United States Misses World Cup for First Time Since 1986

October 12, 2017


“COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — There was always a chance that a year would come when the United States again failed to qualify for the World Cup, when the hurdles in the nearly two-year slog of regional qualification — the matches on steamy afternoons and muggy nights, the hard tackles and the coin-throwing fans, the lousy fields and the dubious refereeing — all proved too much. That year is 2017. Trinidad and Tobago, whose World Cup dreams ended months ago, stunned the United States, 2-1, on Tuesday night. The result, combined with just-as-shocking outcomes in two simultaneous games in Honduras and Panama on the final day of qualifying for the Concacaf region, ushered in the unthinkable: The American men, mainstays of the World Cup for more than a generation, are out of next summer’s tournament in Russia. …”
NY Times, How the United States Missed the World Cup, Minute by Minute


U.S. National Team Still Controls Its Own World Cup Destiny

October 5, 2017


“The easiest route to the World Cup, any national team will tell you, is through the front door. Win your qualifying games and you can’t be left out. No worries. No math. No if-we-do-this-and-they-do-that calculations. Win, and you’re in. This, then, is the most appealing route for the United States national team over the next six days. If Coach Bruce Arena and his players win their final two qualifying games, at home against Panama on Friday and at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, they can pack their bags for Russia 2018. …” NY Times


In Soccer’s Hinterlands, World Cup Expansion Opens a Door

January 19, 2017

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Uganda, celebrating a goal against Botswana, is one of the teams that are likely to benefit the most from the coming World Cup expansion.
“While the soccer world was chewing over FIFA’s controversial decision on Tuesday to increase the size of the World Cup finals to 48 teams from 32, Milutin Sredojevic was trying to block out the noise. Sredojevic, a Serbian coach, is in Dubai preparing Uganda’s national team for the Africa Cup of Nations, the continental championship that begins Saturday in Gabon. Uganda, which is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, is a heavy underdog. Yet despite Sredojevic’s best efforts to focus on the task ahead, news of the expansion, which could benefit smaller federations like Uganda’s, filtered through anyway.” NY Times


FIFA to Expand World Cup to 48 Teams in 2026

January 19, 2017

“The World Cup will grow to 48 teams within a decade under a plan approved unanimously on Tuesday by FIFA’s governing council, an enormous expansion of soccer’s showpiece tournament that was hailed by supporters as a victory for inclusion but that was derided by critics as the latest money grab by an organization still emerging from a series of financial scandals. The move, which will take effect in 2026, was the largest expansion, in percentage terms, for the World Cup since it went to 24 teams from 16 in 1982, and the first since it moved to the current 32-nation format in 1998.” NY Times


Opponent in Finals Requests Chapecoense Be Awarded the Title

December 1, 2016

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“Atlético Nacional, the Colombian team that was to play Chapecoense of Brazil in the finals of the Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament this week, has asked the organization in charge of South American soccer to award the trophy to Chapecoense, which had nearly all of its players and coaches killed in a plane crash on Monday night. Nacional said in a statement on its website and its Twitter feed that it had requested that the South American confederation, Conmebol, cancel the two-leg finals and declare Chapecoense the champion of the tournament, South America’s second-most prestigious club competition.” NY Times


U.S. Men’s Soccer Has an Ally in Misery: England

November 26, 2016

“A humbling defeat at the hands of a nation a small fraction of your size. A manager briskly fired, hastily replaced on a messy temporary basis by pretty much the only guy anyone could think of at the time. Question marks that linger not just about whether the team is good enough, but whether the players themselves care enough about representing their country.” NY Times


Costa Rica Pummels the U.S. and Puts World Cup Qualifying in Doubt

November 20, 2016

“The defense was a shambles. The midfield had little presence. The attack, such as it was, just spun and sputtered. How bad was it? It is difficult to know where to start. There was no fluidity from the United States national team here on Tuesday night against Costa Rica. No flow, no rhythm, no concentrated push, either early or late. There was no sturdiness or stoutness or resilience in a game that felt critical. There was no creativity.” NY Times


‘It Is America. But I Want to Play in Mexico.’

November 11, 2016

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“EL PASO, Tex. — Night fell and the thick, heavy air was cut by a sharp, chilling breeze, the sort of West Texas wind that made it feel as if the whole city had a fever. Was it hot out, or cold? The children on the field at Pico Norte Park, which is little more than a bumpy, narrow strip of grass lined for soccer, wore uniforms and quickly broke a sweat; the parents ringing the sideline wore jeans and sleeves as they watched and cheered and occasionally shivered.” NY Times


The Five Months in Mexico That Shaped Pep Guardiola’s Philosophy

October 20, 2016

“It was as they were whiling away one of those long, sultry evenings cooped up in the comfortable surroundings of the Hotel Lucerna in Culiacán, Mexico, that Pep Guardiola outlined to Ángel Morales his vision of the perfect goal. Over the course of their five months in northwest Mexico, Guardiola, who would become the greatest soccer coach of his generation, and Morales, a journeyman playmaker from Argentina, spent hours together, eating, relaxing, talking. A decade later, though, it is that one thought, that purest distillation of Guardiola’s philosophy, that has stayed with Morales.” NY Times


Lazio Inches Closer to an Italian Soccer Title … From 1915

July 23, 2016

“Lazio is closing in on the Italian soccer championship. The championship of 1915. Prompted by a petition signed by 30,000 Lazio fans, a committee of the Italian soccer federation is set to recommend that Lazio be declared co-champions of a tournament that concluded more than 100 years ago.” NY Times


Sister of French Soccer Star Antoine Griezmann Recalls Terror of Paris Attacks

July 8, 2016

“Maud Griezmann walked into the concert hall and looked around. It was a little before 9 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Bataclan in Paris, and she admired the grand stage. She looked at the growing crowd. She watched, for a few moments, as a man at the souvenir stand sorted T-shirts and posters and CDs for the band Eagles of Death Metal, which was just about to begin its set. Then Ms. Griezmann looked quickly at her phone. Her brother Antoine Griezmann is a star forward for France’s national soccer team, and he was playing that night at the Stade de France, just outside the city limits. It was an exhibition match against Germany. The game and the concert were scheduled to start around the same time. Ms. Griezmann put her phone away. She wanted to listen to the music.” NY Times


Toxic psyche clouds Argentina as team hits mental breaking point

June 27, 2016

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“Argentina has more psychologists per capita than any country in the world—one can’t go out in Buenos Aires without meeting bunches of them—and not a single one of them can fix the toxic psyche of its national team. The latest example came on Sunday, when Lionel Messi and an Argentina team that had lorded over the Copa América Centenario failed to seal the deal again and came away losers in another final. The third straight major final in as many years, to be exact, this time to Chile on penalty kicks after a 0–0 tie. And whether or not Messi follows through on his stunning words that he’s probably retiring from the national team at 29, his drastic response is only a manifestation of a larger psychosis surrounding this team.” SI
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Second straight Copa America win solidifies Chile as one of world’s elite
“Claudio Bravo dropped to his knees in the corner of MetLife Stadium, raising his arms toward the sky as his teammates swarmed the field behind him, then shifted quickly in his direction. The team arrived to greet the goalkeeper in that corner, jumping and hugging and yelling in a joyous mass, all while stadium workers began to erect the the stage upon which they would celebrate. In the mass of hardware and fencing, the workers inadvertently pinned Chile’s team in its own corner.” SI
Lionel Messi and Argentina Miss Again as Chile Wins Copa América
Lionel Messi had the collar of his shirt pulled up to his nose. With his eyes peeking out just over the fabric, he watched a nightmare unfold. Argentina and Chile had played 120 minutes of ruthless, scoreless soccer on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. Penalty kicks would be needed to decide the winner of the 45th Copa América. Up stepped Messi, widely regarded as the best player in the world, to take the first shot for Argentina, and he missed, sending the ball sailing over the crossbar and into the crowd. Moments later, he watched as Francisco Silva of Chile buried a shot inside the left post to give his team a 4-2 shootout win. All of the Argentine players hung their heads near the center circle as the Chileans erupted in celebration. But Messi took a slow, solitary walk across the grass and took a seat on the far end of his team’s bench.” NY Times


Chile Soccer Team Strengthened by Forays Away From Home

June 23, 2016

“Regardless of what happens when Chile plays Colombia on Wednesday night, one thing is plain: The world now knows that Chile’s soccer team is for real. Fresh off a 7-0 thrashing of Mexico, arguably the best team in the North American region, Chile has used this month’s Copa América Centenario to erase any doubts over its emergence as a power player from South America. While few doubted the quality of Chile’s current roster, flecked as it is with talent from Barcelona, Arsenal and Bayern Munich, there still was a sense that Chile’s best moments had always occurred on home soil, or close to it. Chile advanced to the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and it entered this summer’s Copa América as the defending champion, a title won when it hosted last year’s tournament. The country’s best moment at a World Cup came in 1962, also a tournament played at home.” NY Times


Unhinged Melody: Euro Soccer Fans Enliven Stadiums With Song

June 19, 2016

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“In a sporting sense, the European soccer championship is a gathering of tremendous talent, artful craftsmen and bubbling drama, a delicious recipe that produces one of the most remarkable events on the calendar. The extraordinary nature of the soccer, however, is surpassed only by the extraordinary nature of its soundtrack. For in a musical sense, the European Championship is a gathering of bizarrely discordant overtures, cheesy riffs, synthesizers and, quite often, rhymes that schoolchildren would struggle to comprehend. And yet it is somehow irresistible.” NY Times (Video)


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


After winning Copa group, USA has chance to prove knockout chops

June 12, 2016

“Now a new Copa América begins for the United States. The U.S. has persevered through the group stage, shaking off an opening loss to Colombia and winning twice against Costa Rica and Paraguay to reach the knockout rounds of another major tournament, even winning the group with a late helping hand from Los Ticos.” SI (Video)

U.S. Advances to Copa América Quarterfinals After Surviving an Ejection
“The United States knew the Copa América math days before it took the field against Paraguay on Saturday. A win or a tie would mean advancement to the quarterfinals. A loss would mean elimination. It was the solution to that problem that was surprising: 10 men and one goal equaled a second life. Riding a first-half goal by Clint Dempsey and overcoming the second-half ejection of defender DeAndre Yedlin, the United States held off Paraguay, 1-0, to seal its place in the quarterfinals later this week. Instead of the Americans’ facing the ignominy of a first-round exit, it was the Paraguayans heading home.” NY Times


Euro 2016: England and Russia fans clash in third day of violence

June 12, 2016

“Two England supporters have been seriously injured in Marseille after violent clashes with rival fans in the hours leading up to England’s opening Euro 2016 group match against Russia. Police had to resuscitate one 51-year-old fan after he was repeatedly kicked in the head on Saturday, apparently by several Russian fans, leaving him unconscious. Witnesses claimed he had also been attacked with a small axe leaving his head bleeding ‘like a tap’, although the allegation could not be immediately verified.” Guardian (Video)

Russia and England Fans Clash Repeatedly at European Championships
“Fights broke out Saturday before and soon after Russia earned a 1-1 draw against England with a stoppage-time goal in a Group B match at the European Championships in Marseille, France. Fans of the two teams rioted before the game in Marseille’s Old Port district and briefly outside the nearby Stade Vélodrome in a third straight day of violence in the city. The police fired tear gas and water cannons at the fighting fans.” NY Times (Video)


Soccer Teams Raise the Curtain on the Live Show in Stadium Tunnels

June 12, 2016

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“There are cages. There are escalators. Sometimes there is claustrophobia. Usually there are children milling about, and in at least one instance, the whole setting (purposely) looks like a mine shaft. In most sports, the tunnel area leading from a stadium’s locker room to the field or court is a sacred space. The final few moments before top athletes head out to compete are, generally, a private preserve of calm introspection or frothy expectation, a sanctuary free from scrutiny where participants can engage in a final motivating message or a last, quiet confrontation with their nerves. Except in soccer.” NY Times


Copa América 2016: Who’s In, Who’s Hurt and Who Could Win It

June 4, 2016

“The Copa América Centenario, born in scandal and saved only by the promise of better behavior (and the presence of some pretty good soccer teams), kicks off Friday night when the United States faces Colombia in Santa Clara, Calif. The 16-team event is being played outside South America for the first time as a celebration of its 100th anniversary, and while a handful of top players have been left out or ruled out by injury, there is plenty left in the cupboard, including four of the eight quarterfinalists from the last World Cup. Here’s what you need to know before the tournament begins.” NY Times


Worth the Price of 92 Admissions: Entry Into a Stadium Fan Club

April 24, 2016

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“The list includes ramshackle old stadiums, scented and scarred with century-old reminders of English soccer’s storied past, but also the gleaming cathedrals that testify to the Premier League’s rich new present. The City Ground (Nottingham Forest) and the County Ground (Swindon Town). Elland Road and White Hart Lane, but also Villa Park and Craven Cottage. Turf Moor and Deepdale and Ashton Gate. And when the final whistle blows at Saturday’s match between Manchester City and Stoke City, Martin Weiler, a 61-year-old soccer fan with no affiliation to either team, will leave the Etihad Stadium having seen a match in every one of them. In doing so, he also will become eligible for membership in one of soccer’s most distinctive supporters groups: the 92 Club, a small and exclusive fellowship made up of individuals who have watched a competitive league or cup match at the stadium of each of the 92 clubs in England’s top four divisions, which includes some teams from Wales.” NY Times


Emirates’ Rise Is Faced With Growing Threats

March 20, 2016

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“In international soccer, the United Arab Emirates are looking good. The national team finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup continental tournament, and it is stocked with the country’s golden generation of players. The team has a real chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The 14-team Arabian Gulf League, which professionalized in 2008, is now regarded as one of the best in Asia. One of the clubs, Al Ahli of Dubai, reached the final of the Asian Champions League last year. Yet the league still struggles to attract fans, and it is now facing twin threats from the rise of Qatar and China in global soccer that threaten to knock the Emirates down the soccer ladder.” NY Times


FIFA, Knowing Prosecutors Are Watching, Makes Some Changes

March 2, 2016

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“ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body used an election on Friday to try to break with the past. FIFA chose a new president, the Swiss administrator Gianni Infantino, while approving reforms intended to overhaul the multibillion-dollar organization that the American authorities said last year was overrun with criminals. A new era has begun, Mr. Infantino said, addressing fellow FIFA officials in a stadium here but surely hoping that United States prosecutors were listening from afar. In their continuing case, the federal authorities in Brooklyn have depicted the Switzerland-based FIFA as a victim, hijacked by depraved leaders — corrupted but not corrupt. The organization hired top defense lawyers and crisis managers from the United States to share information with investigators and help advance that characterization in the nine months since charges were first unsealed.” NY Times
NY Times: The Baur au Lac and Me (Video)
NY Times: Sepp Blatter, on Eve of FIFA Election, Is Exiting ‘a Happy Man’


Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid forward appears unhappy with team-mates

February 28, 2016

“Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said ‘if we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders’ after his side’s 1-0 derby defeat by Atletico Madrid. A first defeat under Zinedine Zidane leaves Real nine points behind leaders Barcelona, and four below Atletico. Real were missing Gareth Bale and Marcelo through injury, while Karim Benzema was replaced at half-time.” BBC

Zidane Can’t Save Real From Losing Another Madrid Derby
“When Zinedine Zidane was a player, he could raise his game like few other men to breach almost any defense. As a coach, he no longer has that power. And in his own stadium, with a team of players as expensive as any on earth, the futility of that predicament clearly tortures him. Zidane railed to no effect as Real Madrid lost, 1-0, on Saturday to Atlético Madrid in their derby match.” NY Times


Spain’s Liga, a Perilous Cauldron for Managers

February 14, 2016

“Outside of the glamour and the riches of both clubs in Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, managing in the Spanish league is about the struggle to survive. Late Saturday, after Valencia eked out a nervous 2-1 victory over Espanyol, the two head coaches — Valencia’s Gary Neville and Espanyol’s Constantin Galca — found one another on the sidelines. Their handshake turned briefly into a sympathetic embrace between opponents who are both fighting to keep their jobs — and to keep their teams in La Liga. As players, Neville, 40, and Galca, 43, appeared in over a thousand top-level games. They know what it is like to step out into Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, where little more than a decade ago, the roar of the home crowd could make the cavernous concrete bowl throb with excitement as fans cheered on a team that was among the best in Europe. The old stadium still is one of Spain’s most evocative venues, and the crowd still numbers about 50,000 per game.” NY Times


Familiar Story for Thai Soccer as an Election Prompts ‘a Civil War’

February 11, 2016

“Surawut Maharom was looking stressed. His job had seemed simple when he had first arrived: to oversee an election on Thursday to choose a new president of the Football Association of Thailand. But nothing is simple when it comes to soccer in Thailand. ‘This is a civil war,’ Surawut said. ‘It’s the most difficult case that I’ve dealt with.’ In October, FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, dismissed the executive committee of the Thai soccer association after its president, Worawi Makudi, was suspended pending an ethics investigation.” NT Times


Fans’ Patience With Louis van Gaal at a Nadir

January 29, 2016

“By any measure, Manchester United is one of the four biggest soccer clubs in the world. Its wealth, tradition, stadium and future earning potential are all up there with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But on the field, United is massively underachieving. Its team is out of the Champions League and drifting out of contention in the Premier League, where Leicester City, a low-budget club, still leads the standings with more than half the season gone. Bravo to Leicester, and shame on United.” NY Times


Bob Bradley Climbs the Global Soccer Ladder With an Impediment: He’s American

January 28, 2016

“LE HAVRE, France — In the conference room of a smart hotel in the center of this port city, four Frenchmen were talking loudly over one another and gesticulating toward a flip chart in front of a row of empty chairs. Bob Bradley, the recently appointed coach of the city’s second-tier soccer team, Havre A.C. — more commonly known as Le HAC — sat nearby. Bradley was awaiting the arrival of his players for a team meeting before that evening’s league match against Paris F.C., the French capital’s second team. As the voices of his four assistant coaches rose, Bradley drew half a soccer field onto the flip chart — free hand, but with perfectly straight lines — before writing the names and numbers of his players and their possible opponents in different colored pens. He quietly checked the names and spellings with a translator.” NY Times


A Soccer Team, Its Foreign Owner and Local Discontent

January 6, 2016

“A new Chinese owner arrived at the Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag in early 2014, promising multimillion-dollar investments and better days ahead. Fans of the club liked the sound of that. Yes, the money to buy the team arrived a few months late, but it did arrive in the end, along with firm deadlines for further investments and a handful of new signings. Even if the most ardent fans were wary of the new owner’s intentions, they held their tongues. ADO, a 110-year-old club, has not won the top Dutch league, now known as the Eredivisie, since the end of World War II. But the new owner, a wealthy businessman named Wang Hui, promised to turn the team into a powerhouse — one that could challenge the likes of Ajax, P.S.V. Eindhoven and Feyenoord, clubs that have long dominated Dutch soccer, and play well enough to qualify for top European competitions like the Champions League.” NY Times


Unpredictable English Premier League Keeps Us Guessing

December 28, 2015

“If uncertainty makes for compelling competition, nothing can rival the English Premier League. While every other major league in the world shut down for Christmas, all 20 English clubs played on Boxing Day. Not too many followed form, although Manchester City’s 4-1 crushing of Sunderland, which is haunted by the specter of relegation, was predictable enough. And Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Norwich City might also have been foreseen.” NY Times


Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Are Barred From Soccer for 8 Years

December 21, 2015

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“Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, two of the most powerful figures in global soccer, were barred from the sport for eight years on Monday morning after being found guilty of ethics violations. The suspensions were imposed by the independent ethics committee of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Mr. Blatter, who is FIFA’s longtime president, as well as Mr. Platini, who is the president of UEFA, which oversees soccer in Europe, are prohibited from taking part in any soccer-related activities while barred — a sanction that, in Mr. Platini’s case, seemingly ends any chance that he will be able to run in February’s special election to fill the post Mr. Blatter has said he would vacate.” NY Times
NY Times: The Rise and Fall of Sepp Blatter
NY Times: A Hemisphere of Soccer Corruption


More Charges as FIFA Inquiry Widens

December 3, 2015

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“The investigation into corruption and bribery in soccer that in May rocked FIFA, the sport’s multibillion-dollar governing body, metastasized on Thursday when United States officials unsealed a new indictment that alleged an even more extensive network of criminal behavior across dozens of countries and involved some of the most powerful people in international soccer. Sixteen new defendants were identfied, with charges including wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering, aimed almost entirely at individuals from Central and South America. Among them were aformer president of Honduras, a judge on the Constitutional Court of Guatemala and the current and former presidents of Brazil’s national soccer federation.” NY Times (Video)

Five-Star Zurich Hotel Again Figures Into FIFA Arrests
“Just before 6 a.m. here Thursday, Swiss law enforcement officers briskly entered a side door of the Baur au Lac hotel. Moments later, a hotel custodian, in a starched uniform and polished shoes, stepped out the front door of the five-star property and dutifully vacuumed the entryway carpets, seemingly oblivious to the police raid underway behind him. It would have been a bizarre juxtaposition for this plush, historic hotel on the banks of Lake Zurich if it were not so familiar. Just six months ago, the Swiss police arrived at the Baur au Lac for the first roundup of top soccer officials, rocking the soccer world and providing an august setting for charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering and other ignoble offenses.” Y Times


Leonid Slutsky Juggles Two Demanding Jobs in Russian Soccer

November 24, 2015

“The Russian soccer federation announced this year that it was toughening one of the rules for teams in its top domestic league: In an effort to bolster the development of young Russian players ahead of the 2018 World Cup, club teams would be particularly limited in the number of foreign players they could have on the field at any given time. Reactions to the change varied, and in a recent interview, the coach of the Russian national team said — not surprisingly — that he understood the thinking behind the regulation. Also not surprisingly, the coach of CSKA Moscow, one of the country’s perennial juggernauts and a team with the financial resources to sign players from abroad, said he was opposed to the rule.” NY Times


Mexico tops United States 3-2 in thrilling CONCACAF Cup

October 11, 2015

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“Paul Aguilar scored a goal for the ages to end a game for the ages. The Mexico defender, who had been a thorn in the U.S.’s left side all evening at a sold-out Rose Bowl, latched on to a high, speculative pass from Raúl Jiménez in the 118th minute and hit a thunderous volley past Brad Guzan and inside the left post. The strike lifted Mexico to a 3-2 extra time triumph in a gripping Confederations Cup playoff that will be remembered for as long as the Americans and El Tri play the sport. With a berth in the 2017 tournament at stake, players on both teams gave their all on a sweltering Pasadena evening. Mexico took the lead twice and the U.S. recovered and equalized twice. When substitute forward Bobby Wood—the hero of the friendly wins over the Netherlands and Germany—scored in the 108th minute, it seemed as if penalty kicks would be needed to end an epic affair. But Aguilar’s moment of brilliance highlighted the genuine difference in skill between the two sides and was a game-winner befitting the occasion.” SI

U.S. Fails to Keep Step With Mexico’s Lead
“Mexico defeated the United States, 3-2, on Saturday night in a game staged to decide which team would earn a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup, an eight-country tournament of dubious prestige that will take place in Russia, the site of the 2018 World Cup. Mexico’s winning goal was scored in spectacularly skillful fashion in the 118th minute, in the second half of overtime, as Paul Aguilar sprinted into the right side of the box, settled under a rapidly descending lob pass from Raul Jiménez and lashed a low, wicked volley inside the left post. The Mexican players scrambled to form a joyous pile near the corner flag. The Americans stood still, stunned.” NY Times

After Mexico loss, it’s time to consider Klinsmann’s suitability as U.S. coach
“I’ve been reading a good book lately. It’s called Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World. The author, Raphael Honigstein, tells the story of how the Germans completely rethought their approach to talent development starting in the late 1990s, refined it even more in the early 2000s and reaped the ultimate reward by winning World Cup 2014. Jurgen Klinsmann is a central figure in the tale whose voice appears throughout the book. When the German federation has trouble finding a suitable coach in 2004, Klinsmann gets the job and shocks the traditional German system by bringing in his American fitness gurus and introducing a technocrat’s way of thinking when it comes to developing talent and exploring new ideas. In many ways, he’s like a McKinsey consultant for soccer.” SI (Video)

Soccer Godcast, Episode 5: U.S. vs. Mexico and the ugly side of patriotism
“The latest international break is upon us, and the American soccerverse is consumed by all things USA vs. Mexico. Being the upstanding Americans that they are, hosts Kevin Brown and Miriti Murungi discuss this weekend’s CONCACAF Cup showdown and the wonderfully reckless comments from Landon Donovan, who may or may not have suggested that it was time for Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired, should the United States lose on Saturday. Later, they discuss Elliot Turner’s story about the unfortunate parallels between the conversations surrounding the U.S.-Mexico rivalry and the ongoing American immigration debate, which sparks a conversation about the number of U.S. fans who use soccer as a flimsy excuse to be xenophobic in the name of patriotism, and whether an ideological gap may exist between various segments of the U.S. fanbase.” Fusion (Video)


Success Is No Longer Foreign to East Timor, but the Players Are

October 5, 2015

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“With so little to cheer in their nation’s brief soccer history, fans of East Timor’s national team would be correct to consider this the squad’s golden era. East Timor, which did not play a World Cup qualifying match until 2007 and did not win one until this year, has advanced to the second round of World Cup qualifying for the first time. Under normal circumstances, the team would be warmly received when it assembles in Dili, the capital, next week for its next two matches. But instead of cheering, infuriated fans in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony off Australia’s north coast, are raising questions about how the team was put together: Apparently the national federation went on a shopping spree for players in the world’s richest marketplace — Brazil — and came back with more than enough to reshape its team.” NY Times


FIFA’s Captain Clings to the Helm of His Sinking Ship

September 27, 2015

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“When Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA this spring, he trotted out one of his favorite metaphors. In his 17th year in charge of the organization, and brushing aside a raging corruption scandal, Mr. Blatter boasted that he would navigate FIFA’s rocky waters and guide world soccer’s governing body safely to the shore. But here is the latest snapshot of the bang-up job this captain has been doing: On Friday, he was huddled deep inside his ship’s hull, meeting in the bilge with top FIFA crew members, as his ship continued to take on water. When Captain Blatter returned to the upper deck later that day, he was greeted by investigators representing Switzerland’s attorney general. They had come aboard with the news that Mr. Blatter was the target of a criminal investigation.” NY Times


Top FIFA Executive Jérôme Valcke Placed on Leave Amid Corruption Investigation

September 20, 2015

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“Jérôme Valcke, the second-ranking official at FIFA, was placed on immediate leave and will be investigated for allegations of corruption involving the black-market sale of World Cup tickets, the association announced Thursday. FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, announced Mr. Valcke’s departure in a brief statement posted on its website. It said that Mr. Valcke had been relieved of his duties effective immediately and that FIFA had been ‘made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee.’” NY Times


In Germany, Migrant Aid Is a Team Effort

September 13, 2015

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“Ibrahim Ismail decided to make a placard for each of his five Syrian and Iraqi friends the moment he heard they would receive free tickets for the soccer match on Tuesday. … The six men proudly displayed their signs to thousands of German fans streaming into Millerntor-Stadion here. Almost all of the fans who passed them were wearing black T-shirts with the image of a skull and crossbones on the front, the emblem widely used by supporters of F.C. St. Pauli, a team in the second tier of German soccer. A few days earlier, St. Pauli, known for its punk-rock ethos and social conscience, had offered 1,000 free tickets for an exhibition this week against Borussia Dortmund to recently arrived migrants, including Ismail and his friends.” NY Times


NBC Retains Rights to Premier League in Six-Year Deal

August 11, 2015

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“Two years of success broadcasting England’s Premier League proved a basic truth to NBC Sports: It would have to pay a lot more to keep carrying the league’s games. Now it will. Under a six-year agreement announced Monday that starts next season and is worth about $1 billion, NBC retained the rights to the Premier League through the 2021-22 season. NBC will pay steeply more for the package starting next season — the new rights fee basically doubles the annual cost of NBC’s current, three-year $250 million contract — but its willingness to do so was an acknowledgment of how the globally popular league has come to redefine NBC’s sports cable network, NBCSN, and also of the value NBC sees in Americans’ growing appetite for top-shelf European soccer.” NY Times

Live and Kicking: Soccer Games to Watch This Week
“As you settle in for another week of soccer viewing in your comfiest chair, spare a moment to think about the soon-to-be-weary legs of the players at Barcelona, which will soon be the latest victim of the club’s success. The soccer editor Andrew Das tells you what to watch.” NY Times


In European Soccer, Usual Suspects Are Expected to Win

August 11, 2015

“The European soccer season gets under way in earnest in the days ahead. But as usual, there is something missing: true uncertainty about who will be on top when the season ends. While each of Europe’s top five leagues is made up of as many as 20 teams, only a few rich teams are seen to have a real chance at winning the league title. A look at bookmaker’s odds shows that for the have-nots, the chances of winding up at the top of the table are increasingly close to zero. In this exercise, the chances are calculated by translating odds to percentages — a team that is 2-1 has a 33 percent chance of winning the title, for example, and an 8-1 shot has an 11 percent chance. However you figure it, the deck is stacked against most of the teams in every race.” NY Times


Argentine Businessman Pleads Not Guilty in FIFA Corruption Case

August 1, 2015

“Turning over his two passports to federal agents, Alejandro Burzaco, a citizen of Argentina and Italy, pleaded not guilty Friday at an arraignment in United States District Court in Brooklyn to charges that he paid millions in bribes to world soccer officials to secure lucrative media and marketing contracts. Mr. Burzaco, one of 14 top soccer officials and businessmen indicted in May on charges of widespread corruption within FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, was the second defendant to be extradited to the United States and the third to appear in federal court in connection with the case. He was not among the seven men arrested in Zurich in May.” NY Times


In Chile’s National Stadium, Dark Past Shadows Copa América Matches

June 21, 2015

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“SANTIAGO, Chile — A haunting yellowish glow radiates from the tiny section of empty wooden benches and crumbling concrete behind the north goal at Estadio Nacional. All around this space there is noise: 47,000 soccer fans screaming and jumping in delight as Chile’s national team plays Ecuador in the opening game of the Copa América. But no one sits on those benches. They are reserved in perpetuity, a somber memorial to the thousands of people who were beaten and tortured here 42 years ago in the home of Chilean soccer. Estadio Nacional, the site of six games in this year’s Copa América, including the final on July 4, is perhaps the most infamous sports arena in the world. For nearly two months after the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president, the stadium served as a makeshift prison camp where as many as 20,000 men and women suffered at the hands of a military junta, led by the right-wing army chief, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, that had seized control of Chile. …”
NY Times


FIFA Inquiry Yields Indictments; U.S. Officials Vow to Pursue More

May 27, 2015

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“United States law enforcement officials declared in forceful terms on Wednesday that their broad investigation of FIFA had only begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption. The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said. The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals.” NY Times (Video)

FIFA: U.S. alleges corruption, indicts 14; Switzerland opens separate probe
“‘The indictment also alleges that corruption and bribery extended to the 2011 presidential FIFA election, and to agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,’ U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters in New York on Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation into FIFA officials and others. FIFA executives and others used bribes to influence where the 2010 World Cup would be held, Lynch told reporters Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation of FIFA. The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa.” CNNN (Video)

Fifa officials corrupted football – US prosecutors
“US prosecutors have accused several officials from football’s governing body Fifa of racketeering, fraud and money laundering involving tens of millions of dollars over 24 years. Prosecutors said they had discovered a dozen schemes, including one awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. Fourteen people have been indicted, with seven held in Zurich on Wednesday. Fifa president Sepp Blatter is not among them. Fifa still intends to hold its presidential election on Friday. However, European football body Uefa has called for the election to be postponed and said it would decide on Thursday whether to boycott the congress. Mr Blatter is seeking re-election and is favoured to win a fifth term.” BBC (Video)


5 Premier League Clubs Stuck in Relegation Battle

May 12, 2015

“The moment that Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title in England, interest switched to the race to the bottom. The grim reality of the world’s richest soccer league is that only Chelsea, Manchester City and possibly Arsenal had the players and the means to win it this season. Two-thirds of the rest of the clubs played in fear of relegation to the Championship, one league below.” NY Times


Spanish Contenders Can’t Relax Before European Tests

May 3, 2015

“There are two ways to prepare for this week’s Champions League semifinals — the Spanish way, and the way the rest of Europe does it. In Spain, where the domestic title is going down to the wire, both Barcelona and Real Madrid were obliged to put out the best teams they could Saturday to sweat out games played in the upper 80s in Andalusia. Barcelona toiled for over 40 minutes before it opened up and beat last-place Córdoba, 8-0.” NY Times


Clock Is Ticking on Xavi’s Storied Career at Barcelona

April 8, 2015

“Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández have played tiki-taka since childhood. They have grown closer than brothers, can find one another with a pass in their sleep and have won every honor in the global game. Their days together are numbered. They do have unfinished business because Barcelona still might win, three more trophies this season to add to the 24 that they have won as integral parts of both their club and the national team, Spain.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | How Barca exploited half spaces

March 24, 2015

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El Clasico has become perhaps the most high profile fixture in club football. The historic rivalry between the clubs, the battle for supremacy between Ronaldo and Messi along with a star studded supporting cast, the possible implications in the title race all combine to form a heady mixture of apprehension and euphoria. The world waits with bated breath for kickoff only for it to be taken away by the plethora of talents on the pitch.” Outside of the Boot

Luis Suárez’s Validating Strike Lifts Barcelona Past Madrid
“Last October, Luis Suárez made his debut for F.C. Barcelona in a disappointing 3-1 loss to Real Madrid. He was substituted during that game after a long ban that had prompted questions over whether he could return to form and justify the record transfer fee that brought him here. On Sunday, Suárez repaid at least part of Barcelona’s investment by scoring a spectacular and decisive goal in a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the latest Clásico between the two giants of Spanish soccer. With the win, Barcelona opened up a 4-point lead over Madrid at the top of La Liga, with 10 games remaining in the season.” NY Times


Lionel Messi Is Back on His Game

March 24, 2015

“It has been a pleasure to watch Lionel Messi playing with Barcelona during the past week, in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time. When I profiled the Argentine superstar for the magazine in June of last year, just before the World Cup, he was in a bit of a funk. As one Argentine writer told me at the time, ‘It’s like he’s tied up.’  Messi had been having a (relatively) poor year with Barcelona, his club team in Spain, and there was a noticeable lack of spark in his play. He was hurt earlier in the year, and plagued by drama off the field at Barcelona, but nobody knew what the real root of the trouble was. He just didn’t look like himself.” NY Times


Manchester City Was Ready for Lionel Messi, or So It Thought

March 19, 2015

“The moment that encapsulated the game came after about 40 minutes. Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s wizard in residence, had the ball near the sideline. James Milner, a sturdy Manchester City midfielder, approached. Messi caressed the ball with his foot. Milner tried to shuffle along. Suddenly, the ball was through Milner’s legs, Messi was off behind him and Milner collapsed onto his rear end, unable to stand up against Messi’s bag of tricks.” NY Times


Bolivian Clubs Are at Home in Thin Air

March 11, 2015

“Tucked tightly among the high-rises of the Miraflores district of La Paz, Bolivia, the Hernando Siles stadium is one of those great South American dust bowls drenched in character. Yet few stadiums anywhere can match its home-field advantage: Nestled in the Andes at a lung-tightening 11,932 feet, it brings soccer to the very roof of the Americas. Last month, it was where the Brazilian club Internacional arrived only hours before kicking off this season’s Copa Libertadores, the South American championship. Internacional had planned to spend only 12 hours in La Paz to minimize the effects of the city’s altitude, but even that was plenty for the environment to take its claustrophobic toll.” NY Times


Whose Side Are You On?

March 4, 2015

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N.Y.C.F.C. fans watching an exhibition match at a Manhattan bar last month.
“New York sports fans can be a melodramatic lot, but in January one particular group had become agitated on a whole other level. The debut of a newly acquired star player, believed to be set for the season opener in March, had been pushed back at least three months for contract reasons, and they were outraged. Some returned the team jerseys they had bought bearing the player’s name. Others vowed to boo him when he did finally arrive. One group of die-hards issued a statement saying it ‘would like to publicly denounce’ the club and the player for the delay. A typical New York fan response to a team’s blunder. But here is the difference: The team, New York City Football Club, hadn’t played a game yet. Not just this season. Ever.” NY Times


Champions League Shakes Bundesliga Teams Awake

February 15, 2015

“The Champions League appears to have an effect similar to smelling salts in rousing the consciousness of Germany’s top clubs. Bayern Munich somnolently came out of the midwinter break at the end of January, losing heavily and uncharacteristically in the league. But on Saturday, sensing that such lethargy would be exposed in European competition, it went flat-out against Hamburg. Arjen Robben danced down his wing and cut in to score, once with his left foot and once with the right. Thomas Müller, looking at his sharpest since the World Cup final last summer, also scored twice, as did the substitute Franck Ribéry. Oh, and Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski got in on the act, too.” NY Times


In Winter, It’s Time for a Stoppage

January 26, 2015

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“F.C. Basel, the best soccer team in Switzerland, went to work one recent day on a glistening grass field set among chunky dirt mounds, overgrown vegetation and the construction site for what appeared to be a new Burger King. The circumstances seemed a bit incongruous: Basel, which leads the Swiss Super League standings, was preparing for a UEFA Champions League match, yet it was about 1,000 miles from home. On this particular afternoon, the team’s training consisted of a casual exhibition match on an unlikely field against a second-division team from Germany.” NY Times


Southampton Fill-Ins Continue to Be First-Rate

January 19, 2015

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“The supply line of Dutch-Surinamese talent has not dried up — it just needs people to remember it, identify with it and take a chance on it. Eljero Elia, a winger whose parents were born in the former Dutch colony in South America, won the game for Southampton on Saturday. The quick-footed Elia was playing his second game for the Saints and scored both goals for Southampton in a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Newcastle United.” NY Times


A Contentious Source of Income Is Set to Dry Up

January 4, 2015

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“Soccer’s hot stove league — the winter transfer window — fired up again Thursday, beginning a monthlong frenzy in which some of Europe’s best-known teams will buy and sell the rights to some of the world’s best players. But as teams around the world prepare for the semiannual flurry — there is a longer summer window — everyone involved does so with a new era looming: Third-party ownership, which for years drove the market by allowing outside investors to buy pieces of a player’s future to profit from his eventual sale, will soon be banned. At its core, third-party ownership, or T.P.O., is simple: An investor gives money to a club in exchange for a share of a player’s future transfer fees. Many clubs, particularly in South America and Eastern Europe, build their rosters around T.P.O., either as a hedge against a young player’s development prospects or to raise capital for more immediate needs.” NY Times


With the F.A. Cup, the Dream Endures, Though Reality Intrudes

January 4, 2015

“They say that the magic of the F.A. Cup is dead and buried beneath the hundreds of millions of dollars that separate the behemoths from the baby clubs in modern English soccer. But nobody told the Blyth Spartans that part-time players cannot have their hour in the limelight of the world’s oldest knockout competition. And nobody told Luís Figo, a winner of all manner of trophies when he played on the wing for Barcelona and Real Madrid, that folklore has lost its appeal. Figo was hooked on the action Saturday, when a local bartender, Robbie Dale, scored twice to put Blyth two goals up at halftime against Birmingham City, a team 120 places above Blyth in the league structures of England.” NY Times


New Territory for Global Game

December 26, 2014

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Marlon Peres Capotes, 11, takes a shot at a goal made of two rocks during a pick-up soccer game in the Zimba La Lisa neighborhood of Havana.
“Ronald Hernandez Vega did not come to see a game played with the hands. There was baseball Monday morning, one and a half innings to complete a rainout in Cuba’s national league. Hernandez Vega did not care. He sat outside the provincial stadium in languid daylight, wearing the jersey not of Yasiel Puig but of Lionel Messi. Baseball is the sport of Cuba’s revolution, but soccer is the sport of the arriving world. … Soccer is nonstop, frenetically creative, its passion building from its penury, the rarity of a goal bringing theatrical release to its players and screaming ecstasy to its announcers. Soccer now rivals baseball as the favorite sport of many young Cubans. They play on lumpy fields and streets dotted with potholes, rushing to fill empty spaces like water, improvising with goals made of fishing nets, bed frames and school desks.” NY Times


FIFA Agrees to Release Redacted Ethics Report

December 21, 2014

“FIFA said on Friday that it would release a redacted version of the 430-page report compiled by Michael J. Garcia, the former chief investigator for the governing body of soccer’s ethics committee, who spent more than a year digging into allegations of corruption in the World Cup bidding process. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, announced the decision at a news conference in Morocco, at which he also said that the 2018 World Cup would take place in Russia as planned and that the 2022 event would remain in Qatar because there were no legal grounds for a revote.” NY Times


Tales of Spain’s Fall May Be a Bit Too Early

November 17, 2014

“Condolences to Spanish soccer, for the losses it has suffered in 2014 might be premature. The manner in which it surrendered the World Cup, followed by a loss in Slovakia in European Championship qualifying last month, brought all manner of condemnation to the national team. La Roja, it was said, was falling apart. The team was old, with its central pillars of Xavi Hernández and Xabi Alonso retiring from the national cause. And though he had a winning percentage of more than .800 since he took over in 2008, Coach Vicente del Bosque was considered past tense.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis | Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Effective pressing but not sustainable

November 3, 2014

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“Though the two sides have had completely contrasting seasons so far, one is arguably the best passing team in Europe, while the other still remains a benchmark for those looking to employ a pressing system. And when it comes to the Klassiker, both these sides are often more well matched than points, form and the table suggests. This one at the Allianz Arena, was no different. The game was another reminder as to why the German domestic set-up remains arguably at the top in all aspects; the football on show was breath-taking, and the stands packed with clubs putting supporters first with staggeringly low ticket prices as displayed by www.1st4footballtickets.com, compared to some of Europe’s other leagues.” Outside of the Boot

Bayern Bares Its Fangs, on the Field and Off
“In a game fit to show to the world, Bayern Munich came from a goal down to roll over Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, on Saturday. This was Germany’s Der Klassiker being broadcast to 208 of FIFA’s 209 nations one week after Real Madrid and Barcelona had engaged a similar audience. The one country not tuned in? North Korea. A pity, because Koreans on both sides of their divide follow every nuance of the sport. It would not be lost on them that while the combined powers of Bayern and Borussia brought home the World Cup this year, there is intense rivalry and an internecine bitterness at the core of these annual encounters between Munich and the Ruhr.” NY Times


Serbia v Albania: Drones, flags and violence in abandoned match

October 17, 2014

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“Partizan Stadium was quiet, perhaps too quiet, as half-time approached. It was tempting to think Serbia’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania – the latter’s first visit to Belgrade since 1967 – was going to conclude without incident. Serbia had dominated a slow-paced game and looked favourites to win at 0-0. There had been little yet to rile a crowd that was bereft of away supporters after Uefa had stepped into a dispute over the terms under which travelling fans could attend the game.” BBC (Video)

Drone Stunt at Belgrade Soccer Match Stirs Ethnic Tensions
“On a region where ethnic nationalism is never far from the surface, a stunt at a soccer match between Albania and Serbia has escalated into a full-scale diplomatic incident, provoking suspected cyberattacks, violence and the lobbing of verbal insults with a fervor usually reserved for the field. What was expected to be a beautiful game overcoming historic enmities turned ugly Tuesday evening when a small drone trailing a nationalist Albanian flag helped set off a melee at a qualifying match in Belgrade, Serbia, for the 2016 European Championship. Video of the event showed some Serbian spectators — Albanian fans were barred from the stadium — shouting ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ Others ran onto the field, attacking Albanian players, sometimes with chairs, and forcing the Albanian team to escape through a tunnel at the end of the field. The game was abandoned while the score was still 0-0.” NY Times