Are we on track for an all-German Champions League final?


The question in the headline is a bit absurd. The final UEFA Champions League bracket not drawn until after the quarterfinals (a round later than previous years), meaning we won’t know if Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will be able to avoid each other until Wembley. They may have to play for the right to get there.

So let’s engage in a bid of bad form and rephrase the question. Which two teams are most likely to reach Wembley, and are they both German?

See how cumbersome that is? Regardless, you get the point.

There’s little doubt Bayern Munich’s among the best teams in Europe. Given Barcelona’s recent struggles, Bayern seem to be on their own level. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll reach the final, but they seem the safest bet.

Among the tournaments other contenders are Barcelona and Milan, who meet next week. Paris Saint-Germain has the talent, Málaga’s defending can keep them in any match, while Juventus has shown the steel to compete with anybody. And, of course, there’s the José Mourinho-led Real Madrid, whose contenders’ credentials were affirmed by their win at Old Trafford.

But none of those teams look as good as Borussia Dortmund, a team whose Tuesday thumping of Shakhtar Donetsk forces us to consider the European landscape. This is a team sitting on two straight German titles that bested Real Madrid and Manchester City in group play. Their 3-0 win over Shakhtar was by far the most impressive result an opponent’s posted on the Ukrainians, a team that played Juventus twice.

If you’re judging teams by what happens on the field — whether that be the team’s isolated accomplishments or comparative results — Borussia Dortmund look as good as anybody. And their talent supports that stature. Robert Lewandowski’s an elite scorer. Mario Götze and Marco Reus are menaces at the next level. Ilkay Gundogen is one of the better central midfielders in Europe, while Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic form a formidable pair in central defense.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know Dortmund’s talented. But you also may not be used to the idea of “new” teams being contenders for Champions League. BVB is obviously not a brand new club (they won the title in 1997), but they’re also not Barcelona. Or Manchester United. Or Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or any of the other teams we’re used to competing for Champions League. They are, in that narrow sense, kind of new.

But look around Europe and you’ll see the symptoms of a continental shift. England will be out of Champions League in a weak. Italy has waned. Paris Saint-Germain’s still a project, and neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid are as strong as they’ve been in recent years.

And in the interim, Germany’s grown. Borussia Dortmund may have just lost a one-sided match to Bayern Munich, but it’s becoming and more clear that Bayern’s of another world. They’ve lapped the field, for now.

But as for that field, Borussia Dortmund may be the head of the pack. At least, their results hint they are.

So are we en route to an all-German final? It’s too soon to tell. But does Germany have the two best teams in Europe? That’s an easier question to answer.

LIVE – EFL Cup: Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, Saints-Sunderland

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United evades Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on April 12, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
1 Comment

There are still three more teams yet to join the quintet who clinched quarterfinal berths in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

We’ve got three all-PL ties to decide their fates.

[ LIVE: Follow EFL Cup scores ]

Follow the action above, as we learn who takes the remaining spots alongside Newcastle United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds United, and Hull City.

Holders Man City are off to Old Trafford for a derby match-up in the Round of 16, while it’s an all-London match at the Olympic Stadium between West Ham and Chelsea.

Finally, Sunderland hopes to break out of its season-long slump to join Northeast rivals Newcastle in the quarters. The Black Cats will need to win at Southampton to move on.

EFL Cup fourth round, Wednesday games

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 2:45 p.m. ET
Southampton vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET
Manchester United vs. Manchester City — 3 p.m. ET

MLS Cup Playoffs Thurs. preview: Seattle, DC riding hot streaks

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 06:  Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC dribbles against Roger Espinoza #27 of Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on March 6, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 4-5 match-ups in each conference are set for Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs, with two of the league’s hottest teams set to hit the pitch.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Both Seattle and DC are at home for their “play-in” matches, and face road teams with plenty of veteran experience and firepower in what should be a pair of beauts on each side of our country.

DC United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Black-and-Red have hit their stride under coach Ben Olsen, and seem on board the plan.

Montreal, however, has not seen tranquility in Quebec. Ignacio Piatti has been fantastic, but the headlines have revolved around Didier Drogba‘s unhappiness at not starting under Mauro Biello.

It’s difficult to think Biello won’t start the Ivorian in a must-win match on the road, given Drogba’s experience and ability to dominate a game.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris have helped Seattle make up for the absence of transferred Obafemi Martins and injured Clint Dempsey.

The duo has been simply fantastic in “rave green”, and Sporting KC is going to have a whale of a time slowing Seattle. Consider the ability and season of under-the-radar MVP candidate Osvaldo Alonso in the center of the park, and all bets are off.

Of course, the thing about KC is there’s little question it has the mettle to not just win on the road, but win a tournament. Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber… who in that locker room is going to shrink under the bright lights of the playoffs?

TFC’s Bradley: “Responsibility, privilege and passion” on line in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Michael Bradley #4 of United States looks on against New Zealand in the second half during an International Friendly at RFK Stadium on October 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Toronto FC’s supporters fell in love with the club almost immediately, but it’s taken to Year 10 for the Reds to get a home playoff match.

The latest batch of TFC stars have embraced the battle for relevance, at times even surpassing expectations the lofty expectations of championship-starved Toronto.

[ MORE: Bradley talks TFC renaissance

This is a city which has seen the Blue Jays and Raptors find the precipice of glory in recent seasons, but not reach the apex. The Leafs haven’t been to a Stanley Cup final since the NHL had a whopping six teams.

So winning would be a mighty big accomplishment, right Michael Bradley?

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Being captain or a big player on a team in this city carries an extra weight,” said captain Michael Bradley. “I’ve loved every second of that; playing in this city, for this city, and being captain. It’ll be nights like Wednesday night where the responsibility, privilege and passion that I have for this role will get magnified that much more.”

He has a way with words, doesn’t he? The USMNT captain begins Canada’s quest for a title at 7:30 p.m. ET against visiting Philadelphia.

Whitecaps lock up Welsh coach Robinson through 2020

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5:  Head coach Carl Robinson (right) of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC during their MLS game against the Colorado Rapids April 5, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Colorado won 2-1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Vancouver is hanging onto stalwart coach Carl Robinson despite a massively disappointing season.

The Whitecaps were tipped to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, only to miss the playoffs. There were plenty of excuses for the ‘Caps, including an injury to Kekuta Manneh and the transfer of Octavio Rivero.

And Vancouver is alive as the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, also claiming the Cascadia Cup.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high ]

Robinson has signed an extension through 2020, from WhitecapsFC.com:

“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”

Robinson turned 40 this month, and has been leading the ‘Caps since December 2013. This is a smart move for both Vancouver and its coach.