Tuesday's soccer news starts with Concacaf deciding eight is better than six when it comes to the final round of World Cup qualifying. Instead of this being the swansong for the Hexagonal ahead of World Cup expansion for 2026, we get the Octagonal. Two rounds will determine the three teams that join the USMNT, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras with the final round starting in the June 2021 international window. Concacaf also announced that the Nations League will finish during the March 2021 international window with the Gold Cup running from July 10 - August 1. The second edition of the Nations League will begin in the June 2022 window
"Given the suspension of the March, June, and September FIFA match windows, and with so many of our Member Associations unable to complete a full FIFA rankings cycle, the previous Concacaf Qualifiers were compromised, and a new approach was required," Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said in a press statement. "With the launch of the Concacaf Nations League in 2018, and the expansion of the Gold Cup in 2019, we have consistently provided more opportunities for all our Member Associations to play and compete on the international stage. That was our starting point for developing this new format and we believe we have struck the right balance. All teams now have the chance to compete for direct access to Qatar 2022 and dream of playing at a World Cup, while we have also respected the positions of those nations which had already mathematically qualified for the Final Round under the previous system.
Perhaps, but it also raises questions as to why it's so necessary to have all of these games to answer a simple question. Did El Salvador or Canada belong in the Hexagonal with the rest of its qualifiers? El Salvador was the higher placed team, but without additional games Canada didn't get the chance to challenge them. A playoff between the two countries might end up being fairer to both should either end up on the outside looking in next June.
Also in the soccer news, Tim Ream's Fulham took a 2-0 lead at Cardiff City in the opening leg of their promotion playoff semifinal series. Josh Onomah scored in the 49th with Neeskens Kebano adding a goal a minute into stoppage time. The series concludes on Thursday.
"This tie is only halfway through," Fulham head coach Scott Parker said. "There's still a lot of football to be played. I also understand that what got us the result today was a team that worked their socks off, a team that was organised out of possession and nullified them to very few chances. "That's what you saw second half, there was a foundation about us that was built on concrete today. And from that you see players' skill, you see a fluidness about us, and we need to do that again in the next game. We need to understand it's only half done, we need to be professional."
In Sweden, Aron Johannsson subbed on in stoppage time for Hammarby's 3-0 home win over Orebro. Gustav Ludwigson opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with Mads Fenger doubling the lead in the 47th. Abdul Khalili finished off the goals in the 73rd minute. David Ousted kept the clean sheet. Mix Diskerud's Helsingborg drew 0-0 at Ostersunds. In Serie B, Andrija Novakovich subbed out in the 84th minute for Frosinone in their 1-0 loss at Crotone. The game's only goal came in the 80th minute. Frosinone finishes in 5th-place, qualifying for the promotion playoffs.
Moving to the MLS is Back round of 16, San Jose beat Real Salt Lake 5-2. Cristian Espinoza put the Quakes up in the 21st with Douglas Martinez answering for RSL a minute later. Magnus Eriksson converted a San Jose penalty in the 49th with Valeri Qazaishvili doubling the lead in the 61st. Damir Kreilach pulled a goal back for Salt Lake in the 75th, but a red card to Marcelo Silva in the 84th for a serious foul left them a man down. Chris Wondolowski scored for the Earthquakes in the 84th with Magnus Eriksson converting a penalty six minutes into stoppage time. Kyle Beckerman saw red for RSL a minute later for violent conduct.
"I think the team keeps growing game after game," San Jose coach Matias Almeyda said. "It keeps showing a very positive attitude. In unity, in sacrifice, but more than anything in how they play. The best thing for a coach is to get the maximum level out of each player because that will allow us to have growth. Once again, I am grateful to each player and for the work they have put in."
In the late game, LAFC knocked out Seattle 4-1. Diego Rossi put LA up in the 14th minute with Latif Blessing doubling the lead in the 39th. Will Bruin scored for Seattle in the 75th. Rossi added a goal in the 82nd with Brian Rodriguez scoring in the 89th minute.
The LA Times' Kevin Baxter looks at what MLS has gotten right in Orlando. The Athletic's Pablo Maurer talks to Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin. The Canadian Press's Neil Davidson with what Canada now faces in the revamped Concacaf World Cup qualifying setup. BBC Sport's Alistair Magowan and Dan Roan update the situation with Newcastle United.
D.C. United and midfielder @PaulArriola have agreed a multi-year contract extension, keeping the @USMNT player at the club through the 2023 season. @TheEventsDC | #VamosUnited pic.twitter.com/MOLaa1RMJI— dcunited (@dcunited) July 27, 2020
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Graphic courtesy of Concacaf