Promotion Watch: Watford officially promoted; disaster for Middlesbrough

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While so much of the Championship is still to be decided in the season’s final round of games next week, finally we have something of an idea what the top of England’s second-division league will look like once it’s all said and done.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

As of Sunday night, we’ve officially got four teams locked into promotion playoff places, two others on the verge of securing the final two playoff place, and one team officially booked for a place in the 2015-16 Premier League.

Watford officially go up

It’s a happy, happy day in the town of Watford, because eight years after Watford were last relegated from the Premier League, they’re going back up. Given results elsewhere (we’ll get to that in a minute), all Watford had to do to secure a top-two place was beat Bright, and they did just that, 2-0 at the Amex Stadium. It’s a safe bet that the celebrations in Watford will look like this all night long.

A victory in their final game of the season, at home against Sheffield Wednesday, and Watford will not only go up, but they’ll do so as champions of the Championship.

Middlesbrough (probably) blow their chance at automatic promotion

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Middlesbrough now look destined for the playoffs, as Aitor Karanka’s men lost 4-3 to 17th-placed Fulham on Saturday, and what a wild game it was. With his side down 2-0, Karanka opted for the rarely-seen triple-sub just after the hour mark, only to see Boro pull a goal back two minutes later and have a player sent off three minutes after that.

The red card also resulted in a penalty for the Cottagers, which restored Fulham’s two-goal lead at 3-1. Boro pulled to within a goal once again in the 73rd minute and equalized in the 88th minute. Then, in the 94th minute, Ross McCormack won it for Fulham signaling a calamitous disaster for Boro.

A draw would have only give Boro a leg up should Bournemouth lose one of their two remaining games, but now even in that event, one victory all but secures second place for Bournemouth, given their 16-goal advantage in the goal differential column.

Bournemouth go up with a win on Monday

At this point, it’s pretty simple for Bournemouth: if they take four points from their final two games (Bournemouth play their 45th game of the season on Monday, at home against 18th-placed Bolton), and they’ll join Watford in the Premier League next season. A win on Monday, and the Cherries are 99.9 percent locked into a top-two spot, given the massive goal differential advantage.

Eddie Howe’s men could also go up with three points from their two gams and a point or more dropped by both Boro and Norwich City, in third and fourth.

Ipswich, Derby flip-flop places, all but into playoffs

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Ipswich officially need just a single point in their final game, away to Blackburn Rovers, to secure a playoff place, while a point at home against Reading will almost certainly (like, 99.9 percent certain) do the job for Derby as well, given their 16- and 20-point goal different advantages on 7th- and 8th-placed Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)