Soccer birthdays: Philadelphia Union defender Bakary Soumaré (shown above, shuffling) turns 27. The former MLS Best XI member is still searching for his form, but he has a bit of time. Maybe it’s in his birthday cake.
And Norwich City’s Michael Turner turns 29.
Big Important Stories of the Day: The conference finals are set. Who ya go? Who’s Steve got? What about Farley? Me, I’m taking the New England Revolution in 2013. Right now, though, it’s all about Houston. DYNAMOOOOOOOOO.
RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day: Paul Bravo.
*Ahead on the blog today: We break down the conference semifinals, while previewing the weekend action in the United States and over there in Europe. What else would you expect on a Friday? NFL previews? Sorry brah.
Twitter daps: jlakfjsldk
Everyone’s talking about the weather:
What you should watch on TV today: There aren’t a whole lot of options out there. Would you settle for Mainz 05 vs. Nürnberg? Or Nancy vs. Rennes? Man, it seems like Rennes is always on in this Friday afternoon timeslot. Weirdness.
We’ll leave you with this: Is this the best MLS season ever? Compelling storylines throughout, a rising level of play, drama on the last day thanks for Mr. Chris Wondolowski, and some fun playoffs so far. What do you think?
Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).
Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.
[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]
That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.
That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.
The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.
— Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.
— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.
— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.
— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.
FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.
One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.
Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.
[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]
There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.
Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.
The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.
HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.
“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.
Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.
[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]
Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.
Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.
Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast