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FIFA, adidas extend partnership through 2030


When World Cup hype reaches its peak in Ma and June of next year, it will difficult to remember more than one company makes soccer balls. Or boots. Or kits and other equipment. Once World Cup 2014 kicks off it will be all stripes, no swooshes, just as it’s been for every tournament since 1970. Since Mexico 1970, adidas has become inextricably linked with soccer’s main event. To see another name on the ball would be like seeing Michael Jordan lacing up a pair of Reeboks.

So it’s little surprise that today, at a ceremony in Moscow, FIFA and adidas announced their partnership has been extended until at least 2030, a duration during which the apparel company will be the continue to develop the official match ball and hold licensing rights to ‘FIFA World Cup’.

Or, in corporate speak, per adidas’s Thursday release:

FIFA and adidas have been partners since 1970 … The contract offers adidas broad licensing and event rights around the FIFA World Cup. adidas will continue to supply the Official Match Ball of the FIFA World Cup and provide unique uniforms for thousands of volunteers … adidas also secured similar rights to all other FIFA tournaments during this time period, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

For many fans, this news will get a decided “meh.” For others, the apparel and fashion surrounding the game is an essential part of their soccer lives. What’s going on with the new boots? Who’s developing which team’s kits? How many panels will the next ball have? FIFA’s choice of partners is a big (if rarely discussed) part of that world.

FIFA’s continuing relationship with adidas is major news mostly because of the alternate possibilities. Had FIFA signed a deal with, say, Nike, it would have marked a huge shift in sports marketing, let alone soccer branding. With the FIFA-adidas partnership set to last five more World Cups, it’s almost impossible to imagine another name have such prominence at soccer’s main event.

With today’s announcement, adidas’s rights will extend into a 60th year, a sustained relationship the Germany-based company touted in announcing today’s extension.

“Over the last 40 years, adidas and FIFA have worked closely together to develop football worldwide,” adidas CEO Herbert Hainer noted.  “Therefore, it was a natural step for us to extend one of the most successful partnerships in the history of sports marketing. We are happy and proud that our close relationship with FIFA will continue.”

Understandably so. It would be a major low to adidas, a company built on its soccer presence, to lose the rights to the World Cup. Thankfully, FIFA seems in no hurry to make that chance. The two will be together for another 16 years. If not more.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.