Germany Soccer Cup

Bundesliga season preview, predictions: Bayern on top? Sure, but then who?

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To call Bayern Munich’s path to the 2013/14 Bundesliga title a cake walk is, on a relative scale, pretty accurate. The Bavarians thumped the competition en route to a 19-point advantage over No. 2 Borussia Dortmund that still doesn’t show how big of a gap Bayern opened up.

With the season tipping off Friday afternoon — Bayern plays Wolfsburg at 2:30pm ET — is there any chance Dortmund or another rival mounts a legit challenge to the champs? Sure there is, but it’s going to take a combination of injuries and World Cup fatigue, plus Pep Guardiola being mentally-outdueled by another manager.

[ RELATED: Julian Green named in 18 for Bayern’s Bundesliga opener ]

So… yeah. It’s a tough haul.

Relegation battlers: Well, the two new clubs for sure. FC Koln and SC Paderborn 07 will join the fray that is one of the stiffest challenges in club soccer: surviving the Bundesliga. Hamburger needed the relegation playoffs to survive, so they’ll certainly be considered a drop candidate as well, while Freiberg, Augsburg and even John Anthony Brooks’ Hertha Berlin could face a fight to hold onto their places in the top flight.

The title fight: Unlike La Liga, there seems to be a true mix of teams that could compete for the league’s No. 2 slot. Most would consider Bayern Munich the favorites despite the losses of Toni Kroos and Mario Mandzukic — they did add Robert Lewandowski, the best player from their top rival — but it gets a little nutty after that (and really, it should be a little tighter between No.1 and No.2 this season).

source: AP

Dortmund replaced Lewandowski with Torino scoring machine Ciro Immobile, Augsburg’s Ji Dong-won and Hertha’s Adrian Ramos. More importantly, perhaps, they picked up Matthias Ginter from Freiberg to aid in their hopes of not surrendering as many scoring chances as they did last season.

But Schalke was active, too, adding Sidney Sam from Bayer Leverkusen and Tranquillo Barnetta back from loan. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting slides into the forward ranks as well for a club that didn’t lose much. Bayer Leverkusen added Josep Drmic and Kyriakos Papadopolous, while Monchengladbach snared Thorgan Hazard on loan from Chelsea and USMNT defender Fabian Johnson.

So, yes, it’s going to take a ton to unseat Bayern Munich… but the battle afterwards is anyone’s game.

Predicted order of finish (2013/14 finish)
1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Schalke
4. Borussia Monchengladbach
5. Bayer Leverkusen
6. Wolfsburg
7. Hoffenheim
8. Augsburg
9. Mainz
10. Eintracht Frankfurt
11. Hannover
12. Stuttgart
13. Hamburger SV
14. Werder Bremen
15. Hertha Berlin
16. FC Koln
17. Freiberg
18. Paderborn

USA 4-0 Panama: United States top Group A

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 01:  Jordan Morris #9 of the USA celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the 1st minute of the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying match against Canada at Sporting Park on October 1, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The United States U-23 team exploded for four goals in the second half to down Panama 4-0, as the U.S. finish atop Group A in Olympic qualifying with a perfect three wins from three matches.

They advance to the semifinals, where they will face either Mexico or Honduras.

Thanks to a 2-2 draw between Canada and Cuba earlier in the evening, the U.S. had already clinched the top spot in Group A before this match began. With the United States’ win, Canada also advances into the semifinals as the second-place team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 11th minute, but Panama goalkeeper Elieser Powell made a higlight-reel save on Gedion Zelalem. Maki Tall moved in and fired a low shot on goal, forcing Powell to dive down and make a stop. The rebound rolled right out to Zelalem, who had the whole goal in front of him, but somehow Powell reached to get a hand on it, deflecting the shot over the bar.

Tied 0-0 at halftime, Andreas Herzog made some adjustments to his lineup, bringing in Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter for Tall and Zelalem. The substitutions paid immediate dividends, as the United States jumped out to a three-goal lead within minutes.

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In the 51st minute, Gboly Ariyibi’s cross took a deflection off Fidel Escobar and into the net, ruled an own goal on the Panamanian defender.

Two minutes later, substitute Jerome Kiesewetter took a pass from Luis Gil and fired a right-footed shot from a tight angle to the far post, doubling the United States’ lead. It was a very clean finish from the German-born Stuttgart product.

Three minutes after scoring a goal, Kiesewetter grabbed an assist as he combined with fellow substitute Jordan Morris to make it 3-0. Kiesewetter ran down the right wing and played a low cross in, where Morris tapped home his third goal of the tournament.

Kiesewetter continued his stellar half, blowing by a defender before doing well to draw a foul in the box. Luis Gil stepped up to the spot and buried the penalty, as the U.S. went 4-0 up in the 71st minute.

With the result, the United States heads into the semifinals with a +11 goal differential, outscoring their opponents 13-2 in the group stage. A win in the semis would guarantee the U.S. a spot in the 2016 Olympics.

Bayern, Germany legend Gerd Muller suffering from Alzheimer’s

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY  01:  Gerd Muller during a media event discussing the Golden Boot comptetition in the FIFA 2010 World Cup held at the adidas Jo'bulani Central in Sandton Convention Centre on July 1, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Getty Images for adidas)
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Bayern Munich has confirmed that legendary goalscorer Gerd Muller is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Muller’s 70th birthday is in November, and the club published a statement that no celebrations would be held due to his ongoing treatment.

One of the greatest strikers to ever play the game, Muller scored 525 goals during his 15-years with Bayern, the most in club history. Karl Heinze-Rummenigge is Bayern’s second leading goalscorer with 218 goals.

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Rummenigge currently serves as the club’s director, and spoke about Muller’s legacy.

Gerd Müller is one of the all-time greats of world football. Without his goals, Bayern Munich and German football would not be what it is today.

There will probably never be another goalscorer like Gerd, yet despite all his successes, he was always very humble and reserved, which particularly impressed me.

He was a fantastic team-mate and is a friend. Gerd will always enjoy a place in the Bayern family.

After he ended his playing career, he brought his experience as a coach of youngsters to the club, helping define the likes of world champions Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, and we are also grateful to him for this.

Muller won the Golden Boot at the 1970 World Cup with ten goals, helping West Germany to a third-place finish. That same year he won the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world, and helped the West German team capture the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974.

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He is one of the top scorers in German national team history with 68 goals, second only to Miroslav Klose’s 71. However, Muller reached 68 goals in just 62 caps, while it took Klose 137 appearances to reach his mark. His 14 World Cup goals are third all-time to Klose (16) and Ronaldo (14).