Clear message from Klinsmann’s roster: 2018 is in focus

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John Brooks, Julian Green, and DeAndre Yedlin average just over 20 years of age. They not only have a combined 0 appearances in World Cup qualifiers, they haven’t even been to a Gold Cup. As of this afternoon, however, each U.S. prospect has their ticket punched for Brazil, set to take up three spots on Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. Men’s National Team roster.

[MORE: Klinsmann reveals 23-man roster; Landon Donovan is not on the roster]

Go ahead and argue those three among the best the U.S. has to offer, but that’s an impossible case to make. There’s a far more likely story, here. In the face of a tough World Cup group and having inherited a long-term project with the U.S., Klinsmann had one eye on Russia 2018 when he named today’s squad. He’s clearly willing to sacrifice the limited benefit of taking a better, likely little-used, player for the experience his young trio will get through this summer’s tournament.

The strategy’s not new, but it’s certainly profound, considering it involves explaining to three worthy players why, despite having claims to being better at this point in their careers, they won’t be going to Brazil. Those players were likely Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, and, most controversially, Landon Donovan – players who many have long seen as locks for this summer’s squad.

How do you sit Clarence Goodson down and explain this kid from Hertha Berlin, one who looked so poor against Ukraine in March, was going in his place? How do you tell Brad Evans ‘thanks for all your time, but Timmy Chandler and DeAndre have this’?

How do you explain to Landon Donovan that a 19-year-old somebody who looked physically suspect against Mexico has ended his hopes of a fourth World Cup?

What many didn’t anticipate was Klinsmann’s change of course. In leaving off players like Evans and Eddie Johnson, the U.S. boss has shown a willingness to put qualifying performance in an almost irrelevant context. At least, if you didn’t prove yourself indispensable by the time The Hex closed, you weren’t guaranteed a spot.

[MORE from SOCCERLY: Klinsmann’s son deletes cruel Donovan tweet, deletes account]

We also didn’t foresee his focus on 2018 being to great. Luiz Felipe Scolari famously took a 20-year-old Kaka to Japan/South Korea in 2002, but in attack, that Brazil squad was set to rely on Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. With those certainties, the back of Brazil’s roster didn’t matter.

For a U.S. team that looked set to leverage its flexibility, those final spots looked precious, particularly when the choices could be Donovan or Brad Davis, Evans or Chandler, Goodson or relying on Geoff Cameron for depth. Instead of avoiding those hard decisions, Klinsmann embraced them in favor of another goal: 2018.

This is why Sunil Gulati chose the former Germany head coach, and given what he did for the Nationalmannscaft  Klinsmann deference to youth shouldn’t be surprising. Germany’s current success owes a lot to Klinsmann’s willingness to embrace its new talent. The U.S. can only hope that the same plan will produce success during a 2018 tournament, because today’s choices have already brought Russia into focus.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.