You know we’re getting to the business end of Major League Soccer’s season when they draw a red line in the official MLS standings, indicating the playoff demarcation line.
I mean … it’s red! That means it’s serious, and no one is messing around anymore.
We have reached the playoff backstretch. This is where supporters and journos start leaning in close, where we start talking scenarios and match-ups, where we commence to dissecting remaining schedules and such.
Only, the way I’m seeing things, the playoff race in one conference is more or less decided.
In the West, five teams have clearly distinguished themselves over the remaining foursome. It could change, of course, but I would wager a sixer of cold Pacifico that the five teams currently on top after Round 21 will remain on top when the season wraps up on Oct. 28.
I know that’s three months away, but let’s take a look:
Here’s why I see San Jose, Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Vancouver and Los Angeles still occupying all the playoff chairs when once the regular season music stops:
The Round 21 results only reinforced the positioning. In two cases, home teams in the bottom half fell to visitors from the top half. Dallas desperately needed to top Los Angeles in Texas – but Bruce Arena’s team won. And Colorado needed to make up ground on Seattle – but the Sounders won outside Denver. Both results carry psychological weight.
I just don’t see anyone among the bottom foursome capable of making a big move. Dallas has George John back on the field, and Blas Perez should be back soon. Still, that team has badly lost its way, and I just don’t see any reason to believe a dramatic rally is in the works.
Colorado keeps going the wrong way, having just tied a franchise record with its sixth consecutive loss. Conor Casey can’t quite get both scoring shoes on (two goals in 12 games since returning from injury), and captain Pablo Mastroeni isn’t around to help steel the recovery.
Chivas USA is the one team that could upend my theory, especially since Robin Fraser’s men have three games in have on two of the teams they would probably have to catch. The problem is that Los Angeles, Seattle or Vancouver would have to simultaneously lose their way.
Seattle and Vancouver are aggressively fortifying their rosters. Los Angeles is about as fortified as they can get, already blessed with three world class Designated Players.
So, Chivas could get there – but I don’t see it happening.
There may be some mystery going forward in the West, but there’s a good chance it will only be about positioning and the new benefits of home field advantage.
FA Cup schedule: Fourth-round replays, fifth-round draw
The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs had tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round. One still has one, in fact.
After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there were only 10 top-flight teams left in the competition.
Southampton vs Luton Town/Grimsby Town
Leicester City vs Blackburn Rovers/Birmingham City
Stoke City vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Wrexham/Sheffield United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Fulham/Sunderland vs Leeds United
Bristol City vs Manchester City
Manchester United vs West Ham United
Ipswich Town/Burnley vs Sheffield Wednesday/Fleetwood Town
FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch
Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30) | Fifth round (week of March 1)
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+
FA Cup fourth round replays — Schedule
Grimsby Town vs Luton Town — 2:45pm ET
Fleetwood Town vs Sheffield Wednesday — 2:45pm ET
Burnley vs Ipswich Town — 2:45pm ET
Sheffield United vs Wrexham AFC — 2:45pm ET
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 0-1 Leicester City
Fulham 1-1 Sunderland
Bristol City 3-0 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Birmingham City
Luton Town 2-2 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 0-0 Burnley
Southampton 2-1 Blackpool
Preston North End 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 3-1 Reading
FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright
Man City 2-1 Arsenal
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United
Monday Derby County 1-1 West Ham
FA Cup third round replays
Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield
Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves
What’s next for Jesse Marsch? What’s next for Leeds?
Let’s get this out of the way: Our site’s been a big backer of Jesse Marsch. There are varying degrees of blame to be thrown around for Leeds’ current position, but it’s also difficult to say a coaching change was absolutely out of the question.
Marsch will instantly be linked with the vacant United States men’s national team should he be ready to move back from Europe. His star may need a strong World Cup to burn bright enough for a Premier League return, but he will certainly have opportunities in Europe perhaps before the end of this season, too.
Leeds is being linked with Carlos Corberan of West Bromwich Albion by Fabrizio Romano and others. The 39-year-old Spaniard had been with Huddersfield Town and Olympiacos before joining the Baggies. Corberan has been red-hot through 16 matches in charge of West Brom.
Leeds United statement on firing Jesse Marsch
Leeds United can confirm head coach Jesse Marsch has been relieved of his duties.
Jesse joined the club in February 2022 and was instrumental in keeping the club in the Premier League on the final day of last season.
Rene Maric, Cameron Toshack and Pierre Barrieu will also leave the club.
We would like to thank Jesse and his backroom staff for their efforts and wish them well for the future.
The process of appointing a new head coach is underway and we will continue to keep supporters up to date throughout the coming days.
The Premier League announced charges against Manchester City on Monday, alleging numerous incidences of financial rule-breaking between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons.
The charges will be sent to an independent commission for further investigation.
The rules broken include those that give “a true and fair view of the club’s financial position, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs.”
Full Premier League statement on alleged rules breaches by Manchester City
In accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1, the Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club (Club) to a Commission under Premier League Rule W.3.4.
Details of the Premier League Rules that the Club is alleged to have breached are as follows:
1. In respect of each of Seasons 2009/10 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those seasons that required provision by a member club to the Premier League, in the utmost good faith, of accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs, namely:
(a) for Season 2009/10, Premier League Rules B.13, C.71, C.72, C.75 (amended to C.79 from 10 September 2009 for the remainder of Season 2009/10) and C.80;
(b) for Season 2010/11, Premier League Rules B.13, C.78, C.79, C.86 and C.87;
(c) for Season 2011/12, Premier League Rules B.13, E.3, 4, E.11 and E.12;
(d) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11 and E.12;
(e) for Season 2013/14, Premier League Rules 15, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.49;
(f) for Season 2014/15, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.50;
(g) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.50;
(h) for Season 2016/17, Premier League Rules16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.51; and
(i) for Season 2017/18, Premier League Rules B.16, 3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.51.
2. In respect of:
(a) each of Seasons 2009/10 to 2012/13 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to include full details of manager remuneration in its relevant contracts with its manager, namely:
(1) for Seasons 2009/10 to 2011/12 inclusive, Premier League Rules Q.7 and Q.8; and
(2) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules P.7 and P.8; and
(b) each of Seasons 2010/11 to 2015/16 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to include full details of player remuneration in its relevant contracts with its players, namely:
(1) for Seasons 2010/11 and 2011/12, Premier League Rules K.12 and K.20;
(2) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules T.12 and T.20;
(3) for Seasons 2013/14 and 2014/15, Premier League Rules T.12 and T.19; and
(4) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules T.13 and T.20.
3. In respect of each of Seasons 2013/14 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to comply with UEFA’s regulations, including UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, namely:
(a) for Season 2013/14, Premier League Rule B.14.6; and
(b) for Seasons 2014/15 to 2017/18 inclusive, Premier League Rule B.15.6.
4. In respect of each of the Seasons 2015/16 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons on Profitability and Sustainability, namely:
(a) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules E.52 to E.60; and
(b) for Seasons 2016/17 and 2017/18, Premier League Rules E.53 to E.60.
5. In respect of the period from December 2018 to date, the Premier League Rules applicable in the relevant Seasons requiring a member club to cooperate with, and assist, the Premier League in its investigations, including by providing documents and information to the Premier League in the utmost good faith, namely:
(a) for Season 2018/19, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(b) for Season 2019/20, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(c) for Season 2020/21, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(d) for Season 2021/22, Premier League Rules B.15, B.18, W.1, W.2, W.15 and W.16; and
(e) for Season 2022/23, Premier League Rules B.15, B.18, W.1, W.2, W.15 and W.16.
Commissions are independent of the Premier League and member clubs. The members of the Commission will be appointed by the independent Chair of the Premier League Judicial Panel, in accordance with Premier League Rules W.19, W.20 and W.26.
The proceedings before the Commission will, in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League Rule W.82.2, the Commission’s final award will be published on the Premier League’s website.
This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice.
There seems to be a real amount of bellyaching, if that isn’t too harsh of a term, because we’re sitting here in February without an absolute sense of who will be the two, or three final Premier League teams to contend for the Premier League Trophy.
A bonkers weekend of Premier League results also did absolutely nothing for the narrative, especially after Man City didn’t take advantage of Arsenal’s loss at Sean Dyche’s Toffee Shop.
Admit it — yes, even you, Arsenal fans — saying without reservation that one team is going to be in the Premier League title fight on the final day is very difficult this season and that’s probably for a number of reasons.
For one thing, this is the first Feb. 5 in the last six years that either Manchester City or Liverpool isn’t atop the Premier League table.
And that atop the table, Arsenal, has not been in the top five on a Premier League table at this point in a season since the 2016-17 season. That, coincidentally, was the last time City or Liverpool didn’t win the league.
So, yeah, it takes a leap of faith to declare that Arsenal’s five-point lead with a match-in-hand is as comfortable a lead as it would appear were City or Liverpool here… and probably Chelsea, Man City, and even Spurs. This is new territory. And it’s exciting which, by the very nature of verb, is not comfortable, sound, or solid.
Here’s what the Premier League table’s looked like at the end of February 5 since the 2015-16 season (Keep in mind this is also “matches in hand” time of year the last four seasons, and that usually there have been many more matches played because the World Cup wasn’t in November).
Premier League table on Feb. 5 of the last eight seasons
Season denoted by * indicate there are matches-in-hand amongst teams
2015-16: Leicester City (50 points), Man City (47), Spurs (45), Arsenal (45), Man Utd (40)
2016-17: Chelsea (59 points), Spurs (50), Man City (49), Arsenal (47), Liverpool (46)
2017-18: Man City (69 points), Man Utd (56), Liverpool (51), Chelsea (50), Spurs (49)
2018-19: Liverpool (62 points), Man City (59), Spurs (57), Chelsea (50), Man Utd (48)
*2019-20: Liverpool (73 points), Man City (51), Leicester (49), Chelsea (41), Spurs (37)
*2020-21: Man City (47 points), Man Utd (44), Leicester (42), Liverpool (40), West Ham (38)
*2021-22: Man City (57 points), Liverpool (48), Chelsea (47), Man Utd (38), West Ham (37)
*2022-23: Arsenal (50 points), Man City (45), Man Utd (42), Newcastle (40), Spurs (39)
I mean, that is some viewing, isn’t it? Only three times in eight has the table had as many as four teams within 10 points of first at this point in the season, and we’re a point away from having all five.
You’d have to favor Arsenal to deliver the goods still; Past performance be darned, the Gunners may be unleashing a new dynasty or even just a ridiculous single season on the world. And they could lose to Man City twice and still have a match-in-hand to make up the point.
But as those two matches indicate, Arsenal is also yet to play Man City in the Premier League play. They’ll also see their young squad taxed by Europa League at some point (Aren’t these new knockout round play-offs enticing but so off-putting?)
Anyway, the point is that I want you to know that I understand if you’re feeling thrown by the table this week. The truth is there’s an awful lot of season left — around 3-4 matches per team less than usual — and the following is true:
Arsenal is still the front-runner
Arsenal has also continued to leave the runway clear for an in-form Man City
Man City is very much not in-form
Manchester United, Tottenham, and even Newcastle have realistic mathematical paths to climb into the discussion if they win their games against Arsenal and Man City.
Soooooooo…. what did you learn from the Premier League this weekend? Cause here’s where our writers are living, as Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from across the most recent PL games.
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 22
1. Kane Spurs put a bit of chaos in Premier League title fight on historic night (Spurs 1-0 Man City): Look, this is likely still just a three-team Premier League race even taking into account what we’ve posted above. And I personally might want to argue the case that Manchester City has the best odds to sort it all out given past history, but who knows what’s going to happen to Pep Guardiola’s clearly on-fire galaxy brain if City surges in the Champions League, let alone drops out of it. But I can also tell you that a City win on Sunday after Arsenal flopped at physical Everton on Saturday — get ready for more of that, Gunners — would’ve had me feeling like both Manchester sides held the only hope that the title fight wouldn’t just be a scrap over which Gallagher brother’s Oasis songs were the best. There’s just something about Harry Kane, though, and Antonio Conte is the man pulling the strings down in London. Throw in Newcastle only having to worry about one match that isn’t in the Premier League for the rest of the summer, and Spurs’ win over Man City sounded a note for chaos. Can you imagine Arsenal not falling completely off but going through a naive spell? Can you dial up a scenario in your head where Christian Eriksen’s injury and Casemiro’s red card tax United out of title fight? And might you see Man City’s season going with more ennui than a Morrissey B-side or, worse, Belgium’s World Cup campaign? Folks, anything might be possible this Premier League run-in! (NM).
2. Casemiro’s not-so-idle hands put three points in uneasy place (Man Utd 2-1 Crystal Palace): Scoring chances were plentiful for the Red Devils (14 shots, with an xG total of 2.04) and eventually Marcus Rashford put one away in the 62nd minute, giving him 11 goals in 13 games. Those numbers go with four assists in all competitions since returning from the 2022 World Cup. It appeared at that point that Palace would go quietly into the night and humbly accept defeat, until Casemiro was sent off in the 70th minute for putting both hands around Will Hughes’ neck. United was resilient and had to be, as Crystal Palace took just six minutes to take advantage of their numerical advantage; Cheick Doucoure volleyed from the edge of the penalty area and Jeffrey Schlupp redirected the initial effort on target and past David de Gea to set up a tense final 15 minutes and nine nearly never-ending minutes of stoppage time. But Man United will wake up Monday and wonder why they can’t be the in-form team that runs up the table. (AE)
3. Everton does best Burnley imitation, bullies leaders Arsenal (Everton 1-0 Arsenal): From the very first whistle Everton looked well-organized, had a clear plan, and their players believed in what they are doing. The new manager bounce from Sean Dyche was incredible but it isn’t just a bounce. It’s because he’s a very good manager who did a phenomenal job at Burnley. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the focal point up top, and Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi delivered energy and quality from out wide. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Amadou Onana, and Idrissa Gana Gueye will excellent in midfield and the solid back four never looked out of position. This was exactly what we would expect from a Dyche side and if Everton changed their kit colors to claret it was like watching his peak Burnley teams. Arsenal was bullied throughout, couldn’t find their rhythm, and had no answer for the energy Everton showed. Now, can Dyche get that effort and organization week-in, week-out? It is clear the Toffees have the players to drag themselves away from a relegation scrap and also now clear they have a manager who is able to lead them up the table. Dyche to Everton felt like a perfect fit about five years ago and it has started exactly how he would have hoped. (JPW)
4. Lopetegui’s Wolves feast on wounded Reds as top-four hopes locked in the medical tent (Wolves 3-0 Liverpool): Injuries definitely start the story of this one, a 3-0 that was much closer on the xG scoreboard but just as divided in spirit. Jurgen Klopp’s one-time mentality monsters looked mentality defeated, especially in front of either goal, as the boss exclaimed after the game — full comments below — that the club was lined up as directed but “passive, not active.” Wolves, meanwhile, were very active, and Klopp would’ve wondered what might’ve been when Neves lashed in the third goal by darting between a collection of lined-up Liverpool backs to snap home the end product of Adama Traore’s robust work breaking the lines and conducting a trademark dribble. The Reds have big holes by Darwin Nunez is snakebit in front of goal and Cody Gakpo may get there. At the moment, Liverpool’s entire attack seems to be, “Let’s hope Mo Salah cooks today.” Not great, Al. (NM)
5. Anthony Gordon looks uncaged in short but thrilling Newcastle debut (Newcastle 1-1 West Ham): We knew that Anthony Gordon was fast, worked hard, and had promise, but the blonde-topped pest that is Newcastle’s new $45 million man was flat-out electric in his first match for Newcastle. He could’ve easily had one assist today off the bench and two was reasonable. His introduction to the game gave the second half interest given he just moved up north but you know what? He delivered in every way imaginable but a goal. I thought his price tag was silly and the asking price laughable, but would be super happy to be wrong and the initial results are very good. Maybe Gordon was being held back this year at Everton, or maybe he just caught the vapors of an SJP debut. Either way, it looks nice for Newcastle who won’t be happy with a point vs West Ham but should be: The Irons are much better than their season’s results. (NM)
6. Enzo Fernandez impresses but rest of Chelsea… not-so-much – (Chelsea 0-0 Fulham): Chelsea’s spending spree saw the Blues sign eight new players to swell Graham Potter’s first-team squad to 30 players, including Enzo Fernandez, who arrived in west London as the most expensive signing in British football history ($129 million) on Tuesday. The Argentine midfield wasted no time and looked a cut above everyone else on the field as he made his Premier League debut with precious little time to train with his new club. And excuse the dark humor, but his teammates must’ve missed the memo on smashing the transfer record; $360 million later, mid-table Chelsea were able to secure a point in a 0-0 draw with European hopefuls Fulham at Stamford Bridge. (AE)
7. Leicester wins thriller at Villa, but the manner don’t matter more than the result (Aston Villa 2-4 Leicester): Leicester overturned not one, but two deficits to put an end to their five-game winless skid and secure a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday. The victory takes Leicester (21 points), who had previously taken just one point of a possible 15, up to 13th in the Premier League table, now three points clear of the relegation zone. Eight teams remain within three points of 18th-place Everton, including those currently below them. Aston Villa (28 points) are not among them, but they remain 11th following the defeat. (AE).
8.Gritty Nottingham Forest sees off disjointed Leeds (Nottingham Forest 1-0 Leeds): Nottingham Forest did not play well but they did what they had to do as defensively they are so solid; Steve Cooper’s men have a clear plan and they are doing the basics so well. With Brennan Johnson in this kind of form plus other threats on the break, Forest are looking set to stay in the Premier League quite comfortably.
Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch and Leeds look very disjointed as they continue to integrate new signings and get players back to full fitness. They looked like a team struggling for confidence and with no win in their last seven the pressure is mounting on Marsch. It seems like they just need one lucky break to get going again and regain their early season form. The Leeds fans aren’t happy, however, and a bad week with their two games against in-form Man United could see the owners forced into a change. (JPW)
9. Savvy Bees make most of Saints’ weaknesses (Brentford 3-0 Southampton): Brentford are very good at whipping in crosses and winning balls in the air. Like Dracula, Southampton do not like crosses. This did not seem to be a good matchup for Saints before this game and it went exactly that way. Thomas Frank’s side were ruthless when their chances arrived and Southampton’s jumbled defense gave them too much time to pick out crosses and then switched off to defend the players arriving to score. These were basic errors from Southampton and it’s the reason they are bottom of the league. These crosses and the chaos they cause before, during, and after the ball is coming in is also why Brentford are pushing for European qualification. This turned into a very routine win for the hosts as the pressure continues to mount on Nathan Jones with six defeats in his seven Premier League games in charge. Saints aren’t cut off at the bottom, yet, but it is getting to a very precarious situation for Jones as new players have arrived but there has been no real improvement for Saints since Ralph Hasenhuttl was fired in November. (JPW)
10. Bournemouth shows hope but Brighton’s got too much class (Brighton 1-0 AFC Bournemouth): Kaoru Mitoma certainly looks to be comfortable in the Premier League, and who needs a 20-yard banger or intra-box juggle-and fire every week? This time Mitoma turned up with a late header for his show-stopper. But Bournemouth can and should feel renewed optimism after new owner Bill Foley sanctioned moves for some badly needed flair players. One of those, Dango Ouattara, looks downright dangerous, while Ivorian attacker Hamed Traore and Ghanaian striker Antoine Semenyo are proper alternatives to Kieffer Moore and injured Dominic Solanke. When the Cherries get Marcus Tavernier back, the puzzle will be much closer to their best. How many pieces remain missing is what will dictate whether Bournemouth keeps its puncher’s chance to stay up. (NM)