Soccer Is Now the World’s Game Year-Round

News and notes about FC Cincinnati, North and South American tournaments, and the women’s World Cup.
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Over the years, with the expansion of television coverage and the explosion of fantasy sports, the internet, and social media, the major pro sports leagues in America—in particular the NBA and NFL—have seen increased airtime devoted to their offseasons. As soon as the NBA Finals and Super Bowl end, free agency and draft chatter commences. Odds on next year’s potential champion are released. And quite often fans appear more interested in transactional rumors than the games themselves.

 

The world of soccer functions in a similar fashion, except there are actually games going on every month of the year. The club season runs from late August through mid-May, depending on the league, except of course in the U.S. The Champions League final is typically held in late May or early June. Then offseason international play begins, whether it’s friendly matches or tournament qualifying of some sort.

It’s almost never-ending. Last year, the men’s World Cup was contested in Russia. This season, the first UEFA Nations League—sort of a mini-version of the European championships—took place. At present, Copa América (South American championships) and Gold Cup (determines a champion among North American, Central American, and Caribbean national teams) matches are taking place, leaving club teams across North and South America shorthanded and shortening the offseason for those who play in Europe. Next year, the European championships will be held in cities across the continent, and qualifying for the 2022 World Cup will begin.

In just a few weeks, European club teams will see their players trickle back in from their “offseasons,” with the big clubs embarking on preseason tours of the U.S. (Bayern Munich, Liverpool) and Asia (Barcelona, Manchester City). The near-literal 24/7/365 nature of the sport is great for fans, but must be truly exhausting for the sport’s best players.

And yet the biggest current storyline in soccer is the women’s World Cup…

On Monday, the U.S. national team escaped Spain 2-1, moving on to the World Cup quarterfinals once again. With a victory Friday over France, the Americans would be a perfect 8-for-8 when it comes to semifinal appearances in the tournament history. Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks for the U.S. against Spain, with the second penalty being drawn by Cincinnati native Rose Lavelle, whose vitality in the midfield has quickly become an essential ingredient to the Red, White and Blue’s success.

ESPN recently reported on FC Cincinnati’s coaching search…

… linking a couple of big names to the open job. One was Alan Pardew, who is presently unemployed but has managed three clubs currently in the English Premier League. Pardew was head coach of Crystal Palace when it played a friendly against FC Cincinnati in 2016. Tab Ramos, coach of the U.S. men’s under-20 team, was also mentioned. His stock is high after the squad’s performance in the recent U-20 World Cup. The Americans shocked France, a favorite to win the tournament, in the round of 16, before falling to Ecuador in the quarterfinals, and several players could make the jump to the senior team by the next international window.

Unsurprisingly, FC Cincinnati was left without a representative…

… when Major League Soccer announced its 26-man All-Star roster. The best of the MLS will take on La Liga power Atletico Madrid on July 31 (I told you the big European club teams have virtually no offseason!) in Orlando. FCC will have to wait until 2020 to see if it can place a player in the midseason MLS showcase. Perhaps the real question is this: Does that potential player currently suit up for the Orange and Blue? My guess is no, unless Greg Garza rediscovers good health.

FC Cincinnati’s next match is Saturday at Minnesota

The Orange and Blue have lost five consecutive games for the second time this year. With injuries mounting and four regulars away on international duty, FCC was forced to recall defender Logan Gdula from loan this week. Injuries prevented interim coach Yoann Damet from being able to fill a full 18-man side in last weekend’s 2-0 loss to LA Galaxy. Dutch center back Maikel van der Werff was spotted at that game, so perhaps another body is on its way.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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