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2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 10 months B.W.C.

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Can Germany become the first nation since Brazil (1958 and 1962) to repeat as World Cup winners? Can the Brazilians exorcise their demons of 7-1? Has the next wave of Spanish brilliance/impending dominance arrived?

Will Italy contend again after failing to advance from the group stage two tournaments in a row? Can one of the up-and-comers — Belgium, Colombia, Portugal or England — make good on years (decades, in England’s case) of promise and potential? What are the U.S. national team’s chances, assuming they manage to qualify?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

These are just a handful of the questions at the forefront of so many folks’ minds, as we now sit just over 10 months from the start of the 2018 World Cup. Beginning today (10 months B.W.C.), and following every international break leading up to next summer’s tournament in Russia, the PST staff will be keeping tabs on these stories, and more, in our World Cup Power Rankings.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — there are five or six sides with a genuine shot at being crowned world champions in July. As always, if you disagree with the final results, feel free to shout at all of the above, except me, on Twitter (links above).

Team Points Best Worst
Germany 116 1 3
Brazil 115 1 2
France 106 2 4
Spain 105 1 5
Belgium 91 4 10
Colombia 84 6 9
Italy 75 5 16
Portugal 72 5 16
Uruguay 71 7 11
Switzerland 61 9 13
Mexico 54 10 16
England 52 9 15
Nigeria 33 12 NR
Chile 33 7 NR
Costa Rica 23 14 NR
Japan 20 9 NR
Ivory Coast 16 14 NR
Peru 16 13 NR
Poland 12 12 NR
South Korea 9 16 NR

As you’ve probably already noticed, the USMNT didn’t make the final top-20 list. Here’s everyone’s thoughts on the USMNT, and where they slot in among 2018 hopefuls:

JPW: USA rank — 30th. The last international break summed up just how much work needs to be done between now and next summer if the USMNT qualifies for the World Cup. Getting out of the group stage would seem like a big achievement as things stand.

NM: USA rank — 25th. The U.S. entered September ranked 30th in ELO, and 26th by FIFA, though not every team in front of them will be going to Russia, either. If I project a 32-team field, placing the U.S. with a seeded team, a European team, and probably an African side or South American side (The U.S. has been in a pot with Asian sides the last two draws). In most scenarios, barring hosts Russia being in the U.S. group, I’d expect this current bunch to fail to reach the group stage. Of the teams who may make the field, I’d put U.S. hopes ahead of most of the Asian sides, one or two European sides, and another couple of African qualifiers.

KB: The United States is currently ranked 26th in FIFA, and that’s with a Gold Cup win that included a number of B squads. I would not put this current US team anywhere near the Top 20 until it shows it can win consistently against even mid-level sides like Honduras or Panama.

AE: USA rank — 22nd. Once you move past the top five or so sides — you know, the ones that actually have a chance of winning the World Cup — everyone is fatally flawed in any number of ways. The USMNT is no different than the rest of these, but with one favorable exception: 14 of the 23 players on the most recent roster have World Cup experience, with the majority of those having been to multiple finals tournaments. If/when they qualify, they’ll leapfrog a half-dozen other sides without that experience, making them a fringe Round of 16 side, if they get there.

MR: USA rank — 25th. Let’s face it. It’s been a difficult week for the USMNT, and while the squad is still very much in the running for a trip to Russia next summer Bruce Arena and Co. are crawling into the World Cup at this point. Solely judging this team off of what I believe they can be versus what they are right now, I’d say the U.S. can and should be a top 20 team heading into 2018, however, watching these last two matches have reiterated several of my previous concerns, especially in the central midfield. I’d put the U.S. somewhere around 25 in the field of 32 World Cup teams, assuming a bid to Russia is in the cards.

DK: USA rank — 19th. I had the USA in No. 19 because I actually am taking a more positive look at the draw in Honduras. The USA lost this game in the last World Cup cycle under Klinsmann and coming back on the road in the Honduran heat in a World Cup qualifier with everything on the line takes guts and determination. Just as the fortunes turned with the famed “snow game” in Denver against Costa Rica, perhaps this could be a moment like that for this USMNT team that basically needs to win out to ensure safe passage to the World Cup

West Ham may sue Sporting CP over Carvalho transfer

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West Ham has called baloney on Sporting CP’s claims that bids for William Carvalho were manufactured in the press.

The Portuguese powers took shots at West Ham for what it feels was play-acting in terms of interest in the combative Portuguese center midfielder.

Carvalho, 25, has been a transfer rumor mill fixture for some time, and perhaps this story shows us why he hasn’t made the move to West Ham, or Newcastle, or Everton, or Arsenal…

[ MORE: Should USMNT go 3 at the back? ]

Anyway, Sky Sports has published photos of emails that Sullivan sent to Sporting, making a $30 million bid on Aug. 11. The bid is shy of Carvalho’s $52 million release clause, but further emails promised bonuses and other add-ons.

Now West Ham is saying it will pursue legal action against Sporting, whose communications director Nuno Saraiva took some adult and below the belt jabs at the Irons’ hierarchy.

Late last week, Sky reported that Sporting called West Ham on transfer deadline day to try and revive the deal, but the Irons said it was too late.

Leicester may not be able to use $29m Silva until January

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Leicester City’s sale of Danny Drinkwater was made easier to stomach by the $29 million purchase of Adrien Silva from Sporting CP.

Cue the indigestion.

Silva, 28, may not be able to play for Leicester until January after FIFA rejected documentation supporting the sale. Leicester requested a two-hour extension to complete the paperwork on Deadline Day.

[ USMNT: Recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

According to the BBC, “If FIFA decides Silva’s registration was not completed in time he will be ineligible, but the Premier League club will be required to pay his wages.”

There’s no question that Leicester owns the players’ rights, and both the Foxes and Sporting are trying to find the correct documentation to ease FIFA’s fears.

It just takes a look at last season to see how one hole can affect a club, as Leicester’s first half was horrible without N'Golo Kante and second half quite good once Wilfried Ndidi filled the Frenchman’s shoes in the middle of the pitch.

Spanish federation maintains five-match ban for Ronaldo

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish soccer federation has ratified its decision to suspend Cristiano Ronaldo for five matches.

The Real Madrid forward will miss the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona. Madrid holds a 3-1 advantage.

He will also miss the first four matches of the Spanish league, which Madrid opens on Sunday at Deportivo La Coruna.

Ronaldo was suspended for one match after being sent off during Sunday’s first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Spanish media reports said Madrid appealed Ronaldo’s second yellow card, when the Portugal forward was booked for diving.

Ronaldo was given an additional four-match ban for shoving the referee in the back after he was shown the red card.

Crew breaks transfer record for Portuguese midfielder Santos (video)

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The Columbus Crew is using all three of its Designated Player slots for the first time in club history, and doing it in style.

Columbus boss Gregg Berhalter has brought in Braga playmaker Pedro Santos for what the club reports is its highest acquisition fee in history.

[ MORE: Can Chelsea handle pressure of reign? ]

The DP also carries Discovery Status, which is fairly hilarious for a 29-year-old player who has 15 Europa League appearances under his belt, but such is the processes of our oddball top flight here in America.

This is another promising signing for MLS, as Santos is in fine international form and joins Crew DPs Jonathan Mensah and Federico Higuain. The Crew currently occupy the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Here’s Berhalter, from the Crew press release:

“We are excited to welcome Pedro Santos to Columbus Crew SC and look forward to him making an immediate impact on this club this season,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “Pedro brings extensive tenure at a high European level and also has Europa League experience which we believe will be an asset to Crew SC and will fit well into our style of play. I want to thank [Investor-Operator and Chairman] Mr. Precourt for his continued support and investment in helping shape this roster as we make the push for the postseason and continue to compete for championships.”