Friday’s soccer news starts with the 2020-21 Champions League draw. With USMNT players making major moves this season, there are now more players with teams in contention for European club soccer’s biggest prize. The two biggest moves of the summer have USMNT players in the same group.
Weston McKennie’s Juventus and Sergino Dest’s Barcelona enter group G as the favorites with Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros looking for upsets. Both players have Champions League experience with their previous clubs and know what it takes to overachieve at this level. That’s no longer their job after moves to European giants. Instead, it’s meeting the expectations to advance and ultimately contend for the trophy.
“Barca have so much history and I’ve always wanted to play here,” Dest said. “I followed my heart and I have made the right choice. It’s a source of pride to be the first player from the USA at Barca. It’s a dream come true and I’m looking forward to playing with my new teammates.”
Zack Steffen’s Manchester City is in group C with Porto, Olympiacos, and Marseille. It’s an easier group with Steffen taking the backup role at City. The amount of games on the schedule means that he’s already seen time in the League Cup, earning praise from manager Pep Guardiola. Manchester City is already trying to shake off early issues in the league.
Christian Pulisic and Matt Miazga’s Chelsea is in group E with Sevilla, Krasnodar, and Rennes. It’s another group where the Premier League team is the clear favorite to advance. In Pulisic’s first season with the club, Chelsea ran into eventual champions Bayern Munich in the round of 16 after finishing second in their group. Winning the group this season gives them better odds when UEFA conducts the draw for the knockout stage.
Ethan Horvath’s Club Brugge is in group F with Zenet St Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund, and Lazio. Horvath is now the longterm backup at Club Brugge, with Belgian international and former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet getting the games.
Tyler Adam’s RB Leipzig is in group H with PSG, Manchester United, and Basaksehir. As good as RB Leipzig was last season en route to the semifinals, it’s a tough draw. Manchester United certainly has enough issues to see them flounder in the group stage.
Jesse Marsch is the one American coach in the Champions League. Red Bull Salzburg is in group A with Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and Lokomotiv Moscow. It’s another group where most would see champions Bayern and quarterfinalists Atletico as the obvious favorites to advance.
UEFA also announced that they will allow 30% capacity at Champions League venues. That depends on local regulations with no traveling support. The move comes after UEFA allowed fans into the Super Cup last month in Budapest.
Also in the soccer news, FIFA clarified its position on international releases for the October window and the rest of 2020. In an official statement, FIFA announced temporary changes to its call-up regulations. FIFA will now allow clubs to refuse call-ups if “there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five (5) days upon arrival in: a. the location of the club which has an obligation to release the player to an association team; or b. the location where a representative team match is scheduled to take place; or ii. there is a travel restriction to or from either location (a. or b. above); and iii. a specific exemption from the relevant authorities relating to the above decisions has not been granted to players of a representative team.”
FIFPro’s statement on player safety given the burdon of travel on international players during the pandemic. SI.com’s Jonathan Wilson previews the 2020-21 Champions League group stage. Bloomberg’s David Hellier reports on the potential for the British government needing to support professional soccer clubs with their revenue streams severely curtailed. NYCFC announced their move back to Yankee Stadium on October 7 after having to use Red Bull Arena due to the baseball schedule.
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