Hernandez of Mexico reacts after missing a chance to score against Costa Rica during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mexico City

Mexico’s moment of truth almost here; the massive World Cup qualifying series with New Zealand begins Wednesday

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It isn’t often that World Cup qualifying in our region can kick up such a U.S. interest when it does not involve the United States.

Then again, it isn’t often that Mexico is this awful.

So here it is, El Tri’s last stand. The chances for getting this wayward, mess of a World Cup qualifying campaign together are pretty much up. They get things right over the next few days against New Zealand, or mighty Mexico – well, you know, “mighty” in our region – misses the quadrennial world soccer mega-party for the first time since 1990.

Heck, as World Cup qualifying opened, some pundits were suggesting Mexico could be a dark horse favorite to accomplish something truly special next summer in Brazil. Now, they are running out of chances to even get there.

We’ll have more about it at ProSoccerTalk over the next week and a half. It starts Wednesday when the teams meet at Azteca.

Mexico finished fourth among six teams in final round World Cup qualifying in our region. (The United States finished first, claiming an automatic berth along with Costa Rica and Honduras.)

(MORE: Why U.S. fans might WANT Mexico in the World Cup)

What former Club America manager Miguel Herrera told FIFA.com: “The first thing we said was that we shouldn’t think about what happened in the past because that’s something we can’t resolve. … We are going to win in Mexico and we will also seek to win over there [in New Zealand].”

Ordinarily, a home game against a team like New Zealand (No.  79 in FIFA’s latest world rankings) would hardly be worth a Tri-Colored sweat. But Mexico won just once in five final round World Cup qualifiers inside Azteca, so the All Whites can like their chances of a draw or a close loss before heading back home for the second leg.

(MORE: Price for Mexico missing World Cup seems to be rising)

Herrera certainly made a statement by choosing an All-Mexico-based roster for the do-or-die set; that means no Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, an unthinkable exclusion just a few months ago.

New Zealand is missing a big start, too, although for completely different reasons. West Ham defender Winston Reid, the All Whites’ captain, was recently ruled out with a serious ankle injury.

The second leg is Nov. 20 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Robben extends contract with Bayern Munich through June 2018

(L-R) Thomas Muller of Bayern Munchen, Philipp Lahm of Bayern Munchen, Arjen Robben of Bayern Munchen during the German Bundesliga match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Bayern München at Borussia Park on January 24, 2014 in Mönchengladbach, Germany.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
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BERLIN (AP) Arjen Robben has extended his contract with Bayern Munich for another year.

Bayern says the Netherlands winger’s contract will run until the end of June 2018.

[ MORE: Names to watch in Tuesday’s SuperDraft ]

Robben has been with the club for almost eight years, joining from Real Madrid in 2009.

He has scored 82 goals in 152 Bundesliga matches, 14 goals in 23 German Cup games and 21 goals in 53 Champions League matches, including the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final.

Antonio Valencia extends Manchester United deal

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18:  Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea marshalls Luis Antonio Valencia of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 18, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Antonio Valencia has a fan in Jose Mourinho.

The Manchester United fullback, 31, has added a year to his contract. Scheduled to become a free agent after this season, his contract now runs through 2018.

[ MORE: Chinese club claims big bids ]

Ecuador’s captain, Valencia arrived at United from Wigan in 2009 after spending time with El Nacional and Villarreal.

He has 21 goals in 270 appearances, and has played 2,042 minutes under Mourinho. This season, Valencia is averaging 2.4 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per match.

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Ten names to watch as the MLS SuperDraft concludes

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After three days of celebrating its first two rounds, Major League Soccer will complete its surprise-ridden 2017 SuperDraft on Tuesday with a 2 p.m. EDT conference call.

Friday’s first round featured fewer trades than many expected, and a bit of a stunner in its first overall pick: Minnesota United tabbed UCLA attacker Abu Danladi.

[ MORE: Chinese club claims big bids ]

Danladi would’ve gone soon after, however, with most of the surprises coming outside of the Top Six. Vancouver’s opted for outside back Jakob Nerwinski (UConn) at 7, Houston tabbed Hofstra’s Joe Holland at 10, and Colorado looked to its backyard for Denver’s Sam Hamilton.

That helped Brandon Aubrey slide to 21st, while Canada’s two Generation Adidas players, Adonijah Reid and Shamit Shome, dipped deep into the second round.

It also means some very productive college players, and supposed first round prospects, could be hungry steals when the draft returns today. Here’s some low-risk, high-reward players for rounds that sometimes see teams pass on individual picks altogether.

Chris Wingate, MID, New Hampshire — Engine room feature piece at UNH

Wulito Fernandes, FWD, UMass Lowell — Cape Verde striker has flair

Jorge Gomez Sanchez, FWD, Temple — 27 goals in two years is good

Chris Nanco, FWD, Syracuse — Showed big upside at MLS Combine

Brandt Bronico, MID, Charlotte — Steadied any worries at Combine

Daniel Deakin, FWD, South Carolina — English striker great at set pieces

Russell Cicerone, FWD, Buffalo — Combine overshadowed solid four years

Christian Thierjung, FWD, California — 18 goals last two seasons

Eddie Sanchez, MID, Portland — Game changer in WCC; Can it translate?

Jordan Wilson, DEF, Kentucky — Scottish center back did well at UK

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New rules crushed Chinese club’s Costa hopes

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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New Chinese Super League rules stopped the nation from acquiring four of the biggest names in the football world.

Tianjin Quanjian believed it had successful bids lined up for Chelsea’s Diego Costa in addition to Real Madrid frontman Karim Benzema, Monaco’s Radamel Falcao, and PSG’s Edinson Cavani.

[ MORE: Costa trains on his own ]

And Tianjin Quanjian owner Shu Yuhui says it had Falcao and Benfica forward Raul Jimenez signed and sealed before the new rules were announced. The club already has Korean midfielder Kwon Kyung-won, Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel, and Brazil’s Geuvânio on the books.

But the new rules, which will limit the amount of foreign players on a team to three, hampered his hopes. From the BBC:

But Chinese clubs will only be able to field three foreign players per game when the new season starts.

“This situation has brought a change to our signing plans,” said Shu.

“The online reports about Costa – it’s true we’d like him, and we made an offer for Cavani and were deep in negotiations,” said Shu.

So clearly Costa’s “back injury” seems more likely to be the burden of financial desires on his shoulders. That said, MLS commissioner Don Garber will crack a wry smile at the new rules.

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