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 

Indy 11





Indy 11 Park Announced Indy 11 Park

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Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

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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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• Norwich vs. Wigan (7:30 a.m. ET)
• Union Berlin vs. Hertha Berlin (9:30 a.m. ET)
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• 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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