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Copa America, EURO Today: Final spots up for grabs; Argentina to learn final opponent

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The knockout rounds bracket for EURO 2016 will be set after Wednesday’s play concludes, as will Argentina’s opponent for the Copa America Centenario final (as well as the USMNT’s enemy in the third place game).

[ LIVE: Follow Copa America 2016 ]

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic could say goodbye to the tournament with losing performances on Wednesday, and for Ibra it would be the final international of his career.

 

[ LIVE: Follow EURO 2016 ]


Essential reading: The morning after: Boiling down the U.S. loss to Argentina. … The Yanks admitted they were blown away by Argentina’s game. …

ICYMI: Ronaldo threw a reporter’s microphone into a lake. … Here are nine different angles of Messi’s goal. … Three things we learned from USMNT-Argentina & player ratings.


EURO 2016, Game 33: Iceland vs. Austria

When: Wednesday, Noon ET

Where: Stade de France in Saint-Denis

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Historic draws could be undone if Iceland loses to Austria on Wednesday, but the latter side could be reeling after cruising through qualifying and earning the dark horse label only to pick up a lone point through two games. A draw would be enough to ensure at least third place for Iceland. Austria needs to win.


EURO 2016, Game 34: Hungary vs. Portugal

When: Wednesday, Noon ET

Where: Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Hungary is onto the knockout rounds, while Portugal’s fate is far from settled heading into the match against its stubborn opponents. Cristiano Ronaldo’s side has been flustered with just two points, and he’ll face the Leicester-like tactics and efficiency of Hungary.


EURO 2016, Game 35: Italy vs. Ireland

When: Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET

Where: Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Villeneuve-d’Ascq

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Italy is through after beating Belgium and Sweden, while Ireland is still seeking the win that would lift them above the other two teams in the group. Irish assistant manager Roy Keane has cautioned that his side will do anything to get by, and Italy knows a thing or two about chippy play, too. Expect fireworks.


EURO 2016, Game 36: Sweden vs. Belgium

When: Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET

Where: Allianz Riviera in Nice

Live updates: NBCSports.com

A draw won’t be enough to put Sweden in the top third-place teams, so Zlatan and company will need to go for it against a Belgium side that would do well to close up shop (but probably won’t).


Copa America, Game 30: Chile vs. Colombia

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Soldier Field in Chicago

Live updates: NBCSports.com

The reigning champs are coming off a 7-0 thumping of Mexico while Colombia needed kicks to get past Peru. We’d still expect an electric atmosphere and equally charged run of play between these two. Must watch status = close to achieved.

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.