Christie Rampone set to play on for USWNT

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For the last year it was assumed U.S. women’s national team captain Christie Rampone would retire at the end of the Olympics. She’s 37, has a family, and three years out from Canada 2015, there wasn’t much to play for. She’s won World Cups and Gold Medals, and as (by far) the last of the 99ers, Rampone has been to the mountain top of mountain tops. Coming off gold in London, what was left?

How about the love of the game? That journalistic cliché; the hollow axiom bludgeoned into customer’s head; the thing that actually turns out to be true every time we actually touch a soccer ball.

Turns out Rampone just likes playing soccer, and since she is still one of the best central defenders in the world, the only reason to retire could be the desire to go out on a high note.

Rampone decided she doesn’t care about that (quotes from ESPNW):

“After the Olympics, I thought I’d be like, ‘This is it, this is awesome. Let’s ride off on a high note,’ ” Rampone told espnW after the U.S. training session here in Denver before a match against Australia on Wednesday.

“But then I was like, ‘I don’t need to end off on a high note. I just want to continue playing and doing something I love.’ “

You won’t get any complaints from U.S. national team fans. Despite being the team’s oldest player, she’s the U.S.’s best option at the back. While Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Buehler are both decent players, their pairing would be a noticeable step back from one featuring Rampone.

The thing to watch with Rampone will be the foot speed. She’s still able to keep up with most of the world’s best. Once that goes, we can start talking about whether the captain should reconsider.

But given the incredible shape in which she keeps herself, Rampone’s unlikely show up one day and need to be replaced. Her fade will be gradual, and since that wane has yet to begin, it’s not difficult to imagine her playing at the net World Cup.

Though for now, Rampone’s taking it one year at a time:

 “They may want to wipe out the older players, but you never know. So I’m just going to keep an open mind to it, give a good year commitment to it, see if I like the coaching staff, how I fit in, how much travel it is and take it from there.”

Unless Rampone starts detesting the annual trip to Portugal for the Algarve Cup, travel shouldn’t be much of an issue. The qualm seems like more of an out clause. With two kids at home, Rampone might wake up in a hotel one day, look across the room and see a sleeping teammate, and ask ‘Why am I still doing this?’

For now, she’s doing it for the love of the game.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.