us soccer

U.S.-Canada from Toronto tonight: why it matters

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I know everyone wanted to see Wednesday’s friendly against Brazil as something more than it was. Yes, a contest against the five-time World Cup champs is a wow-wow moment to be marveled, an exciting and joyous occasion worth breaking out the funny foam fingers and all.

And, yes, an exhibition with Brazil is a bigger moment than say, a barely noticeable U.S. friendly in January against Norway or Venezuela.

But U.S.-Brazil is more “happening” than “meaningful moment.”  You simply cannot say that a match devoid of collective pressure, a.k.a. a “friendly,” is more than an exhibition.  It is what it is.

As for tonight’s happening: I can make a case that Sunday’s match against Canada at BMO Field in Toronto is a more important than Wednesday’s. (And no, not just because it’s on NBC Sport Network, my partners in media; Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET.)

These final tune-ups before a tournament (or in this case, before World Cup qualifying begins) typically land a little further along the continuum of significance. Who’s healthy and fit? Who’s worked out the kinks? What’s the final, first-choice lineup arrangement look like? The shot clock is running out on these questions, so the answers, though still fluid, do gain added weight.

And there’s this: win, lose or draw against Brazil … and they are still Brazil. And we are still the United States, and there really isn’t a bigger significance past that.

But …

Sunday’s contest contains slightly more regional resonance. That’s because Canada is a CONCACAF rival … as much “rival” as our northern neighbors can be when they just haven’t kept pace developmentally with the United States.

Canada last went to a World Cup in 1986.  Not exactly coincidentally, that 1986 World Cup in Mexico was the last tournament for which the United States did not qualify.

So there’s a question of regional superiority here. Right now it’s Mexico, the United States and everyone else in CONCACAF. But if Canada rises, there’s suddenly a third big fork competing for bites of the CONCACAF pie. And given the rise of African soccer and other complex politics of the way World Cup spots get divided among continents, this region’s allotment won’t grow anytime soon.

So, there is surely some value (limited, admittedly, but “some”) in maintaining dominance over Canada.

Nobody around U.S. Soccer wants Sunday’s match in Ontario to be the one that finally gets Canada going into the right direction. And neither team wants to go into World Cup qualifying, which begins later this week, with the bloody nose of a bad loss.

(Check back later on the blog for more on tonight’s United States match, and what you might see on the BMO field.)

Memphis jersey biggest seller in Premier League

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
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Memphis Depay‘s name has been printed on more Premier League jerseys than anybody else.

[ PHOTOS: Must-see Klopp merch ]

According to, the Manchester United winger is the biggest climber on their top 10 list and fans have flocked to have “Memphis” printed on the back of their United jerseys.

The Dutch winger, 21, has had an up-and-down start to life at Old Trafford but that is not detracting fans from having Memphis, the name he prefers, emblazoned on the back of their shirts. Folks from an unnamed city in Tennessee, have you been buying lots of jerseys on the internet? No doubt the number of United fans in that region has sky-rocketed in the last few months. No doubt.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ]  

Anyway, below is the list of the top 10 players name printed by Kitbag.

Top 10 selling jerseys worldwide

1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
3. Memphis Depay – Manchester United
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United
5. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
6. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
7. Neymar – Barcelona
8. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
9. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
10. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool

New Arsenal contracts on the way for Alexis, Ozil

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil
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Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are both in line to be handed new contracts by Arsenal.

The attacking duo, who have been in fine form in recent weeks after slow starts to the season, both have current deals which run until 2018 but the Gunners are said to be keen on locking the attacking midfielders down to contract extensions.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ] 

According to the Daily Mail, Sanchez is set to become Arsenal’s top earner with a new deal on the table in excess of $220,000.

Sanchez is currently being paid $197,000 per week but is not the highest paid player at the Emirates, with Ozil taking that mantle and earning a cool $215,000 a week. Speaking of Ozil, talks over a new deal for him are also being prepared by Arsene Wenger and club officials with the German playmaker finally showing consistency this season, which is his third campaign in the Premier League following his $63 million move from Real Madrid in 2013.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Ozil dazzle in Arsenal’s win vs. United ]

Sanchez, 26, missed most of Arsenal’s preseason after winning the 2015 Copa America with Chile on home soil this summer, but he is now back in his groove and the former Barcelona forward has scored five goals in his last two PL games and seven times in his last four outings for club and country.

Ozil scored his first goal of the season against Manchester United in Arsenal’s recent 3-0 win, as Ozil and Sanchez ripped United’s defense apart in a stunning 19-minute spell at the beginning of the match.

[ MORE: Klopp merchandise you need to see ]

With Theo Walcott locked down to a new long-term contract in the summer, Wenger now looks to have found his go-to front three as Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil possess a superb combination of pace, power and trickery. It’s no surprise to hear reports about new deals being prepared for Sanchez and Ozil, as the duo have that extra bit of class which has seen the Gunners win back-to-back FA Cups and comfortably finish in the top four of the PL.

Now, can they kick on and contend for the title this season? If Sanchez and Ozil stay fit and in-form, there’s no reason why not.