2015 Women’s World Cup host cities set, Sounders Women roll

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It’s still far afield, but the complexion of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is beginning to take shape.

Sepp Blatter was in Ottawa on Friday to announce the tournament’s six host venues. The selected cities are Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Moncton.

Vancouver’s B.C. Place is said to be in the frame to host the final. Toronto was not part of the application process, as the city will host the 2015 Pan-American Games.

It wouldn’t be a proper Sepp Blatter appearance without a bombastic statement, and the FIFA President didn’t disappoint. Blatter said the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be a massive event for Canada, adding it could have a “bigger social, cultural impact than the Olympic Games. [It] has a greater legacy than the Olympic Games. Women’s football opens the borders all over the world. This is the social, cultural, value of our game. Football is the school of life.”

Possible hyperbole aside, Canada does have a tradition of showing vociferous support for women’s soccer. A record 47,784 attendees were on hand to watch the home side fall to the U.S. in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup final.

Last March, Canada was awarded hosting rights to the seventh edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The tournament will feature an unprecedented 24-team field, up from the 16 that had competed in the previous four Women’s World Cups.

The host team will undoubtedly have redemption on their minds. Canada bowed out in the group stage of the 2011 Women’s World Cup in humiliating fashion after three consecutive losses. New Zealand boss John Herdman assumed the reins following a messy divorce between former coach Carolina Morace and the Canadian Soccer Association.

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany elevated the women’s game to heights unreached since 1999. Canada’s attempt at making another lasting impression begins in earnest now.

Hope Solo alert! Alex Morgan alert! Megan Rapinoe alert! In other WoSo news from the day gone by, the star-studded Seattle Sounders Women downed the University of Washington 3-1 to round out its ad hoc exhibition season. The team will begin its USL W-League campaign May 27 away against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Video.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.