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CONCACAF finalizing plans to replace international friendlies

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CONCACAF is aiming to mimic Europe as the federation closes in on developing a “Nations League” of its own.

[ MORE: USMNT to face Venezuela, Ghana this summer ]

FIFA vice president and CONCACAF boss Victor Montagliani has revealed to Reuters his plans to eliminate international friendlies from the North American region and effectively replace it with a competition that features all 41 nations from North and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 5 ]

“There has been overwhelming acceptance that it is a great idea and the way we need to go,” Montagliani said. “There are a few formats that we have looked at, and we have had various members coming back with ideas. We have a format that we have landed on and we will show it to our members first.”

An official decision could come Saturday when CONCACAF meets in Aruba to discuss the proposed matter and other topics.

UEFA is preparing to debut its Nations League in 2018, with all European countries involved in the competition during the international windows.

While the USMNT and other big CONCACAF nations like Mexico and Costa Rica have become accustomed to facing top-quality competition during the international window, that would all change with Montagliani’s proposal.

The U.S. has previously taken on top teams like Brazil and Germany during the international break, however, the new tournament would give the Americans nontraditional sides.

“With Europe changing to the Nations League, it is going to get harder to get friendlies,” Montagliani said.

Montagliani doesn’t believe that the switch will affect CONCACAF’s big nations though, and in fact says that it could actually help the region as smaller teams develop.

“The truth of the matter is that a lot of the friendlies our nations play, including the bigger nations, are a waste of time,” Montagliani said. “Let’s be honest: A lot of them are not quality. You are better off playing a game that actually means something against an opponent, that on paper anyway, may not be as good.

“We need to develop our own competition in our region to make everybody better,” he continued. “And then you need to do it at club level as well, to raise the standards of our professional leagues and the clubs in them.

“This is the only way that our countries will get better. It’s not about playing friendlies against England.”

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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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.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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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 locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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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.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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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

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE