5 days until Premier League season begins on NBC Sports

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The countdown has begun. Get excited folks, it all kicks off later this week.

You should have realized by now, but here’s another reminder that the 2013-14 Premier League season is creeping up on us.

Over the past week at ProSoccerTalk, we’ve been working our little socks off previewing all the teams and looking at how the season will pan out. Check out all our Premier League previews here.

So, five days from today – Saturday, August 17 – NBC Sports Group kicks off the most ambitious, extensive and comprehensive coverage of the Premier League available anywhere in the world.

PREMIER LEAGUE NUMBER OF THE DAY: 5

5 current players have scored more than 120 career Premier League goals: Robin van Persie (122), Nicolas Anelka (123), Jermain Defoe (123), Wayne Rooney (156), and Frank Lampard (165).

And talking of all those current Premier League greats, here’s a former star, NBC Sports Group’s Premier League analyst Lee Dixon. He caught up with NBC before the start of the season to answer a few questions:

What I am most looking forward to this Premier League season is…

A more competitive race for the title. It’s very interesting with what is happening in the transfer window at the moment. People ask me who I think will win the league, but the fact that the window doesn’t close for another three weeks makes it impossible to decide. With Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, and Wayne Rooney there are still some massive moves to happen, but to where?

Before I go on air, I need…

A cup of tea! Ha. Notes are done. Prep is complete. I always find the first five minutes of a game very interesting with the formations, energy levels and tempo of each team. It sets the game. I concentrate on this period very intently as it’s very important, which normally makes me quite focused and irritable pre-match!

There is no way…

Manchester United will have it as easy as they did last year. Manchester City were complacent after their win in 2012. Not this year.

The game that I’m looking forward to in the first few months of the season is…

The first one I’m calling! Swansea v. Manchester United (12:30 PM ET on NBC). What a great start to NBC’s coverage of the Barclays Premier League.

If I’m not watching soccer…

I like to ride my bike; I’m a very keen cyclist. I will probably be riding to some of the stadiums during the season — cut down on NBC expenses!

Coverage begins Saturday at 7 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network with the Liverpool-Stoke City match and continues throughout the season on the networks of NBCUniversal, on the Premier League Extra Time bonus TV package, and streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.

NBC Sports Group will make available in the United States all 380 games from the Premier League. That’s more than anywhere else on the globe (including the U.K.).  All games will be preceded and followed by Premier League Live pre- and post-match shows from the NBC Sports Group International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn.

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.