File photo of Swansea City's manager Michael Laudrup gesturing during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool in Swansea

Europa League: Swansea get Valenica, draw kind to Tottenham and Wigan

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On Friday morning three British teams found out their opponents for the 2013-14 Europa League campaign.

And Premier League outfit Swansea were handed the toughest task to advance after landing Valencia in group A, as the Welsh side are competing in Europe for the first-time in over 22 years.

Michael Laudrup’s side face former winners Valencia and tough trips to Russia’s Kuban Krasnodar and Switzerland’s St Gallen. Many expect big things from the Swans with their possession based play more suited to European soccer than the hustle and bustle of the PL.

The Premier League’s other entrant, Tottenham Hotspur, face some tricky away trips to Eastern Europe as they landed Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, FC Sheriff from Moldova and Norway’s Tromso in group K. Andre Villas-Boas has won the Europa League with FC Porto in the past and came agonizingly close to getting Spurs to the semifinals last year, as they were knocked out by Swiss side Basel in the quarterfinals on penalties. Tottenham will be one of the favorites this season.

The final British team in the competition is Championship side Wigan Athletic, after they qualified by winning the 2012-13 FA Cup. The Latics face the bizarre situation of being outside the English top-flight but still competing in one of Europe’s elite club competitions. This Europa League campaign also marks Wigan’s first-ever European adventure and Owen Coyle’s side face Maribor, Zulte Waregem and recent Champions League qualifiers Rubin Kazan in group D.

source: Getty Images
Can AVB lead Spurs to the title after losing to Basel in the quarterfinals last season?

Plenty of US players will take part in Europa League action and USMNT striker Aron Johannsson and his AZ Alkmaar face PAOK Thessaloniki, Maccabi Haifa and Shakhter Karagandy. Elsewhere Terrence Boyd’s Rapid Vienna will face Dynamo Kiev, Genk and Thun. Look out for those two players to make a real splash.

Standing head and shoulders above the rest, there are a few tough groups stacked with big clubs in this seasons Europa League. Group J includes Italian side Lazio, Turkish team Trabzonspor, Legia Warsaw of Poland who almost qualified for the Champions League and Apollon Limassol from Cyprus. And Group I boasts regular Champions League qualifiers Lyon, La Liga outfit Real Betis, Guimaraes from Portugal and Croatian side Rijeka.

12 groups of four teams were drawn in Monaco as Europe’s second biggest club competition will begin play on September 19. The six matchdays will coincide with the Champions League dates, with games played on Thursday’s, and the group stages will finish on December 12. Then the eight third-placed Champions League teams join the 24 qualified Europa League teams for the knockout stages. This has been a controversial topic in Europe for many years but will go ahead again this season, as the 48 teams original Europa League sides battle it out to make the final in Turin at Juventus Stadium on May 14.

Full Europa League draw:

Group A: Valencia, Swansea, Kuban Krasnodar, St Gallen.

Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Dinamo Zagreb, Chornomorets Odesa, Ludogorets Razgrad.

Group C: Standard Liege, Salzburg, Elfsborg, Esbjerg.

Group D: Rubin Kazan, Wigan, Maribor, Zulte Waregem.

Group E: Fiorentina, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Pacos Ferreira, Pandurii Targu Jiu.

Group F: Bordeaux, APOEL, Eintracht, Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Group G: Dynamo Kiev, Genk, Rapid Vienna, Thun.

Group H: Sevilla, Freiburg, Estoril, Slovan Liberec.

Group I: Lyon, Real Betis, Guimaraes, Rijeka.

Group J: Lazio, Trabzonspor, Legia Warsaw, Apollon Limassol.

Group K: Tottenham, Anzhi Makhachkala, Sheriff, Tromso.

Group L: AZ Alkmaar, PAOK Thessaloniki, Maccabi Haifa, Shakhter Karagandy.

WATCH: Neymar caught a bit offguard in first look at his wax figure

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 22:  Neymar of FC Barcelona celebrates aftr scoring Barcelona's 2nd goal during the Copa del Rey Final between Barcelona and Sevilla at Vicente Calderon Stadium    on May 22, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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I remember the first time I saw the first of many life size wax replications of my body.

That is a sentence I am unlikely to ever utter, but Neymar is a different story.

[ MORE: USMNT-Ecuador preview | Klinsmann eyes semis ]

The 24-year-old Brazilian superstar was caught on camera witnessing his wax figure for the first time, and we can watch it thanks to FC Barcelona.

Look at this guy, looking at that guy. The most interesting part for me is his fascination with how well they did with his tattoos, which of course are easier to duplicate than, you know, a face:

Morris “completely respects” Klinsmann’s keeping him off USMNT roster

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 20:  Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris speaks on stage during We Day at KeyArena on April 20, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for We Day)
Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for We Day
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Seattle Sounders striker and USMNT star-in-waiting Jordan Morris struck a mature note when asked about his exclusion from Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster for this summer’s Copa America Centenario.

Some will have considered the youngster a lock for the roster, with Morris already boasting rarefied air as a college player to become something close to a national team regular while still in school.

[ MORE: USMNT-Ecuador preview | Klinsmann eyes semis ]

But Klinsmann opted for in-form San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski, and it has become old hat for MLS players to gripe when their name is not called by the German boss (See: Benny Feilhaber, Brad Evans and Landon Donovan).

Don’t count Morris in that group. Of course the youngster doesn’t have the tenure to rally against the man who gave him his shot in the first place, but that hasn’t stopped others from acting entitled to a roster spot.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“[Klinsmann] told me not take it too hard and that there was a lot of competition,” Morris said. “I completely respect his decision. There were a lot of good forwards playing and they’re all playing really well. I wish those guys all the best. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this summer.”

Morris can still end up on the roster through injury, and it’s easy to see him as the next name up should an attack-minded player take a knock. Stefan Frei told us last week that Morris is remarkably professional, and this is no exception.

The youngster did admit increased motivation from his omission, stating that “it gives you fuel to your fire to try and get back in the mix a little bit”. We have a feeling he won’t be out of that mix for long.

Copa America announces “clear bag policy” for security purposes

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Fans go through security lines outside University of Phoenix Stadium before the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The European Championship is not the only tournament with heightened security concerns this summer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann eyes Copa America semis ]

The Copa America Centenario will have a “clear bag policy” at the gates of its 10 American stadia, and is recommending that fans don’t bring any bags at all.

From a press release:

Bags that are not in compliance must be returned to the patron’s vehicle or checked at a designated bag check area located outside the stadium perimeter (if available).

The style and size of bags that will be allowed is described below:

  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12.”
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
  • Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap, may be carried into the stadium along with one of the clear bag options.

USMNT-Ecuador preview: Lineup will give clues to Klinsmann’s intent

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 25:  Clint Dempsey #2 of the United States slides past Segundo Castillo #14 of Ecuador in an international freindly match at the Raymond James Stadium on March 25, 2007 in Tampa, Florida. USA defeated Equador 3-1. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images
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Wednesday’s friendly could be a Copa America quarterfinal preview, as Ecuador and the United States tangle in Texas.

The Yanks’ goal of a deep tournament run could go through La Tricolor if one wins its group while the other finishes second. That would require either the U.S. topping Colombia or Ecuador finding a way over Brazil.

[ MORE: Klinsmann eyes Copa America semis ]

The two sides last met in Oct. 2014, with Mix Diskerud and Enner Valencia trading goals in New Jersey. The U.S. and Ecuador have an even 2-2-2 record all-time.

Ecuador has wins over Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay in the last year, but went winless in a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Espanyol striker Felipe Caicedo has been the side’s most dangerous attacker in recent action, scoring in four of six, while West Ham’s Enner Valencia join Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia and Swansea City’s Jefferson Montero as pivotal members of the attack. FC Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo is also on the roster.

La Tricolor has four defenders in camp with 36 or more caps, including Walter Ayovi (111). The Monterrey back will become the second most capped Ecuadorian with his next appearance for the national team.

[ MORE: Eyeing the USMNT’s friendlies ]

As for the United States, there are a number of directions Klinsmann can go to test his Best XI ahead of June’s tournament. And he’s not exactly tipping his hand, but did mention players in a Q&A with the US Soccer web site:

“We are excited about John Brooks proving now that he matured, that be became stronger. Christian Pulisic is coming through the Dortmund system in a Champions League team and breaking through, so we want him to confirm that and we give him all the help to do that. Darlington Nagbe, who became part of the National Team after waiting so many years for that opportunity. Bobby Wood, who broke out last year. DeAndre Yedlin who became a consistent starter in the Premier League, and so on and so on.”

Many eyes will be on Wood, who showed that rare quality of an American striker in form for both club and country with a strong performance against Puerto Rico. He’s the sort of player who could shake up Klinsmann’s plans in both selection and formation.

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29: Clint Dempsey #8 of the United States Men's National Team celebrates his first half goal against Guatemala with Steve Birnbaum #21 of the United States Men's National Team during the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Will Matt Besler or Steve Birnbaum get a look alongside John Brooks, as Geoff Cameron is widely considered to be the best center back in the bunch? Cameron/Brooks seems predestined given their seasons abroad.

Is Clint Dempsey seen as a difference maker for Klinsmann, especially now that Jozy Altidore is out, or will he truly have to compete for his place? The 33-year-old Texan rang up 9 goals for the U.S. last year, but has just two goals in 10 MLS matches for the struggling Sounders.

And how far advanced with Michael Bradley be? Jermaine Jones? Honestly, we’re nearly as excited for the lineup card as the match itself.

Those are answers we may get in the next two friendlies, before the real arrows start flying in the Copa America opener against Colombia on June 3. All we’ll say for Wednesday is our expectations are not a clean sheet for either side.