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FOLLOW LIVE: Fringe players get a chance as USMNT takes on Jamaica

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Bruce Arena is doing something it felt like Jurgen Klinsmann never dared to do in charge of the US National Team: use a meaningless game to give fringe players a chance to shine.

Following a drab 0-0 draw with Serbia, Arena has chosen to give a number of players looking to make a statement the stage to do just that. Regulars such as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley take a seat on the bench, and in their place is a starting lineup chock full of players looking to prove their worth against Jamaica at 7:30 p.m. ET ahead of vital World Cup qualifiers.

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Arena has stuck with the 4-3-3 he used in the last match against Serbia, but the cast is entirely different. We knew ahead of time that NY Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles would be between the sticks, and that Walker Zimmerman would make his national team debut. Alongside the FC Dallas defender is Steve Birmbaum, a player with some experience under Klinsmann but who has yet to crack the true starting eleven.

Graham Zusi returns to the right-back position he took charge of against Serbia and plays well, and with so many new faces in the lineup, he takes the captain’s armband. 27-year-old defender Jorge Villafana, who was called into January camp late, gets a chance to stake a claim to the thin left-back position.

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In front of them is an even more experimental midfield of Chris Pontius, Dax McCarty, and Benny Feilhaber. Philadelphia’s Pontius earned his debut cap against Serbia off the bench, and now will get more significant time. Fans have clamored for Feilhaber and McCarty to get time under Klinsmann, and while both are now either past 30 years old or fast approaching it, they get another chance to break the squad.

In the attack is Sebastian Lletget who took his chance off the bench against Serbia and provided a spark, supporting Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris, the latter of whom will likely play out wide as an inside forward, a position he has experience with at the national team level.

It’s also possible that the formation comes out in more of a 4-1-3-2, with Agudelo and Morris up top, Lletget leading the midfield forward, and Pontius or McCarty in front of the back line, but that would be a lineup that lacks width and would put significant pressure on the full-backs.

All told, it’s a meaningless game with potentially a whole lot of meaning for these domestic-based players who have plenty to prove.

LINEUPS:

USMNT: Robles; Zusi (c), Birmbaum, Zimmerman, Villafana; Pontius, McCarty, Feilhaber; Lletget, Agudelo, Morris.
Subs: Bingham, Rimando, Beasley, Bradley, Bedoya, Marshall, Garza, Nagbe, Altidore.

Jamaica: Blake; Powell, Fisher, Lowe, Campbell; Gordon, Grandison, Burke; Watson, Binns, Williams.

Real Madrid come from behind to win in Club World Cup semis

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Real Madrid made things on Wednesday a bit more complicated than they would have preferred, but the two-time defending European champions are through to the final of the Club World Cup for the second straight year.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

Zinedine Zidane’s men came from behind to beat United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira (winners of the U.A.E. Pro League, the tournament’s host country), courtesy of second-half goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, 2-1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Al Jazira held a 1-0 halftime lead, thanks to Romarinho’s opening goal in the 41st minute. The advantage lasted just a dozen minutes, though, as Ronaldo used Madrid’s first genuine chance of the game to bring Los Blancos back onto level terms in the 53rd minute. Luka Modric slipped the Portuguese superstar through, and the recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner finished with ease to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: West Ham targeting Wilshere in January transfer window ]

The winner didn’t come for quite some time after that, as Madrid were made to wait — and work — for their place in Saturday’s final, where they’ll face Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio. Bale had only just come off the bench seconds earlier, when Lucas Vazquez cut the ball back for Bale to hit it hard and low past the goalkeeper.

The Welshman nearly made it 3-1 with four minutes to go in regular time, but his scissor from the edge of the box was saved to deny Madrid a stunning insurance goal very late on.

Madrid are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Club World Cup titles after beating Kashima Antlers, 4-2 after extra-time, in the 2016 final.

Watch Live: Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs in action

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Seven Premier League games are coming your way from 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City head to Swansea looking to extend their winning streak to a record-breaking 15-straight in a season, while Manchester United host Bournemouth and Tottenham welcome Brighton to Wembley. There’s a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal, while Liverpool host West Brom, in-form Leicester head to Southampton and struggling Newcastle clash with Everton.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the seven games on Wednesday is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


Wednesday’s Premier League schedule

2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Copa Sudamericana finals, leg 2: Flamengo vs. Independiente

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Germany’s players have big-money incentive to win World Cup

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.

The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.

Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.

Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.