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David Beckham closing in on return; decision to come next week

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David Beckham’s been out of the news for so long, it started to seem like retirement was more likely than return. Whereas the former LA Galaxy star said he had one more challenge left in him after this year’s MLS Cup final, a month passed without word from the icon. At 37 years old, the man should be afforded time to make his decision, but with his family enjoying themselves in London (making appearances at events like this weekend’s West Ham-Manchester United match), it started to look like life after soccer was finally here.

Not so, says a Wednesday report from England’s Press Association. The brief update says Beckham will make a decision next week after receiving offers from 12 different clubs:

Beckham, 37, has been made offers from Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East – though it is understood not from Qatar.

The report goes on to say a return to England is not in the cards (links to Queens Park Rangers, West Ham and Manchester United set to fall flat).

Likewise, it seems very unlikely Beckham returns to North America, having already said he doesn’t plan on playing in Major League Soccer (though it would be interesting to see Beckham on Club América).

If Russia’s among the suitors, you have to think Anzhi Makhachkala’s calling. In China, league champion Guangzhou Evergrande are most likely (though they’re not the only big spenders in the CSL).

Who knows what Beckham could make in the Middle East (it only takes one Shiekh with a crush), but that destination along with South Africa seems unlikely.

The most intriguing to me is Brazil, and not only because fellow set piece master Juninho Pernambucano just came the other way. Multiple clubs in the Campeonato could make it worth Beckham’s financial while, and although Brazil isn’t the usual landing spot for expatriate Britons, Beckham isn’t your normal English player. He’s played in La Liga, Serie A, and the Premier League, and among the leagues listed as his latest suitors, only Brazil’s comes close to approaching that level of prestige.

But when Beckham came to Los Angeles, league prestige wasn’t his priority. It was a lifestyle choice. It was a business choice. He was embracing a new challenge.

Depending on how he and his family view the East Asia, China would check all those boxes, too.

So if forced to rank the Press Association’s list based on my ill-informed views, I’d have China and Brazil as co-favorites; Europe, Russia, and the Middle East on the next level; North America and South Africa as very unlikely.

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.