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Where They Stand: Europa League’s 32 knockout round teams (and their potential effect on UEFA’s coefficients)

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Europa League is still trying to gain a foothold in the collective soccer fans’ consciousness, but one thing fans of the European game do care about are country coefficients. That’s the system UEFA uses to decide how many spots each leg gets in its two continental tournaments. Two years ago, the system got a lot of attention when Germany passed Italy for third, thus claiming an extra Champions League spot at Serie A’s expense.

As it concerns the coefficient, games in Europa League count just as much as those in Champions League, making it a great place for leagues to make up ground in the standings. Three years ago Portugal, despite not having a contender in Champions League, led UEFA in coefficient points because three teams from the Liga Sagres made Europa’s semifinals. The next year, Spain racked up the most points, in large part because Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao make Europa’s final.

Two federations that could use this year’s tournament to make similar moves are Italy and Ukraine, with the Italian contingent looking particularly strong. Napoli and Juventus have both fallen down from Champions League, while Fiorentina, one of the pre-tournament favorites, went undefeated in group play. Lazio also remains alive, having finished second in Group J, but between Juve, the partenopei, and la violaSerie A has three strong contenders for this title.

For Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk will have a chance to reclaim an honor they won in 2009 (when it was called the UEFA Cup), with fellow power Dynamo Kyiv also pushing through to the knockout round. While Shakhtar is dropping from Champions League, Dynamo advance after finishing second in their group, with though Chornomorets Odesa and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk having also taken their groups’ runners up spots.  

The progress each league can made toward improving their coefficients is limited, with five years’ worth of results taken into account. Even if Italy pulls a Portugal and puts three teams into the semifinals, they’re not going to reclaim a knockout round spot from Germany. The difference between a great year (coefficient-wise) and an average one is about eight point, and Italy (at 63.105, right now) needs to make up 16 on Germany (79.498).

But you have to start somewhere. If Italy can dominate Europa League, they could lay the groundwork to displace Germany (or England) down the road. And if Ukraine can take advantage of four teams in Europa’s knockout round, they could start thinking about replacing France or Portugal’s places among the leagues that get three Champions League spots.

Until then, here are the clubs that are going through to the Round of 16 in Europa League, with the draw set to take place on Monday.

GROUP WINNERS POT
(includes four highest point-getters from Champions League’s third place teams)

  • A: Valencia (Spain, 13 pts.)
  • B: Ludogorets Raxgrad (Bulgaria, 16 pts.)
  • C: Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, 18 pts.)
  • D: Rubin Kazan (Russia, 14 pts.)
  • E: Fiorentina (Italy, 16 pts.)
  • F: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany, 15 pts.)
  • G: Genk (Belgium, 14 pts.)
  • H: Sevilla (Spain, 12 pts.)
  • I: Lyon (France, 12 pts.)
  • J: Trabzonspor (Turkey, 14 pts.)
  • K: Tottenham Hotspur (England, 18 pts.)
  • L: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands, 12 pts.)
  • CL: Napoli (Italy, 12 pts.)
  • CL: Benfica (Portugal, 10 pts.)
  • CL: Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine, 8 pts.)
  • CL: Basel (Switzerland, 8 pts.)

RUNNERS UP POT 
(includes four lowest point-getters from Champions League’s third place teams)

  • A: Swansea City (England, 8 pts.)
  • B: Chornomorets Odesa (Ukraine, 10 pts.)
  • C: Esbjerg (Denmark, 12 pts.)
  • D: Maribor (Slovenia, 7 pts.)
  • E: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine, 12 pts.)
  • F: Maccabu Tel Aviv (Israel, 11 pts.)
  • G: Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine, 10 pts.)
  • H: Solvan Liberac (Czech Republic, 9 pts.)
  • I: Real Betis (Spain, 9 pts.)
  • J: Lazio (Italy, 12 pts.)
  • K: Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia, 8 pts.)
  • L: PAOK (Greece, 12 pts.)
  • CL: Ajax (Netherlands, 8 pts.)
  • CL: Juventus (Italy, 6 pts.)
  • CL: Porto (Portugal, 5 pts.)
  • CL: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic, 3 pts.)

Report: El Tri’s Chicharito to LAFC in 2018

Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez, left, and Atletico Mineiro's Mattheus Rolden fight for possession of the ball during the first half of a Florida Cup soccer match, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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It makes a lot of sense, you know?

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will turn 30 in 2018, not a spring chicken for a striker but still plenty productive if healthy.

His national team, Mexico, will likely be revving its engines for the World Cup, and won’t be upset to have the forward playing a bit less soccer and a lot closer to home.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines ]

And Los Angeles FC will want to make a massive mark as it seeks to butt its head into a market dominated by the LA Galaxy (and, perhaps still then, Mexico national teamer Giovani Dos Santos).

So, tell us more, Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com:

“[LAFC] are going to do everything possible to sign the current Bayer Leverkusen player, whose contract ends in 2018 and could therefore leave for a reduced fee. That’s what AS.com has confirmed with sources close to the project. LAFC hope to announce their new manager this spring and dream, a little later, to do the same with Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito.”

Make it happen. Make. It. Happen. We’re already reserving his spot on our MLS fantasy teams.

Transfer rumor roundup: Jagielka, Begovic, Berahino, Zarate

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Saido Berahino of West Brom challenges for the ball with Phil Jagielka of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on September 13, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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There’s action all over England, from those defending the goal mouth to others striving to conquer it.

[ MORE: More transfer gossip ]

— Bournemouth wants an upgrade on Artur Boruc, according to The Telegraph, and that could come in the form of Chelsea backstop Asmir Begovic.

The Cherries reportedly had a $12.5 million bid turned down by Antonio Conte, who has Thibaut Courtois in the No. 1 seat and Portugal national team backup Eduardo in the ranks (along with three keepers on loan and young goalie Mitchell Beanie).

— Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger shut the door on acquiring West Ham wantaway Dimitri Payet according to Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre:

“We have many players offensively who can play in this position. You are interested by the quality of the player but there needs to be a need as well, and we have no need in this domain.”

— Clubs in need of experienced Premier League backs need look no further than Everton, where manager Ronald Koeman has admitted that England international Phil Jagielka could leave Goodison Park. The 34-year-old center back has 40 caps for England and has made 337 appearances for Everton. He could be a massive upgrade for Sunderland if David Moyes is up for a reunion.

— Stoke City chairman Peter Coates says a purchase of Saido Berahino from West Brom is not contingent on a sale of Bojan Krkic. The latter has been linked to Middlesbrough.

— Mauro Zarate may be returning the Premier League. Watford boss Walter Mazzarri has been largely let down by his strike corps as Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have taken steps back this season. Could $4 be enough to bring the ex-West Ham and QPR man from Fiorentina to Vicarage Road? Zarate has four goals in nine matches for La Viola, and has nine goals in 40 Premier League matches.

Jones speaks out on Tim Howard’s “dangerous” talk (video)

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 22:  Goalkeeper Tim Howard (L) and Jermaine Jones of the United States react after a 2-2 draw in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between the United States and Portugal at Arena Amazonia on June 22, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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New LA Galaxy midfielder and USMNT mainstay Jermaine Jones is hoping he can clarify Tim Howard’s controversial comments about dual nationals.

Howard said Wednesday that there were commitment issues with some of the dual nationals on the United States squad, adding that players like Jones and Fabian Johnson were great for the team.

[ MORE: Galaxy adds Portugal CM ]

Jones answered those thoughts on Thursday, labeling them “dangerous stuff”.

From ESPNFC’s Doug McIntyre:

“With all the respect for Timmy, I feel it’s not if you’re half American or full-American. It’s more what you have in here [taps his chest].

“If you go on the field and you give everything for this country, then of course sometimes there’s a situation where you’re not playing good.

“But it’s normal. That can happen to everybody, and that’s what you have to understand.”

Jones isn’t shy to share his comments on anything, and it was definitely a surprise to hear Howard’s thoughts on dual nationals. Salient words from Jones.

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.