has provided another obstacle in a squad that also includes youngsters Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher, who are back with their parent club after impressing out on loan last season. The very public pursuit of Everton’s promising forward Anthony Gordon, a 21-year-old who could cost Chelsea as much as £50million, is another indication that Pulisic’s face no longer fits.The club’s enormous summer of spending — and an appetite to do even more of it before the transfer deadline on September 1 — also demands that Tuchel’s squad is trimmed accordingly.Lukaku has been loaned out to Inter Milan, with Werner joining RB Leipzig — in both cases, the clubs Chelsea had signed them from. Morocco international Ziyech, another keen on more game time ahead of the World Cup, is another they will consider offloading before this window closes.Just offloading Pulisic’s wages in a loan deal will help their finances but Chelsea also need to raise money through sales. This is where farming out Pulisic to a possible rival for a top-six finish this season — and so, European football in 2023-24 — in United makes less sense. He has two years left on his deal, so any loan would only park a potential sale until next summer, when his contract status could negatively impact any fee Chelsea could receive.If the American takeover of Chelsea, led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, was once considered a potential turning point for Pulisic, it has done little to alter the perception that Tuchel has other preferences.Going out on loan this summer would at least leave the door open for a return.

Christian PulisicPulisic has not started either of Chelsea’s league games so far this season (Photo: Getty Images)

Is joining Manchester United the right move?

Being signed by United is not the glamour transfer it used to be. They are already in a hole two games into the season, bottom of the Premier League after losing 2-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion at home and then suffering Saturday 4-0 embarrassment away to Brentford. Already, the pressure is on new manager Erik ten Hag, whose team will play Europa League football this season, not Champions League, after finishing sixth last time.

United do desperately need greater attacking options.

England duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho have both started the season unconvincingly and there remains huge doubt over the future of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 37-year-old Portugal international has attempted to engineer a move away from United this summer so he can play in Champions League this season and Ten Hag is now willing to let the veteran forward — despite his age, the club’s top scorer last season with more than twice as many goals as their next most prolific player — leave.France international striker Anthony Martial is, at least, close to returning from the injury that caused him to miss the Brighton and Brentford games.https://theathletic.com/report/podcast-clip?clip_id=5939

The dearth of depth in United’s attacking ranks makes new talent a must in the next two weeks but any signing would need to be capable of handling mounting scrutiny at a club grasping for the reset button with growing desperation.

The main thing in United’s favour is that there doesn’t appear to be a huge market for Pulisic in terms of signing him permanently for a significant fee.

Where would he fit in at United?

Sancho, another who made his name in Dortmund, has struggled to find his feet in Manchester since being signed last summer and the arrival of Ten Hag, a serial title winner with leading Dutch club Ajax, has so far done little to address the individual malaise. Rashford, too, has been unable to provide an attacking spark in a team who have been beset by defensive issues in their opening two games.Ten Hag wants United to play “proactive” football so Pulisic, in theory, would be aligned to the Dutchman’s style. They are desperately struggling to press high up the pitch. It was painfully apparent during the ill-fated reign of interim manager Ralf Rangnick over the second half of last season and very little has changed with largely the same personnel now available to Ten Hag.Pulisic has verve and energy, and can be a creative force for team-mates. He would offer something different for United.

Would this move help the USMNT before the World Cup?

There is every chance it would. No national team wants their talisman undercooked going into a tournament. The United States face Wales in their opening game on November 21, before further group matches against England and Iran.There are only 14 rounds of Premier League football left before its 20 clubs down tools for the World Cup and although staying at Chelsea could afford Pulisic additional chances in their six-match Champions League group phase campaign and the domestic Carabao Cup — although they will only play once in that competition before Qatar — there would be questions over his sharpness going into Qatar 2022 if his season continues as it has so far.That is the greatest incentive for Pulisic to leave Chelsea before the end of the summer window.He has made no secret of his belief that the USMNT can go far in Qatar, and the first World Cup of Pulisic’s career warrants the best preparation. There will be a heavy burden on the nation’s 23-year-old captain.

Norwich’s Josh Sargent proves his point after shining in desired central role

Norwich City's Josh Sargent celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture date: Tuesday August 16, 2022. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

By Michael BaileyAug 17, 2022

Josh Sargent paused. There was a nervous laugh and, not for the first time on the night, a broad smile.t felt for a moment like there would be no answer forthcoming, but he finally broke the silence.“I was patient, I’ve got this opportunity and I’ll try to make the most of it. That’s where we are at right now,” said Sargent.Where is he?

Firstly, he is in a good place. Norwich’s 2-1 home win over Huddersfield Town on Tuesday was their first of the season (at the fifth attempt) and came following Sargent’s opening goal in the sixth minute — his first since January and first at Carrow Road in eight days shy of a year.

Secondly, he is central. Slap-bang in the middle, playing as Norwich’s sole striker.

The pause had been Sargent’s diplomacy kicking in. Turning down the chance to play minutes in the Premier League does not happen, even if it is not in your preferred position.For a 22-year-old already faced with the need to develop his game and a transfer fee of around £9million ($10.9m) from last summer to justify, his efforts in a wider forward role – where the vast majority of his Norwich appearances have come – have often struggled to stretch beyond functional.But with Teemu Pukki sidelined by the bruised foot he picked up against Hull City at the weekend, Sargent got his shot and produced an eye-catching 68 minutes. As eye-catching as any of the 33 outings he’d made for the club before last night.Once again, head coach Dean Smith opted to play a 4-3-3 formation that switches to a 4-1-4-1. In both scenarios, it leaves the sole striker as a key component in Norwich’s attacking play.

Sargent had 24 touches of the ball against Huddersfield. Those included his goal and an unofficial assist – a deflected shot – that led to Danel Sinani making it 2-0 after just 16 minutes, as well as reaching Sinani’s wonderful first-time through ball just after half-time before Tom Lees committed the foul that would earn him a red card.You can see them all below, including eight in the opposition box and all bar two in the Huddersfield half.

For comparison, Pukki managed 19 playing up front in Norwich’s other home Championship game so far this season — a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic 10 days earlier.Perhaps most interestingly, Pukki’s (No 22) Wigan outing saw his average position pulled slightly to the left channel, which you can see below.

Milot Rashica (7) was the highest team-mate in support and Todd Cantwell (14) the closest, but with a lop-sided midfield passing network behind him, that hampered the Finn’s goal-scoring opportunities. Pukki recorded an expected goals (xG) figure of 0.18 in 90 minutes against Wigan.

Compare that with Sargent’s role against Huddersfield, where his average position was much more central and higher up the pitch. He also recorded a match-high individual xG of 0.35.

Although the stronger passing combinations were still behind Norwich’s striker rather than involving him, there was a better balance with a triangle in each channel behind the United States international.

That works as an indication of the wider service of crosses Smith’s side looked to provide, rather than the more central through balls Pukki prefers.

Sargent had already headed a cross from right-back Max Aarons over the bar before nodding home Sinani’s inswinging delivery from the same flank.

“I talked to Max after our last game at Hull and I just said, ‘You put in two good crosses at the end of the game; keep doing that. It’s really good. Don’t cut back. Take the risk. Put the ball in the box. We’ll get guys in the box and we’ll get rewarded for it’,” Sargent told The Athletic.

“It wasn’t him that crossed it for my goal but if we put the ball there, you can see we will get the rewards.

“Obviously, it’s been a while since I’ve scored and to be able to play in my favourite position, I felt it was a very good opportunity. To get that goal was huge for me and also the team.”

Smith gave his relegated team a clear ultimatum over the opening weeks of the Championship season: that his forward players will be judged on the goals they score and create. If they fall short in those areas, they won’t play.

That in part accounted for Rashica dropping to the bench here having started the three previous league games this season.

It was last week that Smith had revealed how popular Sargent is with his team-mates and how he was sure the man from Saint Louis, Missouri, via Werder Bremen would start scoring once his opportunity arrived – which it did on Tuesday.

There may be a future where Pukki and Sargent start together. Adam Idah’s return to fitness could also add another dimension in future weeks — especially if Smith fancies revisiting the 4-2-4 with which Norwich won back-to-back Premier League fixtures at the start of the year, before Idah’s season-ending knee injury in February.

Sargent’s performance last night is almost certain to keep him in the starting XI for Millwall’s visit on Friday night, even if Pukki’s swollen foot has shrunk to a size that will fit in a boot.

The quality of the American’s runs and his assured first touch also emphasised why he is currently ahead of Jordan Hugill in Smith’s pecking order, despite his rival’s decent scoring return in pre-season.

Sargent will hope this performance and victory were a boost for his prospects at Norwich, having opted to stay in England and play in the second tier when the same prospect following Bremen’s 2020-21 relegation to the German equivalent was less palatable.

“This is a league where we can create a lot of chances, we can be a team at the top, and I think it’d be good for me to score a lot of goals in this league,” Sargent told The Athletic. “It’s (the Championship) very physical but the thing is, it’s still good quality. Without VAR, there are a few things that are let go a bit more.”

But there is no denying Sargent hopes his club form can lead to another major goal for the remainder of 2022: getting selected for the World Cup.

Sargent has missed out on recent squads and USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has talked to him about the reasons for that; conversations the player is keen to keep private.

“Nothing is settled yet,” Sargent said. “All I can do is do my best here, score as many goals as I can and hopefully put myself in a good position to get called up.”

There is a lot of work to do for him to be in Qatar in November, but Tuesday did at least offer the way forward for Sargent, in the role he has always wanted to play. It was his reward for patience and hopefully just the start.

Leeds United’s Brenden Aaronson is perfect pressing machine for Jesse Marsch’s system

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  Brenden Aaronson of Leeds United in action with Rayan Ait-Nouri of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road on August 6, 2022 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

By Phil Hay Aug 12, 2022

Before he turned professional, Brenden Aaronson would sometimes ask when he would start to grow. When would he sprout and when would he bulk up, giving him physical parity with the boys he trained with?To the naked eye, Aaronson was slight and unintimidating and, even fully grown at 5ft 10in (178cm), it could be said he still is — but nothing left him short on stamina. From a young age, he could cover distances of over 12km in 90 minutes, as he did for Leeds United against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. He was capable of running and running, yielding data which European clubs were bound to notice.

There was technical appeal when Leeds paid more than £20million ($24.4m) to sign him from RB Salzburg in May, an appreciation of his skill on the ball, but on top of that came the guarantee the club’s money was buying an exceptional athlete. Aaronson’s fitness spoke for itself and across Europe, pound for pound, his pressing was on a par with any player in his position. By sustaining those bursts of acceleration all day, he was tailor-made for the Red Bull philosophy — and primed for the model Leeds aimed to build with Jesse Marsch.

If Salzburg became home for Aaronson after his move from Philadelphia Union in 2020 then Leeds is home away from home; a familiar formation, tactical ideas he learned in Austria and the same coach, Marsch, who took him to the Austrian Bundesliga. He brought a good engine with him and he will need it at Elland Road.On Saturday, during a 2-1 victory over Wolves, Leeds covered more ground as a team than any other Premier League side over the course of the new season’s first weekend. They ran hard and when the stats arrived at full-time, very few of Marsch’s players had run harder than Aaronson. His competitive debut cast him as a pressing beast, an outing which beat Wolves’ left-back Rayan Ait-Nouri into submission.Aaronson is only 21 and it might be that over time his exact role at Leeds changes. His strengths would suit the position directly behind Marsch’s No 9 — Patrick Bamford on Saturday — but for now, Marsch is using him as the right-sided attacker in a 4-2-3-1. That system, tweaked in a certain way, can provide penetration on the flanks but as Leeds’ average positions from the win over Wolves make clear (graphic, below), they are effectively playing with a line of three 10s. Nonetheless, Marsch needs discipline in their positioning, particularly off the ball, and Aaronson was strict in following clear orders to harass Ait-Nouri and limit his time on the ball.

There are several principles to Marsch’s pressing, and one of them is that the press should be coordinated, applied as a unit. Making it work relies on aggression but also on individual judgement about when to go and who to target. Ait-Nouri was in Aaronson’s line of fire throughout Saturday’s match and it did not take long to see how the USA international planned to cut the supply down Wolves’ left side. It was necessary to limit their flow because over 90 minutes, Wolves outscored Leeds by 507 completed passes to 291.

Aaronson drifted into a wider variety of areas when Leeds were in possession but defensively, he made the right flank his responsibility. He kept eyes on Ait-Nouri and his speed over short distances meant he could close the ground quickly as Wolves tried to play out, as in the next sequence of play on 17 minutes (below).

He is fully 25 yards from Ait-Nouri when Wolves shape to spread the ball wide to the full-back but what looks like an easy pass ends with a clearance up field as Aaronson gets to Ait-Nouri in a couple of seconds. One moment Ait-Nouri has time, the next he has Aaronson invading his personal space.

This scenario repeated itself throughout the first half. In the following passage of play (below), Wolves try an identical move — goalkeeper Jose Sa rolling out to a centre-back who in turn sends possession on to Ait-Nouri — but the speed of the press from Aaronson forces a mis-control from Ait-Nouri and lets Leeds pin down Bruno Lage’s defence with four bodies in a tight space. The ball ended up back with Sa, forcing Wolves to start again.

Even better for Marsch were the moments where the attention on Ait-Nouri forced turnovers of possession, inviting Leeds to about-turn and counter. Recovering the ball and attacking in transition is a core aspect of Marsch’s tactics. Across the Premier League, Leeds’ application of 64 successful pressures — regaining possession within five seconds of applying the press — was the highest in the division. What Marsch wanted was situations like that shown below, where Aaronson squeezes Ait-Nouri and forces a rushed pass which Rasmus Kristensen intercepts. Aaronson then has space behind him to offer an outlet going forward.

Forcing errors through spirited pressing was Leeds’ route to their equalising goal, scored in the 24th minute. The finish was avoidable from Wolves’ perspective, invited by two missed chances to clear, but Aaronson’s tenacious tackling was responsible for turning a heavy through ball from Jack Harrison into an opportunity for Rodrigo.

Two challenges on Ait-Nouri forced a game of ping pong inside the box and a ricochet off Harrison gave Rodrigo time to make space for himself and shoot under Sa at the near post. In this instance, Leeds’ counter-pressing paid off.

The test for Aaronson will be applying a consistent level of influence over a full Premier League season but it is clear that pressing comes naturally to him. That attribute was in him when he was emerging in the US and has long been seen as one of his strengths. In possession, meanwhile, his movement and passing kept Wolves guessing and gave Leeds both creativity and goalscoring intent.

By dropping deep in the next sequence and arcing his run between two Wolves’ players, he was able to take a pass from Robin Koch, turn in space and bring Kristensen into play down the right. Given how reliant Leeds are on their full-backs for width, it will fall to players like Aaronson to provide them with service, working the gaps and anticipating overlaps.

But Aaronson’s pace and direct running allowed for counter-attacks from more defensive zones, too. A good example of this came in the 27th minute.

As the screenshots below show, Leeds are on the back foot in their box but Aaronson is there to help crowd Wolves out. A clearance by Tyler Adams drops to Rodrigo and Aaronson has reacted at a speed which lets him take an inside pass and burst into space. This is where he seems to be in his element, driving forward over halfway with the opposition backing off.

Leeds can expect to see him do this repeatedly over the course of the season and in the end, their failure to make anything of the attack was a waste of a very good position.

In his career to date, Aaronson has not been a prolific goalscorer but he was good for four or five a season in his time at Salzburg and the winner on Saturday, 16 minutes from time, showed intelligence in spotting how an attack would unfold. The speed of the move was impressive — seven seconds to send the ball, via four passes, from the halfway line to the back of Sa’s net — and it showcased the vertical passing style which Marsch favours.

The first image, below, shows how rapidly Aaronson (top left) wants possession directed to him when space opens up near the centre circle. Adams’ pass goes instead to Klich but Aaronson sees straight away that the flow down the left might present a chance to score at close range. He sprints for the six-yard box as Klich guides Bamford into the left channel and the forward’s cutback is impossible to defend. Ait-Nouri turns it in before Aaronson can get a touch and though there was disappointment afterwards that the finish went down as an own goal, it was a fitting representation of the grief Aaronson gave Ait-Nouri for so much of the afternoon.

Elland Road’s initial glimpse of him suggested that for more than £20m, an all-round game is part of the package. Aaronson can be an asset defensively, he can pose a threat going forward and there was nothing on Saturday to indicate that the Premier League will be a problem for him physically. His tally of 31 individual pressures applied, 12 of them successful, topped the charts on the opening weekend.

“I thought he was active and lively and dangerous all match,” Marsch said, and it was immediately obvious why Aaronson had dominated the traditional bleep test at the start of pre-season, a competition Jamie Shackleton was used to winning. Marsch needs runners and at first glance, Aaronson looks like the pick of them.

8/12/22  100 Days to World Cup, Spain/Italy Start, CFC Players make HS teams, MLS All Stars win, Full TV Schedule

100 Days to the World Cup, Spain/Italy Start and Other notes So we are just 100 days until the World Cup starts in Qatar the Nov 20-Dec 12  World Cup in the middle of the European Seasons.  Yes the start has been adjusted as now the WC will start on Sunday night not Monday as Qatar moved the schedule so they could launch the games with Sunday night home game.  Messi is missing from the Ballon d’OR list for the first time in 7 years – but he still had the goal of the weekend with this beauty in PSG’s opening win of the season.  Spain and Italy start their season’s this weekend. (see full previews in the The Ole Ballcoach).  Goalkeeping Predictions for 2022-23 in Europe.  

EPL Fulham America and Leeds United States of America good starts

Wow the EPL season got off to a great start if you like to watch American’s succeed in the EPL – Fulham with American’s Jedi and Tim Ream holding down the left side of defense tied Liverpool at home 2-2.  Then America’s favorite EPL coach – Jesse Marsch and his American signees shined as Brendan Aaronson scored this goal and Tyler Adams had the most break-up plays of anyone in the EPL in week 2. Can Americans play soccer ?? Heck yes !!  Leeds might now be looking at Tim Weah from France – lets hope!!  Disappointing to see that Pulisic seems to be on the outs a Chelsea – listen their Manager Tuchel is THE WORSE OFFENSIVE COACH in the history of soccer.  Pulisic should have left for Juventus this summer – we’ll see if he gets a chance this Sun at 11:30 am when Chelsea hosts Tottenham in the biggest game of the weekend the LONDON Derby on USA Network.  Aston Villa host’s Everton Sat at 7:30 am on USA then Brentford hosts Man United on NBC for the boring game of the week Sat at 12:30 pm – yey NBC. Leeds travels to Southampton at 10 am on Peacock the same time as Fulham travels to Wolverhampton also on Peacock while Man City host Bournemouth on USA (yey).

Indy 11 @ Hartford Sat Night, 7 pm ESPN+

After closing its three-game homestand last weekend, the Eleven will take to the road for its next two, beginning tomorrow  Aug. 13, with a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff at Hartford Athletic (live on ESPN+). Following a pivotal meeting for postseason hopes at FC Tulsa on Aug. 20 (8:30 p.m., live on ESPN+), Indiana’s Team will return home with two games against top of the table sides in four days’ time on Aug. 27 against Louisville City FC (7:00 p.m.) and Aug. 31 versus San Antonio FC and USL leading GK former 11 GK Jordan Farr. Tickets for those matches – and all future contests at Carroll Stadium – can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets, and fans can learn more about promotional themes for the evenings at indyeleven.com/promotions.

MLS AllStars Beats LIGA MX All Stars 2-1

Really cool watching both the skills challenge and the MLS Allstar game this week – as MLS beat Liga MX (Mexico) in everything.  Yes we dominate them in Ladies/Mens/Boys/Girls and now Concacaf Champions League (Seattle) and now for back to back seasons – MLS All-Stars kicked Liga MX All Stars on the field – again.  The best thing I saw was the return of the Goalkeeper wars !! More of that is needed. 

Huge Congrats to our Former and current Carmel FC players and GKs who made their high school teams – Season’s Start this Weekend

10 Carmel High School GKs played at Carmel FC (All 7 Ladies) (3 Boys)

On the Girls Side for Carmel High – we are proud that all 7 of the GK’s on the roster are former or current Carmel FC Players.  Seniors Bethany Ducat and Aubree Empie, along with Junior Chloe Fouts,  JV has Claire and Mary Grace, while 9th Grade has current CFCer’s Paulina Arana and Lilly Bose.  On the boys side the Varsity has former CFC’ers Charlie Featherson and Jacob Havice, and JV has Will Hartsock. Both our Zionsville GKs made it as Cooper Cass made the Freshmen team along with Avery Keller making Varsity Girls.   

A huge reminder for those who didn’t make it – you are really good players – Carmel is a huge school – chances are you all would have made it at HSE/Fishers/Guerin or Noblesville. Keep the head up and get ready for the club fall CFC season or rec at CDC!     

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules 

This Sat @ Murray Stadium CHS

I will have local high school previews next week  – exciting with Carmel High School Girls and Boys teams coming off of State Finals Appearances last year. 


Fri, Aug 12

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

3 pm beIN Sport               Lille (Weah) vs Nantes

8:30 pm Para+                   Houston Dash vs Racing Louisville FC  NWSL

10 pm FS1                            Juerez vs Pachuca

Sat, Aug 13

7:30 am USA                       Aston Villa vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                  RB Leipzig vs Koln

10 am USA                          Man City vs Bournemouth

10 am Peacock                  Southampton vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

10 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)

12:30 pm NBC                    Brentford vs Man United 

12:30 ABC                            Schalke vs Mgladbach 

3 pm ABC                             Barcelona (Dest) vs Rayo Vallencano

7 pm ESPN+                        INDY 11 @  Hartford Athletic

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Atlanta United

10:30 pm Para+                 San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Orlando Pride NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN+               LA FC vs Charlotte

Sun, Aug 14

9 am USA                             Nottingham Forest vs West Ham United  

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

11:30 am ESPN+                Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg

4 pm ESPN+                        Almeria vs Real Madrid  

3 pm Para+                         Seattle OL Reign vs NY Gothem FC NWSL 

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Chicago Red Stars

Mon, Aug 15

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm para+                   Juventus vs Sassulo

3 pm USA                            Liverpool vs Crystal Palace(Richards)

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

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Friday Newsletter: My Leeds United Story, a Day in Front of the Tube and Your Mailbag Questions

What the heck is up at Manchester United?

Grant Wahl

Hi everyone! First off, my apologies for this Friday Newsletter coming out on Saturday. I put so much into finishing my 5,000-word story for Friday on the Leeds United Americans—working well past midnight Wednesday and Thursday—that I was a hollowed-out shell of myself for most of the day Friday. It turns out that pulling all-nighters in your 40s isn’t the same as when you were in your 20s. Who knew?!?

But I hope you enjoyed the Leeds story. If you haven’t yet, check it out. I’m really happy with how it came out. And I’d appreciate it if you could do me a favor: If you like the Leeds story or any of the 30 other premium magazine stories I’ve written for this site over the past 11 months, spread the word about GrantWahl.com to people you know. That’s the best way to help me be able to spend the money to keep doing ambitious stories like this that you won’t see elsewhere

This has been a wild work stretch for me. After reporting trips in July to Mexico and England (sandwiched around a not-fun, long-awaited bout of Covid), I’m at home for this part of August writing the stories that I’ve had in my notebook—Leeds and, next up, Qatar—while my wife is on a two-week reporting trip of her own in Asia. So it’s been me and our two toy poodles, Zizou and Coco, who spend their time watching me write or sitting on the sofa with me checking out games. It’s the start of the European season, so I’m trying to see a bunch of matches and get a handle on how teams look to kick things off. 

That meant our Saturday went like this:

• Watch Southampton 2, Leeds United 2. I skipped the 7:30 am ET game (Aston Villa 2, Everton 1) trying to catch up on sleep, but I think it’s fair to say I’m likely to watch every Leeds game live this season with the American coach (Jesse Marsch) and two USMNT stars (Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson). Leeds seemed like it was in control after going up 2-0 in the second half on Rodrigo’s second goal, but Marsch waited too long to make his subs and Ralph Hasenhüttl made a big tactical change for Southampton, which equalized at 2-2 in a brutal nine-minute stretch for Leeds. It’s a bummer for Leeds, which could have been at the top of the table with a perfect six points with Man City and Arsenal, but four points after two games isn’t bad at all for a team that was in a relegation fight to the final day last season. Leeds has Chelsea at home next weekend, which will be a US-palooza with Christian Pulisic coming to Elland Road.

• Watch Brentford 4, Manchester United 0. Easily the craziest result of the weekend with United being down 4-0 after just 35 minutes and David De Gea melting down in front of us. But don’t put the blame entirely on the goalkeeper. United deserves to be at the extreme bottom of the table after two ugly losses in two weeks, and every time the camera showed Erik ten Hag it was essentially a meme. Here’s an idea: Put Lisandro Martínez at the six (where I guarantee you he’ll be better than as a CB) and start Raphaël Varane and Harry Maguire in the central defense. I’d also rather see Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial as the starting nine than Cristiano Ronaldo. The faster Ronaldo can get his wish to leave, the better for United as a whole.

• Watch Barcelona 0, Rayo Vallecano 0. Even if most of what Barcelona’s directors did this summer seemed shady and terribly risky for the future, the one thing we were supposed to agree on was that this Barça team would be much improved on the field. Well, not today! Robert Lewandowski, Raphinia and Gavi looked a bit off, Sergio Busquets got sent off, and while things picked up somewhat after Frenkie de Jong came on, it wasn’t enough to keep Barça from dropping points at home to start the season. One cool thing about today: The second and third games I saw were on over-the-air NBC and ABC, which I hope keeps happening more. I understand the economics of why so much soccer on U.S. TV is on streaming services these days, but we’re still a country where millions of new soccer fans remain to be created, and the best way to do that is by making good games easily available.


We are less than 4 months away from the World Cup, and it seems like Qatar officials have so many issues to solve before the tournament, including the schedule for the first 2 days and whether fans can drink alcohol. Is this going to be a disaster?


It seems kind of crazy that after Qatar has had 12 years to prepare for the World Cup, FIFA literally changed the opening day of the tournament this week! So now Qatar-Ecuador will kick off the World Cup on November 19 as a stand-alone game. That probably should have been the case all along, but I don’t like that FIFA seems to be accommodating Qatar and doing something at the last moment that will make life difficult for Ecuador fans. Based on what I learned from the announcement of the World Cup 2026 host cities, it seems like FIFA does a lot these days by the seat of its pants.

The Qatar World Cup has a lot of big issues, obviously. But I actually don’t think consuming alcohol will be a problem. I was in Qatar in late February, and it was pretty easy to get a drink at a hotel bar or restaurant, much easier than when I visited Qatar in 2013. One significant concern I see will be for hotel rooms for visiting fans. I’ll try and get more info on this in the coming weeks.

Dan Le Batard got BigSoccer riled up during the 2006 World Cup with some anti-soccer comments. Now he employs Fancy Lad Chris Wittyngham. How much is this an indicator of progress for soccer?


Ha! Maybe not the best indicator, but it’s something. Dan still isn’t a huge soccer guy, but he has people on his show who care about the sport. And I’m seeing a few other signs on big sports shows. Colin Cowherd had Stu Holden on his show this week, and Cowherd not only follows the U.S. national teams now, but he also knows what he’s talking about. We’ll see if we can get Stephen A. Smith (“Let’s do that soccer!”) in a place like that before long.

How do you think the NWSL compares in terms of quality of play to the European leagues? Do you foresee a day when there will be a match between the European champions and the American ones?

Roger Bauman

It was revealing not long ago to interview Lindsay Horan, who spoke about the differences between the NWSL and playing at Lyon. She noted that Lyon was better technically, while the NWSL was more rough-and-tumble athletic. I agree with her. But I’d also add that the NWSL is much more competitive than the French league and has a better distribution of talent among the teams. And while the WICC games next week will be fun, I’m waiting for FIFA to get its act together and get a Club World Cup for women started ASAP. We needs those games, and it should have already happened by now.

I feel sad about the rough season my hometown Washington Spirit is having after winning the NWSL championship last year. Do you have any insights—general or specific—about how they’ve gone from red hot to almost bottom of the pack? (I wonder if it’s particularly hard for team cohesion to have a whopping seven players disappear from time to time for USWNT camps?)

Alison MacAdam

It’s been a crazy turn-around this season for the Spirit. There’s more stability under the new ownership of Michele Kang, and you’d think things would be better with previous abusive coaches out of the picture. But the team has gone a long time without winning (not since May 1), and the situation at Segra Field is a mess, and you’re right, it hasn’t helped to miss so many players with the national team. But if you have that many national team players, you should start getting results when they’re back. And that hasn’t happened.

From the USMNT perspective, is the team better with Pulisic playing with Chelsea as a super sub or as a regular player with a lesser Premier league team (ex: West Ham)? Ultimately, the goal is to have Christian at his peak going into the WC.

Paul Saiz

If you’re the USMNT, you obviously want Pulisic playing as much as possible. Right now it seems like Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz are being preferred by Thomas Tuchel, but I’m hoping Pulisic finds a way to crack that soon. We’ve seen some discussion about the potential of a Newcastle transfer for Pulisic, but it’s still hard for me to envision him making a move this month. 

If Seattle doesn’t make the playoffs, is Schmetzer out? Does whether Lagerwey stays affect Schmetzer’s future? If Brian is fired, is Preki the obvious choice for interim coach?


Even if the Sounders miss the MLS playoffs (and I think they’ll end up making it), I would be stunned if Schmetzer or Lagerwey would be in trouble at all this season after the Sounders won the CCL title. That trophy, and the two MLS Cups they’ve won in recent years, buys a lot of credit for those two. That said, I kind of like that the question is being asked, because I think it’s a good thing for there to be more pressure on MLS coaches and sporting directors than we have seen in the past.

What outrageously wild predictions would you have for the first half of the Euro season? Some team coming from nowhere or some player we never heard of? Who’s the next Sheriff? Or just who should we turn an eye toward?

Lou Hudson

I’m fascinated by what’s going on at Rangers. You’ve got a team that went to the final of the Europa League (losing to Frankfurt), a team that has USMNT players James Sands and goal-scorer Malik Tillman, a team that has one more hurdle to clear with PSV Eindhoven to get to this season’s Champions League group stage. So how about predicting that Rangers gets there, and that Tillman becomes the goal-scorer (his ups are crazy) that the USMNT needs for the World Cup?

Why is it that women’s clubs in Europe are attached to men’s clubs as opposed to the “expansion style” in the U.S.? Do you think one model is better for the development of the women’s game?


It’s just the soccer culture in Europe, where we haven’t seen any real situations pop up yet where someone wants to start a women’s team from scratch and compete with the established order. It’s instructive that it was seen as important for the women’s game in Europe when Manchester United and Real Madrid finally took women’s soccer seriously enough to start investing in top-division teams (even though they aren’t the best teams in their leagues at this point). I don’t think one model is clearly better, and you do see some NWSL teams owned by people who also own MLS teams, but as long as the owners show they care, that’s what matters to me.

With the self-imposed announcement date passed and nary a peep during the All-Star break, is MLS to Vegas off or do we still expect to hear something soon? Also, I’m assuming MLS goes to 32 teams. When will that happen and who are the most likely candidates?

Michael Mancini

I still expect that Las Vegas will get the next MLS expansion team to bring the league to 30 teams. At that point, the next leading candidates are San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento and maybe Detroit. MLS commissioner Don Garber indicated last week that he’d like to get to 32 teams. But it’s in his interests for there to be the appearance of scarcity, so I doubt we’ll hear him say anything about the potential for more than 32 teams for a while to come.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for reading!

USMNT weekend viewing guide: We’re all rolling now

With LaLiga and Serie A beginning this weekend, all the major European leagues are back.

  • By jcksnftsn  Aug 12, 2022, 7:11am PDT  
FC Barcelona v Pumas UNAM - Joan Gamper Trophy

Here we go! The action is in full swing now as La Liga and Serie A sides begin their season this weekend, joining the other European leagues who kicked things off last weekend and leading to a full slate of action. There are already some injury concerns impacting our watch schedule, as well as transfer rumors suggesting some individuals could be on the move, but at least for now here’s what we’ll be watching:


SC Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund – 2:30p on ESPN+

Gio Reyna made last weekend’s matchday squad for Borussia Dortmund but was an unused substitute in the team’s 1-0 win over 10-man Bayer Leverkusen. It is not surprising the club would continue their cautious approach with Reyna, who barely saw playing time during the preseason. Marco Reus scored 10 minutes into Dortmund’s opener, and the team would hang on to win 1-0 in what was an important, if unconvincing, victory over a Leverkusen side that seems likely to be a competitor for Champions League qualification by season’s end.

This weekend, Dortmund will take on a Freiburg side that finished last season in 6th place and opened their new campaign with a 4-0 thumping of Augsburg. Their match was scoreless through the first half, but Freiburg scored twice within the first three minutes of the second half kickoff and coasted to victory through a balanced attack that saw four different players find the back of the net.

Other notes:

  • Timothy Weah missed Lille’s opener last weekend (a 4-1 win over Auxerre) due to yellow card accumulation and now looks like he will miss a couple weeks due to a foot injury. Lille face Nantes at 3p on beIN Sports.


Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – 3p on ABC

Sergiño Dest could be on the move yet this month as Barcelona has reportedly made him available, and it seems that he is third in the pecking order at the right back spot, having seen limited playing time during the preseason. It’s no secret that Barcelona have wage and money issues, but it’s also no secret that they don’t operate in typical fashion so it remains to be seen whether they are seeking to move Dest to recoup some money and register some of the numerous players they have already added this summer or if they are trying to replace him with yet another signing.

For now, Dest remains with Barcelona as the team kicks off their season against Rayo Vallecano Saturday afternoon on ABC. Barcelona finished a distant second place to Real Madrid last season and, as we mentioned above, has brought in a number of reinforcements (Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen, and Raphinha, to name a few) in an attempt to close the gap. However, it isn’t without a high degree of risk. In fact, it has been argued that unless Barcelona are able to close the gap on Real Madrid in both La Liga and Champions League and reap the financial rewards, then president Joan Laporta’s summer strategy could send the club into an unrecoverable financial tailspin. They will be dealing with a different kind of pressure this season as they look to make good. They will start their campaign on Saturday against a Rayo Vallecano side that finished 12th place in La Liga last season, just four points out safe from relegation.

Streaming overseas:

  • Ricardo Pepi came off the bench last weekend in Augsburg’s 4-0 loss to Freiburg. This weekend, the team face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Timothy Chandler was an unused substitute for Eintracht Frankfurt last Friday as they were smashed by Bayern Munich 6-1. Things should get easier this weekend as they face a Hertha Berlin side that needed to win the relegation playoff to escape being dropped to the 2. Bundesliga. This match will also be played at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, and Jesse Marsch look to build on last weekend’s season opening win over Wolves when they face Southampton at 10a on Peacock. Southampton opened the season with a 4-1 loss to Tottenham.
  • Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson and Fulham were involved in the shock result of last weekend as the newly promoted club drew with title contending Liverpool 2-2. Fulham take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at 10a on Peacock.
  • Luca de la Torre could make his LaLiga debut as his new club Celta Vigo open their season against Espanyol at 11a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally got the start for Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend in the team’s 3-1 win over Hoffenheim. ‘Gladbach look to build some momentum as they face a newly promoted Schalke side that lost to Köln 3-1. The match will be played at 12:30p on ESPN+.

MLS mashup (all matches on ESPN+):


Mainz v Union Berlin – 9:30a on ESPN+

Jordan Pefok got his Bundesliga career off to the perfect start last weekend, scoring the opening goal for Union Berlin in the team’s 3-1 Berlin Derby win over Hertha Berlin. Pefok redirected a cross in with a header from a sharp angle in the 30th minute and his side were off and running, getting out to a 3-0 lead before conceding a consolation goal in the 85th minute. It was a dream debut for Pefok, who joined Union Berlin over the summer following a prolific year for Switzerland’s BSC Young Boys, with 27 goals across all competitions. It would be unreasonable to expect Pefok to maintain such a high scoring rate with the jump in leagues, but if he is able to continue slotting home goals with some regularity for Union Berlin, it should help keep the attention on USMNT fans and, more importantly, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter.

Other notes:

  • Christian Pulisic saw 25 minutes off the bench for Chelsea FC last weekend in the club’s rather mundane 1-0 win over Everton. They now face a Spurs side that looked rather explosive last weekend in putting four goals past Southampton. The match will be played at 11:30a on USA Network.
  • Yunus Musah has been playing regularly in the middle of the pitch for Valencia during the preseason, which is a welcome development for USMNT fans. His side open their 2022-23 campaign against Girona at 1:30p in a match that can be seen on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.
  • Walker Zimmerman and Nashville SC host Minnesota United at 9p on FS1. Nashville sit just a point ahead of the Seattle Sounders in the playoff race.

Streaming overseas:

  • Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes got their season off to a rough start last weekend suffering a 3-2 loss to Montpellier. They’ll look to rebound this weekend as they face Toulouse at 9a on beIN Sports.
  • Real Sociedad start their season with a trip to Cadiz at 11:30a on Sunday in a match that can be seen on ESPN+. Jonathan Gomez reportedly will get some opportunities with the first team this season, though it remains to be seen in what capacity. It would take a flurry of activity to grab the attention of Gregg Berhalter ahead of November’s World Cup.

MLS Mashup (all matches on ESPN+):

  • Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and the Seattle Sounders host Diego Luna and Real Salt Lake at 10p.

Bonus Monday action:

  • Weston McKennie remains sidelined for Juventus, who begin their Serie A campaign as they take on Sassuolo at 2:45p on Paramount+.
  • Chris Richards was an unused substitute for Crystal Palace last weekend. The side now face Liverpool at 3p on USA Network.

Let us know what you’re eager to keep an eye on this weekend and what other action you see in the comments section below.

USMNT players and their kids. (L to R) Deandre Yedlin, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman

LaLiga 2022-23 preview: Will Barcelona topple Real Madrid? What to watch for ahead of new season


Football fans around the world will tune in as LaLiga returns to action (stream matches, highlights on season on ESPN+). Spain’s top flight kicks off Friday with Osasuna hosting Sevilla, while Barcelona host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday at Camp Nou. On Sunday, Real Madrid begin their title defence against promoted side Almeria.

Coaches have swapped dugouts, players have departed, others have arrived with much fanfare (and lots of controversy), and fans are already debating whether Karim Benzema or Robert Lewandowski will score more goals.

Before the action gets underway, though, let’s examine some of the biggest storylines worth following as the 2022-23 season begins to unfold. ESPN contributers Alex KirklandSam Marsden and Sid Lowe look at players to watch for, and Cesar Hernandez rounds up United States and Mexico players in LaLiga.

– Stream every LaLiga match on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Who are the faves? | Who will struggle, who will thrive Big questions Players to note | USMNT, Mexico stars in LaLiga

Title favorites?

Real Madrid

The euphoria generated by Real Madrid’s 14th Champions League win in May hasn’t faded yet. That victory over Liverpool, close on the heels of a 35th LaLiga title wrapped up a month earlier, left Madrid feeling self-assured and confident about this team’s trajectory. Stability and prudence have been the watchwords this summer, with no panic buying, and a determination to move only for elite players who can genuinely add something to the side.

– Stream LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Almeria, Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Antonio Rudiger — a Champions League-winning central defender at Chelsea — fits into that category, and so does top midfield prospect Aurelien Tchouameni, who joined from AS Monaco. Otherwise, Madrid trust in the players who won it all last year — and unflappable coach Carlo Ancelotti — to go out and do it again.

There’s a belief that veterans like Karim Benzema and Luka Modric can deliver for one more year; that up-and-coming stars such as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have even more room for improvement; and that generational change is already underway with Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde in midfield. — Kirkland

Will Benzema or Lewandowski have the better season this year?

Julien Laurens and Don Hutchison debate whether Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema or Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski will have the better season this year.


Barcelona finished second last season and it was reluctantly accepted as a success after Xavi Hernandez took over as manager in November with the team languishing ninth in LaLiga. A second-placed finish this time round will not be so highly regarded after what could perhaps be dubbed one of the most remarkable transfer windows of all time.

More on Barcelona’s mess:
– Lowe: How is the club signing, chasing players?
– Marsden: Explaining who can, can’t yet register and why
– Barcelona, reimagined: What if they made no signings after 2016?

After losing Lionel Messi a year ago because they could not afford to keep him, Barca have since sold off 25% of their domestic television rights and 25% of in-house production company Barca Studios for over €600 million.

That money, as well as helping reduce debt, has fuelled the signings of Robert LewandowskiRaphinhaJules KoundeFranck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. And president Joan Laporta says they are not done yet, either — although a bloated payroll also needs reducing first. As a result, Xavi has been handed a stacked, highly competitive squad. The team looks especially exciting in attack, with Ansu FatiOusmane DembeleFerran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang complementing Lewandowski and Raphinha. Finishing 13 points behind Madrid this season will not be acceptable. — Marsden

Atletico Madrid

Last year’s LaLiga season was characterised by the failure of any of Real Madrid’s rivals to deliver a proper title race. Nowhere was that more evident than at Atletico Madrid, whose bid to defend the 2020-21 crown fell apart in an identity crisis as coach Diego Simeone struggled to find a balance between defence and attack.

This season could be different, especially with the departure of Luis Suarez — Joao Felix is increasingly influential at one end of the pitch, while Reinildo Mandava has brought back some of the old bite at the other. Summer business has been limited to the free transfer signing of Axel Witsel and the belated arrival of a specialist right-back in Nahuel Molina.

Elsewhere around the league, there are concerns about Sevilla’s readiness for a top four battle, having lost both Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, although sporting director Monchi looks to be readying a late sweep of the transfer market. Villarreal are strong contenders to follow up last year’s remarkable Champions League semifinals run by pushing for fourth, while Real Betis and Real Sociedad will both expect to challenge. — Marsden

Teams to struggle …


Gennaro Gattuso’s coaching record in Italy (AC Milan and Napoli) was passable, if not exceptional, but Valencia represent a different challenge altogether.

Los Che are one of the biggest teams in Spain, but it feels like until the continued confrontation between supporters and owner Peter Lim ends, they will struggle to be where they should be in LaLiga: at least competing for the Champions League places.

For years now Valencia have struggled to fill their potential, in part because of that tension between Lim and the fans. Stability has also been a problem as they have raced through coaches. Each of the past four campaigns has now begun with a new manager. Their summer has been low-key, with Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino interesting signings, but there remains uncertainty around two of their best players. Both Carlos Soler and Jose Luis Gaya are in the final 12 months of their deals, with no immediate resolution to their futures in sight. — Marsden


If there’s a club that has made a virtue of departures, always able to assimilate loss and reinvent itself, that club is Sevilla. And yet, this time feels different: sales are happening because they have to rather than because they are planned per se, both central defenders (Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos) have departed, and they have actually not been very good for quite a while now — look at their results since the turn of the year and they don’t lose often at all but they don’t win much either.

The signing of Isco and the loan of Alex Telles from Manchester United can help, but there’s already a slight sense of loss and maybe even a little mistrust that might accelerate problems if things don’t start well for manager Julen Lopetegui. There are stalwarts such as Ivan Rakitic and Youssef En-Nesyri, but no sign of a new striker yet. Conceding six at Arsenal in a preseason friendly was a warning. — Lowe

Isco: Real Madrid did not let me play

New Sevilla signing Isco explains why he decided to join Julen Lopetegui’s side and insists he will give his all for the club.

… and teams to surprise?

Athletic Club

Ernesto Valverde is back at San Mames for a third spell in charge of Athletic Club and refreshed after over two years out of the game following his departure from Barcelona. During his second spell in Bilbao, which lasted four years and ended in 2017, he led the Basque side into the Champions League and never failed to finish outside the top seven, qualifying for Europe in every campaign. In the five seasons since he left, Athletic have finished 16th, 8th, 11th, 10th and 8th.

Athletic will always have their hands tied due to the fact they are committed to signing only Basque players, but Valverde knows the club inside and out and how it operates. There is talent in the squad in the form of Inigo MartinezIker Muniain and Inaki Williams, and the club’s academy at Lezama continues to produce talent for the first team. — Marsden


Getafe’s transfer window — led by new director of football Ramon Planes — has been quietly excellent. Defender Domingos Duarte, midfielders Jaime Seoane and Luis Milla and forwards Portu and Borja Mayoral are all sensible additions who will strengthen a team that lost a record seven consecutive games at the start of last season.

Quique Sanchez Flores has also steadied the ship after previous coach Michel’s struggles. Sanchez Flores is a seen-it-all, underrated manager who knows how to build a solid, effective team, and will be hoping for a straightforward midtable finish rather than a relegation battle. — Kirkland

Hutchison blasts ‘amateur’ Barcelona for registration issues

Don Hutchison and Julien Laurens discuss Barcelona’s problems with registering their new signings.

Can busy Barcelona stop Real’s repeat?

First of all, let’s assume all of Barcelona’s signings can be registered and there is a satisfactory outcome to the Frenkie de Jong situation. If so, there can be no excuses for Xavi and Barcelona this season. While it’s true Xavi transformed Barca last season after floundering midtable for a part of it, it’s also true he was given much more leeway than his predecessor, Ronald Koeman.


Xavi was backed in January with the signings of Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and has been spectacularly backed this summer. Robert Lewandowski is the standout arrival at €45 million, but big money has also been invested in exciting Brazil winger Raphinha and vibrant defender Jules Kounde. It’s going to be fascinating to see how all the new signings do at Camp Nou, but also to see how Ousmane Dembele progresses after signing a new contract and how youngsters PedriGavi and Ansu Fati continue to evolve.

Club president Joan Laporta says success is a requirement at Barca and that is why he has sanctioned this summer’s spending. Now it’s up to Xavi to stop Ancelotti’s Madrid, who have also strengthened with the signings of Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni, retaining the title. The Clasico battles (Oct. 16 in Madrid, March 23 in Barcelona) for the top of the table will be full of promise. — Marsden

Will Madrid be fazed by Mbappe snub?

“Kylian who?” That’s been the message from the Bernabeu ever since Madrid missed out on their long-term top target when France star Kylian Mbappe signed a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain. The timing of that abrupt U-turn — a week before the Champions League final — looked awkward at first but turned out to be a godsend when Madrid’s victory over Liverpool helped reassure fans that not signing Mbappe was, perhaps, no big deal. In fact, it’s been remarkable how quickly the saga has disappeared in the rearview mirror.

In any case, Mbappe’s arrival would have caused Ancelotti an unnecessary headache, likely shifting Vinicius Junior from his preferred left-wing berth just as he’d established himself. Nonetheless, Madrid are all-in on Vinicius now. The Brazil winger will do well to repeat his 17-goal haul from last season. With no forward expected to arrive, it will be down to him and Rodrygo to support Karim Benzema (can Eden Hazard rebound from his injuries?) in the goal-scoring department. — Kirkland

Eden Hazard ‘focused’ on proving himself at Real Madrid

Eden Hazard speaks about potentially joining MLS and his hopes for this season with Real Madrid.

What about the coaching carousel?

Appointing a new coach refreshes expectations, and three LaLiga sides will be hoping a change of face on the touchline will improve their fortunes this season. It proved true for Cadiz and Mallorca last term, who dramatically stayed up after appointing Sergio Gonzalez and Javier Aguirre, respectively.

Ambitions will be loftier at Athletic ClubValencia and Espanyol, though. Ex-Barca boss Ernesto Valverde returns to Athletic with the task of helping the Basque side back into European football. That will also be the task facing Gennaro Gattuso at Valencia. The former AC Milan and Napoli coach replaced Jose Bordalas this summer.

Finally, Diego Martinez is an intriguing appointment at Espanyol. He produced miracles to take Granada to the Europa League, and the Barcelona-based side will want the same success. Realistically, though, they will struggle to break free from the no-man’s land between the relegation battle and the hunt for European places. — Marsden

Promoted sides offer a challenge?

There’s an element of intrigue to the owners of all three promoted teams. Real Valladolid are owned by Brazil legend Ronaldo, Almeria by Saudi Arabian billionaire Turki Al-Sheikh and Girona‘s majority owner is the City Football Group. Modern football, eh?

Of the three, Real Valladolid have had the most low-key summer, perhaps because it’s been only a year since they were last in the top flight. However, Almeria have spent over €15 million, which is a fortune in Spanish football for a team outside the top four. Among their key signings is Brazilian defender Kaiky, who is only 18 and was scouted by Barcelona. The real sign of Almeria’s wealth, though, is that they have so far resisted bids for star forward Umar Sadiq, a Nigeria international with over 40 goals in his two years at the club.

Girona, meanwhile, have had a good summer on paper. David Lopez adds experience to a squad that already includes veteran striker Cristhian Stuani. And the City Football Group has used its network of clubs to make some interesting additions, none more so than Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, who joins on loan after winning Major League Soccer’s Golden Boot in 2021 and leading NYCFC to the MLS Cup title.

Yangel Herrera and Yan Couto have been added from Manchester City and Rodrigo Riquelme from Atletico Madrid. Keep an eye on young, versatile defender Arnau Martinez, too. — Marsden

So, who wins LaLiga? Who’ll play in Champions League?

“The hunger is the last thing I am worried about,” Carlo Ancelotti said. If Madrid can maintain the basis of last year, and integrate Rudiger and Tchouameni, plus last season’s big signing Eduardo Camavinga, it feels like they should be the strongest side again — although the absence of another striker might be a concern.

Given the way that they finished last season and how they have signed in the summer, Barcelona really should compete all the way to the finish this time.

And not being defending champions might be good for Atletico Madrid. Sevilla and Real Betis probably won’t be as good as they were. Considering the stability and resources, fourth place should be there for Villarreal. Look for Real Sociedad to aim for fifth place and the Europa League berth.

Looking for a revelation: how good might Athletic Club be with the return of Ernesto Valverde as coach? Or what about Getafe, who impressed once Quique Sanchez Flores took over and seem to have signed well too. — Lowe

Lewandowski: I don’t want to be compared with Benzema

New Barcelona signing Robert Lewandowski praises Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema but says he isn’t keen on being in direct competition with him.

Benzema, Lewandowski. Anyone else in Golden Boot mix?

There’s nothing like a head-to-head Golden Boot race between two of the biggest names in world football to get people’s attention. That’s been absent since Cristiano Ronaldo and then Lionel Messi left LaLiga, but the arrival of Robert Lewandowski from Bayern means it’s back with a vengeance.

Last season, Karim Benzema walked it — his 27 goals were nine more than second-placed Iago Aspas‘ 18, with Vinicius Junior and Raul de Tomas each having 17 — but this year will be a different story altogether. Lewandowski won the European Golden Shoe in both 2021 and 2022, and if anyone can outgun Ballon d’Or favourite Benzema, it’s he.

Otherwise, expect Celta Vigo icon Aspas to retain his crown as the top-scoring Spaniard. De Tomas’ prospects depend on whether he’s still at Espanyol come the end of the transfer window, and three players who disappointed in terms of numbers last season — Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (9), Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak (6) and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann (3) — should all improve their tallies significantly. — Kirkland

‘Taty’ to keep Girona up?

Girona‘s signing of Valentin “Taty” Castellanos from Major League Soccer champions New York City FC would have been more out of left field if both clubs were not owned by the City Football Group. However, despite that fact, the Argentine forward’s loan move to Catalonia still has the potential to be one of the most exciting deals in Spain this summer.

Castellanos, 23, who won the MLS Golden Boot last year and was leading this season’s race before leaving, already has Girona fans excited after preseason goals against Andorra and Napoli. If you have goals in your side, you have a good chance of staying in LaLiga, and with Castellanos and veteran Cristhian Stuani, Girona should have them in abundance. — Marsden

Morales key to Villarreal’s top four hopes?

The player known as “El Comandante” built a reputation as one of LaLiga’s most fun-to-watch players at Levante. Jose Luis Morales‘ best efforts — and 13 goals — couldn’t keep them up last season, and his tears of frustration on the pitch when relegation was eventually confirmed were hard to watch.

The 35-year-old’s initial insistence on staying at Levante in Segunda was admirable, but he shouldn’t be judged too harshly for the change of heart that saw him join Villarreal. Morales deserves a late-career crack at European football, playing alongside footballers of a similar calibre. His quality might help Villarreal break into the top four. — Kirkland

U.S., Mexico players in Spain

The two traditional powerhouses from the CONCACAF region will each have a handful of representatives in LaLiga for the 2022-23 season.

Starting with the United States, 24-year-old midfielder Luca de la Torre is the newest USMNT player in LaLiga, making the move over to Celta Vigo this summer. Fullback Sergino Dest will be entering his third season with Barcelona, and midfielder Yunus Musah should feature more for Valencia. All three appear to be USMNT roster locks for the upcoming World Cup.Another name to keep an eye on is Espanyol‘s 17-year-old midfielder Luca Koleosho. Last season, Koleosho became the youngest American-born player to debut in Spain’s top flight. Also eligible for Canada, Koleosho hasn’t made a decision just yet regarding his national team future.

Is De la Torre’s Celta move a risk in a World Cup year?

The Futbol Americas team discuss the USMNT’s Luca de la Torre moving to Celta Vigo with the World Cup on the horizon.As for MexicoSevilla‘s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona is the most noteworthy name from the El Tri contingent. The 29-year-old winger has looked promising in the preseason with a couple of goals during July friendlies. Mexico captain and veteran Andres Guardado will be entering his sixth year with Real Betis, helping the team win the Copa del Rey last season.Over at Real Sociedad, fullback Jonathan Gomez will aim to break into the first team after earning consistent minutes for Real Sociedad B last season. Gomez has represented both the United States and Mexico at the youth and senior level, but last featured for El Tri during a friendly in April. He has yet to commit to either side.Both Corona and Guardado are shoo-ins for Mexico’s World Cup roster. Gomez is unlikely to be included due to his national team status being up in the air, but plenty could change if he establishes himself with Real Sociedad’s first team.Also of note for Mexico are three newcomers in Spain’s second division. Real Oviedo have brought in Daniel Aceves and Arsenal academy product Marcelo Flores, while Gijon have added Liga MX Rookie of the Year Jordan Carrillo from Santo Laguna.

A new Barcelona No. 1, outsider for Premier League Golden Glove: Bold goalkeeper predictions for 2022-23

Aug 11, 2022

  • Mouhamad Rachini

Erling Haaland bagging two goals on his Premier League debut; Aleksandar Mitrovic bullying Liverpool in his return to the English top flight; Lionel Messi scoring an overhead kick in the first game of the Ligue 1 season.


It’s hard to believe the 2022-23 season has already kicked off. It feels like just yesterday that Manchester City won the Premier League on the final matchday of the season, and Real MadridEintracht Frankfurt and AS Roma clinched some historic European silverware.

Now it’s time to do it all again: to watch new teams write history, new players make a name for themselves and new stories come to life. To celebrate the start of a new European football season, I’ve compiled a list of some of my goalkeeper predictions for the 2022-23 season — but with a twist. Instead of going the safe route, I’ve added a little bit of spice to my predictions. From a star goalkeeper losing his starting position to a World Cup record getting broken, here are some of my boldest goalkeeper takes for the new season.

Inaki Pena will take Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s spot at Barcelona by season’s end

The prediction: After a short loan spell at Galatasaray, Inaki Pena is back with Barcelona, replacing Neto as the club’s backup goalkeeper. But the promotions won’t stop there for Pena. I predict that by the end of the 2022-23 season, Pena will have supplanted long-time starter Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the club’s No. 1.

Why it’ll come true: There was a point in time when Marc-Andre ter Stegen was undisputed as one of the world’s top goalkeepers. But since his career season in 2017-18, the German’s performances have dipped. His league save percentage has dropped each season since his Barcelona career high of 79.7% in 2018, down to 70.9% last season; he’s failed to keep more than 11 league clean sheets in each of his past two seasons; and his expected league goals saved above average has been below zero for the past three seasons.

He’s also been involved in some humiliating losses, such as the Liverpool comeback in 2019 and Bayern Munich’s 8-2 dismantling of Barcelona in 2020. Ter Stegen hasn’t been able to find his composure since these losses, and his inability to bounce back has led to some fans calling for him to be replaced. This is why I believe the 23-year-old Pena is poised to take over Barcelona’s starting duties by the end of the 2022-23 season.

The Alicante native is one of the brightest prospects in Spanish goalkeeping. He’s displayed great agility and aerial dominance throughout his development, and his quick footwork and steely composure have made him an excellent sweeper-keeper for both the Barcelona and Spain youth ranks.

Pena is not a finished product, nor will he be one by the end of the season. And for the time being, the starting position isn’t Pena’s. But what happens if Ter Stegen’s numbers don’t improve over the first half of this season? What if his save percentage continues to dip? What if Ter Stegen continues to play at the level that has plagued him in recent years?

– Premier League team-by-team guide and burning questions
– O’Hanlon: Ranking the Premier League’s best players (E+)
– Premier League kit ranking: Which jerseys are 2022-23’s best?

These are all legitimate concerns, and if Pena impresses in the limited Copa Del Rey minutes he’s likely going to get, I can see Xavi Hernandez giving the youngster a chance.

With Barcelona back in win-now mode after Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha’s signings (among others), they need a goalkeeper who can provide them with the same consistency, game-stealing performances, mental stability and drive for success they relied on a few seasons ago. This is something I’m afraid Ter Stegen can no longer do (at least, not over a full season, and certainly not in the Champions League).

The club has to look ahead to a future without Ter Stegen as their first-choice goalkeeper, and by easing Pena into the No. 1 role by the end of this season, I think they’d be setting themselves up for success in both 2023 and beyond.

The World Cup penalties saved record will be broken this year

The prediction: In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic matched the World Cup’s all-time penalties saved record when he stopped four penalties in seven appearances. It was an incredible achievement — but this year, it will be bested. I predict a goalkeeper will break the all-time penalties saved record in the World Cup.

Why it’ll come true: Penalties are a tough thing to predict when it comes to major international tournaments. Since most of these tournaments only require a team to play a maximum of seven games from start to finish, goalkeepers don’t tend to face a lot of penalties. This is especially true for the average goalkeeper, since most teams tend to play four or fewer games in a single international tournament and might not qualify for another World Cup for years.

But even with that context, I can’t shake off the feeling that four is a beatable number. The numbers also suggest that more penalties are being taken at World Cups, leading to more chances for a goalkeeper to break the record. We see this in the rise of the number of World Cup penalty shootouts.

The record for most penalty shootouts in a single World Cup is four, set initially in the 1990 World Cup. Three of the past four World Cups have matched that mark, including each of the past two World Cups. This isn’t a World Cup-specific occurrence either. Though no Copa America has matched the shootout record set in 1995 (also four), four of the past five Copa Americas have seen three shootouts take place. In Europe, Euro 2020 matched the all-time single-tournament shootout record (also four, seeing a pattern?), and Euro 2016 hit the three shootout mark for the first time since 1996.

Another number that seems to lean in favour of this prediction is penalty conversion percentage. Since the first shootout took place in a World Cup in 1982, only four World Cups have seen players record a total shootout conversion percentage below 70%. One of those World Cups was the 2018 edition (66.7%), and two others were World Cups that took place in the 21st century (2006: 63.6%, and 2022: 68.4%).

Penalty conversion rates seem to be on the decline elsewhere too. In the Premier League, penalty conversions have dropped significantly since the 1990s; and the 2021 Copa America had the lowest percentage of successful shootout penalties (62%) since 1997.

Though these percentages include off-target penalties, I reckon it also has to do with improvements in penalty knowledge and gamesmanship in goalkeeping. Given the talent today’s goalkeepers have as well as the numbers presented above, I’m confident this prediction will come true.

Premier League’s Golden Glove will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-3 club

The prediction: The Premier League Golden Glove is awarded annually to the league’s goalkeeper who kept the most clean sheets in a specific season. Usually, this is a goalkeeper playing for one of the season’s top clubs. But this season will be different because the award will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-three club.

Why it’ll come true: To understand just how bold of a prediction this is, we need to understand how exclusive the Premier League Golden Glove award is.

Since the award’s inception in 2005, the Golden Glove has been awarded 18 times. Over that time, nine different goalkeepers have won the award, representing one of just five different clubs: Manchester City, Liverpool, ChelseaArsenal and Manchester United. Only two goalkeepers — Pepe Reina in 2008 and Wojciech Szczesny in 2014 — have won the award while representing a club that finished outside of the top three that season and in both cases, their club finished fourth.

Given this context, what makes me think things will be different this season? First, although the winner has almost always been a goalkeeper representing a top-three club, the runner-ups, while still largely made up of goalkeepers from the top three clubs, aren’t nearly as exclusive.

Of the 54 goalkeepers who have finished first, second or third in a Golden Glove race, 23 of them represented a club that finished outside of the top three that season. These include goalkeepers who were playing for a club outside of the top six, like Emiliano Martinez in 2021 (Aston Villa finished 11th), Nick Pope in 2020 (Burnley finished 10th) and Fraser Forster in 2017 (Southampton finished 8th).

Many of these goalkeepers came in second place too. In fact, eight of the 18 Golden Glove silver medallists were goalkeepers who played for non top-three clubs. These include two of the past three runner-ups.

Although the winners of the award have almost exclusively been goalkeepers representing a top-three team, the podium has a much healthier dose of goalkeepers representing non top-three clubs. So it’s not unreasonable to think one such goalkeeper could have a good year and finish the race on top — especially when you consider the current crop of talented goalkeepers the Premier League boasts.

In the past, most of the Premier League’s top goalkeepers were those playing for one of the league’s big five or six clubs. In the 2010-11 season, for example, only five goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark — and of those five goalkeepers, four of them were playing for a club that finished in the top six (Mark Schwarzer played for 8th-placed Fulham).

Another example is the 2016-17 season, which only saw six goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark. Again, four of those goalkeepers were representing a top-six club (Forster played for 8th-placed Southampton and Tom Heaton played for 16th-placed Burnley).

Fast-forward to the 2020-21 season, though, and 13 different goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark — a record in the 38-game Premier League era. These goalkeepers ranged from Premier League winner Ederson to Nick Pope and Robert Sanchez, whose clubs finished in 17th and 16th.

Many of those goalkeepers are still in the Premier League, in some cases with their same club, and I can see them not only breaking the 10 clean sheet barrier again but challenging for the Golden Glove too. Last season, only four clean sheets separated Alisson and Ederson from Lloris (whose Tottenham finished fourth). If a couple of bounces worked Lloris’ way or against Alisson and Ederson, it might’ve been Lloris lifting the Golden Glove last season.

Throw in some of the new faces we’ll see this season (such as Thomas Strakosha, now at Brentford) and I think there’s a decent pool of goalkeepers outside of the top three to bet on to win the Premier League Golden Glove.

Conte’s revitalised Tottenham face first big test in London derby at Chelsea

Aug 11, 2022

  • James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC
  • On Sunday, Antonio Conte returns to the place where his worst fears about Tottenham were realised for the first time. It was particularly galling for a former Chelsea manager that the scale of his task was made clear at Stamford Bridge of all places, as the Blues eased to a 2-0 win in the Carabao Cup semifinal, first leg in early January.
  • The scoreline wasn’t particularly savage, but Spurs conceded two dreadful goals and failed to register a shot of any description until the 50th minute in a meek surrender that left Conte unwilling to pull any punches in his post-match assessment. “There’s an important gap, an important difference, there’s a big job to do to retrieve the situation,” he said in assessing the distance between Spurs and the top sides.

Conte was barely eight weeks into the job, and he had already masterminded a draw against Liverpool and seven wins from his first 12 games in charge.


But the chastening nature of that defeat to Chelsea — followed by an equally insipid showings in the return leg and a Premier League defeat to the same opponents later in the month — began a series of public utterances which raised questions over whether he would even stick around. After losing to Burnley on Feb. 23, Conte publicly doubted whether he was the right man for the job.

Even after pulling off an improbable fourth-place finish by thrashing Norwich 5-0 on the final day of the season, he still refused to commit to remaining as Tottenham head coach amid concerns the club would not back him to the extent he felt necessary to turn Spurs into title challengers.Conte knows enough about London to “mind the gap.” Optimism that this “gap” between them and the top clubs is finally closing comes from six summer signings, a full preseason working under the Italian and an encouraging 4-1 win over Southampton on the opening day. But Sunday’s trip to Chelsea represents the first meeting of the Premier League’s traditional Big Six this season, and will also offer the clearest indication yet whether Conte’s rebuild is on track.Both Conte’s brilliance and his volatility are well documented. The 53-year-old is an elite manager, but has never spent more than three consecutive seasons at the same club, often leaving in acrimonious circumstances. Juventus were Serie A champions when he quit after one day of preseason ahead of 2014-15 following disagreements over the club’s transfer strategy. He was sacked from Chelsea in 2018 after falling out with the hierarchy and several senior players, again over the direction of the club. Conte departed Inter Milan last May in opposition to an unloading of top stars triggered by financial problems related in part to COVID-19.He did win four Serie A titles and the 2016-17 Premier League with Chelsea during this span, but his combustible personality always seemed an improbable fit with Tottenham, a club that has long prioritised financial prudence and long-term planning over short-term, boom-and-bust under the watchful eye of chairman Daniel Levy.

Conte’s unstable rhetoric around last season effectively built to a two-day meeting in Italy as the summer began and, together with the club’s football managing director, Fabio Paratici, they finalised a list of summer targets. Significant backing was required. Previous managers — perhaps most obviously Mauricio Pochettino — became disillusioned when failing to receive the support they felt necessary to take Spurs to the top, meeting a brick wall built from financial caution. This time, it was different. Levy and the majority shareholders, ENIC, agreed to help realise Conte’s vision for the future. It was a significant moment.

February’s departure of the club’s longstanding director of technical performance, Steve Hitchen, was a sign of Paratici’s growing influence, but here, emboldened by Conte guiding Spurs back into the Champions League, was a real sea change in Tottenham’s willingness to support their head coach.

Previously, players were signed with potential and a clearly defined future transfer market value. This time, they were in large part being targeted for the here and now. The arrival of 33-year-old wing-back Ivan Perisic embodies this shift more than any other signing. Spurs announced a £150m cash injection from ENIC that’s helped finance a spending spree with Perisic, RicharlisonFraser ForsterYves BissoumaDjed Spence and Clement Lenglet arriving at the club.

This activity has generated a sense of momentum that quashed any concerns England captain Harry Kane could look for to leave the club — having tried to force a move away last summer — and, significantly, most of these signings were acquired early in the window, giving Conte a full preseason to work with his new players.

Conte’s training sessions are infamously tough. An agent of one player at the club told ESPN about double sessions involving tens of shuttle runs at the end. Another expressed surprise that Conte chose to work his players so hard in a session open to the cameras in Korea that Kane was sick by the side of the pitch, while others including Son Heung-Min could hardly stand during a brutal running drill. But the players have fully bought into Conte’s methods, in part seduced by his track record, and respectful of the level of control he clearly enjoys having been wholeheartedly supported by Levy in the transfer market.

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ESPN has also been made aware of other data their coaches are using to explain the need to improve player fitness, including the high number of late goals Tottenham concede. If last season’s Premier League matches are broken down into 10-minute blocks, with each of the nine segments assigned an aggregate score based on goals scored and conceded in those minutes, Liverpool and Manchester City are the only sides ending with a positive score in all of them. Spurs had positive net scores in the first eight, but in those crucial final 10 minutes of matches, they scored seven and conceded 10, leaving them on -3. By contrast, City were +15 and Liverpool +14 in the final 10 minutes of matches last season; Chelsea were +8.

There are a plethora of reasons to explain this, not least the manner in which City in particular wear teams down with their level of possession, but it is one indicator which Conte is demanding greater intensity from his players for the entire game — they also fell behind in 17 league matches last season, a figure higher than Arsenal (15), Liverpool (12), Chelsea (11) and City (eight). Combined with Conte’s devotion to a 3-4-3 system, the players have been left under no illusions about the physical and tactical expectations placed upon them this season. Although it still remains a tall order on paper to match City and Liverpool, perhaps the biggest doubt over Spurs remains their ability to implement what is being asked of them under pressure.

The “Spursy” tag — a derogatory term essentially meaning “to falter with the winning line in sight” — is one the club have found difficult to shake. They were superb for the majority of the Pochettino era but ultimately ended his five-year stint without a trophy to show for the progress made. Their last success of any description remains the 2008 League Cup.

Can Richarlison turn Tottenham into title challengers?

James Olley debates how Richarlison could fit into Antonio Conte’s plans at Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho’s appointment as his successor was made with the idea in mind of fostering a siege mentality to galvanise the group, but he never achieved it. Nuno Espirito Santo’s 17-game tenure was a brief as it was unmemorable, and so Conte now finds himself charged with responsibility of changing this mindset. When asked in May whether he knew what “Spursy'” meant, he said: “I am trying to cut this.”

The only way is to win silverware. A smaller step on that path is improving Tottenham’s record away at the traditional Big Six. They have lost 37 of their last 60 league games away to Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Manchester United and Chelsea, winning only nine. Although Spurs beat City and drew at Liverpool under Conte, they have won just one league game at Chelsea since 1990 — a 3-1 victory in April 2018.

“Obviously when you face that kind of opponent [in Chelsea] it’s a good moment to judge yourself,” captain Hugo Lloris said after their opening-day win over Southampton.Chelsea may have the proven pedigree but their summer transfer business is far from complete, and a new defence is bedding in after the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. There are certainly worse moments to play them.By contrast, Tottenham have enjoyed a more settled preseason, building nicely from the last. Spurs improved considerably in the second half of last season, winning 10 of their last 14 league games to show a level of form, which prompted Conte to suggest he wished they could have another crack at Chelsea soon to see where they were at.This weekend, he will finally get his chance.

Twice as nice! MLS All-Stars beat Liga MX All-Stars behind Vela, Ruidiaz goals

By Johnathan Wright @jwrightofficial

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022, 10:54 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. – With goals from Carlos Vela and Raul Ruidiaz, the MLS All-Stars held off the Liga MX All-Stars for the second straight year, securing a 2-1 victory in the 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on Wednesday night at Allianz Field. The MLS All-Stars got the party started early with Vela heading home a cross from LAFC teammate Diego Palacios in the third minute. The Black & Gold’s left back showcased his skill by chopping a Liga MX defender before serving in a perfectly-placed ball to his forward on the back post. Liga MX pushed to find an equalizer before the halftime break, with their best chance coming from Juan Dinenno in the 44th minute. The Pumas UNAM striker elevated for a header after receiving a cross from Juan Escobar inside the 18-yard box. He connected well, directing the ball to the lower left corner, but Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair pushed the attempt wide in front of his home supporters’ section. Ruidiaz added to the MLS All-Stars’ lead in the second half through a penalty kick after New England Revolution playmaker Carles Gil wiggled his way through the Liga MX defense after receiving a pass from FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira. The Seattle Sounders FC striker made no mistake in the 73rd minute. Liga MX pulled one back in the 85th minute when Kevin Álvarez blasted a shot from outside the box that zoomed past New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Mexico national team forward Alexis Vega was credited with the assist, but the comeback attempt proved futile as MLS celebrated a win for a second straight year.


  • 3′ – MLS – Carlos Vela | WATCH
  • 73′ — MLS — Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
  • 85′ — Liga MX — Kevin Álvarez | WATCH

Three things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: It was an electric evening, with the MLS All-Stars claiming bragging rights over the Liga MX All-Stars for the second year in a row. MLS won the first iteration on penalty kicks in 2021 at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium. MLS Commissioner Don Garber hinted it might be the last time we see these two leagues face off in an All-Star match, but in 2023 an expanded Leagues Cup will be introduced, where all of the clubs from MLS and Liga MX will compete in an annual, month-long tournament.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The game-winner from Vela in the third minute. The LAFC duo of Vela and Palacios showcased their league-leading quality with a clinical cross and header combination.

ALL-STAR GAME MVP: Dayne St. Clair earned MVP on the night by making four saves in front of his home fans.


MLS All-Stars prize party in St. Paul: “Everybody’s enjoyed being with each other”

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  • Thursday, Aug 11, 2022, 01:42 AM

Wednesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota represented a showcase for the top talents from North America’s largest leagues, a lively international spectacle for fans of many stripes and a much-deserved close-up for the Twin Cities’ thriving soccer culture and the graceful venue at its heart.

“A great group of guys”

Above all, the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target provided a celebration, a gathering of luminaries both on and off the field that served as another milestone for an explosively-growing league, and a pleasant distraction before the 2022 season’s final sprint.

“The most pleasing thing was the competitive nature of all the guys,” said MLS All-Stars and Minnesota United FC coach Adrian Heath after his team’s 2-1 victory over their Liga MX counterparts at Allianz Field. “Everybody’s actually, I think, enjoyed being with each other in the group. So the atmosphere in the dressing room is terrific. The guys have been an absolute pleasure to be around for the last two or three days.”

The honor of making this roster is one thing; the firsthand experience offers another level.

“A great group of guys here,” said Loons goalkeeper and All-Star MVP Dayne St. Clair. “Just seeing some guys off the field and being teammates with them, because sometimes when you’re playing against some guys, they’re a little bit different than when you’re teammates with them. So that’s been nice, and I’m sure they’d probably say the same about me.”

The MLS All-Star Game provides a change of pace for elite professionals accustomed to facing off as rivals in club play, a chance to work as teammates, to train and break bread together. This one, in particular, had a real family atmosphere, with children like Walker Zimmerman’s young son Tucker front and center.


Walker Zimmerman and his son Tucker play after the match


The Englishman is now an MLS veteran, having led Orlando City SC into MLS before moving north to oversee a comparable project at MNUFC. He’s seen the growth and maturation of US and Canadian soccer, and spoke with pride of his club progressing along a similar journey, a story they and their supporters proudly shared with the rest of the league this week.

“The way that the club has shown itself,” said Heath, “I knew that people would turn up. I didn’t think that so many would turn up last night in the skills game, that speaks volumes. And then tonight, I knew the stadium would be full tonight.

“It’s been a great way to showcase what the club is about. I’m so pleased for all the ownership and everything we’ve tried to do here, and it shows. Six years in, the club is now firmly on the map and I think that we can only get bigger and stronger and better.”


Mutual respect between leagues

Such links stretched across to the Liga MX side as well. The cut and thrust of the game itself, with heavy tackles, emotional reactions and other signs of full commitment from the players, revealed this to be an exhibition match with some stakes, some pride on the line.

But the nastiness of yore between the US and Mexican national teams, the bad blood that so enflamed past border matchups, has evolved into something closer to mutual respect and recognized commonalities.

“We had a great game. Like I said to the boys, this is a great experience, and especially because we got to meet and to know each other,” said Liga MX All-Stars and Atlas manager Diego Cocca, an Argentine who has coached across Latin America.

“Rivalry is good. We can grow. If you have a strong rival, you can grow, you can get better. And both leagues can grow like this. And I think that the barometer is going to be the Concacaf Champions League. We came here and we lost, they can go there [to Mexico] and they can lose. For example, at Estadio Jalisco, the result could be different.”

New fronts of competition between the two leagues loom large, like the upcoming 2022 Campeones Cup between Atlas and New York City FC, and next year’s launch of a dramatically expanded Leagues Cup. The hope is that broad, sustained, toe-to-toe competition between member clubs can expand on the spectacle served up by these last two All-Star meetings.

“MLS won today. We had many opportunities; we played very well. There was no big difference, there is no big gap between the leagues,” said Cocca. And those who’ve followed the region’s soccer scene for any length of time will recognize the quiet revolution represented in his words.

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8/5/22  EPL Season Starts Fri, CFC Players make HS teams, Indy 11 home Sat, England wins Euros, MLS All Stars Wed night, MLS Skills Tues night

Tune In to the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G  MLS Allstar Challenge Tues 8:30 pm  
Follow along on social media or catch it on ESPN2, TUDN, TSN or TVA Sports TUES NIGHT starting at 5:30 p.m. PT / 7:30 p.m. CT / 8:30 p.m. ET.

The top stars from MLS and Liga MX will face off tonight in the 2022 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G. The two-hour event will feature a team of ten MLS players battling ten of Liga MX’s best in five different challenges.

Shooting Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Players will be shooting at 11 targets from distance with varying values to rack up as many points as possible for their team.

Touch Challenge presented by Old Spice
In this ultimate test of touch, players will have to collect and control balls coming at them from different angles in order to set themselves up to score points in the Old Spice apparatus.

Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Player’s creativity and skill will be on display, as they connect with a teammate to finish with style. The more style, the more points.

Passing Challenge presented by BOUNTY
With a variety of targets spread across the pitch, players must place their passes with pinpoint accuracy to earn big points.

Crossbar Challenge presented by GilletteLabs
As the final chance for players to earn points for their teams, this skill will test players’ accuracy by striking their passes at varying targets in 60-second rounds.

MLS AllStars vs LIGA MX Allstars Wed, Aug 10 8:30 pm ESPN

For the second consecutive season, the MLS All-Stars will take on the best of LIGA MX on Wednesday night, August 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Allianz Filed in Minnesota and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision in the U.S and in more than 190 countries around the world.  Find out all the events surrounding the game, here is the full roster for MLS and LIGA MX.  Tuesday night 8:30 pm is the Skills Challenge on ESPN 2 looks worth turning in for on ESPN2, TUDN.  

European Soccer Kicks off Fri, EPL/Germany/France Start

The Euro leagues are starting the season a week early with the World Cup interrupting things from Nov 20-Dec 12, the season had to kick off earlier (Euro League Preview)   Some exciting moves and transfers this off-season with tons of players moving including the most American’s in the EPL (7)  and England’s 2nd Division The Championship in a long time.  America’s own Leeds United State of America has the only American Coach in Jesse Marsch along with newbies Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson on the roster.  Fulham America returns to the EPL with a pair of American starters in Jedi Robinson at left back and Co-Captain Tim Ream at center Back.  Newcomer American CB Chris Richard’s joins Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich, while GK Matt Turner will battle at GK for Arsenal while of course Captain America is still battling for playing time for the German at Chelsea.  I guess its prediction time here for the EPL – I will reserve my predictions on the other leagues until next week. EPL Promo video

Shane’s EPL predictions

  1. Liverpool 
  2.  Man City
  3.  Arsenal
  4. Tottenham
  5. Chelsea 6 ) Crystal Palace.  7) Man United

Also I think Leeds finishes mid table with American Jesse Marsch in charge, and Fulham will stay up this season!  Yes I like Liverpool to find a way past city as Halland has just an ok year at City.  I think Arsenal with Arteta finally constructing his own team, will finally break thru and actually finish 3rd just above Conte and Tottenham.  I think Chelsea’s Manager Tuchel is an absolute idiot and how that he’s spent billions buying new players his team will drop even further down the table – unbelievable just how bad he is – they slip to 5th and finally I like Palace with American Chris Richard starting in the middle back taking home 6th above a Man United that will lose Ronaldo by mid season. Not thrilled to see NBC is only showing 2 games all weekend on cable TV only USA Network today at 3 pm Arsenal vs Crystal Palace and Saturday 12:30 for the Everton vs Chelsea (Pulisic) game. Yes they spent millions to force you to buy Peacock streaming period. (full previews and tons of stories in The Ole Ballcoach).  Peacock Free Trial Oh at least ESPN is showing a German game this weekend 12:30 Saturday as Dortmund and American Reyna face Bayer Leverkusen.

Indy home vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds Sat Night, 7 pm @ the Mike, TV 23

Indy Eleven is home for the 3rd of a three-match homestand Sat night at the Mike against Pittsburgh.  A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets.  Cool to see former Carmel FC GK coach and former Indy 11  GK Jordan Farr get recognition , he returns home to face our Indy 11 Aug 27th

Women’s Euro’s England Brings It Home

Wow what a scene at a packed Wimbledon Stadium as England (the ladies at least) finally brought home a Championship.  The largest crowd to ever see a Euro Final (Men’s or Women’s) saw the England and Germany battle to a 1-1 tie in regulation before Chloe Kelly scored the winner in Extra-time to take home the Trophy.  England now has their Golden Moment – much like the US ladies Brandi Chastain did in 1999.  For a country that actually didn’t allow women or girls to play soccer until just a number of years ago – England and all of Europe has come a long way.  Couple this with the Amazing Ferminina Brazil win over Argentina in a packed house in South America – and its evident that women’s soccer (at least the international game) is here to stay. (Ton’s of Stories in the The Ole Ballcoach) Will this turn into more coverage and higher pay for player at the club level – we will see.  In the meantime – the US and England are going to capitalize on the moment by playing a friendly at Wimbley Stadium between the Defending World Cup Champion US Women and the newly Crowned Euro Champs England on Fox Sports 1, Friday, Sept 9th .  Put that in the Calendar now – finally the US will face a formidable opponent – we’ll see if the rest of the world is catching up – just 9 months before the next Women’s World Cup next Summer.  Great Euro Cup Saves. (see more saves below)

MLS AllStars vs LIGA MX Allstars Wed, Aug 10 8:30 pm ESPN

For the second consecutive season, the MLS All-Stars will take on the best of LIGA MX on Wednesday night, August 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Allianz Filed in Minnesota and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision in the U.S and in more than 190 countries around the world.  Find out all the events surrounding the game, here is the full roster for MLS and LIGA MX.  Tuesday night 8:30 pm is the Skills Challenge on ESPN 2 looks worth turning in for on ESPN2, TUDN.  

Huge Congrats to our Former and current Carmel FC players and GKs who made their high school teams!  Its sounds like we have over half the squad on CHS Girls Varsity & JV along with a handful on 9th grade. We also have a bunch on the boys side and players at Zionsville, Guerin, Westfield, and more.

CFC GKU !! 10 Carmel High School GKs played at Carmel FC (All 7 Ladies) (3 Boys)

On the Girls Side for Carmel High – we are proud that all 7 of the GK’s on the roster are former or current Carmel FC Players.  Seniors Bethany Ducat and Aubree Empie, along with Junior Chloe Fouts,  JV has Claire and Mary Grace, while 9th Grade has current CFCer’s Paulina Arana and Lilly Bose.  On the boys side the Varsity has former CFC’ers Charlie Featherson and Jacob Havice, and JV has Will Hartsock. Both our Zionsville GKs made it as Cooper Cass made the Freshmen team along with Avery Keller making Varsity Girls. 

A huge reminder for those who didn’t make it – you are really good players – Carmel is a huge school – chances are you all would have made it at HSE/Fishers/Guerin or Noblesville. Keep the head up and get ready for the club fall CFC season!     

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules

Former Carmel FC GK signs to play College Ball at Savannah College of Art

We started training Bethany at U11 and are just absolutely thrilled one of our former Carmel FC GKs has announced where she is playing college ball next year after this season season at Carmel High.  “I am extremely blessed to announce my verbal commitment to continue my athletic and academic career at Savannah College of Art and Design.  So much thanks to God, my coaches, teammates, family and friends for their endless support.  Can’t Wait for this next journey!”  #gobees says Bethany!! Good luck – can’t wait to see her and the Greyhounds beginning next week as the State Runner’s Up Carmel Girls start at home Thurs night at home vs Brownsburg 7 pm.  Some highlights


Coach Shane has Officially joined the High School Reffing ranks this season – so keep an eye out for me at game near you 😊, I have some limited Carmel and Guerin games mostly JV so far.   Of course I will still be reffing CDC Games and some Travel games this fall as well along with coaching up the Carmel FC Goalkeepers and helping the U13 Boys with Coach Mark Stumpf.  (see cool links on Reffing below)

Small Sided Reffing Classes

Indiana Soccer is excited to announce the next opportunities to earn the Small sided referee license – enabling individuals 12 and older the opportunity to referee in the 4v4, 7v7 and 9v9 play formats.  It is an excellent way by which to help clubs use younger referees for their rec games as well as ISL fall season matches.  It is also a great opportunity for the older folks to get their feet into the world of officiating soccer matches, without the stress of having to cover a normal 11v11 match. Below are course you may register for.  If your club is interested in hosting a course, they may do so by clicking on the following link and completing the application process. Click Here  August 28, 2022  Sunday 2 – 5pm  Noblesville United Soccer Club / 8501 E 196th Street  Noblesville, IN  46062  $30 


Fri, Aug 4

3 pm USA                            Crystal Palace(Richards) vs Arsenal (Turner)  

Sat, Aug 5

7:30 am Peacock               Fulham (Reem, Jedi) vs Liverpool

10 am Peacock                  Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson) vs Wolverhampton

12:30 pm USA                    Everton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

12:30 ABC                            Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bayer Leverkusen

3 pm ABC                             Atlanta United vs Seattle Sounders  

7 pm TV 23                          INDY 11 v Pittsburgh

7 pm ESPN+                        Charlotte vs Chicago Fire

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Philly Union

10:30 pm ESPN+               Portland vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, Aug 6

9 am Peacock                     Man United vs Brentford

9 am bein Spor                  Lille (Weah) vs Auxerre

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stuttgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Man City vs West Ham United  

5 pm Para +                        San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs KC

6 pm Para+                         Chicago Red Stars vs NY Gothem FC (Rapino, Cook)

7 pm Para+                         Orlando Pride vs Angel City

9 pm Uniivsion                  America vs Juarez

Wed, Aug 10

3 pm Para+, Univision    Real Madrid vs Frankfurt (Supercup)

7:30 pm Para+                   Washington Spirit vs Portland Thorns NWSL

8:30 pm ESPN MLS AllStar Game USA vs Liga MX

9 pm ESPN+                        San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Loundon United USL

Sat, Aug 13

7:30 am USA                       Aston Villa vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                  RB Leipzig vs Koln

10 am USA                          Man City vs Bournemouth

10 am Peacock                  Southampton vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

10 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)

12:30 pm NBC                    Brentford vs Man United 

12:30 ABC                            Schalke vs Mgladbach 

3 pm ESPN+ Desp            Barcelona (Dest) vs Rayo Vallencano

7 pm ESPN+                        INDY 11 @  Hartford Athletic

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Atlanta United

10:30 pm Para+                 San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Orlando Pride NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN+               LA FC vs Charlotte

Sun, Aug 14

9 am USA                             Nottingham Forest vs West Ham United  

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

11:30 am ESPN+                Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg

4 pm ESPN+                        Almeria vs Real Madrid  

3 pm Para+                         Seattle OL Reign vs NY Gothem FC NWSL  

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Chicago Red Stars

Mon, Aug 15

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm para+                   Juventus vs Sassulo

3 pm USA                            Liverpool vs Crystal Palace(Richards)

Fri, Aug 19

2:30 pm ESPN+                  Mgladbach vs Hertha  

3 pm beIN Sport               Lyon vs Troyes

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs KC  NWSL

10 pm ESPN                        LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

10 pm FS1                            Juerez vs Pachuca

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw


Weston McKennie dislocates shoulder, possibly putting his World Cup in jeopardy

McKennie’s injury creates more World Cup anxiety

Brandon Vazquez’s USMNT case grows during MLS Golden Boot challenge

Brenden Aaronson’s incredible assist; Tyler Adams: ‘I’m not Kalvin Phillips’ – Video
Report: Chicago Fire’s Gabriel Slonina to transfer to Chelsea in $15 million move
USMNT’s Gabriel Slonina unveiled by Chelsea, loaned back to Chicago

How many USMNT players are in the English Premier League?

A USMNT Premier League migration shifts the focus on American players in Europe – Henry Bushnell Yahoo

American Goal Keepers in the EPL thru the Years – Men in Blazers

Matt Turner’s First Day at Arsenal
England-US women’s game at Wembley sells out in one day

Cool Miked Up US Ladies with Mal Pugh



MLS Allstar Game Team Roster

Chicharito named 2022 MLS All-Star Game captain

 Apple’s MLS Deal Shows It Wants to Distribute Rights, Not Buy Them
Galaxy, America triumph in double-header at glitzy new stadium

Leagues Cup friendlies showing L.A. is a soccer market

What an Awesome View from LA Galaxy vs Atlas in SoFi Stadium
Riqui Puig to LA Galaxy: the biggest summer in MLS history just got bigger

2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target

MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G

The MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G returns as the best in MLS take on the LIGA MX All-Stars in the annual skills competition:

  • Tuesday night 7:30 PM CT / 8:30 PM ET
  • Watch on: ESPN2, TUDN, TSN or TVA Sports


Women’s Soccer Euro’s

England’s Euro 2022 success is a platform for the next generation  ESPNFC Tom Hamilton

Women’s attendances have dominated European football in 2022  Chris Wright
England win Women’s Euro 2022, but the tournament’s biggest victor is the sport itself
  EPSNFC Mark Ogden
Euro 2022 delight sparks boom time for English women’s football

Chloe Kelly sends nation into raptures with extra-time Euros final winner for England

Serial winner Wiegman helps England ‘change society’ in Euro triumph

London soaks up Euros win with giant party

Beauty and Beast – the two goals that turned England into European champions

‘What dreams are made of’: How world reacted to England’s Euro win as Queen sends heartfelt message

It’s coming home! England rejoices as soccer women win Euros

England vs Germany, Euro 2022 final player ratings: Mary Earps stars as substitutes steal the show again

England beats Germany in European Championship final

Furious Germany claim they should have been awarded penalty for ‘clear handball’ in Euros final

Germany boss baffled by penalty call in Euro 2022 final defeat

Lioness Chloe Kelly’s Celebration – peaks Nike Sports Bra

Netherlands captain Van Veenendaal retires
England’s Kelly ‘always taking shirt off’ to celebrate winner

England’s Euro 2022 winners urge next PM to support girls’ football

Debinha gives holders Brazil Copa America Femenina win
Brazil triumphs again, but Copa America Femenina is getting stronger
  ESPNFC Tim Vickery

England’s Kelly Chloe scored the game winner in Extra Time to beat Germany and Bring it Home !


Premier League 2022-23: Full fixture list
Premier League season preview: ‘Big Six’ fortunes are mixe

Premier League’s top fourhopefuls primed for tense race

Conte sets sights on Premier League, Champions League glory at Tottenham

Jesus’ winning mentality contagious for Arsenal players, says Arteta

Haaland embracing life out his ‘comfort zone’ in Premier League

Leicester keeper Schmeichel to join Nice

Premier League seasonpreview: Focusing on the relegation candidates

Premier League season preview: Focusing on the mid-table battlers
Nunez upstages Haaland, Alvarez in Liverpool’s Community Shield     


Euro League Predictions

When does the 2022-23 season start across Europe?

Barcelona beat NY Red Bulls 2-0 to cap unbeaten US tour
Real Madrid vs. Juventus provides soccer satisfaction for 93,702 fans at Rose Bowl

Benzema, Asensio on target as Real Madrid down Juventus 2-0 in friendly


Our own DOC Juergen Sommer the first American Goalkeeper to Start in England

American Goal Keepers in the EPL thru the Years – Men in Blazers  Check out who was in there first – our own DOC Juergen Sommer.

Great Euro Cup Women Saves

Ochoa and McCarthy of LA Galaxy Share Love after the 2-0 win by LA

Great Save by Joe Willis of RSL  https://twitter.com/MLS/status/1555048754637688837

Goalkeeper Training – the Block

Matt Turner’ Great Saves

Matt Turner’s First Day at Arsenal

Gigi Buffon Footsave vs Zidane https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cf_A-groFEo/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY

REFFING This Crazy Game

Offside Law Update

MLS Allstar Game Crew Confirmed

Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul refereed the UEFA Women’s EURO final on Sunday!

New MLS Next Pro Rule Will Put An End To Players Faking Injury

Small Sided Reffing Classes —

Indiana Soccer is excited to announce the next opportunities to earn the Small sided referee license – enabling inviduals 12 and older the opportunity to referee in the 4v4, 7v7 and 9v9 play formats.  It is an excellent way by which to help clubs use younger referees for their rec games as well as ISL fall season matches.  It is also a great opportunity for the older folks to get their feet into the world of officiateing soccer matches, without the stress of having to cover a normal 11v11 match.Below are course you may register for.  If your club is interested in hosting a course, they may do so by clicking on the following link and completing the application process. Click Here  August 28, 2022  Sunday 2 – 5pm  Noblesville United Soccer Club / 8501 E 196th Street  Noblesville, IN  46062  $30 

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My 3 Thoughts on the England-Germany Euro Final Grant Wahl  Jul 31


LONDON — England beat Germany 2-1 after extra-time in the Euro 2022 final here on Sunday before a Euro record crowd of 87,192 Wembley Stadium. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• Chloe Kelly, meet history. At a moment when nearly the entirety of Wembley was dreading what might happen in a penalty-kick shootout (not usually England’s thing, especially against Germany), Kelly made sure they wouldn’t happen by scoring the game-winner during a goalmouth scramble after a corner kick. Kelly’s first shot was saved by German keeper Merle Frohms, but the Man City forward stuck with it and hit it home to send the crowd into raptures. Kelly celebrated by ripping off her shirt and running wildly toward her teammates in her sports bra, and anyone in the U.S. who was watching couldn’t help but think back to Brandi Chastain doing the same thing in 1999. As has been the case in much of the tournament, England’s depth ended up making a huge difference in the game. Kelly and fellow second-half sub Ella Toone scored both of England’s goals, and England was more dangerous after the subs started coming into the game. (If there had been another game, I would have wanted to see Alessia Russo start up front instead of Ellen White.) But if you’re Sarina Wiegman, England’s coach, who started the exact same lineup in all six Euro games, you could also argue that it’s a killer for your opponent when you can bring on players with the quality that England has. There are a lot of them for the deserved European champions.

• Germany missed Alexandra Popp. You hate to see any injury remove a player from a major final, but Germany losing Popp to a pregame warmup injury was especially cruel. Popp had scored in every game of this tournament, including both of Germany’s goals in the 2-1 semifinal win over France. Germany just wasn’t as dangerous in front of goal with Lea Schüller in Popp’s place, but there was more to it than that. Popp sets the tone for Germany with her hell-bent ruthlessness, constant energy and fear she strikes in opponents. She’s a big reason why Germany’s press is so effective, and it just wasn’t the same without her. (Surprisingly, England was the better pressing team on Sunday.) Popp had put in so much work to come back from injury and be arguably the most influential player of this tournament. The final was diminished without her.

• The referee could have done a better job to prevent an overly physical game. Frankly, I was surprised that Stéphanie Frappart of France, the world’s top female referee, didn’t get the final and the job was given instead to Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Monzul didn’t do nearly enough early in the game to set the tone that rough-housing wouldn’t be allowed. Literally the first entry in my game notes from the second minute was: “Ref letting GER be physical early.” And it only continued from there. Monzul giving only three yellow cards in the first half—two of them to England!—while Germany was chippy the entire time was about three cards too few, and it was stunning that Germany’s Lena Oberdorf didn’t draw a yellow until the 57th minute. This game had too many instances of players ending up on the ground due to rough play, leading to too many stoppages, and while Germany deserved the majority of the blame for that, Monzul deserved some too.

Premium: England Has Its Own 1999

Women’s soccer takes over England as the Lionesses win Euro 2022 on home soil Grant Wahl Aug 1 

LONDON — The comparison first hit me on Tuesday night, not long before England’s semifinal with Sweden, when I was outside Bramall Lane in Sheffield, and the bus carrying the England women’s national team happened to arrive near where I was standing. As I observed the scene of the home fans surrounding and serenading the bus with cheers, one thing in particular stood out: The players inside the bus were shooting cellphone videos of the spectacle just as much as the supporters were turning their cameras on the team.All-encompassing national fervor is new to the Lionesses, who have long toiled in obscurity compared to their men’s counterparts. And it made me think back to the same thing happening with the U.S. women’s national team players before the first game of the 1999 World Cup. As their bus made its way up the New Jersey Turnpike to what would be a sold-out Giants Stadium, it slowly dawned on the USWNT that the overwhelming traffic was there for them.

It’s not that women’s soccer was totally absent from English culture. After all, the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) was literally about a women’s soccer team in London. But if you recall, 1) a major plot line was about Jess (Parminder Nagra), whose family didn’t want her to be playing the sport, and 2) “Success” for young women’s players meant earning a scholarship to play college soccer in the U.S. (since England didn’t have anything remotely like it).

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A transcendent cultural moment was happening, and so the stunned U.S. players shot video of something they had never seen before (albeit with old-school camcorders instead of cellphones). We all know where that monthlong American celebration ended: with a World Cup title before a crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. England’s version of 1999 took place in 2022, and it culminated on Sunday with the Lionesses beating Germany 2-1 in extra time at Wembley Stadium. And in a perfect piece of symmetry, England forward Chloe Kelly celebrated her game-winning goal in the 111th minute by repeating what the U.S.’s Brandi Chastain did after her World Cup-clinching penalty kick in 1999: ripping off her jersey, twirling it over her head and celebrating in her sports bra with her teammates.Over the last month, England fell irretrievably in love with its women’s soccer team. There’s nothing like being in a host country when it performs well in a major international soccer tournament. The national pride, the living and dying with every game, the spontaneous celebrations in bars and public squares—they take over a country’s daily culture. USA 1994, France 1998, USA 1999, South Korea 2002, Portugal 2004, Germany 2006, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018: All you have to do is say the country and the year, and it conjures some of the best memories I have of covering this sport. (I also remember the epic cultural sadness when those host countries went out of those tournaments; see: Brazil 2014.)Now you can add England 2022. The images of the Lionesses’ six Euro games, all of them victories, will be imprinted on their supporters forever: The 68,871 fans who packed Man United’s Old Trafford for their opening 1-0 win over Austria; the stunning force of thrashing former World Cup champion Norway 8-0 (in a game that was 6-0 at halftime); the soul-stirring comeback against Spain in the quarterfinals to win 2-1 on Georgia Stanway’s thumping extra-time wonder strike; Alessia Russo’s outrageous backheel goal in a 4-0 semifinal win over Sweden; and the wild celebrations after Kelly’s winner against the Germans.You can measure the country’s newfound passion in any number of ways. If you’re into data, the national TV audience in the U.K. peaked at a giant 17.4 million during Sunday’s final (with another audience almost the exact same size in Germany), and 87,192 fans filled Wembley—a record attendance for any game ever at a European Championship, men’s or women’s.But there are other examples of how besotted Blighty became over the Lionesses. Like the way everyone stayed in the stadium for nearly an hour after the final whistle and sang “Sweet Caroline” with the England players, who performed running slip-and-slides on the massive piles of silver confetti on the field. It was as if nobody wanted to leave, and so they didn’t.Or take the conversation I had before the game in the press section with a friend of mine, an English woman who has covered women’s soccer here for years. Knowing how hard she has been working, I asked her if she had taken the time to step back on Sunday and reflect on what we were seeing in front of us for an England women’s soccer game.“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “I’ve cried three times today already.”As the fútbol-loving University of Michigan professor Andy Markovits has noted, women’s soccer has had a harder time breaking through in many of the biggest men’s soccer countries than it has had in nations like the United States or Scandinavian countries. England, in particular, has been notorious when it comes to the massive culture around men’s soccer denigrating the women’s game. (You still see and hear plenty of it, especially on social media.) As was the case in several other nations, England’s soccer federation, the FA, banned women from playing the sport for decades (from 1921 to 1968). I thought it was a good thing that the historical context was being publicized during this tournament; when you arrived at the train station in Sheffield, you were greeted by large signs with all the details of England’s women’s soccer ban and the way women defied that ban and attempted to build a soccer culture anyway.But the official neglect of the women’s game in England made its mark. When I started covering soccer in 1996, I couldn’t believe that England’s team wasn’t any better than it was. The Lionesses didn’t even qualify for the World Cups in 1991, ’99 and 2003, and they didn’t advance past the final eight in ’95, ’07 or ’11. English talent did exist in those days. Kelly Smith was an attacking phenomenon who wasn’t appreciated nearly enough in her own country during her playing days. When Smith was at her best and not dealing with severe injuries during her NWSL and Arsenal days, she could be unstoppable.(A quick Kelly Smith story: When she was drafted No. 2 overall out of Seton Hall by the NWSL’s Philadelphia Charge in 2001, I idiotically criticized the Charge for picking her that high. Not only did she prove me completely wrong, but she also later wrote in her memoir that my dumb comments had motivated her to succeed. When I finally met up with Kelly in person at the 2015 World Cup—we were working together for Fox Sports TV—I profusely apologized, and now I’m lucky to say we’re friends.)It’s not that women’s soccer was totally absent from English culture. After all, the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) was literally about a women’s soccer team in London. But if you recall, (1) a major plot line was about Jess (Parminder Nagra), whose family didn’t want her to be playing the sport, and (2) “success” for young women’s players meant earning a scholarship to play college soccer in the U.S. (since England didn’t have anything remotely like that opportunity to play).It’s still wild to me that U.S. soccer culture was in a place then that David Beckham, who was at the height of his global powers, became better known in the U.S. from that movie (which he wasn’t in) than from anything he had done on the soccer field to that point.Still, Kelly Smith and Bend It Like Beckham were almost like one-offs when it came to women’s soccer culture in England. The national team was hardly considered world-class. But things have changed in the past decade since Team GB’s women drew big crowds for soccer at the 2012 London Olympics (while going out in the quarterfinals to Canada). Clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and others have invested more in their women’s teams; sponsorship and television revenue has spiked; and the WSL has become the women’s league with the best depth of quality in Europe. England has made at least the semifinals of the last two women’s World Cups.England’s women’s soccer talent is no longer a one-off proposition. In fact, the calling card of this England team was how many players could beat you. No fewer than nine Lionesses scored goals in England’s six victories: Lucy Bronze, Lauren Hemp, Kelly, Fran Kirby, Beth Mead (the golden boot winner with six strikes), Russo, Stanway, Ella Toone and Ellen White. It was the substitutions by England’s Dutch coach, Sarina Wiegman, that changed the game in Sunday’s final—in which both England goals were scored by subs. (Let it also be said that the assist from midfielder Keira Walsh on Toone’s opener on Sunday was an absolute thing of beauty.)What happens now for England? How much will this Euro triumph change the culture here? That remains to be seen. The legacy of 1999 in the U.S. most definitely exists, but it hasn’t been linear; the NWSL seems to be here to stay after nine years, but it followed two pro leagues that each folded after three years. England’s WSL has an infrastructure, though, and the conditions are there for it to become the world’s best league if the investment continues to grow. And if that happens, it could become like the men’s Premier League, with the money and popularity to attract the majority of the world’s best players. We’ll soon find out if interest in the WSL gets a post-Euros boost.As for the Lionesses, there’s a World Cup in just a year, and they will be among the favorites to raise the trophy. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if England and the U.S. (which has won the last two World Cups) built a rivalry at the top of the sport, since there was a real competitive edge to their game in the 2019 World Cup semifinals won by the USWNT.Who knows? Maybe 2023 will end up being even bigger for England than 2022 has been. But there’s a reason why I think the growth of women’s soccer will be the biggest sports story of the next 50 years. One by one, country by country, more nations are going to have their 1999, or at least something close to it. The moment may happen at World Cups, or perhaps in continental championships like this one, and in some cases it may not even require them to win the trophy. What we saw here in England over the last month is how cultures change. And there’s no stopping this train now that it’s moving around the world.

Women’s Euro final smashes TV viewership records

Henry Bushnell  Mon, August 1, 2022 at 9:42 AM  Yahoo Soccer

As England’s victorious players gathered Monday with thousands of fans in Trafalgar Square to celebrate their first European soccer championship, the BBC released stunning TV viewership figures that quantified just how much of the nation they’d captivated.England’s 2-1 win over Germany in the Women’s Euro final, the BBC said, was the most-watched program of any kind in the United Kingdom in 2022, and the most-watched women’s soccer game ever in the UK.

The peak audience of 17.4 million, plus 5.9 million streams online and on mobile, represented a roughly 34% share of the UK’s entire population. (The 2022 Super Bowl, by comparison, drew a 36.9 rating in the U.S.)

It topped the previous mark of 11.7 million viewers who watched England lose to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup.Sunday’s Euro final also set records in Germany. Public broadcaster ARD said Monday that an average audience of 17.9 million watched the match, making it the most-viewed women’s soccer game ever in Germany as well.It narrowly topped the 16.95 million fans who watched Germany lose to Japan in the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.In the U.S., the most-viewed soccer telecast ever remains the 2015 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan. That was watched by an average of 26.7 million people, and peaked at over 30 million viewers — numbers comparable to the BBC’s for last summer’s men’s Euro final between England and Italy.Relative to population sizes, though, the UK numbers for both the men’s and women’s finals are far larger.Euro 2022 also shattered attendance records. The sold-out final at Wembley Stadium, seen live by 87,192 fans, drew more people than any other European championship game, women’s or men’s, ever.The entire tournament, hosted by 10 stadiums across England, drew more than 500,000 fans — more than twice the previous record of 240,055, set in 2017 — despite some big English clubs balking at staging games at their home grounds.Continental women’s championships in Africa and South America also filled stadiums. A record crowd of 45,000 watched Morocco beat Botswana to qualify for its first Women’s World Cup.

A USMNT Premier League migration shifts the focus on American players in Europe

  • Henry BushnellTue, August 2, 2022 at 5:34 PM Brenden Aaronson watched his dream move to the English Premier League materialize on a smartphone in a Vienna café.He was, on the afternoon of May 22, two hours away from becoming the second-most expensive American soccer player ever — if, that is, Leeds United could avoid relegation. So, while on a mini-vacation to the Austrian capital with his girlfriend, he tracked the final day of the EPL season frantically, “sweating and pacing around the café.”

He tried to relax; to sip a coffee; to escape the stress. As Leeds went ahead and relegation-rival Burnley went behind, and his $30 million transfer from Red Bull Salzburg crystallized, the 21-year-old from South Jersey ducked away to the bathroom “four or five times,” as his girlfriend swiped and refreshed for score updates.It was “awful,” Aaronson said a week later — but life-changing too. “I wanted to be part of the club so bad,” he said.A few days later, he was. A few months later, he is gearing up for his first Premier League season, and he isn’t alone. U.S. teammate Tyler Adams has joined him and American coach Jesse Marsch at Leeds, and West Yorkshire, out of nowhere, has become the nucleus of a growing U.S. men’s national team network in Europe.For years, that nucleus was in Germany. The Bundesliga became the destination for American teens and young pros. But over the past year, USMNT regulars and hopefuls have migrated to Great Britain. At least 14 of them will begin their 2022-23 seasons in England or Scotland.So it’s there, in the EPL (and on NBC networks), where American eyes will be trained between now and mid-November, when the 2022 World Cup begins.But there are dozens of other USMNT players scattered across the continent as well. According to Transfermarkt data compiled by Yanks Abroad, the number of Americans in the world’s top five leagues has skyrocketed in recent seasons. U.S.-eligible players made 436 appearances in those leagues in 2021-22, per the analysis, up a whopping 79% from 244 in 2019-20.That number could rise yet again over the coming 10 months. And whereas the Premier League represented the smallest share of appearances and minutes last season, it could leap to the top of the list by May.So, with the Prem and Bundesliga set to begin on Friday, here’s a rundown of USMNT World Cup roster contenders and their overseas club situations.


(TV: NBC, USA, Peacock in English; Telemundo in Spanish)

Christian Pulisic (winger, Chelsea) — Pulisic remains in West London — for now. Whether he’ll be there come Sept. 2 is an open question that might not be answered until transfer deadline day. Playing time had already been a sticking point for the U.S. star when, in July, Chelsea paid north of $50 million for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling.

But Pulisic has said he wants to stay and fight for his place, as he has ever since arriving at Stamford Bridge. And even if he isn’t starting regularly, he’ll be the USMNT’s catalyst in Qatar.

Tyler Adams (defensive midfielder, Leeds) — The 23-year-old’s $24 million move to Leeds made him the third-most expensive American player ever. It reunited him with Marsch, his former boss at New York Red Bulls and RB Leipzig. It also presented him with a near-perfect situation: He’ll be the first-choice defensive midfielder under a manager who trusts him in a pressing team in the most competitive league in the world.

In one sense, he’s a replacement for Kalvin Phillips, the English midfielder who departed for Man City. “But I didn’t come in to be Kalvin Phillips,” Adams recently clarified. “I came in to be Tyler Adams.”

Brenden Aaronson (attacking midfielder, Leeds) — Aaronson has been torching preseason opponents with his two preeminent skills: relentless pressing and transition passing. He is, as U.S. teammate Weston McKennie says, “an annoying gnat, like a fly that you can’t get out of your face” when you have the ball. When he wins it off you, he can carve up defenses in an instant.

He is, somewhat remarkably, not a first-choice starter for the national team, but he could play his way into a place in the USMNT 11 over the next three months.

Chris Richards (center back, Crystal Palace) — The newest addition to the American EPL flock, Richards arrived at Palace for up to $15 million from Bayern Munich after a strong loan spell at Hoffenheim. He won’t be a sure-fire starter, but if he can earn a consistent place alongside Marc Guehi in the Prem, the 22-year-old should partner Walker Zimmerman at center back for the U.S. in Qatar.

Antonee Robinson (left back, Fulham) — The USMNT’s top left back struggled in his first Premier League season, 2020-21, but is a more mature player this time around after helping Fulham win promotion back to the top flight.

Tim Ream (center back, Fulham) — Ream is not only still at Fulham; he started all 46 Championship games last season (at age 34!) as the Cottagers won the English second division. He hasn’t been called into the national team since withdrawing from an October 2021 squad for “family reasons,” and he doesn’t have the mobility that USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter desires, but he confirmed to The Athletic in April: “I’m still available to be picked. I don’t think that will change until I completely hang up the boots.”

Matt Turner (goalkeeper, Arsenal) — Turner is expected to back up Aaron Ramsdale in North London, which begs an obvious question: Why would an established starter (for the New England Revolution) voluntarily relegate himself to a reserve role, especially in a World Cup year?

“Well, I’ve been playing pretty well in MLS for the better part of three years now,” Turner said in late May. “Given the environment of transfers, for goalkeepers in particular, this was the first real interest, first real offer that I’ve had. And I’ve been trying to make things happen for quite some time. So it seems like the right time for me.

“Being a week-in, week-out starter in MLS didn’t guarantee me to be a starter here for the national team. And going to the World Cup, I obviously want to play games. So I need to shake things up in my club career, and I think this is a positive step forward for me in the long term, and in the immediate future.”


(TV: 3-4 games per weekend on ESPN+)

Zack Steffen (goalkeeper, Middlesbrough) — Steffen spent two years in a role similar to the one Turner now occupies, as an entrenched backup at Man City. And when he did get on the field, he made a few nightmarish gaffes. So he has dropped down to the Championship on loan, and made a couple big saves on his debut in a 1-1 draw with West Brom.

Although Turner is widely regarded as the better shot-stopper, a strong autumn could solidify Steffen as the U.S. No. 1.

Josh Sargent (forward, Norwich) — At this time last year, Sargent was the USMNT’s starting striker. Now he’s a try-hard second-tier winger on the fringes of the national team roster. There’s a school of thought that Norwich’s relegation to the Championship could be good for him. An uneventful display in a season-opening 1-0 loss at Cardiff, though, was inauspicious.

Daryl Dike (striker, West Brom) — One of many American strikers who, if he gets hot this fall, could sneak into Berhalter’s 26. The first steps, though, would be staying healthy and securing a regular place in West Brom’s 11.

Ethan Horvath (goalkeeper, Luton Town) — The hero of last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League final has never played consistently for club or country. He’d need to do that at Luton to snatch a World Cup roster spot away from the current clubhouse leader for the third goalkeeper slot, New York City FC’s Sean Johnson.


(TV: Every match on ESPN+ in English and Spanish)

Gio Reyna (attacking midfielder, Borussia Dortmund) — Reyna had a hellish, injury-riddled 2021-22 campaign that ended with yet another serious muscle injury, and with tears. But he’s still regarded as the USMNT’s brightest teenage prospect. He looked slick in his first unofficial game back from the hamstring tear. Dortmund is taking things slow, allowing the 19-year-old to methodically build toward full fitness, but once there, he should get plenty of minutes in both league and cup competitions.

Jordan Pefok (striker, Union Berlin) — The 26-year-old Washington, D.C.-born target man parlayed a Swiss league Golden Boot into a smart move to Union Berlin — which, after an unprecedented fifth-place finish last season, sold its top marksman, Taiwo Awoniyi, to Nottingham Forest. So Pefok will get his chance to lead the line, and, in preseason and the German Cup, he’s already taking that chance. If he keeps scoring, he’ll be in Qatar.

Ricardo Pepi (striker, Augsburg) — Pepi pounced on a big-money move to Augsburg last winter … and hasn’t scored since. He desperately needs some game time to re-find a rhythm, but seems set to start the season on the bench. Every appearance he makes will feel more pressure-packed than it should.

Joe Scally (fullback, Borussia Dortmund) — Scally, 19, is already up and running with goal in the DFB-Pokal, and, after playing 30 league games for Gladbach in his maiden season, should feature regularly again.

Gladbach, unfortunately, was a bit of a mess last year, and Scally was thrust into five different positions — “right back, right wing back, left back, left wing back, and right center back one game,” he said this offseason, rattling them off incredulously. But his versatility is a bonus for the national team, and will help his case for Qatar.

Kevin Paredes (left anything, Wolfsburg) — Scally’s primary competition for the back-up left back role could come from Paredes, who moved to Wolfsburg from D.C. United for $7.35 million in January. But he’ll need minutes, which are far from guaranteed.

George Bello (left back, Arminia Bielefeld, 2. Bundesliga) — At this time last year, Bello was the back-up left back, and a rising star at Atlanta United. But, as Berhalter has publicly suggested, he might’ve jumped to Europe too quickly. He made just three Bundesliga starts, all losses, after a January move as Bielefeld slumped to relegation. Whether he’s in the picture for Qatar or not, a pivotal season in the 2. Bundesliga lies ahead.


(TV: Every match on ESPN+ in English and Spanish)

Sergiño Dest (fullback, Barcelona) — Dest’s form and health have fluctuated constantly since arriving at Camp Nou in 2020. So have Barcelona’s opinions of him, according to local media reports. One day, he’s in Xavi’s first-team plans; the next, he’s being shopped. The latest, according to ESPN and SPORT, is that Barca will listen to offers for the 21-year-old American fullback as the club pursues Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta. It’s very unclear where Dest might end up.

Yunus Musah (midfielder, Valencia) — Musah’s national team career has accelerated quicker than his club career, in part because the U.S. plays him in his natural position, as a ball-carrying central midfielder. Valencia, meanwhile, had played the multicultural teen out wide. But that looks set to change under new manager Gennaro Gattuso, if preseason is any indication. If so, Musah, 19, could be one of La Liga’s breakout stars.

Luca de la Torre (central midfielder, Celta Vigo) — The 24-year-old San Diegan has had a rocky young career since moving to Fulham as a teen. But he found his footing last season, and especially last June with the national team. He earned an under-the-radar move to Spain, where his on-ball ability should flourish — if he gets regular playing time at Celta.

Matthew Hoppe (forward, Mallorca) — After a rough season at Mallorca, the 21-year-old forward and his club have reportedly been in talks with Middlesbrough and Sunderland. A move to the English Championship seems likely.


(TV: CBS Sports Network, Paramount+)

Weston McKennie (central midfielder, Juventus) — McKennie, a popular subject of transfer gossip, and repeatedly linked with Tottenham, seemed set for a third strong season at Juve when, in training last week, he dislocated his shoulder. The Italian club says that the injury will sideline him for at least three weeks.

Gianluca Busio (central midfielder, Venezia, Serie B) — Busio, along with a few other Americans at relegated Venezia, will now be hidden in the relative anonymity of Serie B. His stock has fallen since last autumn.


(TV: ​​beIN Sports, beIN Sports Connect)

Tim Weah (forward, Lille) — Weah will look to build on 2021-22, his best season yet as a professional. “I’m getting really comfortable,” he said during a USMNT camp in May. The next step? Goals. He’s never scored more than five in a pro season.

Erik Palmer-Brown (center back, Troyes) — “EPB” has finally settled at Troyes after four years as a Man City loanee in perpetual transition. But the 25-year-old central defender hasn’t distinguished himself as a reliable USMNT option.

Konrad de la Fuente (winger, Marseille) — Konrad started the USMNT’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier, and played in the second, and … hasn’t been back since. He struggled in his first season at Marseille, and will reportedly be sent out on loan — with Valladolid, a newly promoted Spanish side, the leading candidate to take him.


(TV: CBS Sports Network, Paramount+)

Cameron Carter-Vickers (centerback, Celtic) — A late addition to the World Cup roster picture after a sturdy 2021-22 campaign on loan, “CCV” and the Scottish champs made their partnership permanent this summer. He’s an every-week starter in Glasgow, and a contender to go to Qatar. The evaluative challenge for Berhalter and his U.S. staff is that the level of competition in the Scottish Premiership leaves plenty to be desired.

James Sands (defender/defensive midfielder, Rangers) — A compelling World Cup roster candidate in theory — but only in practice if he plays consistently, and well, at Rangers. He started a Champions League qualifier first leg on Tuesday, but last year’s Europa League finalists lost 2-0 to lowly Belgian side Royal Union Saint-Gilloise.

Malik Tillman (AM, Rangers) — Tillman, who committed his international future to the U.S. in May, moved on loan to Scotland last month in search of regular first-team minutes. The 20-year-old Bayern Munich product made an impressive cameo off the bench in Rangers’ league opener. More of the same could put him in World Cup contention.


Reggie Cannon (right back, Boavista, Portuguese Primeira Liga) — Cannon has been looking for paths out of Boavista for over a year now. “I can’t even imagine at this point how many transfers that have fallen through at the last second,” he said in May. But he’s still there, and while there, he’s grown into a more versatile defender, capable of playing right wing back in a 5, right back in a 4, and right center back in a 3.

Haji Wright (striker, Antalyaspor, Turkish Super Lig) — Wright, whose surge last spring earned him a USMNT debut (and debut goal), signed permanently with Antalyaspor after scoring 14 league goals on loan. Berhalter seemed strangely unimpressed with Wright in June, but a hot start in Turkey could keep the 24-year-old in the World Cup picture.

John Brooks (center back, free agent) — Brooks is one of the best center backs on the open market. The rumor mill, however, has been quiet — except for when Berhalter, explaining Brooks’ exclusion from multiple USMNT camps, told ESPN last month: “We want to play with a very high line. So ideally, if he went into a team that plays with a high line, and we can see every week how he’s dealing with space behind him, it would really help us get a picture of what he can do for our team. He hadn’t been doing it with Wolfsburg.”


Beyond the already-established national teamers, there are dozens of other Americans in Europe. Among the ones to keep on radars (ages in parentheses):

Folarin Balogun (FW, Arsenal but likely going on loan to Reims in France; 21)
Alex Mighten (W, Nottingham Forest, England; 20)
Auston Trusty (CB, Birmingham City, England; 23)
Richy Ledezma (AM, PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands; 21)
Cole Bassett (CM, Feyenoord, Netherlands; 21)
Sam Vines (LB, Royal Antwerp, Belgium; 23)
Mark McKenzie (CB, Genk, Belgium; 23)
Bryan Reynolds (RB, Westerlo, Belgium; 21)
Griffin Yow (W, Westerlo, Belgium; 19)
Tanne Tessmann (CM, Venezia, Italy [Serie B]; 20)

As European soccer leagues start unprecedented seasons, title predictions remain familiar

Henry BushnellThu, August 4, 2022 at 8:38 AM

The English Premier LeagueGerman Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 begin this Friday, Aug. 5.

Spain’s La Liga begins Aug. 12, and Italy’s Serie A starts Aug. 13.Never before have Europe’s preeminent soccer leagues collectively kicked off this early — because never before have they had to devise schedules quite like their 2022-23 ones.They’ll also end later than usual, because they’ll break for over a month in mid-November to squeeze in the 2022 World Cup, the first men’s World Cup held outside its traditional summer window. FIFA moved it to late-autumn to accommodate Qatar’s menacing heat.So the leagues reluctantly revised their calendars. Even the Champions League group stage will start earlier than ever before. Already-packed schedules will be further compressed. The cadence of the season will feel different.

But the league tables?

They, surely, will look as they almost always look, with a select few superclubs rising to the top and European soccer’s growing inequality laid bare.There has been speculation among pundits and fans that the World Cup, which will exacerbate workloads for top players while giving others a welcome reprieve, could advantage the middling clubs that send fewer players to Qatar.But Bayern Munich is still a runaway favorite (-500 with BetMGM) in Germany.PSG is -1000 in France.

Juventus and the two Milan clubs sit atop the list of favorites in Italy.

In England and Spain, two duopolies — Liverpool-Manchester City and

In other words, no matter how different the fall of 2022 feels, the spring of 2023 should feel familiar. Here’s a rundown of the basic as seasons get set to begin.

When do EPL, European leagues start and end

The dates for the big five leagues are:

Bundesliga: Aug. 5-May 27
Premier League: Aug. 5-May 28
Ligue 1: Aug. 5-June 3
La Liga: Aug. 12-June 4
Serie A: Aug. 13-June 4

When do World Cup breaks start and end?

Clubs worldwide are required to release their players to national teams by Monday, Nov. 14, a week before the World Cup opener.

Most major leagues, therefore, will play through the weekend of Saturday, Nov. 12, then pause for at least six weeks. Two minor exceptions are La Liga, which will play its second-week-of-November fixtures on Wednesday rather than the weekend, allowing Spanish players (and others) to report for World Cup duty a few days early; and the second-tier English Championship, which resumes on Dec. 10, with the World Cup knockout stages still ongoing.

The Premier League resumes on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, eight days after the World Cup final. The rest return soon thereafter:

Ligue 1: Dec. 28
La Liga: Dec. 31
Serie A: Jan. 4
Bundesliga: Jan. 21

What about the 2022-23 Champions League?

In a typical year, the Champions League group stage’s final two matchdays would be in late November and early-mid December.

In 2022, the round-robin phase will wrap up on Nov. 2. It begins on Sept. 6. Games remain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ve just been shifted forward. Here’s the full schedule:

Qualifying playoffs: Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24
Matchday 1: Sept. 6-7
Matchday 2: Sept. 13-14
Matchday 3: Oct. 4-5
Matchday 4: Oct. 11-12
Matchday 5: Oct. 25-26
Matchday 6: Nov. 1-2

The Round of 16 will fall in the same February-March windows as last year. But the quarterfinal legs have each been pushed back a week, and the semifinals a further week. The Champions League final is slated for June 10, the latest scheduled date since the inaugural European Cup final on June 13, 1956.

Who are the favorites?

Liverpool and Man City are the two best teams in Europe. They were for much of last season, too, until City choked away a Champions League semifinal to Real Madrid. Both have since reloaded for another run at domestic and continental glory. (More on transfers below.)

PSG and Bayern Munich are their top challengers on the continent. The rest of the contenders are the usual suspects — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid — minus Manchester United, which failed to qualify for the second time in four seasons.

The club most capable up upsetting their dual hegemony in England, meanwhile, might be Tottenham. Antonio Conte has now had a full offseason to mold Spurs to his liking — and in the past, a full Conte offseason has been a pretty good recipe for success. He won leagues titles in his first full seasons at Bari (in the Italian second tier), Juventus and Chelsea, and in his second at Inter Milan, he ended Juve’s run of nine straight Scudettos.

What have been the summer’s biggest transfers?

A very incomplete list of the biggest moves of an already very busy transfer window, which doesn’t close until Sept. 1:

Robert Lewandowski | Bayern Munich —> Barcelona
Erling Haaland | Borussia Dortmund —> Manchester City

Sadio Mane | Liverpool —> Bayern Munich
Darwin Nuñez | Benfica —> Liverpool
Romelu Lukaku | Chelsea —> Inter Milan (loan)

Raheem Sterling | Manchester City —> Chelsea
Gabriel Jesus | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Matthijs de Ligt | Juventus —> Bayern Munich
Aurelien Tchouameni | Monaco —> Real Madrid
Antonio Rudiger | Chelsea —> Real Madrid
Raphinha | Leeds —> Barcelona
Jules Kounde | Sevilla —> Barcelona
Lisandro Martinez | Ajax —> Manchester United
Paul Pogba | Manchester United —> Juventus
Kalidou Koulibaly | Napoli —> Chelsea
Angel Di Maria | PSG —> Juventus
Franck Kessie | AC Milan —> Barcelona
Ryan Gravenberch | Ajax —> Bayern Munich
Niklas Sule | Bayern Munich —> Borussia Dortmund
Richarlison | Everton —> Tottenham
Kalvin Phillips | Leeds —> Manchester City
Oleksandr Zinchenko | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Christian Eriksen | Brentford —> Manchester United
Paulo Dybala | Juventus —> Roma
Ivan Perisic | Inter Milan —> Tottenham
Boubacar Kamara | Marseille —> Aston Villa
Nico Schlotterbeck | Freiburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Karim Adeyemi | RB Salzburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Gleison Bremer | Torino —> Juventus
Nordi Mukiele | RB Leipzig —> PSG
Vitinha | Porto —> PSG
Fabio Vieira | Porto —> Arsenal
Sven Botman | Lille —> Newcastle
Gianluca Scamacca | Sassuolo —> West Ham
Brenden Aaronson | RB Salzburg —> Leeds
Tyler Adams | RB Leipzig —> Leeds

What big transfers could still happen?

The big name to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo. In short: He wants to leave Manchester United, but none of the Champions League clubs he wants to play for seem to want him.

Where are the top American players this season?

For a decade, American players had drifted out of the Premier League. Suddenly, they’re back in numbers. Here’s a full roundup of all the relevant U.S. men’s national team players in Europe.

What, and who, else is new?

Manchester United has a new manager, Erik ten Hag, who it poached from Ajax. So does PSG in Christophe Galtier.

Chelsea has a new ownership group, led by American Todd Boehly, who has taken control of the club’s operations and overseen one of the most incoherent summer transfer strategies in recent memory.

English Premier League predictions

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Tottenham
4. Arsenal
5. Chelsea
6. Manchester United
7. Crystal Palace
8. Newcastle
9. West Ham
10. Leicester City
11. Aston Villa
12. Leeds
13. Brighton
14. Wolves
15. Brentford
16. Everton
17. Nottingham Forest
18. Southampton
19. Fulham
20. Bournemouth

German Bundesliga predictions

1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Bayer Leverkusen
4. RB Leipzig
5. Wolfsburg
6. Borussia Mönchengladbach
7. Mainz

La Liga predictions

1. Barcelona
2. Real Madrid
3. Atletico Madrid
4. Villareal
5. Real Sociedad
6. Real Betis
7. Sevilla

Serie A predictions

1. Inter Milan
2. Roma
3. AC Milan
4. Napoli
5. Juventus
6. Atalanta
7. Lazio

How can I watch the top European leagues?

The Premier League is on NBC networks — mostly USA and the streaming service Peacock in English, and Telemundo in Spanish. The first game, Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, is Friday at 3 p.m. ET on USA and online.

The Bundesliga and La Liga are on ESPN+ (and very occasionally ESPN or ABC). Some English Championship games are also on ESPN+.

Serie A and all UEFA competitions — the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League — are on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. (So is the Scottish Premiership.)

Ligue 1 is on beIN Sports and beIN Sports Connect.

On the eve of his return to the Premier League, Fulham’s Robinson sees big year ahead

Last year was a huge year for Antonee Robinson helping to lead Fulham to promotion and the United States through qualifying. But the year ahead will build on that with his return to the Premier League and a likely spot on the U.S. team’s World Cup roster. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta spoke with “Jedi” about the past year while looking ahead to the big opportunities which await. 

AUGUST 04, 20225:50 PM

THE PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON gets underway this weekend and for Fulham, the goal is simple – to survive the season and chart a new course for the club as one that can survive as a regular competitor in England’s top-flight. Antonee Robinson joined the club two years ago and was part of both the relegation in 2021 and the impressive promotion last season.

This week, Robinson will turn 25 years old, and it will be a defining year. The hopes are that Fulham will find a way to survive in the Premier League, unlike its previous two campaigns in the top tier. Then there is the World Cup which will be played mid-season and it offers Robinson an opportunity to not only play in the biggest tournament, but also to possibly take on the country where he was both born and raised.This Saturday, Fulham has one of the most challenging opening games possible when it will host Liverpool at Craven Cottage. But the team is upbeat for the season and there is a lot of motivation for the group to set a new tone for the London-based club.

“Especially for the lads who stayed from the season when we’ve been relegated, it was a chance to redeem ourselves and fight back and earn our way back into the Premier League,” Robinson told ASN. “I think just sheerly through that it means a little bit more – the fact that we’ve brought the team to the Premier League this time. For me, personally, being part of the promotion fight, it makes me want to keep us in the Premier League where I feel like we belong.”Robinson was a key part of Fulham’s effort in getting promoted last season and it was certainly the most demanding season he has ever played. He made 33 starts over 36 appearances for Fulham last season while playing 3028 minutes. Combined with making 13 World Cup qualifying appearances for a total of 1060 minutes, Robinson played 4088 minutes for both club and country in the 2021/22 season.But last season was also the first time Robinson has been able to taste winning. His career to date has centered around Bolton, Wigan, and Fulham and every season until 2021/22 has been a relegation fight. Last year Robinson was able to partake in successful promotion and World Cup qualification campaigns – scoring twice for the U.S. team. 

“Last season, even being on a winning team, it was still just a really physically intense season,” Robinson explained. “The Championship always has been the same every year I’ve played in it. Especially ith World Cup qualifying, it made it very difficult but I came out of it on the other side with 50 or so games and playing good football at times, did pretty well with the national team and then being successful Fulham. Overall it was a really good season to boost confidence for myself as well.”All that does is raise stakes for the coming season when Robinson is in the Premier League and the World Cup as opposed to the Championship and qualifying.  When looking at the lessons he learned from Fulham’s relegation in 2020/21, he is able to recall specific games in great detail. In that season, Fulham lost its first six games, fought back into contention for survival, but squandered late goals for losses or draws towards the end.

“The mood around the team, it feels pretty similar to be honest,” Robinson said. “We have the same goal going into it. It’s just a couple different faces and it’s lads who have been in this position before who have the outlook of the experience of how it went last time to try and avoid the mistakes we fell into the last time round.”“A strong start would definitely help,” He continued. “Even if you take out the weak start the last time we were in the Premier League, towards the last third of the season, we had it in our control. A couple results our way would have got us to safety – and we never capitalized. We went through a streak of just like draws and losses. We just could not win a game to save our lives. Like when we go up against Villa and throw the game away. We should have beaten teams like Leeds and Burnley who were around us. We got punished. So going forward we know the importance of having the mentality to see a game out. Things like that will be massive this year.”During Robinson’s time at Fulham, one of the consistencies has been Tim Ream who, at age 34, was instrumental in the recent promotional effort. Robinson gets along with Ream well and the two Americans made up the left side of Fulham’s backline last year. Ream was named to the league’s Team of the Season by the Professional Footballer’s Association.

It remains to be seen if Ream will be a consistent starter for Fulham in the Premier League but Ream will likely see minutes this season and Robinson points out that the St. Louis native has an important role within the team that extends off the field as well.“Since Tom Cairney was injured a lot last season, Tim was pretty much the captain most of the season,” Robinson said of Ream. “He started every game which – for someone his age to start every game in the Championship and perform as well as he did – it’s nothing short of incredible, to be honest. He has a real calmness on the ball and a warrior spirit. He was fighting, throwing his head into tackles, getting cut every week. To have that as one of your baseline players, it really does lift the team.”

“Off the pitch, he was basically taking on the duties of being co-captain almost with Tom,” he added. “When it came to speaking to the management, staff and things like that, trying to organize stuff off the field and making sure that all the lads were happy and all the coaching staff were happy, and that we were working in unison – he was huge for us.”In November, the Premier League will take a break for the World Cup in a unique timeframe. For Robinson and the U.S. team, the World Cup will be an entirely new experience as DeAndre Yedlin is the only player to be capped recently by the U.S. team who has played in a World Cup.Robinson senses the excitement from players on the team but realizes that fight for roster spots remains competitive. Even with his heavy involvement in qualifying over the past year, he doesn’t put himself in the category of being a lock for Qatar – but that is a source of motivation for him.“There’re some guys on the team like Weston and Christian who everyone’s expecting to go if they are fit,” Robinson said. “Then there’s guys fighting for places – from the lads who are in MLS and the others in the European sides like myself, going into the season thinking I’ve got to be performing at the highest level I’ve ever performed to make sure I’m on my plane to Qatar.”But the team remains very close off the field, despite the competition. The team’s players are in regular contact with each other and are bonded by things sometimes beyond soccer. For instance, Robinson is one of four pianists in the player pool along with Weston McKennie, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Konrad de la Fuente. It’s a skill that Robinson proudly points out that he taught himself in his teenage years by watching YouTube videos.plan,” he added. “I think everyone can see how much of a brotherhood the group is.”After qualifying for the World Cup, the United States learned its fate that it would be in a group with England, Iran, and later it was determined Wales would be the final team added.Now as the Premier League season is set to get underway, it only makes the prospect of facing the country where he grew up even more exciting.“That’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Robinson said. “My dream was to be playing in the World Cup one day in general, but I definitely didn’t dream I was going to be playing for the US against England. It’s just something that I couldn’t have written when I was a kid, so hopefully I get to make that dream come true when we go and put on the show we can. Playing against England? Obviously, I’ve grew up here, lived here for my whole life and all the family and friends that are going to be watching my game for me obviously, but just the excitement of having the ties to both sides, it’s amazing, really.”

European soccer betting guide: Manchester City favored to win another Premier League title

By Dan SantaromitaAug 4, 2022

The European soccer season is getting an early start this season thanks to the World Cup taking place in November and December as opposed to this summer. That will wreak havoc on the club schedule, but also means we get the season starting this weekend in the Premier LeagueBundesliga and Ligue 1. La Liga and Serie A start next weekend.

As far as betting odds are concerned, all the familiar faces are favored. In four of the five biggest leagues, the defending champion is favored to repeat as champion. In three of the five leagues, there is a minus odds favorite.

All odds are from BetMGM.

English Premier League odds

Manchester City-140-5000
Manchester United+4000+150
Newcastle United+15000+800
West Ham+25000+1200
Leicester City+25000+1600

While the Champions League trophy still eludes Manchester City, the club has won back-to-back Premier League titles and four of the last five. Erling Haaland’s addition, in theory, is the missing piece up top City didn’t have in recent years.

Liverpool (+225) is a decent value on paper after finishing one point shy of City last season. The Reds sold Sadio Mané to Bayern Munich but spent big money to get Darwin Nuñez from Benfica in the attack.

It’s surprising to see Tottenham third in the title odds ahead of Chelsea. Spurs added Clement Lenglet (Barcelona) and Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus) on loan. Still, Chelsea finished ahead of Spurs last season and added Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) while losing Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid.

The race for the top four to make the Champions League should be interesting again. Arsenal missed out on fourth by two points after losing two of its final three matches last season. The Gunners added Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Man City to boost their hopes of getting back into Europe’s top competition. Arsenal gets a tricky test to open the Premier League Friday at Crystal Palace, which was a solid 12th last season.

There isn’t much love for Erik ten Hag’s project at Manchester United. United has the sixth-best title odds but is only +150 to finish in the top four.

Top goalscorer odds

Erling Haaland+225
Mohamed Salah+450
Harry Kane+550
Darwin Nunez+850
Cristiano Ronaldo+1000
Gabriel Jesus+1000
Son Heung-Min+1200
Diogo Jota+2500
Callum Wilson+3300
Jamie Vardy+3300
Kai Havertz+3300
Kevin De Bruyne+3300
Luis Diaz+3300
Raheem Sterling+3300

The league’s top scorer race gets a new favorite in Haaland. It makes sense. After all, in the past two Bundesliga seasons, Haaland scored more goals (49) than he made starts (48) and now he doesn’t have to compete with Robert Lewandowski to win the golden boot. If Haaland stays healthy and takes penalties for City, he will be a factor.

However, it’s not yet clear if Haaland will take penalties. Riyad Mahrez and the now-departed Gabriel Jesus converted penalties in league play for City last season. Typically, the golden boot winner comes from a top six club and takes penalties.

Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min both scored 23 goals last season and Son did it without taking penalties for Spurs. Harry Kane takes penalties for Spurs and has averaged 22.5 goals in the last eight seasons. Especially if you believe the relatively bullish odds for Spurs, Kane seems like a good value here.

Relegation odds

Nottingham Forest+125
Leeds United+200
Crystal Palace+650
Brighton & Hove Albion+800

Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest are the newly promoted sides in the EPL this season. The oddsmakers expect Bournemouth to go back down and have Forest and Fulham next in the odds, but don’t expect all three to go down.

Since the Premier League expanded to 20 teams for the 1995-96 season, only one time did all three newly promoted teams get relegated back to the second tier. That happened in 1997-98 with Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Crystal Palace. In the last 26 seasons, 34 newly promoted sides went straight back down with all three surviving on four occasions, including as recently as the 2017-18 season.

Spanish La Liga odds

Real Madrid+110-1000
Atletico Madrid+550-300
Real Sociedad+5000+400
Real Betis+10000+450
Athletic Bilbao+20000+600

Barcelona was a mess much of last season, but still managed to finish second in La Liga with Xavi helming a late season surge as new manager. Now with Lewandowski in the fold it’s hard to overlook Barca, but it’s still not entirely clear what this team will look like with more moves, including departures, still expected.

Real Madrid didn’t appear especially dominant in its run to the Champions League title last season and has had numerous better La Liga seasons in terms of points, but Madrid just manages to win trophies. Los Merengues didn’t land the big fish in Kylian Mbappe and Rüdiger is the only big name addition so far this transfer window.

Beyond the league title race, the top goal scorer race could be fun as well. Lewandowski (+225) is just ahead of Madrid’s Karim Benzema (+250) after Benzema scored a career-high 27 La Liga goals last season.

Italian Serie A odds

Inter Milan+175-650
AC Milan+275-400

Italy had one of the most competitive title races last season and has the most competitive preseason odds this season. Defending champion Milan is only third in the odds. Juventus had won nine straight titles, but has finished fourth two years in a row.

Juve added Ángel Di María and Paul Pogba while seeing Giorgio Chiellini, Matthijs de Ligt and Paulo Dybala depart. Inter has Romelu Lukaku back on loan after a disappointing second stint with Chelsea. Lukaku scored 47 goals in two seasons with Inter before that move to Chelsea. Lukaku and Juve’s Dušan Vlahović are co-favorites for top scorer at +333 just like their clubs are co-favorites for the league title.

José Mourinho’s Roma got a boost in the odds as fourth-favorite to win the title and is even money to qualify for the Champions League despite finishing sixth last season. Roma added Dybala, Nemanja Matic (Man United) and is expected to sign former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

German Bundesliga odds

Bayern Munich-500n/a
Borussia Dortmund+600-1400
RB Leipzig+900-400
Bayer Leverkusen+2800-155
Borussia Monchengladbach+10000+350
Eintracht Frankfurt+10000+400
VfL Wolfsburg+15000+350

Bayern Munich has won 10 straight Bundesliga titles and even after the loss of Lewandowski is still an overwhelming favorite to make it 11 in a row. Top challenger Borussia Dortmund also lost its leading striker in Haaland. The odds have last year’s top four as the favorites to be this year’s top four again as well.

With Lewandowski and Haaland gone, the top goalscorer race is wide open on paper. Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (+300) is favored followed by new Bayern addition Mané (+350). Schick scored 24 times last season, second to Lewandowski’s 35.

We’ll get a look at Mané in a Bayern shirt Friday in the season opener at last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt.

French Ligue 1 odds


After failing to win the league title in 2020-21, PSG was back on top last season for its eighth Ligue 1 title in the last nine years. PSG won the title by 15 points and is the biggest favorite of any of the top five leagues.

Premier League preview: Predictions for the 2022-23 season

The Athletic UK StaffAug 4, 2022

The Premier League is back. The new season begins on Friday evening as Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace before everyone else piles in over the weekend.

Before the big kick-off, our writers have got their heads together to answer some of the crucial questions while also bravely predicting the final league table…

Who will win the Premier League and why?

Dominic Fifield: Manchester City will probably edge out Liverpool, just. Possibly. It may all boil down to good fortune in terms of injuries and how key performers cope with the distraction of a mid-season World Cup. In truth, both those teams appear utterly outstanding on paper and will benefit from revitalised front lines, which hardly seems fair on the rest.

Carl Anka: The Premier League is Manchester City’s until proven otherwise. Pep Guardiola has done more than just buy Erling Haaland: he’s recalibrated his attacking options to get the most out of him. Expect big seasons for Jack Grealish and Phil Foden as they feed the big man.

Grealish, GuardiolaGuardiola will be looking to get more out of Grealish this season (Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Maram AlBaharna: The Premier League title has to be Manchester City’s. It will not be easy, but adding Haaland might just do it.

Stuart James: Toss-of-a-coin territory here, because there is still so little to choose between City and Liverpool. Haaland is a fantastic addition and, on the face of it, has made City better. It’s hard to argue the same right now about Darwin Nunez and Liverpool, purely because Sadio Mane was so good. But I just have a feeling that Liverpool will be hurting with how last season ended and that will give them a psychological edge.

Sarah Shephard: Unimaginative, I know, but Manchester City. Yes, they have lost the player who scored their second-highest number of goals (13 in the Premier League) last season in Raheem Sterling, and sold Gabriel Jesus (eight goals) but bringing in Haaland and Kalvin Phillips means they should not be weakened by those departures. I’m not sure I can say the same for Liverpool (who will be their closest rivals once again), who I suspect will feel the loss of Mane this season.

Who else will qualify for the Champions League?

Dominic Fifield: Tottenham Hotspur feel like a team on the up once again, overseen by a ferociously competitive and driven head coach who, for once, should actually be satisfied with his club’s business in the market (though he probably won’t be). It is hard to judge Chelsea before the closure of the transfer window, but they have spent their summer playing catch-up post-takeoverManchester United, too, are a mystery but may be coming from too far back to oust Thomas Tuchel’s side from the top four. More of a threat to Boehly-Clearlake could be Arsenal. But we’ve said that before and been left looking foolish.


Carl Anka: Let me not overthink things: Liverpool are coming second (but with a larger points gap than usual to City). Spurs are coming third. Chelsea look combustible and with a misfiring attack, but they should be able to fend off Manchester United and Arsenal to secure that final top-four slot.

Maram AlBaharna: My hot take of the season is Tottenham will find themselves in a title race they cannot edge, leaving them second. Liverpool, obviously, and then you have Arsenal, who are getting louder and louder each season.

Stuart James: The sort of question designed to trip me up, bearing in mind that I predicted, with about 10 games to go last season, that Arsenal would finish above Tottenham. Spurs seem in a better place than Chelsea right now, which means it’s a three-way fight between Tuchel’s team, Arsenal and Manchester United for that final place. Chelsea to get fourth, just.

Sarah Shephard: Liverpool, obviously. And then, well, I have a feeling Chelsea will do better than many are predicting this season and then it comes down to a shootout between Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United. Push me, and I’d have to give Spurs the nod. Just.

Who will be relegated and why?

Dominic Fifield: Bournemouth have been cautious in the market and may not be equipped for a top-flight campaign, particularly given the brutal nature of their opening run of fixtures. Recovering from that would be some feat. Fulham need to add more quality in what remains of the window, while the sheer level of upheaval at Nottingham Forest (even if it was required) brings with it considerable risk. That said, Southampton, who have also recruited heavily, will need to exorcise some of the miserable memories of the tail end of last season to avoid a decidedly difficult campaign.

Carl Anka: I’ve been burned twice by “Aleksandar Mitrovic — Premier League striker”, and even if he’s a more complete player now, Fulham’s squad isn’t much better than the one that got relegated in 2020-21. Bournemouth are a big shrug. Nottingham Forest’s squad looks “too weird to stay up” but I think they’ll make a late escape and doom Leeds to 18th place.

Maram AlBaharna: I have a feeling we’ll see a repeat of the Championship to Premier League to Championship seesaw for Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest. Mitrovic has tricked me too many times into believing he can replicate his numbers in the top flight, Bournemouth look forgettable given their transfer activity (or lack thereof…) and Forest’s massive shopping spree will be too big to handle.

Our writers feel Parker’s Bournemouth will struggle this season

Stuart James: Bournemouth — Scott Parker has pretty much admitted that’s on the cards. “This squad is much weaker than it was when we got promotion,” Bournemouth’s manager said. I can see Fulham, Parker’s former club, struggling too. As for the other member of the promoted trio, who knows what to expect from Forest given their transfer activity, but the fact they’ve been out of the Premier League for so long could work in their favour — the City Ground will be bouncing. If I had to pick a faller from the rest, I’d say Southampton.

Sarah Shephard: I fear for Bournemouth, looking at their lack of transfer activity and logic tells me Fulham are the yo-yo team who will never die. Nottingham Forest will have a tough season but just about survive. In the wake of losing their best player (Richarlison) and no true replacement yet arriving, I can see Everton sinking into the danger zone again.

Which manager is going to get sacked first?

Dominic Fifield: The disquiet at St Mary’s at the end of last season will make a decent start imperative for Ralph Hasenhuttl, though panic could set in quicker at Bournemouth, leaving Parker in peril. A slack opening for Wolves, too, might thrust some of the focus on Bruno Lage.

Carl Anka: (Jokingly) One of the smaller clubs that gets to Christmas and realises they need to course correct to stay up. (Serious) No, but Frank Lampard’s job is in real danger.

Maram AlBaharna: Yes, it’s Frank Lampard.

Stuart James: Narrowing this down to Marco Silva, Lampard, Jesse Marsch, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Lage — crikey, that’s a quarter of the Premier League managers… and maybe Parker should be in there too. Fulham’s opening fixtures — Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea in the first seven games – don’t make for good reading, so it’s Silva on that basis.


Sarah Shephard: Given the above, Lampard could find that thinning head of hair becoming increasingly scarce.

Who will score the most goals? Rank from highest to lowest from Haaland, Nunez, Jesus, Richarlison, Sterling.

Dominic Fifield: 1, Haaland, 2, Sterling, 3, Jesus, 4, Nunez, 5, Richarlison

Carl Anka: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Nunez, 4, Sterling, 5, Richarlison

Maram AlBaharna: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Sterling, 4, Richarlison, 5, Nunez

Stuart James: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Nunez, 4, Sterling, 5, Richarlison

Sarah Shephard: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3,  Sterling, 4, Nunez, 5, Richarlison

Whose season will be helped most by the World Cup?

Dominic Fifield: A team who has hardly any players at the tournament. So, basically, plenty of those fighting relegation will have a month to lick their wounds before they go again.

Carl Anka: (Briefly looks at attacking players who won’t be travelling to the World Cup and sees Mohamed Salah and Haaland on the list, shakes head and remembers the true edge is found further down the table) I can see Aston Villa having a better time in the second half of the season.

Maram AlBaharna: Very tempted by the big names that will be left behind — Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Haaland — but something tells me it’s the teams cage-fighting at the bottom who would benefit from a ceasefire for a month to re-group.

How much will Liverpool benefit from Salah not being at the World Cup? (Photo: Jan Kruger – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Stuart James: Easy to overthink this one. Individually, Haaland and Salah spring to mind immediately — they’ll have their feet up at home. Collectively, you’d have to think that bottom-half-of-the-table clubs will benefit because, by and large, they’ll have fewer players at the World Cup. Hang on, though, don’t the top clubs have bigger squads… see, I’m overthinking it.

Sarah Shephard: The promoted teams and clubs with fewer internationals who won’t have to deal with the aftermath of a mid-season major tournament. Also, any team who has a bad start to the season. The break will give them time to pause and reset — not something Premier League clubs often get an opportunity to do at that time of year.

And whose will be hindered most by it?

Dominic Fifield: There will inevitably be a sense of deflation — an emotional hangover — from the finals, experienced most by players whose nations consider themselves contenders. To that end, the potential for most of those competing at the top of the division to suffer in the aftermath is surely very real. To counter that, one suspects Haaland and Salah, absent from Qatar, may fancy reminding the watching world of their credentials post-tournament — which may mean defenders up and down the division are the ones to suffer the backlash.

Carl Anka: Antonio Conte has spent much of this summer making smart moves in the transfer market and beasting his players into top physical shape. You can see Spurs starting the season very well and provoking “Three-horse title race?” questions… only for Harry Kane and others to knacker themselves at the World Cup. (They should still finish in the top four at a canter.)

Maram AlBaharna: Kane coming back dead on his feet after an intense World Cup and slowing down Conte’s momentum in a title race.

Stuart James: The biggest danger is players who come back having done really well and domestic football is then viewed as an anti-climax. I remember speaking to some of the Wales players about that post-Euro 2016 — it was quite a hangover. “A massive, massive comedown,” Neil Taylor said. Anyway, I guess you need to know a team: Spurs.

Sarah Shephard: Tottenham are set to lose several key players, including Kane and Son Heung-min. Arsenal could also lose some, including Bukayo SakaGranit Xhaka and the three Gabriels (Martinelli, Magalhaes and Jesus).

Whose upcoming season would you most like to be turned into a documentary?

Dominic Fifield: Chelsea and Boehly-Clearlake are a blockbuster in-waiting, learning about the treacherous nature of the football industry on the hoof. Watching how they fling themselves into transfer negotiations, as the deadline ticks ever closer and a level of panic sets in, would surely be compulsive viewing.

Carl Anka: I cannot stop thinking about Manchester United spending more than half of 2021-22 having tactical advice transmitted from Russia into a man’s earphones. Erik ten Hag could do without the extra scrutiny, but I want to see how he deals with the executive dysfunction of the world’s strangest superclub.

Maram AlBaharna: Manchester United. Chaos seems to pop up like whack-a-mole for this strange club, on and off the pitch.

Stuart James: Manchester United or Chelsea are the obvious candidates, given the turbulence behind the scenes. The bit that I always find most interesting in documentaries is what the manager has to say in the dressing room and on the training ground. I’d love to see Tuchel at work (unedited).

Sarah Shephard: Tottenham’s. Conte’s lack of filter plus ever-present television cameras is the perfect recipe for a second season.

Which tactical innovation should we look out for?

Dominic Fifield: It will be intriguing to see whether, as threatened, Thomas Tuchel ditches his back three. Or, indeed, Patrick Vieira takes up the tactic across the capital at Crystal Palace. Teams’ use of the five-substitute rule, the adoption of which still fills me with dismay (apologies to all the big clubs), will also be interesting. Will games become fractured late on amid a rush of changes? Will it be used as a time-wasting tactic? Will younger players really benefit somehow?

Carl Anka: Last time Conte had a good Premier League spell, many teams had a go at employing his 3-4-2-1 system. Not every team can play inverted full-backs like Guardiola, so I’m going to say this season will see a lot of managers try to ape Conte’s use of wing-backs.

Maram AlBaharna: The rise of the inverted full-back — we saw it with Joao Cancelo and Klopp operating Trent Alexander-Arnold infield — but with the introduction of Ten Hag, especially if new signing Tyrell Malacia plays regularly, we’re going to see the trend of wide wingers and tucked in full-backs more often.

Stuart James: In my mind, the five-substitutes rule increases the likelihood of a player being dragged off at half-time, not least because there is an additional opportunity to make a change at the interval on top of the three occasions during the game, and there are now nine subs to choose from, too. In other news, I’m intrigued to see how United set up on goal kicks (in possession) this season.

Sarah Shephard: The introduction of the five-sub rule opens up a host of possibilities in terms of tactical exploitation. As the season reaches make-or-break point next April/May, it will be interesting to see how many of those subs get made in the dying minutes of a game one team is desperately trying to close out.

Which player is going to have a breakout season?

Dominic Fifield: The rave reviews from France suggest Cheick Doucoure could take English football by storm at Palace, though it will be just as intriguing to see how Michael Olise and Malcolm Ebiowei fare at Selhurst Park this season. Everything about Vieira’s forward options is thrilling.

Cheick DoucoureExpect a big season for Crystal Palace signing Cheick Doucoure (Photo: Crystal Palace)

Carl Anka: Doucoure is going to be a mainstay on best players outside of the top-six lists, along with Gianluca Scamacca. That both players will be at non-Champions League competing clubs in 2022-23 speaks to the financial strength of the Premier League. That’s simultaneously a good thing, and somewhat concerning.

Maram AlBaharna: The struggle is to pick one of Palace’s many talents but I have a feeling Doucoure will shock the Premier League. He has the ideal skill set to succeed (excellent anticipation, how to break the lines, dribble and defend) — he works in the shadows but he’ll be known.


Stuart James: I’d love to say Flynn Downes at West Ham, but that would be the heart and not the head talking — he’ll need time to adapt. Guess it depends on how we define “breakout”… Jesus has never started 25 Premier League games in a season — what can he do as a mandatory pick, as the go-to man to lead the line? Answer: score a lot of goals (probably).

Sarah Shephard: William Saliba is yet to play a competitive game for Arsenal but with Takehiro Tomiyasu out injured, he is likely to start the season at centre-half with Ben White filling in at right-back. If Saliba fulfils the potential he showed on loan at Marseille last season, he could become a fixture at the heart of Arsenal’s defence (and earn himself a place in France’s World Cup squad).

Which club will surprise everyone?

Dominic Fifield: Possibly Chelsea. Though not necessarily in a good way.

Carl Anka: Everton will be fine in the end.

Maram AlBaharna: Crystal Palace will challenge for a European spot.

Stuart James: Arsenal. Don’t ask me in what way. But just look at last season: calamitous start — written off. Impressive turnaround — top-four candidates. Then blowing it at the end.

Sarah Shephard: Brighton finished ninth last season and, such is my faith in Graham Potter, they could surprise everyone by finishing even higher this time around.

Friday Newsletter: On Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Much More

Plus my answers to a large Mailbag-full of your questions

Grant WahlAug 5
Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal’s first goal of the new season Friday (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It’s a great day. I’m sitting in front of my TV watching Crystal Palace-Arsenal in the opening game of the Premier League season, and I’m preparing to park myself in the same place tomorrow to watch a few more games and get a handle on where teams are to kick off the new season. 

First off, a couple thoughts about Friday’s league openers:


Maybe it’s because I just watched the start of the Arsenal All or Nothing series last night, but the absolute debacle of a start to last season is still on my mind. So winning deservedly at a pretty good Palace side to kick off the new season is a sea change that will no doubt raise the expectations of Arsenal fans around the world that this, indeed, will be the year. 


You thought the Europa League champion, the team that eliminated Barcelona from that competition, would be ready to make a statement in the Bundesliga’s opening game against the 10-time-defending champion? Well, a statement got made. Congrats to Bayern on winning the title. (This isn’t good, at all, for the Bundesliga.)

Let’s make this Friday Newsletter a full mailbag. You all sent in some fun questions, so I’ll dive in:

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When do you think Laporta and crew will take all the trophies down to the local pawn shop or put them on eBay? (Seriously, very sad to be watching Barcelona and its legacy crumble before our eyes.)

Jim Bacharach

I wrote this tweet a couple nights ago:

Grant Wahl @GrantWahlHave always had affection for FC Barcelona, but what the club has done this summer trying to force players into taking pay cuts while spending wildly on new players is extremely distasteful.August 3rd 2022123 Retweets2,310 Likes

Look, I don’t have any problem saying that I have always felt positive vibes toward FC Barcelona. At one point they really did have some of the best teams we’ve ever seen in this sport, and there really was a sense that it stood for something more than just a sports team. But those days seem gone. No sane person would think the solution to being in more than a billion dollars in debt would be to try to pressure current players into taking salary cuts, mortgage future TV earnings and then spend without end to bring more stars into the team. As much as anything, Barcelona is showing why having member-owned clubs and elections (as opposed to an actual owner) is a bad idea in the modern game.

The funny thing is, La Liga might not let Barcelona register all their new signings. Stay tuned.

Which European-based USMNT player will raise their profile the most by their club performance leading up to the World Cup? (I think Brenden Aaronson will hit the ground running at Leeds and surprise a lot of people who haven’t seen him play.)


I agree with you on Aarsonson. For starters, not that many people saw him play in the Austrian Bundesliga last season, and in Champions League (and during Leeds United’s preseason)  he really has shown that he has taken a steep step upward in quality since his MLS days. The training session I saw Aaronson in last week in Leeds showed he’s ready to break out and be an absolute star, a player who produces goals and assists on a regular basis.

What’s going on with John Brooks? Are many clubs averse to signing him for the same reason(s) he hasn’t gotten a USMNT callup in nearly a year?


For anyone who doesn’t know, Brooks remains an unsigned free agent for now after his contract expired with Wolfsburg. The latest reports have linked him to Feyenoord in the Netherlands, but Brooks really does need to find a landing spot so that 1) he can resurrect his club career, and 2) he can at least make a case to be part of the USMNT for the World Cup. My sense is he wants a certain level of income—remember, he has made a lot of money in his career—but I was personally hoping he would come to an MLS team during the window, which didn’t happen. 

Will Jesse Marsch be scapegoated at Leeds for WC fatigue in fellow Americans Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (with home supporters blaming the Americans for failing to live up to replacement expectations for fan favorites Marcelo Bielsa, Kalvin Phillips and Raphinia)?

Paul Krieg

The word “scapegoated” suggests you’re already making an assumption that something bad will happen and/or that Aaronson and Adams won’t have enough energy or stamina. I’m not so sure that’s the case. What I would say are a couple things: 1) There is a wide variation of potential outcomes for Leeds United in my mind. I think LUFC could end up in another relegation battle, or it might finish as high as eighth or ninth in the league; 2) Aaronson and Adams are already viewed as big additions inside the team (I learned that in person last week), though I think it’s important to note that Phillips left for Man City and Raphinia for Barcelona. As for Bielsa, he’ll always be remembered for improving Leeds’s culture and getting them back to the Premier League, but it was crystal clear that he needed to go when he did. His approach on a daily basis just isn’t sustainable for very long, and he’s not missed by people inside the club (players or staff).

Ronaldo wants to leave a messed up Man U. His perfect move is to MLS where he will be made extremely welcome for a couple of years and will continue to be a star. In MLS he will be a bigger star than Beckham and help grow the game in USA.

Alan Hinton

I’m not 100 percent sold that Ronaldo at 37 would be a bigger star in MLS than Beckham was at 31. But I do agree with you, Alan, that MLS would be the right move for Ronaldo to make right now. He wants to play in the Champions League, but there’s not a Champions League team that appears to want Ronaldo right now (correctly viewing Ronaldo’s net-negative impact at Man United and Juventus). That’s why I think he’ll stay at United in the end this season.

How do you think USWNT will fare against the Lionesses? Will be interesting to see Vlatko’s lineup. They certainly won’t be as dialed in as England’s squad. A loss won’t be fatal but will throw shade on his progress and whether he is the ONE.

Michael Richard

If I had to pick a winner for the October 7 England-USA game at Wembley, I’d lean toward England. The atmosphere and 90,000 crowd will be intensely supportive of the hosts, and I feel like England is farther along in terms of its chemistry than this U.S. team is right now. But I think it’s important to add that this showdown is the kind that the U.S. players really get up for. If any team in the women’s game would be called (to use Jürgen Klopp’s words) “mentality monsters,” it would be the USWNT. And we might well see that again in October.

Who do you see as surprise candidates to surface for the USMNT or the USWNT in time for their respective World Cup competitions?

Theodore Morehouse

Forward Brandon Vázquez from Cincinnati (13 goals, 4 assists) is making a great case to be included in the USMNT squad for the World Cup, especially if there are 26 spots. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw (recently signed by San Diego) has a rocket next to her name and could be hard to keep off the World Cup roster next year.

Riqui Puig has a better, longer and less controversial run in LA than Yasiel Puig. Yes or no?

Bob L

Yes! (These are my readers.)

What are your thoughts on the work Pablo Mauer has done for The Athletic? I have really enjoyed his long pieces on the stories and quirks regarding the history of US soccer.

Vincent Stravino

Pablo is not only a friend, but he’s also a tremendous journalist and photographer (and mechanic!). Anytime someone can write so many good stories of a certain type that there becomes a genre associated with their name is a great sign for someone. This job isn’t easy, but Pablo has a great sense for what would make a good story, and then he goes completely down the rabbit hole to report it before executing a well-written and organized piece. All of those things are challenging, and he does them.

How do you think limited travel at this year’s World Cup will impact the experience of teams and fans?


There are a bunch of huge issues with Qatar hosting the World Cup, but the limited travel is not one of them. Travel ordeals inside big World Cup countries can really take away from enjoying the experience, and that shouldn’t be a big problem later this year. (That is, as long as everyone can find hotel rooms.) 

Would Gregg Berhalter benefit the USMNT by bringing on someone like Landon Donovan as part of the staff for the World Cup? In a similar way Argentina is bringing Sergio Aguero along? Not just for the experience, and inspiration he can impart on the young group, but also since he’s now a coach in his own right?


It’s not a bad idea, since Donovan has had World Cup experiences like very few Americans. I just don’t see it happening, not least because Berhalter himself has competed in World Cups, and he’s very data-oriented, which is why he added a set-piece coach ahead of the World Cup but not someone like Donovan. Besides, we need Landon for our podcast discussions!

What’s your take on the Miazga move back to MLS? Will he partner with or replace Cameron at FCC? Any chance of getting back into the USMNT mix? Were all those years loaned out by CFC lost, or has he improved while doing so?


I’m glad to see MIazga back in MLS. I think he still has the potential to return to the national team, and I wish he hadn’t gone the Chelsea route (hence: loans) a few years ago. I figure he’ll play with Geoff Cameron at Cincinnati, not in place of him, and this is another step in Cincy becoming a regular playoff contender instead of a league doormat.

Is your mind blown by the attendance numbers for women’s soccer this year, especially in Europe? I love this and really hope it continues.

Tom Terry

Big crowds really have been a theme of the year in women’s soccer, from England’s games at the Euros to Barcelona drawing 90,000-plus twice for home Champions League games to Morocco getting nearly 50,000 for home AFCON games to Colombia drawing 28,000 for the Copa América final to Angel City regularly filling up its stadium in Los Angeles. You can be certain England-USA will get upwards of 90,000 in October for their friendly. This will only continue.

Have a great weekend!

1999, 2011 and 2022: Comparing England women’s landmark moment to the USWNT’s

By Meg LinehanAug 3, 202235

Only days after filling Wembley Stadium with a record 87,192 people en route to their Euro 2022 win, the England women’s team have announced their return to the venue — this time, in October, against the U.S. Within 24 hours of the announcement, all general admission tickets had already sold out, with the queue to buy tickets stretching to a two-hour-plus wait.

There is one small caveat, in that the friendly is dependent upon England’s qualification for the 2023 World Cup in the September international window (they can do so with at least a draw against Austria, or a win at home against Luxembourg), but both federations forged ahead, knowing the demand for the fixture would be at a high point on both sides of the Atlantic.We’re all still in the glowing aftermath of Sunday’s Euro final, where new and casual fans are more easily converted. Wallets are opening. Ticket sales are booming. Players are earning new followers across social media at an absurd rate. As expected, the rising tide has come in — but what’s most exciting about England’s victory goes well beyond all the virtuous growth we can expect from a major tournament win.

We often talk about game-changing moments in women’s sports, about inflection points — but while these can be hard to assign in real time, women’s football has leaned on this language for decades. Progress has never been quite so clean and easy, however. For every major win and advancement, there are still steps backwards. But more importantly, there is so much work that must happen in order for these moments to truly stick and move the game forward.If there’s one moment we can all agree on as a turning point in the U.S., of course, it’s hosting the 1999 World Cup: a sold out Rose Bowl, Briana Scurry’s penalty kick save, Brandi Chastain on her knees, shirt in hand, screaming up to the sky in victory. It’s the tournament that changed an entire generation and launched a professional domestic league. It’s the tournament that changed my life, too.The parallels to 1999 were already easy to spot in England, even before Chloe Kelly whipped off her shirt (with one noticeable difference: a moment’s hesitation to ensure the goal stood, in this brave new world of VAR) England’s Euro win stands as its own accomplishment, and there is no direct one-to-one comparison, though. While 1999 isn’t inaccurate, especially considering the tournament being on home soil, it’s also incomplete. There are shades of 2011 here, too. While the U.S. did not lift the World Cup trophy in Germany that year, the memorable match against Brazil kicked off the modern era of the USWNT and the massive changes around the team’s reach and support over the next decade. 

The game has changed drastically. The sport is in a completely different state compared to 11 years ago, or two decades ago, with the growth of domestic leagues and the Champions League in Europe. In 2023, the World Cup will finally feature 32 teams (as recently as 2011, there were just 16 teams), and we’ve seen increased competition quality during every single qualifying tournament this past cycle.

From ‘99 to ‘11, and now ‘22, what’s so exciting about the latest moment on this list is that England’s win does not feel like a one-off or standalone event. Their win is in conversation with other huge accomplishments across the women’s game, particularly historic attendance numbers over the past year at the club level. England’s win matters on a global level thanks to the wider burst of attention and record-setting attendance and viewership figures we’ve seen lately, but England can prove this in the long-term by working to set a new standard by spreading a single success’ impact across all levels of the sport — from grassroots to pros.The team itself is already using their platform to push at the grassroots level, issuing an open letter to prime minister contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to remind them that only 63 percent of girls across the country can currently play football in school during physical education classes, and demanding that “all girls have access to a minimum of 2 hours PE,” as well as additional investment for more female PE instructors.Here in the U.S., the primary question over the past two decades has been how to maximize World Cup audiences to either launch or grow a professional league. It has not been tidy work, even as there has been progress, and we’ve been too dependent upon this as the primary accelerant for the sport. The major tournament approach has not been sustainable, even though the NWSL is an immediate option for new fans to follow, watch and attend. The WSL season doesn’t start until September 10, which will provide a fascinating case study to see if having a month to build off the momentum of the Euros provides a greater opportunity not just to sell tickets, but to educate new fans about the league itself. The NWSL struggled with this in 2015 and 2019, posting good numbers for a few matches before coming back down to earth by the end of the season after the USWNT’s World Cup successes. 

In 2019, only days after the USWNT had won the World Cup, Laura Harvey’s Utah Royals FC faced Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field in front of 1,842 people, and the frustration was so clear: the league needed to be far more proactive to fully take advantage of the moment. 

“I just hope that we do it, I pray that we do it, and we do it in the right way, and we don’t just expect that because they won means people are going to come to games. It just doesn’t work like that,” Harvey told The Athletic.

Ultimately, Harvey stressed, it was not U.S. Soccer’s responsibility to grow the league — that instead fell to everyone involved with the league at every level. And if there’s one immediate next step for England here, it’s one that the U.S. has recently gone through itself, post-2019 World Cup win: an amicable divorce between the FA and the professional league. The NWSL and U.S. Soccer Federation might not necessarily be a perfect model here, but despite all the fears around the league’s sustainability without the federation’s influence, the NWSL has shown that controlling its own fate is the best path forward, not just when it comes to growth (from sponsorships to expansion, and so on), but for simply always having the league as the first and only item on the to-do list.Even though that’s a top priority for the league, England has four key ingredients for even greater success at the club level — regardless of who’s at the top — beyond the current Euros-inspired moment. 

First: accessibility, with a three-year television deal between the WSL and Sky Sports/the BBC (plus additional games on their own FA player that are free to stream). Those same deals also provide the next major piece: established commercial revenue, with £7 million being paid per year for the media rights — though it’s easy to assume the inbound sponsorship offers are going to increase over the next month for the league.Third, the WSL will feature in EA Sports FIFA 23 at launch, providing yet another path to introduce new fans to the league and its players. Chelsea’s Sam Kerr is on the cover, alongside Kylian Mbappe on the ultimate edition of the game; eventually the 2023 World Cup will be playable in game, too. It’s not just how many copies might be bought to play as the Lionesses or someone’s favorite WSL team, but there could be a significant breakthrough if existing users check out the women’s game thanks to the Euros.

Finally, the WSL’s best advantage is one that might have at times been a double-edged sword: established club brands with built-in loyalties. While teams like Manchester United and Liverpool have had their fair share of criticism for slow-playing the investment into their women’s sides over the years, there’s a massive potential windfall ahead of them if they go all-in on the women’s game. 

Multiple WSL teams have already announced games will be played at Premier League stadiums this season. Chelsea will open their season at Stamford Bridge (capacity 41,837) rather than Kingsmeadow (capacity 4,850), and the Merseyside and Manchester derbies will be played at Anfield and the Etihad, respectively. We can only hope that an influx of investment will allow for stakeholders to push on advancements in facilities and standards across the league, as well as potential expansion for the WSL.There’s honestly a lot to be jealous of from this side of the Atlantic — but the moment will have a ripple effect here, too.The NWSL will need to up its game across the board, and increase investment, to prove itself as a top-quality league that can attract and retain international talent. Television numbers like 885,000 viewers in the U.S. for the final between England and Germany could force the issue of increased broadcast investment and accessibility in America, as well, with ESPN’s production value across the entire tournament setting a new standard.No matter what, the lens through which we view things has once again changed: there’s before and after last Sunday, and the race is on to make the most of it before a golden opportunity slips away. Alongside ‘99 and 2011, ‘22 has joined the list of major soccer moments.

Picking the best and worst of Euro 2022: From once-in-a-lifetime goals to late trains and broken Wi-Fi

There’s never any shortage of world football matches going on at any given time — just look at the diverse offerings on ESPN+ — but what makes a tournament like the Women’s Euro 2022 so special is that it has the very best on offer.Some of the best goals, best saves and best performances happened in England this summer during the Euros. But there’s always that flipside in sport, where with the best you find a bit of the worst, too.With that in mind, ESPN’s writers who covered the tournament throughout July are weighing in with their best and worst of Euro 2022. Here are Tom Hamilton, Sophie Lawson, and Mark Ogden with their superlatives from a memorable summer.


Best goal

Hamilton: Well, it has to be Alessia Russo‘s backheel against Sweden. It was an outrageous piece of skill, which nutmegged two players and closed out the match. It said everything about this group of players — they had the confidence to try the outrageous but it also spoke to Russo’s mental strength. Just seconds previously she missed a chance that she should’ve scored. But instead of halting in her tracks, she chased the rebound and then backheeled the ball past half of Sweden and into the far corner.

Lawson: Firstly, shout-out to all the group stage bangers from just inside/outside the box that curled to snuggle inside of the post — there was a raft of them and they were great, but have all been DWARFED by that damn Russo goal that we are all going to pick. Cool, calm, collected, deft and just filthy… and of course, enough to deny Sweden any route back into the match so, important to boot.

Ogden: Tough one. The obvious answer is Russo’s back-heel goal against Sweden — being there to see it live was like watching Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo do something magical — but in terms of importance, I’m going to go with Georgia Stanway’s come-from-behind winner in England’s quarterfinal win against Spain. It was a tight game, heading for penalties, but Stanway grabbed the moment and claimed the win with a goal that had echoes of Bobby Charlton’s goals in 1966 or the kind of spectacular strike that once typified David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. Stanway’s goal puts her in that bracket.

Best player

Hamilton: That midfield duo at the heart of England’s midfield have been magnificent. Georgia Stanway has played brilliantly with her goal against Spain the sort worthy of winning any quarterfinal, but I’m going for Keira Walsh. She’s been absolutely outstanding for England and has been absolutely instrumental in all of their transitional play, while also acting as the wall in front of England’s back four. She’s already had her face projected onto the National Gallery in London, but her performances here have cemented her as a national superstar.

Lawson: Seeing as I wrote a whole article about Lena Oberdorf being the best player at the tournament

The midfielder has been fantastic this summer, reading the game like someone twice her age, standing up to all challenges and chaining up some of the biggest attacking threats at the Euros. At a tournament when we’ve looked to the attacks and kept talking about the Golden Boot race, the 20-year-old has been putting on a clinic game after game — and anyway, goal scorers are so passé.

Ogden: Leah Williamson has been majestic in the heart of defence for England, not only with her reading of the game and passing ability, but also her leadership as captain. Other players have had more spectacular tournaments, but Williamson has been quietly outstanding. Special mention also should go to her defensive partner Millie Bright who has been the perfect foil for Williamson.

Most disappointing player

Hamilton: I expected and hoped for so much more from Ada Hegerberg and Norway. She’s an incredible talent but her lack of chances at the tournament was symptomatic of the deeply underwhelming Norway team. Against Austria it was her sort of stage, but she was misfiring and that’s not like her. In a match Norway had to win to get through the group stage, they didn’t manage a single shot on target until the 89th minute. This will have hurt Hegerberg and expect to see a response from her at next year’s World Cup.

Lawson: Can I say every Italy player? Coming into the tournament, I knew Norway, Spain and the Netherlands had their issues so I’m not too surprised about their underwhelming performances — but Italy’s complete collapse against France and inability to correct themselves for their next two games was jarring. There were glimpses from some of the attackers of the talent that was lurking but match after match, we saw an 11 that was just staggeringly below their level, disappointing doesn’t even cut it.


Ogden: I’m not going to single out a player for underperforming, basically because this has been a tournament that has showcased the best of the women’s game rather than any negative elements. But it was a blow for the tournament that Spain’s Alexia Putellas missed out with a cruciate ligament injury. It would also have been good to have seen more of England’s Nikita Parris than brief glimpses from the substitutes’ bench.

Best save

Hamilton: How different the whole game may have been had Mary Earps not managed to keep out Sofia Jakobsson’s effort in the first minute of England’s semifinal against Sweden. She made a box office save later in the match under her own crossbar, but that save first up was absolutely key. Jakobsson managed to find space on the left and fired a shot in at Earps’ far post. Earps instinctively stuck out her left leg and managed to deflect it clear. Had that gone in, that match would have gone very differently.

Lawson: It’s worth remembering that we saw some cracking saves from Daphne van Domselaar, Merle Frohms and Nicky Evrard but I’m going to go a little out of the box here and say Mary Earps against Austria. It was a late effort from Barbara Dunst, but exactly the type she likes when she can work the space and lash a curler towards goal, but Earps getting across to deny the 24-year-old one of the goals of the tournament carried extra significance. Not only was it a textbook “good” save but it kept Earps’ clean sheet, giving her more confidence for the subsequent games but it ensured England held onto all three points to start the tournament with a win; again, a firmer foundation the team were able to build upon.

Ogden: This has been the Mary Earps show. Two crucial saves in the semi against Sweden — in the first minute and then tipping over from Stina Blackstenius moments before Alessia Russo made it 3-0. The Blackstenius save was huge because, had that one gone in, a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes to go would have ensured a totally different end to the game and could have motivated the Swedes to haul themselves level.

Best game

Hamilton: England’s quarterfinal win over Spain was one of the most nervy and tense matches I can remember. It was a match where Spain dominated much of the first 60 minutes, only to then eventually fall to Ella Toone’s late equaliser and Georgia Stanway’s extra-time winner. We got to witness the complete brilliance of Aitana Bonmati, and Spain’s intricate passing — had they had a fit Jennifer Hermoso, England would have been in trouble. But then we also saw the heroic performance of Millie Bright at the heart of England’s defence and Stanway’s blockbuster winner. It was a brilliant match, in a superb atmosphere and was everything this tournament’s about.

Lawson: This is a horrible question to ask someone who’s reported on half of them in this heat, leaving one big melty blob of a memory of the entire month … that being said, the Germany-France semi-final was up there in terms of tension and, let’s be boring here but, solid defensive structures and counter-pressing. There is something to be said for a match that’s so tightly contested, yes yes, most fans would rather see their team sow it up early with some outrageous attacking but the stress of a close game when so much is riding on it, makes it stick out in the mind.

Ogden: It has to be the final, doesn’t it? England-Spain and Germany-France were both seismic games that could have gone either way, but the final had everything. Two top teams who were so well-matched and England had to show real grit and determination to win before the audacity and skill of Ella Toone gave them the breakthrough. But Germany equalised and took the game into extra-time to add to the tension, only for Chloe Kelly to seal victory for England and save us / deny us the drama of a penalty shootout.

Worst game

Hamilton: The Sweden-Belgium game was a struggle to watch. It was attack against defence and despite the remarkable performance from Belgium keeper Nicky Evrard, it was cagey and error-strewn. Eventually Sweden broke Belgium’s resolve with a 92nd minute goal from Linda Sembrant, but it was a match that promised so much more.

Lawson: I personally do not like drubbings, and not just because I support a club team who has frequently been on the receiving end of them, so, for me, it’s the 8-0. You can say a dull 0-0 is the worst but those games are usually, easily forgotten but the complete capitulation from Norway to the point that they weren’t even trying to defend was deeply uncomfortable and will be consigned to women’s football infamy. Worst defending, worst individual performances, worst in-game management, worst defeat in Norwegian and Euros history. Overall, a terrible look for the women’s game.

Wiegman: England’s Euro win will help change society

Sarina Wiegman speaks about the lasting impact of England’s win at the Women’s European Championship.

Ogden: When you look back on England’s performance throughout the tournament, the opening game against Austria — a 1-0 win at Old Trafford — was pretty dull in comparison to what was to come. Opening games are always a challenge due to the desperation of both teams to avoid a bad start and that was evident in this game. But things got better — much better.

Best part of covering Euro 2022

Hamilton: Little beats the involuntary reactions of fans to when their heroes do something remarkable. Watching England-Sweden in Trafalgar Square was a joy — and you could see up close exactly what this tournament meant to people of all ages. The atmosphere there was a mixture of curious football fans wearing last summer’s England tops, young girls and boys who had the Lionesses’ names on their back, and families looking for a midweek outing in London.

There, captured in the 4,000 present in the famous square was the manifestation of exactly why the last four weeks have been so special. It’s meant something different to everyone watching it — from those who have been integral to the game’s growth, to those watching the women’s game for the first time, and those who have loved watching their heroes.

Lawson: It has absolutely nothing to do with the football, but tournaments are fantastic for socialising with other, shall we say, women’s football enthusiasts. Especially as this was the first major women’s tournament since the start of the pandemic (that fans were allowed to travel to and attend), it’s seen people from all over the world descend on England.

Yes, it is tricky when you’re working and travelling up and down the country, but I’ve found the time to catch up with other journalists I haven’t seen since the 2019 World Cup as well as finally getting to meet up with fans and women’s football creators I’ve been talking to for years. The women’s football community is a fun one.

Ogden: The atmosphere around the games and total absence of rival groups of fans taunting each other, berating the players and officials or disrupting national anthems. There has also been a lack of toxicity on social media connected to the tournament.

Covering Euro 22 has made me realise just how angry and unforgiving the men’s game has become in so many ways, so it would be something if the women’s game can inspire a positive change in that area.

Worst part of covering Euro 2022

Hamilton: It has to be the pesky U.K. transport system. It simply wasn’t up to scratch to service the tournament with hundreds delayed getting to Brighton for England’s match against Norway, and then train strikes interrupting plans on the day of the Germany-France semifinal. Some of the venue choices were also curious, at best — how must those feel who turned down the chance to host matches at this tournament when they were asked five years back.

Lawson: The trains, obviously. You can’t really blame the FA for the strikes and issues that come with the hot weather — that’s just the infrastructure of the country — but it put a dampener on things for fans and journalists alike.

It’s a boring one, but another is the behind-the-scenes logistics for media. From Wi-Fi that wasn’t strong enough to email over a match report, to outside mixed zones in the wind and rain that are full of screaming fans, to stewards that don’t know where anything is when you need directions. Media rooms that not only run out of food (OK, whatever), but out of water in scorching weather? It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s before you talk about the stadiums that aren’t fit for hosting a Euros. It’s quite frankly been a mess, and made it harder to work — especially after the comparative ease of the last two tournaments I’ve covered.

Ogden: The social media takes from those who won’t give the women’s game any credit or suggest that the coverage of the tournament has been a token gesture. Who knows if they will ever open their eyes, but more than 87,000 people turned up at Wembley to watch a truly memorable final, so the critics and cynics are the ones who are missing out.

Hopes for 2022-23 after Euros

Hamilton: That England doesn’t squander the legacy. The opportunity provided here to grow the game in the country is one every stakeholder cannot afford to pass up. They have bold targets, including a focus on increasing the numbers of girls playing football in schools. Currently just 43% of girls play the sport in secondary schools (11-18 years old) and the FA plans to increase this to 75% by 2024. These are the sorts of targets which have to be hit, but are just one aspect of the momentum generated by this tournament.

Lawson: I’m sure this will be a shared sentiment among us writers and indeed among all outlets but, that there’s an appetite for women’s football. Major tournaments are vastly different from league football and just because a country goes mad for their national team, that doesn’t mean they’re going to seek out their home league but the football is there for those who have seen enough this summer to put in the effort.

We saw it with the U.S. off of the back of the 2019 World Cup — these tournaments drive investment in the game and with the pandemic rather putting the kibosh on increased attendances and interest, this is another iron hot/striking moment.

Ogden: I hope that stadiums in the Women’s Super League can now welcome capacity crowds and that clubs outgrow their grounds and look to build again. It may be a long path, but there is clearly a massive reservoir of football-supporting women and girls who want to see the sport grow.

It’s a shame that the 2023 World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, will take place in a time zone that doesn’t lend itself to huge television audiences in Europe and the U.S., but even if a game kicks off at 4 a.m. in the Northern Hemisphere, many more supporters will tune in than before, so that’s a big positive from Euro 2022.

Banned, ignored… adored: How England fought to become women’s Euro 2022 champions

Charlotte Harpur and more

Chloe Kelly stripped off her shirt and wheeled it above her head, sprinting away in front of a 87,192 adoring fans. White sports bra on show, she celebrated England’s winning goal at the European Championship in iconic style and so she should. That gesture will become famous for years to come.

It was the moment that England beat Germany 2-1, a time that will change England women’s football forever. This was a landmark event, a moment of history, a new beginning of how the women’s game should be applauded and revered from now on.

It has not always been that way. Women’s football in England has struggled for equality, support and recognition ever since the Football Association banned it in 1921 for 50 years.When the FA officially lifted the ban in 1971, the game was run by volunteers at the Women’s FA. Pat Gregory, former secretary of the governing body, says the success of the modern team owes much to “the determination of men and women in the Women’s FA not to give up”.“For my generation, I call it the lost generation,” 119-time capped England international Gill Coultard tells The Athletic. “We stood still. When we reached the Euro 1984 final, we thought it might just parachute but for all those years from 1984 to when the FA took over in 1993, it didn’t.”When the Women’s FA became part of the FA, Coultard thought: “Wow, this is it. It’s going to explode.”But it wasn’t that simple.

Kelly delivers an iconic celebration to a goal that delivered a historic victory (Getty Images)

When England reached a World Cup in 1995 and progressed to the quarter-finals, Coultard thought: “We’ve got a chance.”

But again, the game stood still. At that tournament, England didn’t have a meeting room in the hotel or a bus to take them to training or matches.

The revolution began in 1998 when England failed to qualify for the following year’s World Cup and Ted Copeland, the part-time manager, was sacked. The FA’s technical director Howard Wilkinson approached England international Hope Powell. In 1998, at the age of 31, she went from playing for her country to becoming the first full-time England manager.

“Hope was a titan,” says Brent Hills, Powell’s former assistant head coach. “For many years, Hope was responsible for everything and I mean everything.”

“Hope put the foundations in for what it is now,” says England legend Kelly Smith. “She had to fight for everything — fight to have an office at Wembley, they didn’t want to give her one. It is things like that that people don’t realise.”

There was no manual for a job that no one had ever done before.

Powell had her part-time assistant Paul Smalley and mentor Alan May, but that was it. Rachel Pavlou, one of the many unsung heroes of women’s football, was appointed regional development manager. Powell ended up overseeing the set-up of women’s football, managing the senior team, running talent ID days for young players and restructuring grassroots football. There was no youth system in place.

“We were a nation in fast decline,” she writes in her book, Hope: My Life in Football. “The gulf between us and the top world sides was becoming a chasm.”

Yet 24 years later England are champions of Europe, an elite football team who have captivated a nation.

From banned to loved across the land: this is the story of how women’s football in England was transformed.


During her first game against Sweden in July 1998, it was clear to Powell that the players were not fit enough. They were way off the pace of Germany and the United States. When Powell came in, England averaged five games a year. Germany and the US were playing 15 to 20. Powell organised more games outside competition schedules and spoke to Umbro to design women’s shirts.

Powell, centre right, went from playing for England to managing them in 1998 (Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images)

She made key appointments: Louise Fawcett joined as the first full-time physio, supporting part-time physio Jill Chapman, Graham Keeley became Powell’s first goalkeeping coach, Mo Marley worked part-time with Powell on the under-19s while chief medical officer Dr Pippa Bennett and sports scientist Dawn Scott were crucial to the team’s transformation. The staff wore many hats, taking on generalist roles due to the lack of numbers.

“In 2001, the set-up was minimal, sports science wasn’t heard of in women’s football,” says Scott, speaking to The Athletic over the phone from Inter Miami where she is the club’s director of performance.

Like Powell, Scott had a blank canvas, exciting but also daunting. The role had never existed. How should England women use sports science? How could she work with Powell on the technical side and the medical team? What do their warm-ups look like? How could they monitor training? Scott began to test players’ fitness during camp. They would do minimal strength training and technology was limited, fitness trackers and motion analysis felt like another world.

It is easy to forget the players were amateurs with full-time jobs. Scott’s biggest dilemma was how to support them when they were not with England. Outside of camp, she would have to print and send players individual training programmes via post and it was the players’ responsibility to find a place to train on their own alongside their day jobs. “For Karen Walker and Samantha Britton, their heart-rate watches were like their personal trainers,” says Scott.

In 2001, the FA created more than 50 licensed Centres of Excellence to provide quality coaching for talented girls. “There was no resource to scout in clubs all over the country, so we had to try to funnel it,” explains Kay Cossington, a former England Under-15 coach, now head of women’s technical.

Powell also asked Wilkinson for funding of about £50,000 to set up regional centres for senior players to train locally.

The players were asked to do two conditioning sessions a week to reduce the fitness gap to their rivals, as well as their twice weekly club sessions, while juggling full-time work. Players were put into regional training clusters and the FA paid for a qualified personal trainer to work with them. Scott brought in weightlifting champion Barrie Beasley to design a strength programme using weights.

Jill Scott and Demi Stokes, two of Sarina Wiegman’s players this summer, would later benefit from such a group in the north east of England.

“It was harder,” says Dawn Scott. “You’re trying to impact their behaviour and lifestyle in terms of nutrition, recovery, hydration without the support of a professional club or environment.”

In 2001, set up by Powell, 19 players received a place on the first fully-funded scholarship programme at Loughborough’s player development centre.

Clubs were still part-time so after their GCSEs, players such as Casey Stoney, Amanda Barr, Carney, Ellen White and Scott were able to train almost full-time and study.

The FA covered tuition, coaching and accommodation costs. The ambition was to help England win the 2007 World Cup with Jane Ebbage and Lois Fidler leading the centre and Mo Marley as head coach.

Four years after an 8-0 thrashing by Norway, England beat them 1-0 in Barnsley in 2004. “There were big strides made in terms of fitness and Dawn Scott made a huge difference,” says Hills.

The creation of a youth system would be crucial if England were to have success in the future. Powell had already introduced an under-19 age group, led by Marley, and in the early 2000s added the under-17s, coached by Fidler. The team’s creations coincided with UEFA’s decision to launch European Championships for those age groups.

An under-23s team was set up to bridge the gap between the under-19s and senior teams. Hills assumed the head coach role, as well as leading the pathway’s coaching development.

“As the game was getting more professional, the jump from under-19 to senior team was so big,” he explains. “Fara Williams started her first international at the age of 18, that wouldn’t happen now unless you’re the next Kelly Smith. There’s no way any under-19s are getting into the senior team today.”

Because of his dual role with the seniors and under-23s, Hills could work closely with Powell. “Hope brought in a clear rationale of how we were going to play,” he says. All the age levels, apart from the under-15s, played in a 4-3-3 formation so they felt comfortable playing in one system from under-17 to the senior squad.

Another significant step came in the mid-2000s when Powell secured players part-time contracts which allowed them to split their week between training and work, aiding a more professional environment. Hills also managed to get anyone who was a senior international membership of the players’ union, the PFA.

Despite making progress, England failed to qualify for the 2003 World Cup. “A reality check,” says Scott

In 2005, England hosted a home Euros. Scott was puzzled by all the traffic on the roads, only realising later it was fans on the way to the stadium. She spotted men wearing England shirts with (Rachel) ‘Unitt’ on the back on and thought, “Oh my goodness.”

“I remember going out for the warm-up, there were 29,000 at that game and you couldn’t hear people shout, we weren’t expecting it,” she says.

“We went into the changing rooms and Hope said to the players, ‘We need to come up with hand signals to pass on information because you won’t be able to hear.’ We weren’t expecting it.”

A 17-year-old Carney scored the winner in the first game at the Manchester City Stadium when they beat Finland 3-2 but England were eliminated at the group stages. They finished bottom as Sweden, who would were World Cup runners-up two years’ earlier, led the way followed by Finland and Denmark.

England were knocked out of a home Euros in 2005 in the group stages (Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

“Things were starting to change,” says Hills. “We would have over-performed if we got out of that group considering the strength of opposition.”

“It was changing the culture of women’s football a little bit in this country,” says Scott. “Going from a participation activity to qualifying for major tournaments.”

Directly qualifying for the 2007 World Cup in China was a “major milestone”, according to Scott. “We could see from their fitness data, and subjectively in games, the players were getting faster and stronger.”

For the first time, England travelled business class to Macau to complete a 14-day training camp leading up to the World Cup, using the British Olympic Association facility which was ready for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “We did hand cooling, spoke to the players about sleep, nutrition, lifestyle and their training programmes,” says Scott.

Before travelling to China, England didn’t have a nutritionist or a chef. During camps, Scott would write the menus for the hotels and work with the team administrator to see what could be provided. “Hotels are ridiculous,” she says. “They can charge £10 just for a bowl of strawberries. It was our biggest headache on camps because sometimes the food was terrible. Food is mood!” Idris Caldora, the chef who accompanied the team, was described by Powell as a “marvel”.

The 11-strong team consisted of Powell, one assistant coach, one goalkeeping coach, the team doctor, two administrators, two physios, one sports scientist, a kit manager, a video analyst and the FA press officer.

England flew to the 2007 World Cup in China in business class for the first time (Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Powell had a six-person scouting team in China to analyse future opposition. It was a stark contrast to the support team in the 1995 World Cup when they didn’t have a meeting room in the hotel or a bus to take them to training or matches.

An England team — which included stalwart Jill Scott — lost in the quarter-finals to the United States.

There were signs of greater progress to come. A year later, at the under-17 World Cup, England reached the semi-finals. Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze were part of the team who lost 3-0 to Germany in the third place play-off.

Powell brought in a psychologist for the first time in the lead-up to the 2009 Euros in Finland. The team were still semi-professional but three players had turned pro in the US Women’s Soccer League: Karen Carney, Kelly Smith and Alex Scott.

Dawn Scott, the sports scientist, had to manage their load as the trio were mid-season and a little fatigued. “We would give Karen Carney handfuls of Haribo jelly sweets during the game to get the sugar because we wanted to keep her going,” says Scott. “That’s probably a reflection of the nutrition, carbohydrate gels weren’t available.”

England made the final, having never got past the quarter-final stage before, but it was not originally due to be shown on TV in England. It was eventually broadcast on the red button.

“We got absolutely battered by Germany, losing 6-2 in the final,” says Hills. “That was a reflection of where our game was. Germany was by far the strongest team in Europe. They won the World Cup in 2007 without conceding a goal.”

England lost the 2009 Euros final 6-2 to Germany (Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images)

“That experience of preparing for and playing six games, that density is a big thing in a major tournament,” says Scott, of her last tournament under Powell before moving to the US Women’s national team.

“Germany were stronger, faster, physically better than us. We got to the final but we still had some way to go on the physical side. It was small steps all the way.”

“When I think back to what other countries looked like and how they invested, it was realistic to where we were as a sport back then,” says Cossington.

“The Germans had girls in their elite schools at 13. Alexandra Popp was in an elite school with boys throughout her whole career.

“Our girls were playing in girls’ clubs and training twice a week. The comparison was miles off. No wonder Germany won six championships back to back. I went over to Germany. From the age of 13, these players were lifting weights and were physical specimens at 13, 14, 15. We thought, ‘We’ve got a long way to go’.”

The investment in the younger age groups was starting to bear fruit. The under-19s, led by Marley and Cossington won their 2009 Euros age group for the first time. Lucy Bronze came up against Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson in the final, the forward who she thwarted only last week in the Euro 2022 semi-final.

Always striving for more, in 2009 Powell secured funding for centralised contracts. She wrote the first draft before passing the contract on to the FA’s lawyer, Mary Guest. “We were asking the players to be more professional but still treating them like amateurs,” she wrote in her book.

Contracts of £16,000 per year — “a drop in the ocean compared to Premier League players,” wrote Powell — were given to 20 players. They went part-time with their day jobs and were able to work up to 24 hours a week to top up their income.

A key turning point was in 2010, when the Women’s Super League (WSL) was established. It was the end for the Loughborough player development centre as resources were pooled into the domestic league. Its creation was a statement with ambitions of being a full-time professional league, allowing players to train and play within high-performance environments.

“It wasn’t professional by any stretch in the first five or six years,” says Cossington. But standards were raised to meet the league’s licence requirements.

“It acted as a catalyst for clubs to start to think about investing in the game,” says Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s professional game. “If they wanted to be in the top tier of women’s football, they had to meet certain criteria.”

Expectations increased and in 2013 Manchester City were given direct entry to the top flight while Doncaster Belles were controversially demoted to the second tier. City pumped in investment and some of England’s best players such as Steph Houghton, Scott and Karen Bardsley as well as international stars moved to the £250million City Football Academy at the Etihad Campus.

“The step change in investment started with (former FA CEO) Martin Glenn and has continued under Mark Bullingham’s leadership,” says Simmons. “From the top of the organisation, there has been a commitment to really drive the women’s game forward.”

The pro league brought an end to centralised contracts with England and club contracts became more lucrative, for some but not all. In 2018, the FA made it mandatory for clubs to be full-time and professional.

Why was 2018 the right time? “We brought Barclays in (as a sponsor) and started to look at TV rights. If we’re going to bring brands in, get a really good TV partnership, put that game in front of audiences of millions, you want to make sure that the product is the very best it can be,” says Simmons. “England was never going to maximise its potential if the players were having to work part-time.”

“If you want to compete on the world stage, it’s absolutely fundamental that your players are in full-time training with the best support and competition programme.”

In recent years, branded as the most competitive league in the world, the WSL has attracted some of the best international players providing high-quality, fast-paced games week in, week out.

“We’ve been losing a lot of players to America and wanted our players to feel they had a chance to break into the WSL,” says Simmons.

Part of England’s success, says Simmons, is down to the clubs. “They have helped produce those players from a young age. It’s a combination of the FA and club investment.”

The talent pathway was crucial to nourishing young players. “I talk now to Leah (Williamson), Georgia (Stanway) and Keira (Walsh) and remember them coming into an under-15s camp,” says Cossington, their former head coach.

“They were like Bambi on ice. I remember Alessia (Russo)’s legs grew and not much else, Ellie Roebuck was the same. It is beautiful to know them at that age group.

“If you look at the average age of players debuting in the senior team at 24 or 25, it is that 10-year cycle of them coming into the system.”

The senior team’s full-time physios and strength and conditioning coaches were also responsible for devising programmes for all age groups, an enormous remit.

“As teenagers, these players had the benefit of the first tranche of investment. The coaches were working with these same players when they were as young as 12 or 13 and that made a massive difference.

Williamson as England Under-15s captain and her team-mates were getting the same education as then-England captain Faye White.

“There’s a thread of these players that have had this investment who were able to: train every day, supported by high-quality performance staff and a regular competition programme,” says Cossington.

Back at senior level, England had “underperformed”, according to Hills, at the 2011 World Cup, conceding an equaliser two minutes from the final whistle and being beaten on penalties in the quarter-finals by France.

The game had continued to grow though and for the first time, the British Olympic Association entered a team at London 2012, a turning point as the TV broadcast gave women’s football a far greater platform.

“Getting 70,000 fans at Wembley and beating Brazil 1-0, who at the time were rated one of the top six teams in the world was a big thing,” says Hills. Captain Houghton scored the only goal in that game and Great Britain topped their group but bowed out at the quarter-final stage.

The England team had always leaned on clubs for training facilities, such was their nomadic existence. They would go round the country trying to find a ground nearby, frequently using Bisham Abbey and Lilleshall national sports centres. At times, training grounds abroad threw up surprises. Hills recalls an England Under-19 trip to Romania where their allocated training ground housed a horse with its legs chained in the middle of the tunnel, tufts of grass and a herd of cows on the pitch.

The establishment of a national football centre at St George’s Park seemed like a dream. “We had hi-vis jackets and hard hats on, and were taken around this mud site,” recalls Cossington.

“We were told that ‘the hotel is going to be there, the football centre there’. I remember looking around thinking, ‘I can never see this happening and I can never imagine this being right for the women’s game. We wouldn’t get a look in. It would be the same thing that we were invited to but we couldn’t access. I’m so happy to say that I was really wrong because that was a real defining point for us.

“We had somewhere that we could call home and we felt really welcome. The women’s team had a performance suite with full-time physios, doctors, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches. We have to pay credit to Dan Ashworth at that time who really pushed for the women’s game.

“We had world-class facilities but most importantly, they invested in people.”

Having started off with just one senior team and one manager, over two years the FA appointed 18 staff to work with single age groups, expanding the talent pathway from under-15s to under-20s. Again, there were glimmers of hope from the younger generation. Fran Kirby, Demi Stokes and Mary Earps were in the under-23 squad who won gold at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia, beating Mexico 6-2 in the final.

A disappointing performance for the seniors in the 2013 Euros, however, saw England finish bottom of their group with one point. Powell was sacked. Mark Sampson was named England manager, Hills became head of elite development and Simmons led grassroots and the WSL

“It makes me laugh… they now pretty much have three people doing my old job,” explains Powell in her book. She has not been back into the FA offices since.

“I couldn’t bear it,” she writes. “The wonderful Rachel Pavlou cleared my desk for me. The truth is that the FA got me on the cheap. They put me in charge of every level of the international pyramid of women’s football at the FA — instead of paying for more staff to take responsibility for each of the levels.”

On the pitch, progress continued. England achieved the best result in their history at the 2015 World Cup, defeating Germany 1-0 after extra time in the third place play-off thanks to a Fara Williams penalty. A 22-year-old Lucy Bronze caught the world’s attention after her rocket against Norway.

England finished third at the 2015 World Cup (Photo: Matthew Lewis/FIFA via Getty Images)

A year later Baroness Sue Campbell, who oversaw Team GB’s medal haul at the Olympics as chair of UK Sport, was appointed as head of women’s football in 2016, “a real statement appointment”, says Simmons, who helped drive the FA forward.“There was just a different level of ambition being created in the FA,” adds Simmons.

The talent pathway was proving crucial in providing England’s next generation with major tournament final experience.The under-17 squad consisting of Lotte Wubben-Moy, Alessia Russo, Georgia Stanway, Ellie Roebuck and Ella Toone reached the 2016 World Cup quarter-finals in Jordan. At the 2018 Under-20 World Cup, England reached the semi-finals and beat France to gain a bronze medal. Chloe Kelly, Stanway, Lauren Hemp and Russo up top formed a formidable attacking threat with Roebuck named in goal.

At senior level, the game was engulfed by a scandal involving Sampson, the manager, who was sacked over “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour in a previous role. Sampson had earlier the same year faced allegations of making discriminatory remarks by England players, including Eniola Aluko. Sampson denied the allegations and was cleared by the FA. An independent barrister later ruled that he had made “ill-judged attempts at humour” towards Aluko and Drew Spence and the remarks were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The FA chief executive Martin Glenn said that the organisation had been guilty of “systemic, historic failings” and that “what should have happened was a process of due diligence — which does happen now — but did not happen then”.

In 2019, the FA reached a settlement with Sampson over his sacking.

Phil Neville replaced the sacked manager Sampson and in 2018 England came second at the SheBelieves Cup and won the tournament a year later, beating Brazil, Japan and drawing with the US.

Lucy Bronze at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, where England finished second (Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, Neville brought in performance innovation consultant Dr Luke Gupta who monitored players’ sleep habits. Dr Gupta has continued to work with the Lionesses: players complete a Q&A on sleep habits, health and hygiene which informs in-camp scheduling and have access to one-to-one sessions to help them with their sleep hygiene.England reached their third semi-final in a row at the 2019 World Cup but lost 2-1 to the US, who went on to become world champions.From across the pond, Dawn Scott, who was part of that winning US women’s national team, noted the increase in England’s presence at major tournaments. They had qualified for every tournament since 2007 and reached semi-finals in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

“Wow, England are getting closer and closer every single time,” she thought.

Then-manager Neville made contact with Scott in 2019 in an attempt to bring her back to work with England. The difference compared to her first stint 18 years before was noticeable. The number of staff had grown from single figures to 20-plus specialists. Players received education on sleep and nutrition, there was a team of data analysts looking at training loads, injury data and technical and tactical information from games. The team was armed with a network of resources.One thing Scott noted, however, was the support offered was applied from what the men’s department were doing and not specific to individuals, let alone female athletes. At the time, the technical strategy at St George’s Park covered both the men’s and women’s national teams.“Phil said to me, ‘I want you to bring in anything that you felt made the US team successful’.”One of the biggest impacts on the US team leading up to the 2019 World Cup had been the education around individuals’ menstrual cycles. The change in hormone levels every day can impact mental wellbeing, nutrition, hydration, recovery and sleep.

Scott brought in Dr Georgie Bruinvels, senior sports scientist, to run the sessions with the England team prior to flying out to the SheBelieves Cup in 2020. They worked closely with the medical staff, psychologist, dietitian and chef, looking at players’ different phases and devised individualised plans. England also introduced Oura smart rings so players could track their sleep, heart rate variability and core temperature as well as consulting players about their subjective wellness.

Wind back the years and data was hard to come by for the women’s game. Over the past five years, however, the Lionesses, on par with Premier League clubs, have used STATSports’ elite servce. They provide performance data collected from GPS player trackers, analysts contextualise the data and adapt individuals’ training plans if necessary, taking into consideration their capacities and workloads as well as the team’s training programme and tournament schedule. Over the season, data will be gathered from players’ time on international duty and their clubs to give the full picture.

The GPS sports bra tracks 16 metrics across volume, speed and cardio and can measure high-intensity distance covered, sprints, high-speed running, accelerations, decelerations, time spent in the “red zone” of an individual’s heart rate.

“If a player is not responding in the way that we expect, then the multidisciplinary department (analysts, coaches, physios, doctors) have an understanding of the data and make a decision on what to do next in terms of recovery to help them perform to their best,” explains Emmanuel Fajemilua, GPS analyst at the FA.

“When looking at metrics, we need to understand playing styles and players’ capacities. We play as a high press for England, but maybe some players are not really used to that in a club team so how do we bridge that gap between the two to make sure the player doesn’t overcook themselves?”

Another key aspect of England’s progress was working successfully with players’ clubs.

“The physical demands at club level were very different and lower than what players would experience with England,” says Scott.Scott had to bridge the gap with players and clubs.

“Some of the players didn’t take ownership for themselves. A lot of time was spent meeting players individually and educating them and sharing their data: ‘When you play for your club your load is here, when you play for England, it’s here and you need to be the driver. We can’t tell the club what to do, but you need to work with them to be ready for your club and for selection for England and tell them, ‘I want to be ready and prepared for selection for England and to do that, I need to do a little bit extra here’.”

One month into her new post, the sports scientist and Neville met with Keira Walsh in a conference room in Manchester.

“Keira looked as nervous as hell, white as a sheet,” Scott recalls. “We said, ‘You could be the best player in the world but you need to address your fitness, lifestyle and habits’.”

Scott went round to visit each club, as well as flying to Lyon where Bronze, Alex Greenwood and Nikita Parris played, meeting the club staff and discussing individual player needs. She told them: “’When players compete with England the demands are so much higher. We appreciate the programme for your games week to week, but what we’re going to see is when they come in to train and play with England, there is a spike in their training and physical load, so how can we work together to develop and support the players?’”“That was a big thing to ring the clubs up and say, ‘Can we work together?’. It’s very sensitive because you don’t want to tell the teams what to do but if not, you’re almost under preparing the players for what the international level demands.”At the end of 2020, for the first time, the Lionesses had a technical performance strategy separate from the men’s department which allowed the women’s team to implement their own strategies straight away and control their own budgets.

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, under interim manager Hege Riise, players realised what it took to play back-to-back matches and maintain a high performance. It was not just the fact that Team GB lost to Australia in the quarter-finals but the manner in which they did so, conceding three goals in 17 minutes.

“I remember Leah Williamson in the changing room after the Australia game,” Scott says. “She came over and said, ‘I know what it takes now, I never want to feel like this again.’

“That was a key moment for those players, for them to take that ownership, do all the right things all the time. Yes, you are a full-time professional but is it still optimal for what you need to be? You still need to be the driver.”After the Olympics, Scott left the FA to do consulting with FIFA specifically in relation to their pilot Physical Mentoring Program. One year on, she is impressed with how England have dominated physically at Euro 2022.“It’s unbelievable,” says Scott.“They are beasts out there. It’s the same starting XI, it’s the only tournament ever where that would have been the case. For all players to be available for selection, let alone start the game and play all those minutes, kudos to the staff because they’ve done an amazing job with the players to get them ready.”

When Sarina Wiegman joined in September 2021, she knew England already had good foundations in place. “It’s not like I thought I’m going to come in and change everything,” the Dutch coach says. “It has had such an incredible development already, I just wanted to figure out what I and the technical staff could add to this team to take the next step. I had to talk to players and staff to find out what made them so successful.”

Bronze said Wiegman has been the difference to England’s success. It is the Dutchwoman and her team that has brought England this far.

“The sport is evolving, it’s still so new,” says Cossington. “This year we’re celebrating 50 years of England women and five years of the professionalisation of the game. We’ve made significant strides in that time.”

But the journey doesn’t stop here. England’s pathway and the WSL’s competitive environment are giving English players the best possible chance to excel. With the World Cup and Olympic Games just round the corner, this is just the start.

Premier League preview: Man City, Liverpool title race again? Team-by-team guide, big questions for 2022-23

Aug 4, 2022ESPN

It’s finally here! The 2022-23 Premier League season begins Friday as Crystal Palace host Arsenal, and it’s been a summer of quiet revolution up and down the table. From new signings to notable exits, from big clubs like Man City and Liverpool trying to reinvent themselves to the continuing projects at Arsenal and Tottenham, there’s a lot to discuss. Who will win the league? How does every team look compared to last season?

With the big questions around the Premier League to a team-by-team guide, we’ll get you ready for kickoff on Friday.

Jump to: Burning questions | Team-by-team guide

Burning questions

1. Will Manchester City and Liverpool keep the rest at arm’s length?

When City sealed their fourth Premier League title in five seasons in May, their total of 93 points was the joint sixth-best mark in the competition’s history. Liverpool finished just one point behind, 18 points clear of third-placed Chelsea. Of the eight biggest point hauls in Premier League history, six of them have been achieved by these two clubs in the past five seasons, including all of the top four. City’s and Liverpool’s respective goal differences of +73 and +68 put them both into the top five in league history. (City monopolise the top three.)

As if all of that wasn’t ominous enough for the rest of the league, City have signed Erling Haaland, the hottest prospect in the world game who scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, as well as Julian Alvarez, the hottest prospect in South America who scored six goals in one Copa Libertadores match, which happened to be one of his final appearances for River Plate. Liverpool, meanwhile, have brought in Darwin Nunez, a striker who scored 32 goals in 38 games for Benfica last term, including strikes against BarcelonaBayern MunichAjax, and his new employers.

With the rest of last season’s top six clubs all in various stages of transition, can any of them mount a credible challenge to break City’s and Liverpool’s duopoly when that pair have been able to build again from such a position of strength?

2. Can Erik ten Hag start his rebuild without falling further behind?

It’s hard to believe that United are the only club other than City or Liverpool to finish in the top two in the past five seasons. Not only that, but they did it twice. And yet last season’s sixth-place finish means that manager Erik ten Hag begins work with the club at their lowest ebb.

The former Ajax coach has maintained an Eredivisie connection with his summer signings: Lisandro Martinez followed him from Amsterdam, Tyrell Malacia arrives from Feyenoord and even Christian Eriksen began his senior career in the Dutch capital. Several big personalities and long-standing players have been moved on after last season petered out under interim boss Ralf Rangnick, but settling the future of Cristiano Ronaldo — who has said he wants to leave despite struggling to find any interested clubs — could be the most pivotal piece of transfer business United do this summer.

Ten Hag will find it difficult to implement his playing style on a team that has the 37-year-old forward in it, but can he risk doing without last season’s top scorer, who netted more than twice as many goals as anyone else at the club?

Even if Ten Hag can get his own house in order in time, that will only take him so far. He told ESPN’s Rob Dawson this summer that one of his key aims is “to bring the confidence back” to Old Trafford, but there is little cause for optimism when looking at their main rivals for a top-four place next season.

3. Will we see the highest-scoring Golden Boot race in years?

Since Mohamed Salah shocked everyone in his first season at Liverpool by scoring 32 Premier League goals to claim the 2017-18 Golden Boot, the figures required to win the award have fallen back to normal levels. Salah shared the prize with fellow Africans Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the following season despite scoring 10 fewer goals (22), while he needed only one more than that to get his hands on it for a third time (shared with Son Heung-Min) last term. (That tally, 23, was also enough to make Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy top scorer in the previous two campaigns.)

– O’Hanlon: The Premier League’s best players, 97-71 (E+)
– Ogden: How ready are the big six for the new season?
– Johnson: What’s new in Premier League for 2022-23

It’s all a far cry from the days when the lead striker at a top club could make hitting the 30-goal mark a realistic target, but this coming season promises to bring that back. Haaland averaged almost a goal per game in the Bundesliga while at Dortmund (22 in 24 appearances last season, and 62 in 67 overall), so the main obstacle to a clear run at the Golden Boot for him could be his own injury issues. Nunez’s 26 goals in 28 league games for Benfica last term is similarly prodigious, although he’ll need a strong start to erase any whispers of “one-season wonder.”Tottenham’s Son will be backing himself to at least match last season’s tally now that Spurs have had a full preseason of prep under Antonio Conte, while teammate Kane is out to equal Thierry Henry’s record of four Golden Boots. Over at ArsenalGabriel Jesus has the chance to fully affirm his status as a top striker as the Gunners’ undisputed first-choice No. 9 with a rotating cast of busy young midfielders working to create the chances for him.

Chelsea don’t have an immediately obvious candidate to join this race, but in the 27-year-old Raheem Sterling, they now have a player who has hit 20 league goals in a season before and is approaching what should be his peak years. Plus, if Ronaldo ends up staying at Manchester United this summer, then we also have the greatest goal scorer of modern times in the mix. And we can’t rule out a contender from the fringes, either: After scoring 43 goals in the Championship last season, could Aleksandar Mitrovic finally make his mark on the top flight with Fulham after two previous failed attempts?

4. Will new-look Newcastle break up the big six?

It shouldn’t be difficult for Eddie Howe to have a better start to this season with Newcastle United than his predecessor, Steve Bruce, did last term. Without a win in his first nine games of the season before the club was taken over by the Saudi-backed PFI, Bruce was afforded one farewell match at St James’ Park in the form of a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham before he was sacked. After two draws and a defeat under caretaker Graeme Jones, Howe was appointed as the man to lead Newcastle into a brave new era.

The former Bournemouth manager claimed just one win before the January transfer window opened — a 1-0 home victory over Burnley — but the midseason arrivals of Kieran TrippierChris WoodBruno Guimaraes and Dan Burn, along with Joelinton‘s conversion from a misfiring striker into an all-action central midfielder, spurred Newcastle on to claim 12 more wins and secure a comfortable mid-table finish. This summer’s transfer business has been similarly sensible, with England goalkeeper Nick Pope coming in from Burnley and Matt Targett‘s loan from Aston Villa being made permanent, while defender Sven Botman is the closest thing to a glamorous, big-money foreign signing.

These are not signings to get the casual fan’s pulse racing, but they do consolidate Newcastle’s rapid improvement over the first half of the year and give them a real platform to target being this season’s “best of the rest.” And if they can set up camp below the top six this season, next summer’s window will see the next phase of the PFI plan come into effect. Also, if they can surprise everyone by looking like outside bets for the top four come January, who knows what they might be able to do to give their campaign a boost?

Howe is too sensible to be looking too far ahead, and he can’t afford to: Fixtures against Man City and Liverpool before the end of August will be at the forefront of his mind.

5. Can the yo-yoing between Premier League and Championship stop?

This will be the fifth consecutive Premier League season to feature either Fulham or Norwich City, but at no time in that run have both been in the top flight at the same time. Since 2013 the pair have won a total of seven promotions and have always ended up back where they were a year later. Those two teams, plus Watford and West Bromwich Albion, form a clutch of clubs that have been bouncing between the top two tiers of English football for the past few years without ever settling in either. Bournemouth — back up this season at the second attempt — and Burnley could also establish themselves as part of that group if they swap divisions again next summer.Those clubs that are regularly accruing Premier League parachute payments — perhaps in addition to generous backing from their owners — are finding it ever harder to break out of this purgatory, as all the other Premier League clubs are getting ever richer and the increasing gulf between the Big Six and the rest means that there are fewer points that are realistically available for newly promoted sides.

The aforementioned Mitrovic will be key to Fulham’s chances of staying up — although this was said the last time they came up, and the time before that. If the Serbia international can get even close to half of the 43 league goals he got last season, Marco Silva’s side might just have something to build on.

— Tony Mabert

Team-by-team guide


– Transfers in: FW Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), DF Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), MF Fabio Vieira (Porto), GK Matt Turner (New England Revolution), FW Marquinhos (Sao Paulo)
– Transfers out: MF Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), DF Dinos Mavropanos (Stuttgart), DF Daniel Ballard (Sunderland), GK Bernd Leno (Fulham)
– Last season: Premier League (fifth), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Better than last year for Arsenal means Champions League qualification, and that is the benchmark against which Mikel Arteta will be judged this term. The club opted not to strengthen in January when they were well-placed to secure a top-four finish amid wage restructuring due to financial fair play concerns and a lack of availability over their preferred targets. Missing out on Europe’s premier club competition to Tottenham was a huge blow, but it has not derailed the Gunners from their long-term plan, which has seen further investment including a couple of shrewd acquisitions from Manchester City in Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arteta knows both players well, having worked with the pair at City, and they add useful versatility that should make Arsenal more unpredictable. However, the team had no European football to contend with last term, and the return of Europa League engagements will make things tougher for them.

Key player: Gabriel Jesus

Jesus adds a potent goal threat at the top end of the pitch that Arsenal have lacked since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went off the boil before joining Barcelona. Seven goals for the Brazilian in five preseason games is encouraging, displaying both a promising understanding with his new teammates and the range of finishes he is capable of producing. Jesus’ success in transitioning from City will be a significant factor in determining whether Arsenal can crack the top four, given goals were an issue last season; Bukayo Saka was the club’s top scorer last season with just 12, while their Premier League tally of 61 was the lowest in the top five, with City (99), Liverpool (94), Chelsea (76) and Tottenham (69) all superior.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. There remains some scepticism toward Arteta after Arsenal fell away last term, and that will quickly grow if the Gunners get off to a slow start. But the 40-year-old’s backing among Arsenal’s hierarchy remains total. Despite this being his first managerial role, the Spaniard has been given a huge amount of influence at the club, ranging from staffing changes to decisions over paying off the contracts of unwanted players, all with the aim of creating a more efficient and professional work environment. That, in turn, brings its own pressure.

With a month left to go in this transfer window, Arsenal’s spending totals more than £250m in the past two summers. There can be no referencing hangovers from different eras: This squad is undeniably Arteta’s, and they have to improve. Having shown so much faith in him to this point, something would have to go badly wrong for Arsenal to dispense with Arteta this season.

— James Olley

Aston Villa

– Transfers in: DF Diego Carlos (Sevilla), MF Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), GK Robin Olsen (AS Roma), MF Boubacar Kamara (free agent)
– Transfers out: DF Matt Targett (Newcastle United), FW Mahmoud Trezeguet (Trabzonspor), MF Carney Chukwuemeka (Chelsea)
– Last season: Premier League (14th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard will do better than 14th place last season. However, the question should be different. It should read: Will Villa do better than they did under Gerrard last season? Because if we count only the points won by the team after his arrival in November, they would have finished ninth.

It was a very different Villa before Gerrard, even if they had a rough patch toward the end of the season with two wins in their last 11 games, but this team should keep improving with Gerrard, especially with the players they’ve brought in this summer. Defender Diego Carlos and defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara are great additions, while the permanent signing of Philippe Coutinho should allow him to play with more freedom. They’re not done yet given that they need a striker, too.

It’s a shame they lost Carney Chukwuemeka to Chelsea, but they are still very strong in midfield, especially if Jacob Ramsey keeps developing. Collectively, Gerrard has made the team much stronger and more structured with better patterns of play, especially on the right flank with Matty Cash. If Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins get more clinical and Coutinho is more consistently at his best, this team can surprise.

Key player: Philippe Coutinho

Which Coutinho will we get? The one who dazzled after his arrival on loan from Barcelona in January and put on some superb performances? Or the one who was anonymous in too many games toward the end of the season? Or both, maybe, if the Brazil international can’t find some consistency? Whatever happens, Coutinho will be the key. He is the creative brain of this team and arguably their greatest threat on the ball. He is the most gifted player in this squad, but he has to show it now. At 30 years old, this is a huge season for him, especially if he has a shot at making the Brazil squad for the 2022 World Cup. He needs a sharp start to the season to get momentum and beat the scepticism around him.

Will their manager last the season?

This is the Gerrard Project. Everything Aston Villa are doing right now is around him, and even if they start slowly, this club is committed to him and to this process. Gerrard got the players he wanted in the transfer window so far and expects (and should get) more. He has been backed up by the club, and he will deliver.

— Julien Laurens

AFC Bournemouth

– Transfers in: MF Joe Rothwell (free agent), DF Ryan Fredericks (free agent), MF Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough)
– Transfers out: DF Zeno Ibsen Rossi (Cambridge United), DF Sam Sherring (Northampton Town), FW Robbie Brady (free agent), DF Gary Cahill (released)
– Last season: Championship (2nd, promoted), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Bournemouth did much of their big business in January when they brought in Kieffer Moore and James Hill, but it’s been a quiet summer. They have a strong spine to the team with Lewis CookDominic SolankeLloyd KellyRyan Christie and David Brooks all key, but manager Scott Parker is clearly banking on the team that got them promoted, along with three new additions, being good enough to keep them in the Premier League. Fredericks will offer a new option at right-back, while Rothwell impressed for Blackburn last season. Tavernier will slot in nicely on the flanks or behind the striker, but they are going to have to hit the ground running.

Their opening fixtures are brutal — they play Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool in August — and no doubt their fans will have taken note of the big spending by their fellow promoted teams, Fulham and Nottingham Forest, but they will be putting all their chips on Bournemouth’s familiarity and cohesion being enough to keep them in the top flight. Anything above 18th will be a huge achievement.

Key player: Dominic Solanke

Highly rated Cook will be key alongside the likes of Kelly and Christie, and you should keep an eye on the fiercely talented Jefferson Lerma. But if Bournemouth are to survive, they need Solanke — who arrived for a £17m fee in 2019 — to take his championship goal-scoring form into the top flight. He scored 29 last term, following 15 the previous season, and Bournemouth will be banking on him finding the back of the net this time out. He needs to continue using that chemistry he’s forged with Philip Billing and Christie to find the goals that could keep Bournemouth afloat.

Will their manager last the season?

Bournemouth really should have won the championship last term, but had an awful habit of giving away leads. Parker knows they cannot afford to leave any points out there this season. His sole season in the Premier League with Fulham saw them relegated in 2020-21 and he will have learned from that, but this promises to be a tough season. I’d say his chances are 50-50 of being in charge by May.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: DF Aaron Hickey (Bologna), FW Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull City), DF Ben Mee (free agent), GK Thomas Strakosha (free agent)
– Transfers out: FW Marcus Forss (Middlesbrough)
– Last season: Premier League (13th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Apart from Christian Eriksen — who they brought in on a contract for the second half of the season — they haven’t lost any of their core group, which bodes well. They were brilliant last season, the highlight being their 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge against local rivals Chelsea, and you would expect them to improve this time around. But achieving that in a league like the Premier League could be quantified as managing to stay roughly where they were last term.

Their recruitment has been on point, with Lewis-Potter and Hickey both exciting, young talents, while Mee could prove to be an inspired piece of business, adding experience and leadership to their backline. The signing of Strakosha provides David Raya with the competition he needs, while they’ve also been strongly linked with Sampdoria playmaker Mikkel Damsgaard, who’s a wonderful talent.


If they can see out the transfer window without losing any key players — Ivan Toney‘s future is uncertain — then expect Brentford to finish where they did last season.

Key player: Ivan Toney

While they have added new faces to the flanks, they will be in a world of pain if Toney gets injured or leaves. He scored 12 Premier League goals last season — five ahead of Yoane Wissa and eight more than Bryan Mbeumo and Vitaly Janelt. It shows how reliant they are on Toney upfront. They did struggle at times last term with a lack of depth in the squad — which contributed to their dodgy run at the start of 2022. Summer moves mean they’re sufficiently deep at most positions, but a run of games without Toney would be tricky to navigate.

Will their manager last the season?

Owner Matthew Benham is not one for knee-jerk decisions, which is how he’s managed to take Brentford from League One to the Premier League in seven years. So even if Brentford end up in a relegation battle, then I feel Thomas Frank will see out the season. The fans adore him, the players work well with him and he has a great relationship with the owner. A look at the preseason odds on the first manager to get sacked shows he’s not even in the top 10 contenders — only Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have longer odds — so expect Frank to be there in May regardless of where Brentford finish.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: FW Julio Enciso (Libertad), FW Simon Adingra (Nordsjaelland), FW Benicio Baker-Boaitey (FC Porto)
– Transfers out: MF Yves Bissouma (Tottenham), DF Leo Ostigard (Napoli), MF Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion)
– Last season: Premier League (ninth), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

It’s hard to believe they can improve on ninth with a squad that’s not really been reinforced yet this summer. Bissouma’s exit weakens the midfield, while Marc Cucurella‘s endless status updates hint at another vital loss should he leave for Chelsea (amusingly being denied by Brighton on social media), Man City or Barcelona.

A squad in need of goals — last season’s top scorer was Neal Maupay, with nine — is banking on new signing Enciso being an immediate success out wide and Moises Caicedo making an impact in midfield. It seems a lot to ask, even with the mercurial Graham Potter always seeming to have a plan.

Explaining the confusion around Cucurella’s Chelsea move

Julien Laurens remains very confident that Marc Cucurella will complete his move to Chelsea despite some confusion over the deal on Wednesday night.

Key Player: Lewis Dunk

Much was made of Brighton’s finish in the top half last season and despite being relatively thin in front of goal (42 goals in 38 games), their defending was a major reason for their final position. Dunk will again be asked to shoulder the load in central defence in order to give his side a fighting chance, especially if a proven scorer isn’t added to the squad in the remainder of the summer transfer window.

Will their manager last the season?

It’s hard to imagine a fracture between Potter and the club given his remarkable methods on a sensible budget. Potter will be welcome on the south coast until he decides he wants a change, rather than the other way around.

— James Tyler


– Transfers in: FW Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), DF Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), FW Omari Hutchinson (Arsenal), GK Eddie Beach (Southampton), MF Carney Chukwuemeka (Aston Villa)
– Transfers out: DF Andreas Christensen (free agent, joined Barcelona), DF Antonio Rudiger (free agent, joined Real Madrid), DF Jake Clarke-Salter (QPR), MF Danny Drinkwater (released), FW Charly Musonda (released)
– Last season: Premier League (3rd), FA Cup (runners-up), Carabao Cup (runners-up)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Manager Thomas Tuchel faces a difficult task to improve on last season given the upheaval caused by Chelsea’s change of ownership. Roman Abramovich’s sale of the club — effectively forced by U.K. government sanctions over his alleged links to Russia president Vladimir Putin — led to a situation where the Blues were unable to negotiate new contracts with existing squad members or hold talks with new players. Consequently, Rudiger joined Real Madrid, Christensen left for Barcelona and Chelsea have been playing catch-up in the transfer window, all while Tuchel knowing there was already ground to make up on Manchester City and Liverpool.

The signing of Sterling from City is excellent business by new club chairman Todd Boehly, while Koulibaly adds experience at the back, but further reinforcements are required if Chelsea have any chance of closing what ended up as a 19-point gap to champions City last term. The chasing pack — led by Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United — have strengthened and so a frantic end to the window awaits.

Laurens: I’m worried for Chelsea and Man United

Julien Laurens expresses his concerns for Chelsea and Man United’s chances of finishing in the top 4 this season.

Key player: Kai Havertz

Chelsea spent €115m to sign Romelu Lukaku last summer, but Tuchel ended up preferring Havertz as his central striker. With Lukaku now back at Inter Milan on loan, Tuchel appears to be pinning a lot on Havertz to lead a title challenge. There remains the possibility Chelsea could sign a centre-forward before the window closes, but Havertz’s mixture of intense pressure and high quality in possession is something Tuchel favours in setting the tone from the front. Havertz ended with 14 goals from 47 appearances across all competitions: if he does play up front this season, that record must improve.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. The consortium led by Boehly and Clearlake Capital might have inherited Tuchel as manager, but he is a European champion who has conducted himself with tremendous humility and grace during the difficult takeover period. Significantly, he has also been given greater influence over transfers following the departures of technical and performance adviser Petr Cech, along with the club’s former lead transfer negotiator, Marina Granovskaia. Managers could never be confident of seeing the season out under Abramovich, but the early signs are that Tuchel would have to seriously underperform in order for a change to take place.

— James Olley

Crystal Palace

– Transfers in: MF Cheick Doucoure (Lens), DF Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), MF Cormac Austin (Linfield), GK Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion), FW Malcolm Ebiowei (Derby County)
– Transfers out: DF Martin Kelly (released), DF Jaroslaw Jach (released)
– Last season: Premier League (12th), FA Cup (semifinals), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Patrick Vieira: pretty good at this, eh? He wasted little time in turning a stodgy, obdurate team into an exciting, quick-passing side that has creativity and intent all over the pitch.


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• Frankfurt vs. Bayern (2:30 p.m. ET)
• Brugge vs. Zulte-Waregem (2:45 p.m. ET)

• Norwich vs. Wigan (7:30 a.m. ET)
• Union Berlin vs. Hertha Berlin (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Wolfsburg vs. Werder Bremen (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Augsburg vs. Freiburg (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Burnley vs. Luton Town (10 a.m. ET)
• Dortmund vs. Leverkusen (12:30 p.m. ET)
• Inter Milan vs. Villarreal (2:30 p.m. ET)
• Real Betis vs. Fiorentina (4 p.m. ET)

They might need a few games to adjust to the loss of Conor Gallagher, who was a purposeful presence in midfield during his season on loan from Chelsea, but there’s still plenty of quality in attack. Wilfried Zaha (14 Premier League goals last season) has help from the likes of Eberechi EzeMichael Olise and Odsonne Edouard, while the defense has been reinforced with the arrival of Chris Richards while Marc Guehi is now a full England international.

They might bump up a place or three as mid-table is truly hard to predict, but a deep cup run or even cup final would be a better target.

Key player: Wilfried Zaha

The 29-year-old is still their most consistent creative force as others are yet to come into focus. He’ll need to again lead the charge if the team are to have a strong season.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. He has brought entertainment and excitement back to Selhurst Park, a property more ethereal than league points but more valuable all the same. Unless there is another moment like at Goodison Park, when he got into an altercation with fans invading the pitch, he’s secure for as long as he wants to be.

— James Tyler


– Transfers in: FW Dwight McNeil (Burnley), DF Ruben Vinagre (Wolves), DF James Tarkowski (free agent)
– Transfers out: FW Richarlison (Tottenham), FW Cenk Tosun (free agent), DF Jonjoe Kenny (free agent), DF Fabian Delph (released), MF Gylfi Sigurdsson (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (16th), FA Cup (quarterfinals), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

If it gets any worse for Everton, they’ll be playing Championship football next season, which is almost unthinkable for a club of their size. There were times toward the end of last season when it felt like Everton were destined to get relegated, but in the end Burnley left themselves too much to do and Frank Lampard’s side escaped by the skin of their teeth.

Preseason results have been a mixed bag — a 4-0 defeat to Minnesota United was particularly worrying — but the biggest concern for fans will be the summer recruitment. Richarlison, Everton’s best player during last season’s run-in, has joined Tottenham and the only significant signings so far have been Tarkowski and McNeil from Burnley, although PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye looks set to return. Without Richarlison, there is a lot of pressure on Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score the goals, but he has to stay fit and is likely to miss the opening month.

Key player: Jordan Pickford

Goals are going to be a problem for Everton, but judging by last season, they will also need their goalkeeper in top form. England‘s No.1 attracts plenty of criticism for his form and style, but he was outstanding as Everton clawed their way out of trouble last season. Having Tarkowski in front as part of a more settled defence should help, but it’s still likely that Pickford will have plenty to do.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Lampard has shown signs at Derby and Chelsea that he could be a good manager, but Everton almost feels like an impossible job these days. Expectations will always be high because it’s a huge club, but it’s not being matched by investment in the squad. The group that struggled so badly last season hasn’t been significantly improved and many supporters will fear another year battling at the bottom. If things go badly, Lampard will be the one to pay the price even though there are plenty of others to blame for what’s happening.

— Rob Dawson


– Transfers in: MF Joao Palhinha (Sporting CP), MF Andreas Pereira (Manchester United), DF Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), MF Manor Solomon (loan from Shakhtar Donetsk), GK Bernd Leno (Arsenal)

– Transfers out: MF Andre Zambo Anguissa (Napoli), MF Fabio Carvalho (Liverpool), FW Timmy Abraham (free agent), MF Jean Michael Seri (Hull City),
– Last season: Championship (promoted to Premier League at champions), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

In the past four seasons, Fulham have been promoted twice to the Premier League, and relegated twice. So survival is the obvious target this term and their method this time around has been one of consolidation and improvement, rather than overhaul like they did ahead of the 2018-19 season (where they spent over £100m), and last time out in 2020-21 (where they brought in seven players on loan.) They appear to have learned from previous failings though manager Marco Silva feels they are still “undercooked” ahead of the season, saying earlier this week they have just 16 senior players at the club and just two central defenders.

Of those they’ve brought in, Mbabu should prove to be one of the signings of the summer, while Solomon and Palhinha are exciting, as is the arrival of Leno from Arsenal for a low fee and with plenty to prove. Pereira brings Premier League experience to the middle of the park, but there are still some unknowns. Last time out the prolific Mitrovic struggled in the Premier League; can he do better this time around? A new centre-back to start alongside Tosin would also be an astute piece of business, and they’ve been heavily linked with West Ham’s Issa Diop. They need to survive this year, given their previous yo-yo existence.

Key player: Aleksandar Mitrovic

Leno will be a busy man, but it must be Mitrovic. He scored an incredible 43 goals last season, shattering all sorts of Championship records in the process. But he struggled last time out in the Premier League in the 2020-21 campaign. Under Scott Parker he started just 13 matches that term, scoring only three league goals.

Will their manager last the season?

In previous seasons, had Silva started this campaign poorly, I’d have said he’d be gone by November. But there’s something different about their approach this term, with an admiration for Silva’s attacking brand of football. Fulham have made some poor decisions in the past with their managers — look at that ill-fated spell of Claudio Ranieri in the 2018-19 campaign, in which he lasted just three months — but they have settled since then. This team has evolved in their playing style and Silva has a good rapport with the owners. While previously backing a Fulham manager to be sacked before the end of the season was a safe bet, I believe he’ll still be there come May.

— Tom Hamilton

Leeds United

– Transfers in: MF Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), FW Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord), MF Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), MF Marc Roca (Bayern Munich), DF Rasmus Kristensen (FC Salzburg), MF Darko Gyabi (Manchester City), FW Sonny Perkins (West Ham United)

– Transfers out: FW Raphinha (Barcelona), MF Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)
– Last season: Premier League (17th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

This season has to be better for Leeds because the alternative simply doesn’t bear thinking about. Having avoided relegation only on the final day of last season, a worse campaign will mean dropping back into the Championship, so the stakes couldn’t be higher. But the outlook doesn’t bode well for Leeds due to the loss of key players Phillips and Raphinha since the end of last season. The club banked £97m by offloading the pair to Man City and Barcelona, respectively, but neither has been suitably replaced.

USMNT stars Aaronson and Adams have been signed by American coach Jesse Marsch, with Man City youngster Gyabi and Feyenoord’s Colombian forward Sinisterra also added, but all four new arrivals lack the Premier League experience and proven record of Phillips and Raphinha.

Getting striker Patrick Bamford fit and scoring again will be Marsch’s top priority. Bamford made just nine Premier League appearances last season due to injury, a huge loss that contributed to Marcelo Bielsa’s exit as manager in February. But with Marsch struggling to make an impact as Bielsa’s successor and key players moving on, it promises to be a tough year for Leeds and they will be in a relegation battle that may finish with a less positive ending.

Marsch hopes Adams & Aaronson alter British views of American soccer

Jesse Marsch tells SportsCenter why he wanted to bring Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson to Leeds.

Key player: Patrick Bamford

The 28-year-old scored 17 goals in 38 games during the 2020-21 campaign and his contribution enabled Leeds to secure a top-10 finish in their first season back in the Premier League after 16 years. But last season’s injuries saw him score just twice and Leeds desperately missed his goals and team play. The pressure on Bamford will be even greater this season and Marsch needs the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace forward to rediscover the form of fitness of two years ago. He’ll rely on Daniel James and Jack Harrison for service around goal, but ultimately, Bamford needs to make the difference.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Although the Leeds ownership — the San Francisco 49ers Enterprise group has a 44% stake — is committed to Marsch, having hired the American in February following his unsuccessful stint at RB Leipzig, he won just four of 12 games in charge and almost oversaw relegation back to the championship. The fans remain sceptical over his ability to make the team an established Premier League side, with an ongoing affection for previous manager Bielsa not helping Marsch win hearts and minds at Elland Road. Marsch needs a good start to the season to avoid creating more pressure for himself, but in the short term at least, he has the backing of the owners.

— Mark Ogden

Leicester City

– Transfers in: None
– Transfers out: GK Kasper Schmeichel (Nice)
– Last season: Premier League (8th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals), UEFA Europa League (group stage), UEFA Europa Conference League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Leicester finished eighth last season, and they will finish below that this season. They are the only team in the Premier League to have not yet recruited a player yet this summer (at the time of writing) — how can you expect to have a better season than the previous one if you don’t strengthen a squad which needs strengthening and showed weaknesses, especially defensively?

On top of that, players want to leave. Goalkeeper Schmeichel has joined Nice and he is a huge loss for the club not just as captain, but his experience and also as a connective thread to their title-winning season. Wesley Fofana is pushing for a move; Youri Tielemans is hoping for a big offer from one of the top teams; Newcastle are coming in hard for James MaddisonBoubakary Soumare wants more game time and could move back to France with Monaco.

Leicester have a tough start to the season as well, with trips to Arsenal and Chelsea and the visit of Manchester City within the first five games of the campaign! Jamie Vardy is 35 now and won’t always be the saviour, so someone else will have to step up: whether it is Harvey BarnesKiernan Dewsbury-Hall or Patson Daka remains to be seen. But Brendan Rodgers will feel the pressure and will have to be inspired if this season is to be a successful one.

Key player: Harvey Barnes

At 24, this is the season when Barnes has to get to the next level. Since he broke into the first team in the second half of the 2018-19 Premier League season, we saw a lot of potential talent and progress, too — from one goal and two assists in 11 starts in 2018-19; to six and eight in 24 starts the following year; nine and four in 22 starts after that; and six and 10 in 24 starts last season. After domestic campaigns with 14, 13 and 16 goal contributions, he has now to get over the 20 mark and really explode. Barnes has the talent to get 10 goals and 10 assists a season in the top flight. He needs to show these numbers and this consistency.

After he made his debut (and only cap so far) with England in 2020, plenty would have thought that he would still be in the England set up now. Instead, others have overtaken him in the pecking order. He needs a top season to bring himself back in.

Will their manager last the season?

Whether Rodgers gets sacked or he leaves by himself, he won’t finish the season. The campaign has all the ingredients to be a difficult one and Rodgers already wanted to leave in 2021-22 when the Manchester United job was available. You can easily see that the end of a cycle is approaching at Leicester within the squad, but also on the bench. Rodgers has taken this team as far as he could.

— Julien Laurens


– Transfers in: FW Darwin Nunez (Benfica), MF Fabio Carvalho (Fulham), DF Calvin Ramsay (Aberdeen)
– Transfers out: FW Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), DF Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest), FW Takumi Minamino (AS Monaco), DF Ben Davies (Rangers), FW Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff City), FW Divock Origi (AC Milan)
– Last season: Premier League (2nd), FA Cup (winners), Carabao Cup (winners), UEFA Champions League (runners-up)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Liverpool came within touching distance of a quadruple last season, missing out on the Premier League title on the final day before losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid. But although Klopp’s team almost had the dream campaign, falling short in the big two competitions means they can still improve this time around and winning both will be the objective.

Like Manchester City, Liverpool have signed players and lost some key men too. Mane will be a big loss, but if £75m striker Nunez settles quickly, the change may not be too painful. Persuading Mohamed Salah to extend his contract was a major boost for Liverpool, so they go into the new season as the team most likely to beat City to the title. (They also showed in their Community Shield win over City that they’re ready for the challenge.)

It’s difficult to envisage Liverpool failing to finish in the top two or being knocked out in the early stages of the Champions League, so it will be another big year ahead. And it could be the head-to-head encounters against City that decide whether this season is better or worse.

Nicol: Liverpool far superior in attacking than Man City

Steve Nicol praises the efforts of both teams for the Community Shield, but calls Liverpool’s attacking game far superior than Manchester City’s.

Key player: Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool possess an array of attacking talent, but even if they lost Salah for any significant period of time, they would be able to overcome his absence due to the available options, just as they did last season when the Egypt forward, and Mane, were away for over a month at the Africa Cup of Nations. It’s a different story in defence, however, and the player that Liverpool simply can’t do without is centre-back Van Dijk.

When he suffered a season-ending cruciate ligament injury early in the 2020-21 campaign, Liverpool’s title defence went off the rails and they only narrowly salvaged their season by sealing a top-four finish on the final day. Van Dijk brings experience, calmness and authority at the heart of the defence and he’s absolutely crucial to Liverpool’s ambitions.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. Klopp signed a new contract in April and is committed to managing the club until the end of the 2025-26 season, so there is no realistic prospect of the 55-year-old heading out of Anfield anytime soon. His plan is to deliver more success for Liverpool rather than seek a move elsewhere. He is there for the long-term.

— Mark Ogden

Manchester City

– Transfers in: FW Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), MF Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), FW Julian Alvarez (River Plate), GK Stefan Ortega (Arminia Bielefeld)
– Transfers out: FW Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), FW Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), DF Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal), MF Romeo Lavia (Southampton), GK Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), DF Pedro Porro (Sporting CP), MF Darko Gyabi (Leeds United), DF Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), GK Aro Muric (Burnley)
– Last season: Premier League (champions), FA Cup (semifinals), Carabao Cup (fourth round), UEFA Champions League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

City operate to such fine margins that a good season for everyone else would be a bad one for them if they fail to win the Premier League. And that will be the benchmark again for Guardiola’s team: they basically need to finish above Liverpool and then everything will take care of itself.

But although City have strengthened by adding Haaland, Phillips and Alvarez to last season’s squad, they have lost significant players in Fernandinho, Jesus and Sterling. Zinchenko’s versatility will also be missed following his move to Arsenal.

There is a quiet evolution taking place at the Etihad and it may just lead to the team falling short this time around. Haaland will score goals, but will he deliver in the biggest games and will he make up for the loss of Sterling and Jesus’ goals? City will finish in the top two, but it will be another tight race with Liverpool and how it ends will define whether this season is better or worse than the last one.

Why there’s no reason to worry about Haaland after Community Shield loss

Gab Marcotti defends Erling Haaland’s performance for Manchester City in their 3-1 Community Shield loss to Liverpool.

Key player: Erling Haaland

Kevin De Bruyne is City’s best player and the one that elevates the team to a level it only occupies when he is fit and available, but their key player this season will be Haaland. If the Norway forward lives up to the hype and scores a huge volume of goals, City could win everything they contest this season, but there are question marks over the former Borussia Dortmund star and how they are answered will be decisive.

Is Haaland a player who only scores lots of goals against weaker opponents? Or is he one who can also make the difference in the tightest games that will decide if City win the Champions League or Premier League? Time will tell on that, but the evidence of his performance against Liverpool in the Community Shield suggested that Haaland and his new teammates will take time to work out how each other plays. City haven’t played with such a direct No. 9 under Guardiola and they will have to alter their style accordingly, but Haaland also needs to adjust his approach to become more of a team player.

It will be fascinating to see how it all turns out, for player and club.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. The only way that Guardiola will leave the Etihad before the end of the season is if he chooses to do so and there is no sign of that happening. However, the big question is whether he will stay beyond that. His contract expires next summer and he has already said he will not consider extending it until then. All in all, it could turn out to be the final year of Guardiola’s stay.

— Mark Ogden

Manchester United

– Transfers in: DF Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), DF Tyrell Malacia (Feyenoord), MF Christian Eriksen (free agent)
– Transfers out: MF Andreas Pereira (Fulham), MF Jesse Lingard (free agent), MF Paul Pogba (free agent), MF Nemanja Matic (free agent), MF Juan Mata (released), FW Edinson Cavani (released)
– Last season: Premier League (6th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (third round), UEFA Champions League (round of 16)

Will they be better or worse this season?

The good news for new manager Erik ten Hag is that it can’t get much worse. The humiliation towards the end of last season has left expectations at rock bottom, and anything other than abject failure will be seen as some kind of progress. The new United manager has refused to play down his team’s prospects ahead of the season, but a top-four finish and some kind of cup run is probably the best he can hope for.

A lot will depend on which players come in before the transfer deadline because the squad still feels light in midfield and up front, but even in his short time at the helm, Ten Hag has created the feeling that at the very least, he’s moving the club forward. United face a battle to get back into the Champions League because the Premier League is so strong, but if Ten Hag can restore some pride and establish a clear way of playing, then it should be viewed as a successful first season.

Hislop: Ten Hag ‘absolutely right’ in saying Ronaldo shouldn’t have left early

Shaka Hislop dissects the dynamic between Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric ten Hag after Ronaldo was seen leaving stadium before the final whistle.

Key player: Anthony Martial

There were doubts about his future at the start of the summer following a loan move to Sevilla last season, but after a positive preseason, it would be no surprise to see Martial start the first game against Brighton on Sunday. With question marks surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo‘s future, it’s not clear who’s going to score the goals for Ten Hag, but if Martial can have a good season in front of goal, he could transform United’s prospects. If he stays fit, sharp and engaged, he could have a big season.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes — or at least he should. No United manager post-Sir Alex Ferguson has survived after missing out on the Champions League following a full season in charge, but that might have to change here. It’s far from guaranteed that United will finish in the top four, but there has to come a point when the chopping and changing of managers must stop. New CEO Richard Arnold has been keen to distance himself from Ed Woodward’s chaotic spell as the club’s top executive and giving Ten Hag time, no matter what happens next season, would be evidence of a much-needed change of direction.

— Rob Dawson

Newcastle United

– Transfers in: DF Sven Botman (Lille), DF Matt Targett (Aston Villa), GK Nick Pope (Burnley), DF Charlie McArthur (Kilmarnock)
– Transfers out: GK Freddie Woodman (Preston), FW Dwight Gayle (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (11th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Newcastle ended last season as one of the Premier League’s form teams, having escaped a midseason relegation battle to finish 11th under Eddie Howe, but after being taken over by a Saudi Arabian investment fund, future ambitions go well beyond establishing a mid-table comfort zone.

Howe has been backed with significant funds to strengthen his squad since the takeover, with over £140m invested in new players during this year’s two transfer windows, so the expectation at St James’ Park is of a push for European qualification. In the years to come, Newcastle’s owners have made it clear that they will be targeting major success and regular Champions League football, but the first objective is a top 10 finish and a place in Europe. Howe’s team have the ability to do that, with goalkeeper Pope and defender Botman arriving to add quality and experience to the backline.Newcastle arguably need a more potent strikeforce, but that issue could be addressed before the transfer deadline. Regardless of whoever arrives in the weeks ahead, you can expect a better season this time around.

Key player: Allan Saint-Maximin

Newcastle are still looking to add to their attacking options for the new season, but Saint-Maximin will remain a key figure no matter who the club signs.

During Newcastle’s struggles under previous owner Mike Ashley, Saint-Maximin was a rare ray of light for the long-suffering supporters, with the French forward’s pace and attacking ambition often offering the team’s only goal threat. The fear that Saint-Maximin would leave for a club higher up the league was a constant, but now that such concerns are gone, the challenge for the 25-year-old is to take his game to a higher level and earn himself a central role in Newcastle’s bright future.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Howe has done a remarkable job so far at Newcastle since being appointed last November. The club looked doomed to relegation until the former Bournemouth boss took charge and transformed their fortunes. But Newcastle’s new owners want success and they want it quickly, so Howe is already under huge pressure to not only sustain the momentum of last season, but build on it.

Under normal circumstances, his progress so far would guarantee his position for the season, but if Newcastle underperform, there will be a long line of high-profile managers with persistent agents who will be desperate to take on the challenge at St. James’. So it depends on the owners being patient and loyal to Howe, especially when results hit a difficult patch. Football rarely works like that, however, and Howe will know he has to keep the team moving forward to avoid concerns over his job.

— Mark Ogden

Nottingham Forest

– Transfers in: FW Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin), DF Neco Williams (Liverpool), DF Moussa Niakhate (Mainz), DF Omar Richards (Bayern Munich), MF Lewis O’Brien (Huddersfield), DF Giulian Biancone (Troyes), DF Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield), MF Jesse Lingard (free agent), GK Wayne Hennessey (Burnley),
– Transfers out: GK Brice Samba (Lens), DF Nikolas Ioannou (Como), DF Gaetan Bong (released), DF Carl Jenkinson (free agent)
– Last season: Championship (4th, promoted via playoff), FA Cup (quarterfinals), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Nottingham Forest would happily settle for 17th this season after winning promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years, but manager Steve Cooper and the club look like they’ve set their sights much higher.

After looking like relegation candidates early in the Championship last season, Forest would have been forgiven for just being happy to be back in English football’s top flight, yet their summer transfer business suggests they are intent on staying there. Close to £100m has been splashed on a host of new players with almost every area of the squad significantly strengthened. It remains to be seen whether Cooper can mould the new recruits into a functioning team but no one will be writing off a manager who took Forest from bottom of the championship to the Premier League in the same season.

If they get off to a good start and the new signings hit the ground running, they could push for a place in the top 10.

Hislop can’t understand Lingard’s Forest move

Shaka Hislop says Nottingham Forest’s Jesse Lingard should’ve chosen West Ham last summer.

Key player: Jesse Lingard

Forest have made some eye-catching signings this summer, but none more so than Lingard. The 29-year-old turned down interest from West Ham and Everton after his contract at Manchester United expired in June; he’s clearly backing himself to do well enough at the City Ground to force his way back into the England squad before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November. Lingard has been desperate for a run of first-team football for the last 18 months and he should get it at Forest. It’s a great chance to show what he can do.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. Forest might have been playing in League One this season had it not been for Cooper performing near miracles following his appointment in September 2021. All promoted teams go through spells when it feels like they can’t buy a point — it happened to Brentford last season and they finished 13th — but Forest owe it to Cooper to back him even when things aren’t going well. It’s easy for clubs to panic when Premier League survival is on the line, but Cooper deserves the chance to see out the season regardless.

— Rob Dawson


– Transfers in: MF Romeo Lavia (Manchester City), GK Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City), FW Sekou Mara (Bordeaux), DF Armel Bella-Kotchap (Bochum), MF Joe Aribo (Rangers), GK Mateusz Lis (Altay SK)
– Transfers out: GK Fraser Forster (free agent), FW Shane Long (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (15th), FA Cup (quarterfinal), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

They have to do better, otherwise they will go down! Last season’s 15th-place finish was disappointing in the end, despite a decent run in the FA Cup and some interesting results (win away at Tottenham, two draws against Man City, beat Arsenal, draw at United.) But overall they only won nine matches out of 38 and finished the campaign with one victory in their last 12 Premier League matches (with nine losses and two draws) which was embarrassing.

They should do better here because their squad is stronger than that. They have kept their key players like James Ward-ProwseMohammed SalisuTino Livramento (who is injured) or, at least for now, Kyle Walker-Peters, and added some very talented youngsters: Bella-Kotchap, a Germany U21 international centre-back who was very good with Bochum last season; Mara, 20, a France U21 international and promising with Bordeaux last year in Ligue 1; Lavia, 18, the highly rated Belgium U21 international midfielder who came from Man City.

Coach Ralph Hasenhuttl will have everything he needs in his squad: experience, youth, intelligence, energy, pace, skills and depth. Now, he needs to find some consistency within this talented squad and more solidity defensively. They will also need more goals, which was a problem last season (only 43 scored in 38 games.)

Key player: Gavin Bazunu

At 20, the goalkeeper is already a full Republic of Ireland international and has impressed in all the games he has played for the national team so far — especially in the 0-0 draw with Portugal in November. After a good loan at Portsmouth in League 1 last season, Man City allowed him to leave and get his opportunity in the Premier League.

Bazunu is good in the air, great on his line and has a strong personality, but this is another level. He’ll be facing the best strikers in the world on a weekly basis, starting with Harry Kane to open the season on Saturday. Then he will meet Patrick Bamford and Leeds, Jamie Vardy and Leicester, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United, Raheem Sterling and Chelsea. For Southampton to start well, they need him to deliver straight away. Let’s see if he can cope.

Will their manager last the season?

Since his arrival in December 2018, Hasenhuttl has always had the trust of his bosses, but with the new owners’ first full Premier League season ahead, he can’t afford the heavy defeats we see from the Saints every season (9-0 against Leicester and at United, 6-0 at home to Chelsea, 4-0 at Villa and Liverpool) and the regular bad runs of form (one win in nine to start the season; one win in 12 to finish it.) I expect him to be sacked if the campaign is similar to last season, which could well happen.

— Julien Laurens

Tottenham Hotspur

– Transfers in: FW Richarlison (Everton), MF Yves Bissouma (Brighton), DF Djed Spence (Middlesbrough), DF Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), FW Ivan Perisic (free agent), GK Fraser Forster (free agent),
– Transfers out: FW Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), DF Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), FW Jack Clarke (Sunderland)
– Last season: Premier League (4th), FA Cup (fifth round), Carabao Cup (semifinals), UEFA Europa Conference League (group stage)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Tottenham only secured fourth place and Champions League qualification on the final day of last season, but there is widespread expectation of further improvement now that head coach Antonio Conte has been given licence to mould the squad as he sees fit. The Italian has made little secret of his desire to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title, rather than merely repeating last year’s performance, and while that feels a tall order, it is easy to see why Spurs could kick on having had a full preseason under Conte, together with more suitable players for his preferred 3-4-3 system.

Tottenham have added proven quality in veteran winger Perisic and forward Richarlison, while Spence has significant potential after his breakthrough season at Nottingham Forest when on loan from Middlesbrough. Lenglet strengthens Conte’s centre-back options, and it could be significant that Spurs completed the majority of their incoming transfers early in the window, allowing greater time for integration.

The great unknowns are firstly whether Spurs can find sufficient consistency to match Conte’s lofty ambitions, or if harmony between the 53-year-old and those around him will endure, but Tottenham are in a much better place than they were 12 months ago when Kane wanted to leave and Spurs ended a protracted managerial search by appointing their infamous “eighth choice” Nuno Espirito Santo.

Key player: Harry Kane

Despite various alterations to the squad, he remains Tottenham’s most influential player by some distance. Kane spent last summer agitating for a move to Manchester City and although Guardiola ultimately decided to pursue Haaland instead a year later, the mood music around the England captain is currently a lot calmer. Bayern Munich have expressed an interest in Kane — and Chelsea may enter the running — but for the time being, the 29-year-old appears focused on taking Spurs to where he wants them to be: winning trophies. Talks on a contract extension are even expected to begin in the near future.

Kane’s partnership with Son Heung-Min remains pivotal to Tottenham’s chances of success, too: Son even outscored Kane last year to share the Golden Boot with Salah on 23 goals. It is another big year for Kane, who will lead England at the World Cup, either side of another crack at sating his desire to add silverware to his remarkable goal-scoring record for club and country.

Will their manager last the season?

Probably. Nothing is guaranteed with a character as volatile as Conte, especially given that his existing contract technically expires next summer. There is an option to extend, but both parties need to agree, something that will depend on how the team progresses this season. Spurs may well look to tie Conte down sooner if they make an encouraging start — he has made positive noises during preseason about being open to it — but even on the path to the top four last season, Conte repeatedly cast doubts over his own future, hinting at walking away from a job he was unsure he could thrive in.

His demeanour can change quickly, but the best that can be said right now is he has been given the backing he demanded both in terms of finance and control. Tottenham could not have done much more to keep him happy at this stage; now it is Conte’s turn to deliver.

— James Olley

West Ham

– Transfers in: FW Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo), DF Nayef Aguerd (Rennes), MF Flynn Downes (Swansea City), GK Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain),
– Transfers out: FW Sonny Perkins (free agent), FW Andriy Yarmolenko (free agent), MF Mark Noble (retired)
– Last season: Premier League (7th), FA Cup (fifth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals), UEFA Europa League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

The good news is they’ve managed to keep Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen (at the time of writing), and despite the retirement of stalwart and club legend Noble, their squad looks stronger with their two big-money signings alongside Areola and Downes. The recruitment of Scamacca offers them some much-needed depth up front and gives Michail Antonio some competition, while Aguerd will bolster their defensive options. Those new arrivals always come with the weight of the ghosts of previous failed big-money signings, like Nikola Vlasic who cost in the region of £27m last summer, but there’s an optimism around West Ham that they can build on last season’s top-half finish.

A £33m deal to sign Amadou Onana from Lille has been agreed, but you feel they do need further signings before the window’s out to enable this squad to cope with the rigours of European football for the second season running. However, the current group should be enough for them to finish in the top half.

Key player: Jarrod Bowen

Keeping Rice is a wonderful result for West Ham. Their new captain and outstanding player could slot into just about any team in Europe and look at home. While that’s been key, keep an eye on new signings Aguerd and Scamacca, the latter of whom comes with the expectation of being a 20-goal-a-season striker. But key to all of this is Bowen. Last season he finished with 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League and when he’s flying, the rest of the team follow him. There are other integral players in this team like Pablo FornalsTomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, but Bowen is indispensable.

Will their manager last the season?

David Moyes has worked wonders at West Ham, and the owners have backed him in the transfer market this summer. The recruitment has been astute, and seemingly better thought out than previous seasons. But with success comes increased expectation. The seventh-place finish last term was remarkable, alongside their run to the semifinals of the Europa League and it’d take a monumental collapse for Moyes’ job to be in danger this term. I fully expect him to be manager this time next year.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: DF Nathan Collins (Burnley), FW Adama Traore (loan ended)
– Transfers out: DF Ruben Vinagre (Sporting CP, on loan to Everton), GK John Ruddy (Birmingham City), DF Roman Saiss (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (10th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (thrid round)

Will they be better or worst this season?

It’s hard to say. A weak showing in cups was reinforced by a tepid finish to last season, with 38 goals in 38 games capped by five defeats in their final seven games. It’s hard to see the same team that won at Aston Villa, Man United, Spurs and took a draw at Chelsea, but also lost 10 games (out of 17) by a single goal, and nine of those 1-0. It’s difficult to say that this team has really improved, though the return of winger Adama Traore from a loan spell in Barcelona would at least add a notable spark. (At least, it will he if remains at the club, with rumors linking him to both Tottenham and Chelsea.)

A rise up the table doesn’t seem likely unless they add someone potent in front of goal.

Key player: Ruben Neves

The midfielder was a reliable, steady force in the Wolves midfield and will again need to provide the platform from which the likes of Raul Jimenez (six league goals in 2021-22) can regain form and the permanent signing of RB Leipzig’s Hwang Hee-Chan can produce up front.

Will their manager last the season?

Bruno Lage is a Portuguese manager in charge of a largely Portuguese squad (12 players in the first team), and has set them up to play cagey football in which they create via disruption. If they continue to be comfortable in the league, there’s no reason to shake things up on the touchline.

— James Tyler

‘Free eights’, ‘low blocks’ and ‘pockets’: Your Premier League glossary for the new season

Charlie EccleshareAug 4, 2022

The new Premier League season is fast approaching and for those who follow it, this will mean once again being exposed to a language that can at times feel daunting.

There are so many terms and expressions used in commentary, analysis and tactical talks by managers, players, pundits and journalists, some of which we nod dutifully along with even though we don’t really know what they mean.

Here, The Athletic explains some of these words and phrases, and offers examples of how they can be correctly used.

This is our 2022-23 Premier League glossary.

Section 1: Tactics

The proliferation of tactics into the mainstream has meant a whole new set of terms for football fans to try to understand.

For many, the Premier League jumped the shark when the BBC’s Match Of The Day started including expected goals (xG) in its post-match statistics for the 2017-18 season. This led to a weird culture war that perhaps reached its peak on Sky’s Soccer Saturday when normally-affable host Jeff Stelling ranted that xG is “absolute nonsense” and “the most useless stat in the history of football”.

Most of you reading this won’t need to have xG explained (though I did speak to a football writer not that long ago who genuinely seemed to think expected goals was essentially a pre-match result prediction, like the pools).There are, though, a few tactical terms you might hear and have to slightly pretend you know what they mean.

Underlying numbers and overperformance/underperformance

If xG feels a little bit passe, these terms are the slightly newer, trendier kid on the block.

Put together, they essentially mean a player or team might be performing well but their underlying numbers — their xG, or expected assists, or expected goals against (xGA), or whatever’s most relevant — aren’t actually that good, indicating a level of overperformance which could soon see them found out. Likewise, if someone is underperforming, the reality may soon reflect the advanced metrics and lead to an improvement.

How to use it and sound convincing

Leicester City are running hot right now but if you look at the underlying numbers, I do just wonder whether this form is sustainable.”

Low block

You will hear this largely in terms of low-block defences — ones that typically sit deep and try to frustrate their opponents.

The meaning is very simple: the ‘block’ part refers to the ranks of players doing the defending and the ‘low’ bit tells us they are doing it deep in their own territory. A medium block would be higher up the pitch, a high block nearer still to the opponents’ goal. Though, of course, we tend to hear ‘high’ in relation to a high press.

How to use it and sound convincing

“They’re a good side, but as we know, they do struggle against low-block defences.”

Free eights

A positional descriptor that has leapt into the mainstream over the last couple of years, “free eights” refers to the two members of a three-player midfield who, thanks to a disciplined, deeper-sitting “six”, have the license to roam around the pitch and get forward.

Think Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli for England at the 2018 World Cup (when they were playing ahead of Jordan Henderson) or, as has often been the case for Manchester CityKevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, backed by a deep-lying Rodri. A good deep-lying midfielder, incidentally, should be press-resistant and able to evade the inevitable pressure he will be put under by opposition attackers.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Listen, he’s a talent. I can see him as a 10 or out wide, or even as one of the free eights if the manager wants to go with that system.” 

See also: eight and a half — a position somewhere between a No 8 and a No 10 (but not a No 9, as might seem numerically logical). We also don’t have the time here to go into false nines, a term that has been around since Lionel Messi first popularised the role in 2009, but The Athletic has done a proper, in-depth analysis of that position if you want one.


The former is a more technical definition that is a translation of the German word halbraum and refers to the space in between one vertical line denoting a pitch’s wide area, and another denoting its central area. (Note that in a low block we’re talking about a horizontal line, and that another commonly-used expression between the lines refers to the space separating an opposing team’s back line from its matching midfield one).

“Pockets” is a looser way of describing what may be half-spaces or the spaces between the lines. Joe Cole is a big fan of the latter (both as a pundit, and when he was a player for West HamChelsea and England), whereas half-space is a bit more Tifo.

How to use it and sound convincing

“He tends to operate in the left half-space, where he can cut onto his right foot and get shots off.”

“He’s so good at just dropping deep and finding those pockets of space.”

Section 2: Recruitment

Alongside the growth of tactical language, the last few years have seen transfers, and more specifically the process of them, being described in ever more granular detail.

The Athletic’s Adam Hurrey, who knows a thing or two about football linguistics, recently outlined the 22 stages of a transfer saga, but we’re talking more here about the rules and regulations of buying and selling players, and how recruitment teams operate.

It’s essentially admin work, but appears to be the source of endless fascination both for fans and those of us who cover the game.

Homegrown quota

One of the biggest preoccupations fans seem to have in 2022 is about whether their club will fall foul of the Premier League’s (or, if in European competition, UEFA’s) homegrown quota.

What this means in the Premier League is that no more than 17 players in a team’s selected squad for the season can be non-homegrown. Those 17 players can be of any nationality or age. For a player to be considered homegrown, they must have played for an FA-affiliated club, not necessarily yours, for at least three years before turning 21.

Being across this rule is a great way to show you know more than the average supporter.

How to use it and sound convincing

Q: “What a summer it’s been so far for your club, you must be pretty excited?”.

A: “I am. I’m just a little concerned about what it means for our homegrown quota.”

Age profile

Premier League recruitment staff have never had it so good. Once, backroom operators nobody knew too much about, they are now the geniuses behind a team’s rise and fall. The layperson puts Liverpool’s success in recent years down to their manager Jurgen Klopp; for the more savvy observer, it’s just as much about their smart recruitment team.

As journalists, we have a responsibility to outline for you precisely what the thinking is of your team’s transfer brains trust (a term also applicable to a huddle of players discussing what they’re going to do at a free kick), and part of this means using the same kind of language they do.

“Profile” is one of the most commonly used words in this regard, meaning essentially the kind of player(s) whoever is being talked about is. An offshoot of this is “age profile”, which as far as I can understand just means age.

How to use it and sound convincing

“They did like the player, but in the end, he just didn’t quite fit the age profile the club’s recruitment staff are looking for.”

June 30

Has a deadline to submit accounts ever been so sexy? This is not a term as such, but the date Premier League clubs, and those in other countries and divisions for that matter, have to register their accounts for the year just gone and make sure they are compliant with football’s financial rules and regulations.

What it means is June 30 has become a mini transfer deadline day a couple of months before the real one, with some clubs needing to make sales before July 1 to balance their books.

Tottenham signed Richarlison from Everton on July 1 (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

On the flip side, a buying club may want to wait until July 1 to complete a deal, so the outlay does not affect the previous year’s accounts.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Just keep an eye out for June 30. I’ve got a feeling there’ll be quite a lot of business done then.”

Dry loan

One of the side-effects of all those Twitter aggregator accounts that pick up transfer rumours from around the world is that the reports are often run through Google Translate with, let’s say, mixed results.

As well as the often bizarre, nonsensical syntax, it has also meant that literally-translated idioms from other countries have entered the English football transfer lexicon.

“Prestito secco”, for instance, is an Italian term meaning an old-fashioned, bread-and-butter loan deal, with no option or obligation for the club doing the borrowing to buy the player involved at the end of their stay. It translates literally into English as “dry loan” — a term you will see now on Football Twitter. (Another favourite is “giorni caldi”, associated with the Italian journalist Alfredo Pedulla, which translates as “hot days” and means talks over a move are intensifying or heating up).

As a side note, these slight mistranslations can be seen elsewhere in the footballing lexicon.

“In a good moment”, roughly meaning “in good form”, was once the preserve of foreign managers, but has since been taken on by several English ones including Graham Potter of Brighton — for whom the expression feels very right.

How to use it and sound convincing

“I think it’s a good move for the club. Bear in mind it’s a dry loan, so they keep control to a certain extent.”

And while we’re on the subject of loans, a reminder that the correct way to tweet about every single such move from a Premier League club to an EFL one is:

Section 3: Off-field issues

A sign-of-the-times fact of modern football is that it is not enough to have a good understanding of tactics and recruitment. To really be accepted, you also need to have a basic grasp of geopolitics, especially the practice of…


Exact definitions of this term vary but essentially it means laundering the reputation of an entity, normally a country, by having it associated with a much-loved institution. For our purposes, a Premier League club — for instance, Manchester City or Newcastle United.

There are some experts in the field, though, who feel it has become a bit of a catch-all for anything one finds unpalatable, and it is not the most useful way to describe this sort of club ownership.

The term also threatens to spawn a new linguistic sub-genre.

For instance, regarding the recent women’s European Championship, Sarah Gregorius, director of global policy and strategic relations for women’s football at players’ union FIFPro, said in the Financial Times at the weekend: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this tournament. But we have to be critical. I can’t get caught up in progresswashing.”

Maybe safest to stick to sportswashing for now.

How to use it and sound convincing

“I can’t get behind this Newcastle team. Not when their success is such a blatant result of sportswashing.” 

Educate myself

Once the case for sportswashing has been established, it will be put to a manager of whichever club stands accused.

This can prompt defensive retaliation, genuine reflection, or perhaps the equivalent of a child being told off but assuring their teacher they won’t do it again — the promise to “educate myself”.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Look, I take this sort of thing very seriously. I’m a football manager first and foremost, but I’m going to educate myself about this.”

The above examples only scratch the surface, and we haven’t even got into the minuscule distinctions, like using “football club” instead of “club” when really trying to convey the gravity of a situation — “That performance, the effort levels of the players… it’s just not good enough for this football club.” Or the nuclear option: “Manchester United Football Club.”And apologies in advance if there are lots of tactical or transfer terms you see this season that you don’t fully understand.Best to just nod along and, if challenged, sigh thoughtfully and earnestly promise to educate yourself on the topic.

What impact will five-substitutes rule have on the Premier League?

Grealish, Guardiola

By Mark CareyAug 4, 2022

Managers having the option to use five substitutes per match has been commonplace across the majority of Europe’s top domestic leagues for the past two seasons.

While Spain, Italy, France and Germany all chose to stick with a rule introduced as a temporary measure in the post-pandemic period of 2019-20, the Premier League did not follow suit — until now.

Resistance against five subs a game in England was based on the idea that so-called bigger clubs would gain an unfair in-game advantage due to them having greater strength in depth in their squads to call on from the bench — further widening the gap in the league’s competitiveness.

The rebuttal was that players need greater protection from burnout, with an ever-more-crammed football calendar meaning injury risk is significantly higher with the demands of so many fixtures.

Anyway, it’s here in the Premier League now. So, using the rest of Europe’s top five leagues as a template, what impact might this rule change from three permitted changes have?

Does using more substitutions equal success? Do winning teams make substitutions earlier or later? What positives can we take from this new variable?

More substitutions, more points?

Let’s go straight for the jugular.

Across those top four European leagues that had the five-sub rule in place last season (Germany’s Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1), there was no relationship between average number of substitutions made and overall league points accrued.

While all teams in the four countries averaged more than three changes per game, the output was understandably mixed. 

For example, Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 champions, elected to make the fewest in-game changes of the teams who qualified for this season’s Champions League (3.7 per match), while Serie A title holders Inter Milan almost invariably maximised their quota (4.9) en route to finishing as runners-up behind neighbours AC Milan.

It makes sense that there is no relationship between points and substitutions.

It’s not the quantity of permitted substitutions which has been the gripe of many Premier League clubs in recent seasons. It is about the quality of player top teams can tell to put down the Haribo and get warmed up. 

The drop-off in quality when a player for back-to-back champions Manchester City comes off the bench to replace a starter will be far smaller than when the fifth substitution is made by, say, newly-promoted Bournemouth — if that’s even going to be an option with their threadbare squad.

The argument has often been that the stronger sides could make wholesale substitutions early in the second half of a game, changing up to 50 per cent of their outfield players with five more world-class players to reignite their fortunes if the match isn’t going well.

Yes, that could well be the case, but looking across Europe last season, the more dominant teams actually tended to make their substitutions later in games rather than earlier.

In statistical terms, there is a subtle positive correlation between a team’s final points tally and their average substitution time.

At the extreme end, there is more than a 10-minute difference between the average substitution time made by PSG compared with Genoa, who got relegated from Serie A. 

Why is this? The short answer is that the successful teams are more likely to be, well, successful in the game by being in a winning position — meaning that there is less of a case to use substitutes early in the proceedings to change its outcome.

This tallies with research that shows teams tend to make substitutions later when ahead, and earlier when drawing or losing. In fact, there has even been extensive research to examine the optimal minute to make substitutions, depending on the state of the game.

When behind, the optimal minute to make a first substitution was shown to be the 58th of the 90, followed by the 73rd (second substitution) and 79th (third substitution). By contrast, the data encouraged teams to make their changes at will when either level or in front.

Of course, there may be isolated situations where a “bigger” team are chasing a game and have the strength in depth to be able to bring on five high-quality players.

But looking back to the last Premier League season, there are also examples where that did not occur.

For example, during title-bound City’s goalless draw away to Crystal Palace in March, Pep Guardiola decided not to make any substitutions in the game, despite having attacking options including Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan with him on the bench. 

When asked about deciding not to make changes, his response was simple: “I was thinking about that, but the guys who were playing were playing good and the game was in a high, high rhythm, so today we decided to stay with those guys.” 

In fact, Guardiola actually used substitutes the least of all Premier League managers last season, averaging just over two changes a match. 

It is interesting to see a manager’s style within a game but it’s important to consider the context of their rotation between matches.

Looking at the table below, we see that the likes of City, Liverpool and Chelsea rarely stuck with the same starting XI, all averaging between just above or slightly below three changes to their initial line-up from one game to the next.

This is an important point, because such rotation is a luxury afforded to such clubs irrespective of the five-substitution rule, given they require strength in depth to compete on multiple fronts domestically and in Europe across a gruelling season.

So, clubs with bigger squads are more likely to be successful? 

Again, not necessarily. Managing your squad requires the perfect alchemy of rotation, rhythm, and a large slice of luck. 

Guardiola famously likes to have a smaller squad full of players he can absolutely trust and rotate between, and with City avoiding too many injuries last season, he used 26 players in the Premier League. 

At the other end of the scale, Barcelona’s injury crisis meant 38 players appeared for them in La Liga as they eventually fought to a second-place finish despite their off-field issues.

It serves to reinforce the point — the advantage among the “bigger” sides is based on the quality of the squad more so than quantity. 

Have Klopp and Guardiola got a point?

The topic of injuries is particularly pertinent to this debate.

Research has shown there are higher rates of muscle injuries in matches following short periods of recovery (four days or fewer) compared with longer ones (six days or more).

This is crucial for clubs competing on multiple domestic and international fronts. For example, Liverpool and Chelsea both played in 63 games in all competitions last season — a third again more than bottom-half finishers Aston Villa (41).

While squad rotation will continue to be the optimal method to overcome such issues, two additional substitutions per league game will provide further protection against this match-induced fatigue, with positive impacts shown to reduce player load and maximise recovery.

Given the high physical demands of the Premier League compared with other European competitions, you can see why Jurgen Klopp, Guardiola and other managers at the major clubs were calling for this change sooner.

Using data from SkillCorner, we can see the Premier League is out in front among Europe’s top divisions when it comes to high-speed running.

Besides, isn’t it worth considering the positive outcomes that this change could have within English football? With the extra changes available, this could be the year for more young English talent to prosper. 

Debate still rumbles on over Premier League clubs’ inclination, or otherwise, to blood players emerging from well-respected academies, but the option of two further substitutions could provide valuable experience to youngsters seeking playing time — rather than them having to go out on loan further down the football ladder.

Compared with other European leagues, the Premier League is still notably behind in terms of the minutes given to homegrown players, but given the improving quality of academies and the premiums paid for English talent, it would be smart to use those extra substitute options wisely.

Additionally, could this new measure make for an even faster-paced spectacle?

Energy levels naturally diminish as a game progresses, no matter how supremely fit the players are, and the ability to change up to half of your outfield 10 with fresh legs would no doubt reduce that decline and maintain the pace of the match until the final moments.

More broadly, The Athletic has previously identified the trend that high-pressing intensity declined in the Premier League, in exchange for clubs getting better at building up in a more considered manner. Will five substitutions — in addition to a mid-season break due to the World Cup in November and December — change that trend this season? 

This will be an anomalous campaign anyway because of that mid-season World Cup, and those involved in the tournament will need extra protection, given the volume of games they will be asked to play for club and country between now and next June.

However, in the long term, don’t be surprised if you see Premier League games being played at an ever higher intensity in the coming seasons because of this rule.

So, what have we learned? Well, two key things stand out.

The first is that the quality of a squad is far more important than the quantity of players a team can use within a given game — or across a season. The incremental advantage that the “bigger” clubs might have with five substitutions does not hold up in the larger sample.

Second, the research is clear. Greater fatigue means more risk of injury. More injuries mean you don’t get to see your favourite players as often, which makes for a less attractive spectacle.

If the Premier League wants to maintain its status as the best league in the world, this change feels like the best way to help do that.

Weekend Recap: August 1, 2022
Welcome to Backheeled’s Weekend Recap! Here’s a snapshot of some of the biggest American soccer stories from this past weekend. MLS: Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT, a big weekend for young players, and moreNWSL: The league’s international stars are back and changing gamesUSL: The on-field factors behind the Sacramento Republic’s run in the U.S. Open Cup
© Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
We’re back with another edition of the Weekend Recap. Every Monday, we make it easier for you to keep up with the most interesting and important things in American soccer. Today, we’re taking you through some key storylines, including a big weekend for young players in MLS, the NWSL’s return, and the Sacramento Republic’s success in the U.S. Open Cup.
MLS Lowery: Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT, a big week for young players, and more So this weekend was just about the most MLS weekend to ever MLS, wasn’t it? There was a Friday night game that started on Friday and ended well into Saturday morning Eastern Time. There were two 4-4 draws. The Philadelphia Union snagged their second touchdown of the year, this time without the extra point. Oh, and a team that started with Tommy McNamara and Sebastian Lletget on the wings drew with a team that started Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi out wide. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Here’s my notebook complete with some takeaways from this weekend’s MLS action. Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT It’s time. Really, I thought it was time back in June. Brandon Vazquez scored a brace on Saturday night against Inter Miami. He’s now up to 13 goals on the season to go along with an extremely impressive set of underlying numbers. In a year that’s been something of a renascence for American No. 9s in MLS, Vazquez has been maybe the best of the USMNT-eligible bunch. He creates space in the box, he sees space, he attacks space, and he puts the ball in the back of the net. It’s not just goalscoring that makes the 23-year-old special, though. Vazquez does almost everything that you want a striker to do. He’s not going to drop into midfield like Jesus Ferreira, but he has a big frame, quick feet, and can hold the ball up and play off of his attacking teammates. Defensively, Vazquez presses more than the vast majority of strikers in MLS. According to Second Spectrum, he’s in the 94th percentile for pressures per 90 among strikers. With a pair of friendlies coming up next month for the U.S. men’s national team, Vazquez is showing that he’s worth a look from Gregg Berhalter. NYCFC’s struggles In their first game since Taty Castellanos moved to Girona, guess how many shots New York City FC took? Two. They took two shots against CF Montreal for a grand total of 0.07 expected goals. That’s, uh, not great. Heber started up top as the No. 9 and then Thiago Andrade, not Talles Magno, finished the night as the striker in NYCFC’s 0-0 draw. I have some questions about what NYCFC’s attack looks like going forward – and I’m guessing Nick Cushing does, too – but there is plenty of talent in this team and they should still be able to steamroll more than a few defenses over the coming months. That is, if they can find a way to control games again. Since Nick Cushing took over for Ronny Deila as manager of New York City FC, there’s been a notable defensive dip from the Pigeons. They’ve been a league-average team in terms of expected goals allowed per 90 minutes since Cushing took over. They’re also pressuring the ball less under Cushing than they did under Deila, according to 2S. In their game against Montreal on Saturday, NYCFC were passive. They were content to sit in their own half, absorb pressure, and then try to find something on the break. To be fair, they did pick up a point on the road using that strategy. But watching them play, it didn’t feel like I was watching the New York City team that won MLS Cup last year. A lack of defensive control that leads to defensive mistakes is one thing. But a lack of defensive control that limits an attack that’s already lost its most important player? Now you’re in dangerous waters. That lack of field control wasn’t the only attacking issue for New York City on Saturday, but without Taty, the margins are thinner than they’ve been all season for NYCFC. Rapid fire on the youngsters Jack McGlynn scored his first career MLS goal against the Houston Dynamo over the weekend and it was a beauty. His left foot is so good. With Mark-Anthony Kaye out injured, left winger Jayden Nelson is slotting into central midfield right now for Toronto FC. As a winger, Nelson really found his groove and he struggled to create his own shots. Now playing as a central midfielder, the 19-year-old can focus on pressing and ball progression, which fits his skillset. We could be looking at another Latif Blessing positional switch success story here, folks. Give it time. According to reports, Chicago Fire teenage goalkeeper Gaga Slonina is headed to Chelsea for a $10 million base fee with add-ons. At just 18, Slonina is a talented goalkeeping prospect. It looks like he’ll finish out the season in Chicago on a loan from Chelsea before heading over to England permanently in the new year. I hope he finds a way to get minutes and continue his development on the other side of the Atlantic. John Tolkin did this against FC Barcelona in one of those midseason MLS friendlies on Saturday. This kid has Mountain Dew in his veins where the blood is supposed to be.
NWSL Cascone: The league’s international stars are back and changing games The NWSL resumed this weekend after a week-long break and most of the league’s international players were back and available for selection. Rachel Daly (England, Houston Dash), Kerolin (North Carolina, Brazil), Debinha (North Carolina, Brazil), Angelina (OL Reign, Brazil), and Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego, Sweden) were still away, with Daly and the Brazilians winning championships for their countries over the weekend. Many of these international players picked up right where they left off before all of the international soccer they played in July, but a few players really stood out as game-changers for their clubs. Let’s talk about some of those players. Diana Ordoñez, Mexico, North Carolina Courage After a disappointing Concacaf W Qualifying tournament that saw Mexico fall short of World Cup qualification, Ordoñez made a splash in her NWSL return against the Washington Spirit. She led the Courage in shots (4) and all players in expected goals (1.59, StatsPerform) after scoring twice in the 3-3 draw. Ordoñez’s first goal pulled North Carolina level with their opponents and her penalty kick gave the Courage a 3-2 lead they later conceded. This was her first career brace and she now leads all NWSL rookies in goals this season (5). Unfortunately for North Carolina, this big performance from Ordoñez wasn’t enough to pull them up from the bottom of the table. The Courage are still sitting in last place with nine points and a 2W-3D-5L record. Kailen Sheridan, Canada, San Diego Wave Sheridan and the Canada women’s national team only conceded one goal on their way to World Cup qualification in July, and Sheridan kept up that pace against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday. The Wave pulled out a 1-0 win despite playing the last third of the match with only 10 players after defender Abby Dahlkemper was shown a second yellow card in the 59th minute. It was Sheridan’s big penalty save in the 82nd minute that secured San Diego’s clean sheet – and ultimately, their win – after she denied Mallory Pugh her seventh goal of the season. Seventeen-year old Jaedyn Shaw was the goalscorer for the Wave. She became the youngest player to score in her NWSL debut and the second-youngest NWSL goalscorer ever, only after Portland’s Olivia Moultrie. With their win, San Diego returned to first place with 25 points (7W-4D-3L) after Portland occupied the top spot for merely 24 hours following their 2-1 win over Racing Louisville on Friday night. Sofia Huerta, United States, OL Reign Huerta was a pivotal piece of the USWNT backline that allowed zero goals and helped the U.S. qualify for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics. In Huerta’s return to OL Reign’s lineup, she scored a left-footed banger that pulled the Reign level with Angel City. She also assisted the game-winning goal, which Tobin Heath scored in the 89th minute. The Reign’s three unanswered second-half goals earned them the win over L.A. and kept them above the playoff line. It was also the Reign’s first regular season game where they scored more than two goals this year. Getting a few goals on the board is a good sign for a team that’s struggled to find the back of the net in 2022. María Sánchez, Mexico, Houston Dash Sánchez was lights-out for Houston in their 4-2 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. It was the second time in as many games that the Dash put away four goals, only this time, Sánchez was involved in two of them. After the teams exchanged goals early in the first half, Sánchez assisted the Dash’s goal-ahead goal in the 36th minute. It was a perfect cross into the box that found Shea Groom, who put a header past Gotham goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in true Air Groom fashion. Consistently getting into the attack, Sánchez also drew the foul in the box that ultimately resulted in Houston’s fourth goal. With the win, the Dash moved into third place in the NWSL standings.
USL Morrissey: The on-field factors behind the Sacramento Republic’s run in the U.S. Open Cup After their upset win last week, the Sacramento Republic became the first lower-division side to reach the U.S. Open Cup final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. On the way, they allowed just two goals in six matches, and they matched Charleston in beating three MLS teams on their path to the championship game. What has Sacramento done to best their first-tier competition? Well, each of their wins against MLS teams involved a slightly different approach. As a baseline, Mark Briggs lines up the Republic in a 5-4-1 shape. Three central defenders anchor the defense and the two wingbacks close hard up to the halfway line. In the midfield, two players sit deep and central. The remaining two midfielders take on attacking roles behind the striker, and they, too, play rather centrally. In some respects, the system looks like a 5-2-2-1. Against the San Jose Earthquakes in the round of 16, Sacramento played their wingbacks deeper in a true back five to limit their MLS foe. Working out of a 4-2-3-1, San Jose pushed their attacking midfield line up into a front four. In moving to a five-back, the Republic gave themselves a numerical edge, and they flattened the midfield as well. Additionally, Duke Lacroix, a player sometimes used as a center back by Briggs, started at left wingback over Damia Viader, an all-out attacker. Even with just 30% possession, Sacramento held firm thanks to their innovations and countered their way to a 2-0 win. Recognizing the LA Galaxy’s reliance on their fullbacks in the attacking half, Sacramento iterated on their offensive patterns in the quarterfinals. Striker Douglas Martinez was instructed to make runs to the touchlines as soon as the Galaxy turned the ball over. There, he could receive balls over the top in transition, leveraging the open space as the opposing fullbacks recovered. When Martinez received the ball, LA had to push their center backs wide to deal with him, opening the middle for late-arriving runs. In the semifinals against Sporting Kansas City, the Republic tweaked their midfield positioning to great effect. Matt LaGrassa, usually liberated to take on a box-to-box role to bolster attacking moves, played a deeper, more conservative role. This let LaGrassa lend support against Johnny Russell, SKC’s brightest attacking threat, and it also saw him add cover in defense when a center back chased Russell’s runs into the midfield. Higher up, Keko was employed as a true winger to punish an unbalanced style where Graham Zusi sat low as the right back and Ben Sweat bombed high on the opposite side. Sacramento has a clear identity, one founded upon defensive organization and controlled counterattacking through Rodrigo Lopez. The beauty of their Open Cup run has been the ability to tweak that system for each matchup. Briggs has proven himself to be a shrewd tactician thus far. Whatever he dreams up against Orlando City in early September could help the Sacramento Republic make history.

The USL W League today announced the members of its First and Second Teams of the Year following the league’s inaugural 2022 season, a group that includes three members of Indy Eleven’s Great Lakes Division title-winning squad. Defender Robyn McCarthy and forward Katie Soderstrom were two of the 11 players named to the league’s First Team, while forward Maddy Williams claimed a spot on the Second Team.

McCarthy was a mainstay on the Indy Eleven backline this summer, starting 12 of the squad’s 13 games and finishing second on the squad with 1,022 minutes played while also contributing a pair of assists. McCarthy switched seamlessly between the right back and center back positions, helping to spearhead a defensive united that posted six shutouts and allowed only nine goals all season, including only two games with multiple concessions. The native of Brentwood, Calif., finished her collegiate career at Fresno State last fall by earning the Mountain West Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Soderstrom was a menace for opposing defenses from start to finish across the 2022 campaign, as she capped the scoring in the Eleven’s historic 3-1 win in the W League’s Inaugural Match on May 6 and finished the regular season with a brace in a 3-0 win over Detroit City FC on July 9. The latter performance gave Soderstrom a team-leading 11 goals on the season (to go along with 1 assist), which when spread across her 902 minutes of action in 11 appearances gave her a 1.10 goals per game average. The Carmel native will return to Butler University this fall for her fifth and final year of eligibility, looking to build on an already impressive resume that include 28 goals and 24 assists, which rank her sixth and fourth, respectively, on the Bulldogs’ career charts.

After injuries derailed her professional career in Europe in recent years, the launch of the W League allowed Williams a successful return to the sport with Indiana’s Team in 2022. The 26-year-old striker appeared in all 13 matches and provided a veteran presence and ample leadership for the young and hungry Eleven squad, while her 10 goals and assist in 885 minutes of play provided an attacking 1-2 punch alongside Soderstrom that proved a handful for the opposition all season long. Williams made club history on June 10, as her three goal outburst during the middle of the first half earned her the first hat trick in the Eleven’s burgeoning W League history. After finishing her collegiate playing days in 2017 as Purdue University’s all-time leader in goals (38) and assists (26), Williams continued her career in Europe with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven (2018-19) and Spain’s Real Zaragoza (2019-20) before injuries and the COVID pandemic brought her back stateside.To see the full 2022 USL W League Teams of the Year and learn more about the pre-professional women’s league growing the game across the United States, visit uslwleague.com.

To stay up to date on the latest news and notes surrounding the Eleven’s W League side throughout the offseason, including news this fall on impending tryouts, visit indyeleven.com/wleague.

New Member of Backline Brings USL Championship Experience from Pittsburgh, Loudoun

Indy Eleven continued its recent roster additions with today’s signing of defender Robby Dambrot. Per club policy, details of the contract that brings the USL Championship performer since 2019 to Indiana’s Team will not be disclosed; the transaction will be official pending league and federation approval.

Dambrot has already arrived in Central Indiana and began training with the Boys in Blue earlier today at the team’s Grand Park training headquarters. He will be eligible for selection by Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry when Indy Eleven faces off against Dambrot’s former team, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, this Saturday evening at Carroll Stadium.

“It’s exciting to be here with Indy Eleven. Mark [Lowry] is a great coach, and early on it’s easy to see he has brought together a great group of guys,” Dambrot said following his first practice with the squad earlier today. “We still have a lot to play for, so I’m excited to try and be a part of this club’s run to the playoffs and what we can do after that.”

Since joining the ranks of the USL Championship with Loudoun United FC late in the 2019 campaign, the 27-year-old native of Akron, Ohio, has collected 38 appearances, two goals, and two assists mostly from positions on the backline for both Loudoun and Pittsburgh. After missing the truncated 2020 season, Dambrot was one of five Loudoun players to see over 2,000 minutes of action after becoming a full-time starter for the D.C. United-affiliated squad in 2021. Dambrot signed with the Riverhounds this past January and scored once in his five appearances (three starts) during the ongoing 2022 campaign.

“Robby Dambrot gives us a valuable bit of depth at a few different positions and is a player whose energy fits in very well with how we want to play,” said Lowry. “He is familiar with the Championship – and the Eastern Conference in particular – and is someone who we know can help lift the level of our squad every day.”

Prior to turning professional in the summer of 2019, Dambrot was a collegiate standout first from 2013-17 at his hometown school of the University of Akron, which he helped to the 2015 Men’s College Cup Semifinals. He finished his college career in 2018 with the University of Pittsburgh, where as a graduate transfer he was a member of the first Panthers squad to win a match in the always-competitive ACC Tournament. Dambrot also gained experience in the NPSL with AFC Cleveland (2014-15) and Virginia Beach City (2019).

Indy Eleven will close out its three-match homestand at “The Mike” this Saturday, August 6, against a third consecutive opponent holding a top-four position in the Eastern Conference in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Tickets for Saturday’s match – and all future contests at Carroll Stadium – can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets, and a special discount will be provided to Gen Con attendees who show their convention ticket/badge at the Carroll Stadium Box Office; more details can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions.

Indy Eleven fans can also follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.

Flirting with disaster: “Big clubs” and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line

By Charles Boehm @cboeh

Thursday, Aug 4, 2022, 09:58 AM

Ready or not, the home stretch has arrived.

August is here, which in this year’s World Cup-adjusted calendar means there are barely two months left in the MLS regular season. Some teams have only 10 games to go. And several of the league’s big names and perennial contenders are in very real danger of missing out on the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Many of them still have time to muster that final sprint into the postseason field where, as everyone has heard often by now, anything can happen, particularly in the single-game format adopted in 2019. One club, Seattle Sounders FC, actually, finally climbed back above the playoff line just this week, thanks to the 1-0 home win over FC Dallas they grinded out Tuesday night.

Yet ample work remains for them to stay there, and the hill is steeper for the rest of this group. Let’s take a look at the current state of 2022’s most prominent underachievers.



Atlanta United logo

Atlanta United

  • Standings: 12th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2018 MLS Cup, 2019 US Open Cup & Campeones Cup

What happened?

The short version: Injuries. Key starters Brad GuzanOzzie Alonso and Miles Robinson were all lost to serious, long-term ailments in the spring; later backup goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira was also lost for the year, forcing the Five Stripes to hit the international market for a healthy body between the pipes. Josef MartinezEmerson HyndmanBrooks LennonGeorge CampbellRonald Hernandez and Andrew Gutman are among those who’ve also spent significant time on the training table.

ATLUTD’s struggles run a bit deeper than just that hard-luck story, mind you. Influential club president Darren Eales, a foundational figure, just left for Newcastle United. Both Martinez and head coach Gonzalo Pineda have sounded off to varying degrees with concerns about commitment and intensity. They’ve been uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal and questions linger about the compatibility of one of MLS’s most expensively-assembled rosters.

What lies ahead?

ATL have only won two league matches since early May, a rough 2W-5L-5D patch. They’re just four points back of seventh-place Charlotte FC in the Eastern Conference table, though, and have 12 games left to work with. That said, they have to face Seattle, the New York Red Bulls and defending champs New York City FC at home, and also have a long trip to Portland and both home and away clashes with white-hot Philadelphia ahead, and have won just once away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Will they make it?

The Five Stripes have offered up flashes of real quality at times and could still, to borrow a phrase from Armchair Analyst, “brute-force” their way into the playoffs via sheer talent. But the vibes are not great down south in 2022 and we’re bearish on their hopes of figuring things out in time. Missing out on the postseason for the second time in their six years of existence will prompt sustained soul-searching alongside the hunt for Eales’ successor.

LA Galaxy logo

LA Galaxy

  • Standings: 9th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2012, 2014 MLS Cups

What happened?

This story starts with underperforming Designated Players. The Galaxy committed real resources towards acquiring Douglas Costa and Kevin Cabral to pace their attack and provide quality service for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Alas, the wing duo have contributed 3g/2a combined in the league this season, and TAM-level attacker Samuel Grandsir has been only slightly more productive with 1g/3a.

Even the unexpectedly prolific Dejan Joveljic – LA’s leading scorer with nine goals despite only earning five starts – and a strong campaign from fullback Raheem Edwards haven’t been enough to compensate for all that. While their longstanding defensive woes have eased, the Galaxy have scored just 30 goals in their 22 games to date, one of the weakest outputs in the West.

What lies ahead?

SoCal’s older club have two games left against bottom-dwelling Sporting KC, very winnable-looking visits to Houston and Vancouver and a handful of six-pointers against fellow playoff chasers. They can still pull this thing out of the fire. Some of the questions facing second-year boss Greg Vanney are pretty daunting, though, including some structural matters in the club’s scouting and signing processes he’s alluded to having to deal with since his arrival.

Will they make it?

The Gs are just two points back of seventh-place Seattle and have welcomed 22-year-old FC Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig, with sturdy center mid Rayan Raveloson off to France to make room. Is a dose of Barca tiki-taka, however elite Puig may be, really what LA need most, though? Given everything swirling around this vintage of “FC Hollywood,” we just don’t see them hacking a path into this postseason.

New England Revolution logo

New England Revolution

  • Standings: 11th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2021 Supporters’ Shield

What happened?

Bruce Arena presided over a range of improvements, some steady, others dramatic, upon his 2019 arrival in Foxborough, and finishing 12 points ahead of their nearest pursuers atop the 2021 league table suggested that he’d gotten his – and the Revs’ – mojo back. Consolidating that progress has been another matter entirely.

After a promising start, New England crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League spectacularly and several of their offseason acquisitions (Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore, most prominently) just didn’t work. Another, Sebastian Lletget, was just traded to FC Dallas. Playmaking genius Carles Gil is a constant focus for opponents, his fellow DP Gustavo Bou has missed time to injury, Adam Buksa left for France in midseason and his replacement, Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus, has only just taken the field. Tajon Buchanan’s departure has been glaring and the Revolution have dropped dozens of points from winning positions.

What lies ahead?

The Revs’ run-in is home-heavy, and looks manageable. They have strugglers like D.C. United, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo FC and the Chicago Fire (twice) on their remaining schedule, and while trips to Montréal and Toronto will be testing, they don’t have to fly anywhere west of Houston.

Will they make it?

With only two points separating them from the East’s final playoff slot, New England have reasons for optimism. The Revs are a more complete side than nearby competitors Charlotte, Chicago and Miami. We expect them to squeak in, with Cincy a tough challenger.


Seattle Sounders FC logo

Seattle Sounders FC

  • Standings: 7th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2022 Concacaf Champions League, 2019 MLS Cup

What happened?

In three words, Concacaf Champions League. History has shown deep CCL runs often trigger hangovers in the league, with focus, physical output and emotional energy all siphoned in the direction of regional glory. For the Sounders, it was and surely remains worth it, considering they scaled the CCL mountaintop, the first time in the tournament’s modern existence an MLS team has done so and just the third ever. Knowing they would eventually have to scramble to make up for that spring adventure is one thing; actually doing it is another.

What lies ahead?

Eleven games remain in Seattle’s league slate, and six of them are away from Lumen Field – not ideal considering they’re 3W-7L-1D on the road in league play, and several of them are six-pointers vs. the Galaxy and Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Still, as mentioned above, Tuesday’s win, as labored as it was, brings a boost in that they now pass the old “if the season ended tomorrow…” test, and are likely to stay there with a good result at struggling Atlanta this weekend.

Will they make it?

This isn’t the first time this groundbreaking club has flirted with missing the playoffs, and yet their amazing streak of taking part in every postseason since their 2009 arrival persists. In fact they hit an even lower nadir in the months leading up to their first MLS Cup triumph in 2016, only to storm back and reach the top after the arrival of Nico Lodeiro and the change from Sigi Schmid to Brian Schmetzer. We expect the Rave Green to be playing past Oct. 9, maybe even until Nov. 5.

Sporting Kansas City logo

Sporting Kansas City

  • Standings: 14th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017, 2015 U.S. Open Cups, 2013 MLS Cup

What happened?

The Midwesterners were behind the 8-ball from the jump when Designated Players and attacking linchpins Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda were diagnosed with season-ending knee injuries right at the start of the year. Add in the eroding effectiveness of an aging roster, an academy-centered youth movement lagging behind schedule, a debilitating shortage of speed in key areas and the diminished effect of what was once the most imposing home-field advantage in MLS, and you have the recipe for a Wooden Spoon voyage just one year after finishing fourth in the overall 2021 table.

What lies ahead?

Home duels with San Jose and D.C. and a September trip to Houston look winnable. Unfortunately for Peter Vermes & Co., the rest of their remaining slate is loaded with playoff and playoff-chasing opponents. Even with talented midseason recruits Erik Thommy and William Agada in the fold, this is a steep, steep climb.

Will they make it?

Last week’s miserable one-two punch of the US Open Cup semifinal upset defeat to Sacramento Republic on penalty kicks and the frustrating home loss to Austin FC – which included a very soft game-winning goal and a missed penalty kick by Daniel Salloi – felt like a backbreaker, at least from a distance. It’s just unrealistic to expect Kansas City to conjure up a vault into the top seven.

Toronto FC logo

Toronto FC

  • Standings: 13th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017 treble (MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship), 2020 CanChamp

What happened?

Some of TFC’s early difficulties were by design or expected, or something in that ballpark. It’s Bob Bradley’s first year in charge and the new tactical ideas he brought, combined with the wait for showcase signing Lorenzo Insigne to arrive after the conclusion of Napoli’s season and the need to blood a bevy of young players, most of them fresh-faced academy kids, was a heavy lift.

Like many young sides, away form was a serious drag and scoring output proved spotty. The Reds have been shut out eight times in league action, while DP defender Carlos Salcedo was a disappointment before his return to Liga MX for family reasons. The plan all along was for Insigne – who has been joined by fellow Italian reinforcements Domenico Criscito and Federico Bernardeschi – to spark a back-half rally up the table.

What lies ahead?

The schedule makers didn’t exactly hand them a soft run-in. TFC must visit Nashville, Charlotte and Philadelphia in the coming weeks, as well as have two long flights to Florida to meet Miami and Orlando, classic wild-card fixtures, especially during hurricane season. Making a fortress out of BMO Field, where they have a winning record this year but have lost five times, will be critical.

Will they make it?

It’s a tribute to the forgiving nature of the postseason format that after all their troubles, the Reds are still just a modest six points from the playoff line. Losing the CanChamp final to Vancouver on PKs was a missed opportunity to generate momentum and belief, however, and as talented as their newcomers clearly are, we don’t see playoffs in the cards on Lake Ontario this autumn.

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