Full steam ahead for Southampton FC’s latest academy stars

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One of English soccer’s best academies is getting stronger.

And you’ll be able to see plenty of their products in Premier League action this season.

From the academy that brought you Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, Wayne Bridge, Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the next batch of youngsters are coming through.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino and his staff are expecting big things. Given the clubs history in producing players of exemplary quality, you can understand why.

Earlier today 18-year-old right back Calum Chambers signed a four-year deal with the Saints. He is the sixth player to roll off the production line and sign for the first-team in the last 12 months.

Not bad, right?

But you may be thinking that plenty of youngsters will be signed on by Premier League teams this summer, whats the big deal? The difference is, at Southampton they play.

In recent preseason friendlies against Schalke and Besiktas, Saints had seven academy products feature in the match. Chambers was at right back, Jordan Turnbull and Jack Stephens split time as central defenders and there was the hugely-talented Luke Shaw at left back. Then you had England U-20 international James Ward-Prowse in midfield, Welsh under-21 star Lloyd Isgrove out wide and captain Adam Lallana in the attacking midfield role.

(MORE: Premier League TV schedule for NBC Sports Group released)

The spine of Southampton’s team this preseason is homegrown. That is the “Southampton Way.”

If you wander around their training ground and saw a glimpse of Southampton’s training bases in Spain and Austria over the past few weeks, that term, “The Southampton Way” is emblazoned on walls, advertising boards and just about everywhere.

It is infectious. The players, and now the new management staff, have bought into the philosophy developed by ambitious Chairman Nicola Cortese.

Argentine manager Pochettino arrived in January and has shown plenty of faith in the clubs young talent. He performed that role admirably at Espanyol in La Liga too. So here’s what he said about the clubs vision.

From the beginning of my time at Southampton, Nicola spoke to me of his project of bringing young talented players through the Academy and into the First Team, and that was something that really appealed to me. To now see Calum – along with many others – make that step up pays great testament to the hard work that goes on here that is driven from the very top.

Luke Shaw, 18, was wanted by Manchester United and Chelsea this summer after excelling in his first season as a pro in the PL. He turned them down to sign a five-year deal with Saints. Captain Lallana has been at Saints throughout his career and has been called up to the England first-team. He signed a new deal. The list goes on and on.

But the South Coast club have spent big over the summer too, splashing out over $32 million on Victor Wanyama and Croatian defender Dejan Lovren.

That “Southampton Way” we referred to has been present for many years. It’s not a new thing. But the club hasn’t always been able to keep its best young talent. But that’s not the case anymore.

Bale, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain moved to the Premier League because Saints were in the lower divisions of English soccer. But now they’re back in the top flight, there’s no reason for this exciting crop of talented youngsters to leave Southampton.

Will the “Southampton Way” work this season as they aim to finish in the top half of the Premier League?

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.