The soccer news starts with the draw for the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League. In an event in Las Vegas, Concacaf finished out the groups with Canada and Cuba joining the USMNT in League A - Group A. Why Concacaf decided against numbering the leagues or the groups is a fair question. The USMNT will play their home and away Nations League group games during the October and November international windows. The winner of the group advances to the semifinals during the March 2020 international window.
Concacaf's purpose in following UEFA's lead and forming a Nations League is more games that count. That these games are against relatively weaker teams isn't a problem for a confederation where the bulk of its members are outside the top 50 in the FIFA Rankings. For those teams in the top 50, it's an issue. What the Nations League does is replace friendlies with those games that count, but it's at the expense of playing stronger teams from inside and outside the region. By taking out as many as three international breaks for the Nations League, Concacaf has reconfigured the calendar.
What that means for the competitiveness of the region is an open question. None of the League A groups are particular hard for the seeded team. Though Concacaf World Cup qualifying shows that anything can happen, that usually only happens when the top six teams in the region play each other with qualification on the line. The Nations League only promises the chance at a new trophy for the top teams. What that means for them is still an open question.
There's little doubt that teams prioritizing Concacaf tournaments would rank World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup higher. There's no explanation needed for qualifying, though the potential for World Cup expansion in 2022 would bring an end to the importance of the Hexagonal. The Gold Cup no longer offers the chance to play in the Confederations Cup now that FIFA has ended that tournament. Still, it's the recognized confederation championship. Add CONMEBOL's Copa America to the list, and the Nations League falls down another slot.
Even before playing the first group games, it's tough to see that changing. Concacaf may have fallen into an old cliche, offering a solution to a nonexistent problem. The big teams in the region didn't necessarily need more games that count against the rest of Concacaf. Though Nations League games give a boost to results under the new FIFA Rankings formula, it's not a substantial one. Following Europe's lead wasn't necessary to keep pace, especially considering the overall weakness of Concacaf teams compared to UEFA's. FIFA has yet to implement a top-down structure leading to a global Nations League. Right now, Concacaf's Nations League is an end in itself.
For teams trying new things like Mexico under Tata Martinez and the USMNT under Gregg Berhalter, they'll be playing opponents who may not offer as much. Mexico used March to show they can compete on level terms with South America. The USMNT showed that they can push possession and control games. Both pointed to something bigger, with the hope that turns into competitive teams at world level.
Games that count against Concacaf are already on the schedule this summer. The difference is the Gold Cup provides them in less than a month in a true tournament format. With participation in the Copa America not confirmed for Concacaf teams, true tournament soccer is now at a premium. That's not the Nations League, and that's a problem.
Yahoo Sports' Leander Schaerlaeckens asks about the Nations League for the elite teams. MLSsoccer's Sam Stejskal talks to New England coach Brad Friedel about the team's issues. The Post and Courier's Andrew Miller and John McDermott report on the Charleston Battery's ownership selling their stadium to a housing developer.
Manchester United names Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager, removing the interim label. Reuters' Simon Evans explains how Solskjaer made himself the only choice for Manchester United manager. The Telegraph's Tim Wigmore on the latest TV rights windfall for the top Premier League teams. ESPN's Bruce Shoenfeld talks to Spurs player Harry Kane about wanting to become an NFL kicker. The Guardian's Jamie Jackson updates the situation with the Professional Footballers' Association leadership.
#USMNT midfielder Christian Pulisic has been diagnosed with a right quadriceps strain.— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 28, 2019
He has returned to @BVB to continue treatment and establish a timetable for his return to play. >> https://t.co/3TKo9J8yDv pic.twitter.com/p6v6Ewx4lw
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