The new best team you’ve never heard of

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A while ago, a Facebook friend added me to a group called “The Best Team You’ve Never Heard Of.” I assume the group’s been around for quite some time, because it’s a forum for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Even if they remain somewhat taken for granted, almost everybody has heard of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

There is, however, another women’s soccer team that’s taken that label, and because they’re a Europe-based club team, you’ve almost assuredly never heard of them. However, if you checked in with Twitter on Saturday and are courageous enough to follow myself and others who had one eye on London, another on Stade Gerland, you have been inundated with superlatives about Olympique Lyonnais Féminine.

Lyon’s women’s team, UEFA Champions League holders, took their already astonishing performance to a new level on Saturday. Coming into their first semifinal leg against Turbine Potsdam (2009-10 champions), Lyon had outscored their opposition 32-0. Surely their German rivals, who have met Lyon in two straight finals, would give them a test?

No. Not even close. Lyon ran out 5-1 winners in a match that showed us how far the club (and possibly women’s) game has come in the last two years. In the 2008-09 final, the sides went to a shootout scoreless after 120 minutes in Getafe, Turbine winning the title in the ninth round of kicks. Last year, Lyon won a comfortable 2-0 game after going up within half an hour, while yesterday OL were up five goals before Turbine added a late consolation.

Turbine still has a chance to render all this talk foolish with a comeback on Sunday in Potsdam, but watching Lyon yesterday, you couldn’t help but feel you were seeing a new level of play. It’s difficult to prove such things given how little coverage there is of women’s club soccer, but three years of watching Women’s Professional Soccer gave us nothing close to Lyon’s play. Even on a rain-soaked pitch with puddles thick enough to show on camera, there was a speed and precision to their game that was shocking. That they were that good against a side that could be argued as the second-best side in the world beckoned all the clichés we’d used while trying to quantify Barcelona’s dominance of Real Madrid. It was a claim to being the best women’s team ever.

The difference was that shocking, that drastic. One team was playing a game in the present. The other was showing us the future.

Highlights of that match was well as the other semifinal first leg (Arsenal and Frankfurt in London) are below, but one note for U.S. Women’s National Team fans: Lyon’s team forms the heart of the French national team, the same one that surprised some last summer in Germany. If OL is taking their game to a new level, you can bet France will be a major player (if not a favorite) this summer in London.

Highlights: Lyon-Turbine Potsdam

Highlights: Arsenal-Frankfurt

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”