Shahid Khan is American, bought Fulham, is probably not the end of English soccer

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Shahid Khan was born in Pakistan, but the Jacksonville Jaguars owner is American. Thanks to a fortune accumulated in the auto parts business, Khan is also a billionaire. And as of Friday, he’s the sixth American owner in the English Premier League.

Mohamed Al Fayed, a man who has bankrolled Fulham’s rise and subsequent stabilization in the Premier League, has sold Fulham FC to Khan, ending his 16-year stewardship of the West London club. Under his watch, Fulham rose from the third division to the Premiership, where the Cottagers have spent the last 12 years. The club has had some close calls with relegation (memorably in 2007-08), but over the last four years, Fulham have never finished lower than 12th, with a record seventh place finish 2008-09 leading to a Europa League final the following season.

Those efforts will live on a Cottager legend, but right now, it was time for Al Fayed to move on. From his statement on the club’s website:

But now is the right time for me to retire and spend time playing football with my grandchildren. I am sad but proud of our achievements. I am very grateful to Fulham’s fans, the most incredible fans in the world. They have given me their support and affection whenever they have seen me at home games. I would never let them down. I have passed the Club to a talented, honest and highly capable man who respects Fulham and its traditions. He is a great sportsman.

From said sportsman:

Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me.  I want to be clear, I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham, but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans.  My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future that fans of present and future generations can be proud of. We will manage the club’s financial and operational affairs with prudence and care, with youth development and community programs as fundamentally important elements of Fulham’s future.

The reference to Craven Cottage is the best thing Khan could have said on Day 1. The venue is synonymous with the club. Any attempt to move away or significantly change the 25,700-seat ground on the Thames would destroy the club’s identity, ruining the very thing Khan’s bought into.

What this means competitively for Fulham and Cottagers is unclear, though Reuters’ reporter Simon Evans does a good job of painting what Khan’s ownership will be like:

New Fulham chief Shahid Khan, thePremier League’s latest foreign owner, is likely to break the mould and be one of the most open and public of billionaires to take control of one of England’s top flight clubs …

 “He is kind of a rock star with the fans,” Alfie Crow, editor of theJaguars’ fan blog ‘Big Cat Country,’ told Reuters.

“He comes out to practice, interacts with the fans and talks to them. He is very much out there and engaged. He has really energised people.”

 Any trepidation Jaguars fans initially had about the team’s new owner quickly dissipated as he won them over with his charm, not to mention a thick handlebar mustache and flowing hair that is a marked change from the staid image of the traditional NFL owner.

Not everybody covering the sale took Evans’s approach. Perhaps predictably, The Guardian’s David Conn used the moment to deride the qualities and motives of U.S. owners, undoubtedly sending shots down the throats of thousands of readers playing the David Conn drinking game:

Football, loved around the world, is here, in the land where it began 150 years ago, selling some of its most “storied” clubs to billionaires from the US, just about the only country which has never been entranced by the game.

As they have arrived, to own Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Sunderland and now Fulham, these shrewd and calculating billionaires have rarely convincingly explained what is driving this gradual US takeover of our soccer. …

This is becoming a critical group now, six clubs of 20, takeovers never planned, barely explained. At the same time more football people are outspokenly lamenting the imbalance between the clubs as global investments and the weakness of the England team, representing a sport still organised country by country. The long-term implications of overseas, predominantly US, mostly financially acquisitive ownership have not been considered; the clubs have just been sold, one by one.

Conn is consistent in his use of Americans as a type of boogeyman symbolizing everything wrong with the non-German soccer world. Many of his arguments are compelling, and those problems may very well exist, but his use of U.S. ownership as a strawman undermines his points, portraying a bias that made his Friday commentary inevitable the moment Fulham posted their announcement.

I doubt Khan is not a member of a cabal of American businessmen intent on striking the last blow of the American Revolution, the one that would ruin a communist sport the U.S. hates more than an empty revolver or a line at the McDonald’s drive-thru. In all likelihood, he’s just a man who wants to own a team in the Premier League, and among the people in the world who have both the means and desire to do so, it’s not that surprising he happens to be American. The U.S. is a huge, rich, sports-mad country with a relatively large class of people with ridiculous levels of disposable income. At some point, this becomes a function of probability, not the bi-product of a plan to destroy “our soccer”.

Sarcasm aside, there is something worth discussing in this “six clubs of 20” dynamic. The simplest assumption is that these people have bought into the Premier League because they covert something in either the business or sport, but in time, is it possible these owners may come together to secure their investment? Will a more American model be imposed on the league? And to what extent would the non-U.S. owners even object to that?

(MORE: But what about that silly Michael Jackson statue?)

That’s an interesting discussion to have, but it’s entirely hypothetical. Hypothetical and paranoid, given the lack of evidence supporting the notion. Right now, the only major difference between today’s Premier League and Friday morning’s is Fulham’s owner, somebody who is likely to have resources, views, motives, and reactions that are completely independent of his five American colleagues. Not all Americans are the same, and not every American’s intent on imposing a set of values on the Premier League.

Whether he succeeds or fails, Khan’s time at Fulham is more likely to be defined by his distinctions from Malcolm Glazer, Stan Kroenke, John Henry, Randy Lerner, and Ellis Short. And as Evans describes, Khan is likely to completely different from a typical U.S. owner, a man who could more like to the man he’s replacing than the group into which he’s been lumped.

Watch Live: Copa America — Day 2

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Hosts Brazil kicked off the Copa America with a 3-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday, and now it’s Argentina’s time to leave the runway.

Lionel Messi and Argentina meet Colombia in a 6 p.m. ET blockbuster in Salvador, Bahia. The match will go a long way toward determining who wins Group B.

[ LIVE: Watch every single Copa America game ]

That happens three hours after Salomon Rondon and Venezuela tries to ride momentum from a demolition of the USMNT into a Group A date with Peru at Porto Alegre.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

2019 Copa America schedule

Group A: Venezuela v. Peru – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group B: Argentina v. Colombia – 6 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Ukraine wins U-20 World Cup behind Supriaha brace (video)

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Vladyslav Supriaha scored goals in each half as Ukraine overcame an early penalty to beat South Korea 3-1 and win the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

The Dynamo Kiev 19-year-old was kept off the scoreboard for most of the tournament, with Danylo Sikan scoring four times to pace the champions to the final. Ukraine beat the U.S. in the first match of the group stage.

Fellow Dynamo Kiev teen Heorhiy Tsitaishvili, 18, scored a magnificent solo goal to put the win on ice with two minutes to go in regulation.

It was South Korea who took the early lead on a VAR-given penalty following a foul on the very edge of the box.

But Supriaha turned and slotted a fine finish home before the break, then scored the below winner early in the second frame.

Amazingly, though, the play of the day was a save from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin off a bullet header in the 70th minute. Lunin has already been capped three times by the senior team.

Report: Manchester United bids big for West Ham’s Diop

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Somewhere, Jose Mourinho just threw something through a window.

Manchester United is being linked with a swoop for West Ham United revelation Issa Diop, mere months after the former Red Devils manager credited the Irons for identifying the player in France.

[ MORE: USMNT roster shuffle ]

United is said to be willing to spend approximately $57 million and send a player to the London Stadium.

Sky says West Ham doesn’t want to sell him and has a minimum price of $75 million in mind.

Mourinho not only famously begged for center backs from chairman Ed Woodward during his last season at United, he called Diop “a monster” and congratulated the scout who found him.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright rated Diop as the 10th best center back in the Premier League season. The now 22-year-old was already Toulouse club captain when West Ham came calling last summer.

This would be a solid buy for United, though we’re not sure the Irons would be willing to sell the big man. Diop has proven himself at the Premier League level, is very young for the position, and West Ham is investing all over the pitch in a bid to become a contender.

As for the player to come back, that’s an odd nut to crack. We’re pretty sure West Ham isn’t going to want to pay huge wages for a middling talent. I’ll duck from the rotten tomatoes, but maybe West Ham is willing to make Romelu Lukaku its long-sought center forward (Marko Arnautovic is 30, and he’s also Marko Arnautovic).

USMNT’s Holmes injured, Mihailovic re-added to Gold Cup squad

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The hits just keep on coming for the United States men’s national team, as Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes has withdrawn from the Gold Cup roster.

Holmes, 24, earned his first two caps this month but “reaggravated a left quadriceps strain” which hampered the end of his season with the Rams.

[ MORE: West Ham bids for 2 La Liga stars ]

Djordje Mihailovic will take his place. The Chicago Fire midfielder was sent back to Illinois following the tune-up friendlies, but will jet back to the fold before Tuesday’s tournament opener versus Guyana.

The U.S. is painfully thin in terms of creative midfielders, with Tyler Adams (right back, we know), Sebastian Lletget, and now Holmes out of the mix.

They do have that Christian Pulisic cat, though, and we imagine he won’t be out wide much.

USMNT 23-man roster for Gold Cup

Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Zack Steffen

Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Omar Gonzalez, Nick Lima, Aaron Long, Daniel Lovitz, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Djordje Mihailovic, Christian Pulisic, Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, Jonathan Lewis, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes.