Could the majority of United States roster for World Cup will come from … MLS?
Just four MLS men were in South Africa four years ago, but that number will rise dramatically this time around:
Major League Soccer had precious little representation in South Africa; only four players from domestic soccer’s top tier were named to Bob Bradley’s 23-man roster. It was wrapped into the domestic soccer zeitgeist of the moment.
Clearly, things have changed. Because that figure (percentage of MLS men who make up the World Cup roster) is about to get spun on its head.
The soccer snobs in domestic soccer’s fandom will surely be loath to hear it, but close to half the 23-man U.S. roster bound for Brazil (and perhaps more than half the starters) are sure to be men earning their keep in MLS.
Michael Bradley’s arrival in MLS (in Toronto … or haven’t you heard?) pushes the number past some point of critical mass. Not sure which one … but Bradley being the most important figure to the U.S. national team’s big summer coming up surely means a something.
Here are the MLS players who appear to be in dandy shape for making Jurgen Klinsmann’s final list of 23:
- Goalkeeper Nick Rimando
- Defenders Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez (pictured above) and Matt Besler
- Midfielders Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman
- Forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson
Potential starters from that group? Gonzalez, Besler, Bradley, Donovan, Zusi and Dempsey barring injuries to others. Evans is the current top pick at right back, but who doesn’t get the feeling that Klinsmann is still looking for an upgrade there?
The cause-effect in this MLS heaviness on the next World Cup roster may require more examination. But it surely is somewhere between Major League Soccer as a more acceptable, respected province of quality soccer (for players like Dempsey, Bradley and Goodson) and the cyclical nature, with younger types who grew up in MLS and now have potential to be plucked by European clubs upon bright World Cup performance (players like Gonzalez and Besler).
Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.
Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:
“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.
“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”
Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.
Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.
Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?
Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.
[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]
The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.
The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.
Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.
He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.
Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.
Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:
“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”
The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.
France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.
That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.
Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.
Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.
2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE