San Jose Earthquakes v Houston Dynamo

Will last year’s Supporters Shield winners make this year’s MLS playoffs?

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Major League Soccer has always tended to be unpredictable, even ranging into the completely unstable in terms of how things play out in random, inexplicable or even incalculable ways.

But as I studied some history and looked at San Jose’s chances of getting past this year’s playoff velvet ropes, even I was surprised to see how many times the reigning Supporters Shield holders have completely crashed out of post-season pursuits just one lousy year later.

Heck, a couple of clubs won Supporters Clubs and didn’t even come back – as in, they were gone completely!

D.C. United was the last to drink from this tainted cup of ignominy, winning Supporters Shield in 2007 and then falling over the cliff a year later under Tom Soehn.

San Jose won in 2005 – and then hightailed it down south to Houston.

That wasn’t as bad as in 2001, when that great Miami Fusion team (with the young likes of future U.S. internationals Nick Rimando, Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman) claimed the shield awarded to the club with the best regular season record. Then the team folded.

Overall, six Supporters Shield winners in 17 previous seasons have failed to make the playoffs the following year.

So, what of San Jose this year? This recent, thorough piece from the Quake Rattle and Goal blog does all the heavy lifting, but I can make it simple for you: Probably not.

San Jose has five matches remaining and probably needs to go 4-1 just for a chance.

It’s a tall order. It gets tougher if Chris Wondolowski and Co. cannot get at least a point at RSL this weekend – and that is a tough point to chase, especially considering RSL is coming off a poor night, and manager Jason Kreis is sure to have his team at full rev. After that, the Earthquakes’ schedule isn’t bad, with three of the last four checking the box under “potentially winnable contests.”

Still, there’s just so little room for error. Considering that San Jose is in eighth place, three spots out of playoff grace, I think we’ll be adding No. 8 to the list of Shield winners that couldn’t get there a year later.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).