U.S. Soccer confirms three-game send-off series ahead of 2014 World Cup

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Azerbaijan, Turkey, then Nigeria will face the U.S. Men’s National Team in a three-game send-off series ahead of the 2014 World Cup, U.S. Soccer confirmed on Thursday. The series will begin at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on May 27, move to Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on June 1, and conclude at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on June 7.

The U.S. opens the World Cup against Ghana on June 16 in Natal, Brazil, commencing a three-match group state that will cover 11 days. In announcing its 12-day, three-game send-off series, U.S. Soccer noted the similarity between that run and the 11-day gauntlet that hasthe U.S. face the Black Stars, Portugal, and Germany in Group F.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the schedule we have put together for the Send-Off Series,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in Thursday’s announcement. “We have some fantastic opponents that will help us get prepared for the teams we will meet in the World Cup, and also the opportunity to experience different climates and conditions in the venues … It’s the perfect way to start our journey.”

The series’ opening game will be the Men’s National Team’s first visit to San Francisco since 2006, with the game at Candlestick Park marking the first time the venue has ever hosted a national team game. The stadium is set to be closed at the end of the year.

The match against Turkey on June 1 will be a return engagement of sorts, with the 2002 World Cup semifinalist also participating in 2010’s send-off series. The U.S. won that meeting, 2-1.

Nigeria is the only send-off opponent who has qualified for the 2014 World Cup, with the Super Eagles representing the culmination of a gradual ramping up in competition the U.S. will face over the three-game set. On Wednesday, the reigning African champions drew 0-0 with Mexico at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

That ramping up may also be designed to emulate what the U.S. will face in Brazil. From Ghana to Portugal to Germany, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will need to increase their level of play throughout June’s group stage, and while that level of play will be much higher than the trio of games the U.S. will face at home, Klinsmann seems intent on putting his team through the same motions they’ll see in Brazil.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.