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Klinsmann doesn’t want CONCACAF World Cup qualifying to change

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Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t a fan of changing up the current format of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.

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The head of soccer’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Victor Montagliani, called the current system “archaic” and wants more CONCACAF teams included right up until the end of the qualifying window.

In the USA’s region the current format sees the final round of qualifying, known widely as the Hexagonal, include just six teams and of those the top three automatically go through to the World Cup and the fourth-place team is involved in a playoff with the playoff winner from the Asian Football Confederation for a World Cup spot.

Speaking to the media in Washington, D.C. ahead of the USMNT’s friendly against New Zealand on Tuesday, Klinsmann isn’t exactly a fan of the new suggestions to spice up CONCACAF qualifying.

“What is our lesson from Copa America? Our lesson from Copa America is if we want to get our program better we have to play with the best,” Klinsmann said. “In youth soccer terms, you need to play up. [If] you have an 11-year-old super talent, don’t play him with the 11-year-olds, Play him with the 12-year-olds. For us, if we want to get better, we need to play with the best teams out there from South America or from Europe.”

“I’m not saying we need to join UEFA or we need to join CONMEBOL, but for us the eternal topic is the need to get the best games in order to improve our players. So if we can have every two years a Copa America, we need to let a [biennial] Gold Cup go.”

Simply put: the less games against CONCACAF opponents, the better.

As much fun as it would be to see an expanded qualifying system for CONCACAF — say, 12 teams make it through to the final round (cut out the third round altogether) and then the top three go through and the fourth place team goes to the playoff — in terms of FIFA rankings and testing yourself against the best it would be harmful.

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Of course, not too many people care about the FIFA rankings but for the U.S. there are obviously benefits of playing friendlies against top South American or European teams in non-competitive windows rather than playing CONCACAF teams who they know they’ll easily beat.

Other CONCACAF nations will likely feel a lot different than Klinsmann and the USMNT but when all is said and done would any other team other than the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago seriously challenge to make the World Cup?

The smaller CONCACAF nations will argue they could and the decision will lie with Montagliani rather than Klinsmann or the other big players in the region. However if there are more teams in the final round of qualifying would it be possible for CONCACAF to suggest to FIFA that it needs four automatic spots to a World Cup and fifth place in CONCACAF would go to a playoff with the AFC?

There will be plenty more chatter on this in the days to come.

U.S. Open Cup: Goals a-plenty as Atlanta, Minnesota advance

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The first two quarterfinal berths in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup were earned Tuesday with 3-2 away wins.

Columbus Crew 2-3 Atlanta United

A pair of goals from Brandon Vazquez helped Atlanta United overcome both the Columbus Crew and a 48-minute weather delay.

Miles Robinson also scored for Atlanta, while David Accam bagged a goal for the hosts.

A 71st minute Brad Guzan own goal set up a nervy final 20 minutes for the Five Stripes, but they navigated the obstacles and emerged into the quarterfinals

Atlanta will play the winner of FC Cincinnati and Saint Louis FC.

Houston Dynamo 2-3 Minnesota United

The Houston Dynamo thought they were cruising to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, and instead just waltzed right out of the tournament.

Up 2-0 at home and at halftime, the Dynamo conceded three times in the final 24 minutes to bow out of the USOC.

The victor, who deserves full marks, is Minnesota United. Darwin Quintero struck twice and Mason Toye scored in the 89th minute as the Loons advanced to play the winner of New Mexico United and FC Dallas. No Texas Derby in the cup this year.

Berhalter names first USMNT Starting XI for Gold Cup

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Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Michael Bradley all start as the United States men’s national team will look a bit more like its best for Tuesday’s Gold Cup opener against Guyana.

The 10 p.m. ET kickoff in Minnesota will see the Yanks without injured Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Sebastian Lletget, but Jozy Altidore has been relegated to the bench — perhaps not fully fit — behind Gyasi Zardes.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores, stats, lineups ]

The back line will see Nick Lima, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and Tim Ream, while Bradley, McKennie work atop them.

Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd will be out wide, with Christian Pulisic central underneath Zardes.

The substitutes are Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Omar Gonzalez, Wil Trapp, Jordan Morris, Reggie Cannon, Cristian Roldan, Daniel Lovitz, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Lewis, Matt Miazga, Djordje Mihailovic.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Chinese club reportedly offers $15M contract to Newcastle’s Benitez

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It would be peak Newcastle United of recent seasons to lose their coach to a squabble over the sort of players the manager wants to sign.

Rafa Benitez‘s contract expires at the end of this month, and he makes decent money at St. James’ Park, but his $6 million pales in comparison the money being offered by a Chinese Super League club.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Benitez wants to stay at Newcastle, but his concerns aren’t about his wages as much as being allowed to build a contender under stingy owner Mike Ashley. With the team possibly getting a takeover, Benitez is not guaranteed the chance to improve his roster. Not to mention Newcastle operates under club-wide restrictions.

Sky Sports says, “the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia boss wants to be given the green light to sign players over the age of 26, which has been against club policy in previous years.”

Sky Sports reports that Benitez is mulling a $15 million offer from Dalian Yifang, the CSL team currently sitting in 11th place under former South Korea national team manager Kang-hee Choi.

Dalian Yifang currently employs transfer rumor mainstay Yannick Carrasco, as well as Marek Hamsik and young Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Boateng.

If Newcastle allows Benitez to leave and the takeover is not completed, it would be the most embarrassing thing for the club since Joe Kinnear couldn’t pronounce half of his players’ names. That’s saying something.

Gold Cup LIVE – USMNT meets Guyana after Panama, T&T tangle

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Gregg Berhalter’s shaky USMNT welcomes several of its star players into the fold when it kicks off its 2019 Gold Cup campaign against Guyana on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The match comes 2.5 hours after one between the two sides which conspired to keep the Yanks out of the 2018 World Cup.

While the USMNT played the biggest role in that monumental failure, Trinidad and Tobago is the team that beat the Yanks in Couva on the same night that Panama scored a ghost goal to push the U.S. into fifth in the Hex.

Guyana has lost to Haiti, Bermuda, and French Guiana in the last eight months, and it would be stunning if the U.S. didn’t post a generous amount of goals on the scoreboard even after miserable efforts against Jamaica’s B team and Venezuela.

Panama and T&T, on the other hand, should be a beauty, with Los Canaleros getting a bit older in the tooth and the Soca Warriors maturing a bit as a side.

Panama and T&T kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the USMNT expected to kickoff with Guyana a little after 10 p.m.