What we learned from Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen

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  • Bayer’s out of its depth at this level of the tournament

We’ve been harping on it over the last 48 hours, but there’s no way to understand the significance of this result without looking back on Bayer’s flops throughout the course of the tournament. Against a Manchester United team that’s proven to be a shadow of their former selves, Bayer lost 4-2 and 5-0 in group stage. Today, at home, with month to figure out how to stay in this tie, they went down in the third minute en route to a four-goal loss. When teams like Juventus, Napoli, Porto and Basel are in the Europa League while Bayer’s in the final 16, you see how fortunate Sami Hyypia’s team was to be drawn into an easy group.

[MORE: UEFA Champions League: Ibrahimovic brace helps PSG cruise 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen]

  • Paris Saint-Germain deserves credit for seizing the opportunity

Leverkusen was weak, but that doesn’t mean PSG shouldn’t get some credit for their performance. On the contrary, we often see teams sleepwalk through games like this, lulled into a sense of security that keeps them from putting up a dominant result. Had the Parisians sat on Blaise Matuidi’s early opener, using their dominance of possession to bleed out the game’s next 87 minutes, they would have to start a full team in Paris to fully kill off the tie. Instead, up four goals, Laurent Blanc will be able to use his prodigious depth to rotate his squad, something that could prove valuable as league, cup, and European games pile up.

[MORE: FC Barcelona seizes control of Champions League series with 2-0 win over Manchester City]

  • Zlatan on fire, part of everything

Ibrahimovic’s second goal was nasty. We use the term unstoppable a lot, but that was one of the more apt goals for that description – a shot that may have been ever more powerful than his gasp-inducing goal earlier in the tournament against Anderlecht. A soccer ball is never going to be truly unstoppable, but that hasn’t stopped Ibrahimovic from trying.

That goal is the headline. The body of Tuesday’s story: Ibrahimovic was a part of everything PSG did. On the first goal, he played the ball in from the right to Marco Verratti ahead of Blaise Matuidi’s opener. He doubled his team’s lead with a hard hit penalty in the 39th, while his work along the left flank contributed to the buildup for PSG’s final goal. In the lead up to that final salvo, he had dropped back into midfield to help control play as the Parisians passed their way through the match’s final half hour. He is the star, leader, danger man and focal point – the main reason PSG are becoming one of Europe’s elites.

UEFA put a stat out before today’s match: In his last 27 games for club and country, Ibrahimovic had scored 33 goals. Today in Germany, he improved on that ratio. The man is one of the four or five best players on the planet, and if he keeps putting up performances like these, PSG has a chance to beat anybody.

[MORE: What we learned in Barcelona’s Champions League win over Manchester City]

Premier League clubs vote VAR into use for 2019-20 season

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It’s been inevitable for quite some time, but now it’s official: video review will be used in the Premier League when the 2019-20 season kicks off next August.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

20 of 20 current PL clubs voted on Thursday to confirm the use of the modern technology beginning next season.

The Bundesliga and Serie A began using the video assistant referee (VAR) at the start of the 2017-18 season, and have continued (successful) operation of the system in 2018-19. Major League Soccer introduced the protocol two-thirds of the way through its 2017 season, to far greater degrees of varying success. La Liga is set to begin use of VAR next season as well.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

VAR was first used in the English game last season, when select FA Cup fixtures were used as test runs, while the same is being done in the EFL Cup this season.

Chelsea expected to let Cahill leave on loan in January

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Gary Cahill is no longer first-choice at Chelsea — anything but, in fact, as he’s played just 21 minutes in the Premier League this season — and the club is prepared to allow its captain to leave on loan in January as a reward for six years of excellent service, according to a report from the Guardian.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

New Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has used Cahill sparingly thus far — even leaving him out of the 18-man team for Sunday’s draw with Everton — but has praised the 32-year-old for his professionalism and influence as a valued member inside the locker room. For those reasons, Sarri is prepared to do right by one of the club’s most senior members as Cahill seeks regular first-team minutes.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

Cahill’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2020, thus a loan in January and an ensuing permanent transfer this coming summer represents the club’s final opportunity to recoup a small fee for a player who will surely garner plenty of interest from within the PL. Having paid under $9 million to sign him from Bolton in January 2012, Chelsea have gotten pretty good value for their initial investment, including two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and one Champions League and Europa League title each during Cahill’s spell at the club.

U.S. U-20 men one win from World Cup

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One win.

That’s all the United States’ U-20 men’s national team will need to advance to this summer’s World Cup in Poland and the Pan-American Games in Peru.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

The Yanks cruised through group play with a nearly perfect nine days of soccer, the closest of five wins a 6-1 defeat of Trinidad and Tobago.

Competition is a bit tougher in the knockout stage, but Costa Rica and Honduras did the U.S. a massive solid by drawing 1-1 in their opener.

Now Tab Ramos’ kids can qualify for the World Cup with a defeat of Costa Rica on Friday or Honduras on Monday.

The top two teams in each group qualify for Poland, while the Group A winner advances to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to face the winner of Group B (Mexico, El Salvador, or Panama).

The U.S. has spread the scoring around, lead by 17-year-old Ulysses Lainez of LA Galaxy II (six goals). His former Galaxy Academy buddy, Alexis Mendez of Freiburg has five goals, as does Toronto FC 18-year-old Ayo Akinola.

Atlanta United sits atop Forbes’ list of most valuable MLS franchises

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Atlanta United came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s off-the-field success is No. 1 with a bullet.

Giving high marks to attendance and merchandise sales, Forbes places the Five Stripes atop its list of the most valuable franchises in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

United sits first, with a valuation of $330 million. Both Atlanta and the second place Galaxy have valuations ahead of the two-least valuable teams combined (Columbus and Colorado). And the Five Stripes are worth twice the individual values of those teams and Vancouver. Full list here, from Forbes.com:

“Last season, average home-game attendance was 48,200, and this year the team is drawing over 50,000 fans per game. In just two seasons Atlanta has already laid claim to the league’s eight best-attended games ever, and nine of the top eleven.”

The margins are fine, relatively speaking, with Atlanta’s advantage over second place LA Galaxy by $10 million. Seattle is third at $310m, with newcomers LAFC at $305m, and Toronto FC at $290m.