2015 Women’s World Cup host cities set, Sounders Women roll

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It’s still far afield, but the complexion of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is beginning to take shape.

Sepp Blatter was in Ottawa on Friday to announce the tournament’s six host venues. The selected cities are Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Moncton.

Vancouver’s B.C. Place is said to be in the frame to host the final. Toronto was not part of the application process, as the city will host the 2015 Pan-American Games.

It wouldn’t be a proper Sepp Blatter appearance without a bombastic statement, and the FIFA President didn’t disappoint. Blatter said the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be a massive event for Canada, adding it could have a “bigger social, cultural impact than the Olympic Games. [It] has a greater legacy than the Olympic Games. Women’s football opens the borders all over the world. This is the social, cultural, value of our game. Football is the school of life.”

Possible hyperbole aside, Canada does have a tradition of showing vociferous support for women’s soccer. A record 47,784 attendees were on hand to watch the home side fall to the U.S. in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup final.

Last March, Canada was awarded hosting rights to the seventh edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The tournament will feature an unprecedented 24-team field, up from the 16 that had competed in the previous four Women’s World Cups.

The host team will undoubtedly have redemption on their minds. Canada bowed out in the group stage of the 2011 Women’s World Cup in humiliating fashion after three consecutive losses. New Zealand boss John Herdman assumed the reins following a messy divorce between former coach Carolina Morace and the Canadian Soccer Association.

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany elevated the women’s game to heights unreached since 1999. Canada’s attempt at making another lasting impression begins in earnest now.

Hope Solo alert! Alex Morgan alert! Megan Rapinoe alert! In other WoSo news from the day gone by, the star-studded Seattle Sounders Women downed the University of Washington 3-1 to round out its ad hoc exhibition season. The team will begin its USL W-League campaign May 27 away against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Video.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.