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The case for each U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year nominee

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U.S. Soccer will announce its 2016 individual awards on Friday, and while some winners seem set in stone, the Men’s Player of the Year is anything but an open and shut case.

Christian Pulisic is probably going to edge Jordan Morris for Young Male Player, Carli Lloyd is going to seize Female Player of the Year, and Andi Sullivan will probably take the Young Female honors (though admittedly we’re educated guessing on the last one).

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Champions League preview ]

Three of the men’s nominees have won before: Jozy Altidore in 2013, Michael Bradley last year, and Clint Dempsey in 2007, 2011, and 2012. Bobby Wood and Geoff Cameron complete the ballot.

It’s a bit surprising to see Dempsey’s name given he has missed a lot of time with a heart ailment, but the Sounders man had an electric start to 2016. Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, and Christian Pulisic have shouts to be on the list, especially with the former earning 33 percent of the vote last year, but such is life.

A case can be made for each. Let’s make ’em.

Jozy Altidore
Club: Toronto FC — 28 games played, 15 goals, 7 assists
Country: 10 caps, six goals, two assists

Why he could win: Either Altidore or fellow nominee Cameron is the most accomplished active USMNT player not to have won the award. Toronto is on its way to its first final, and Altidore’s played a huge part. Ultimately, his missing the Copa America Centernario through injury probably hurts his cause too much.

Michael Bradley
Club: Toronto FC — 29 games played, 2 goals, 4 assists
Country: 17 caps, three assists

The captain during the 2016 Copa America Centenario success, Bradley was used up and down the pitch by Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s been quite decent for Greg Vanney at Toronto FC, leading the club to the MLS Cup Final. Will his recent USMNT performances hurt him with voters? Probably.

Geoff Cameron
Club: Stoke City — 26 games played, 1 assist
Country: 12 caps, one goal

Was a pivotal player in Stoke’s run up the Premier League table last season, and his absence in the USMNT’s recent losses to Mexico and Costa Rica underscores his value. Will the voters reward a player who doesn’t put up gaudy numbers? A defender hasn’t claimed this award since Oguchi Onyewu in 2006.

Clint Dempsey
Club: Seattle Sounders — 19 games, 10 goals, 1 assist
Country: 10 caps, 4 goals, 4 assists

He didn’t play a ton, but when he did, oh boy. Dempsey was electric in the Copa America Centenario, a “roll back the years” job that hearkened to his time at Fulham. Quietly had a good offensive season for Seattle before his heart procedures. Will the absence be too much for him to overcome with voters?

Bobby Wood
Clubs: Union Berlin – 12 games, 10 goals, 1 assist; Hamburg – 12 games, 4 goals
Country: 15 caps, 4 goals, 3 assists

Doesn’t have the country numbers of Altidore or Dempsey, but has continued to improve and fared well even when used out on the wing. Dominated the 2.Bundesliga and raised his level once joining the Bundesliga before earning a card suspension.

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Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

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For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

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Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

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A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”