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Keller says Pulisic could command $100M transfer fee

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) As Christian Pulisic warmed up for training ahead of Friday’s critical World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, retired goalkeeper Kasey Keller marveled at the young American star who might wind up the country’s best ever.

“I’m truly blown away with where he’s at, where he can go,” Keller said Thursday at Red Bull Arena. “I could see Christian being bought for $100 million by a Barcelona, a Real Madrid, a Manchester United, a Chelsea, a Bayern Munich. He has an opportunity to be that first kind of marquee U.S. national team player that’s been bought for a ton of money and starred for one of the biggest teams in the world for a long time.”

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ] 

Even Pulisic acknowledges his ascent has been a whirlwind.

He left his Hershey, Pennsylvania, high school in February 2015 to join Borussia Dortmund’s youth program. He made his first-team debut in January 2016 at age 17, and two months later was called up to the U.S. national team. At an age when most American soccer players still are establishing themselves in youth programs, he has seven goals in 16 international appearances, including five in World Cup qualifying.

“For me, everything happened a little bit too fast. Of course, the past year’s been a roller coaster,” Pulisic said. “Being able to play at a club level, at a high level, and then getting called into national team, it’s amazing. But I’m just trying to stay as level grounded as I can, you know, finding the balance. I’m just honored that I’m here and so quickly I’m able to represent my club and country.”

By April he was a cover boy for an American soccer gear catalog, status usually limited to greats like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Of course, I hear about all this stuff. People talk about, you know, this kid. There’s hype, whatever, but I just try to keep it out of my mind as much as I can because that doesn’t really matter to me,” Pulisic said. “I put enough pressure on myself. I don’t need all this outside attention or whatever like that, so I just try to do the best I can for myself and the people around me.”

Able to dribble past defenders with speed and cleverness rarely before displayed by an American, Pulisic was given the national team’s No. 10 jersey – usually assigned to a top star – for the first time last September at 17 years, 349 days.

[ MORE: Mbappe reacts to PSG move, scores wild goal ]

Used primarily as a flank midfielder at first by Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, Pulisic took on a more central role in the second half of last season when Marco Reus injured a knee. Pulisic had two goals in 12 appearances during his first senior team season, becoming the youngest foreigner to score in the Bundesliga, then added five in 43 games last year.

He scored against Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup to start the new season, then added a goal and assist in Dortmund’s Bundesliga opener under new coach Peter Bosz, a 3-0 win at Wolfsburg.

“He handles everything in the right way,” said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann last November and has given Pulisic a more prominent role.

“I think he respects the senior players at his club, on the national team program. He just goes out and plays and enjoys himself and gets the job done. He’s pretty impressive for a player his age.”

After losing 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 at Costa Rica under Klinsmann in the start of the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, the U.S. has climbed the standings under Arena. The Americans won home games against Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago, and earned draws at Panama and Mexico.

Mexico leads with 14 points, followed by Costa Rica (11), the U.S. (eight), Panama (seven), Honduras (five) and Trinidad (three); the top three nations earn World Cup berths, and the fourth-place team meets Asia’s No. 5 in a playoff.

There is a scenario that allows the U.S. to clinch its eighth straight World Cup berth on Tuesday at Honduras. But it is more likely the Americans will need points from their last two matches, at home versus Panama on Oct. 6 and at Trinidad four days later.

The U.S. is 9-0-5 under Arena, two shy of the team’s record 16-game unbeaten streak (11-0-5) set under Arena in 2004-05.

“It’s been hard work to put ourselves in this position, to turn things around, and the foot can’t come off the gas now,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “We’ve got to have this ruthless mentality that says in these last four games, when everything’s on the line, we’re going to use our good position and finish things off.”

NOTES: The Americans are missing two of their top defenders because of injuries: center back John Brooks and right back DeAndre Yedlin. Arena said he did not pick Eintracht Frankfurt’s Timmy Chandler because the oft-injured right back had not been with the team for any matches since he took over. “All the players that are on our roster for this competition have been with us this year, so I think it makes it easier for us to transition the team into these two games,” Arena said. … Six Americans enter the game with yellow cards and with another caution would be suspended for the next game: Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron.

AP freelance writer Scott Orgera contributed to this report.

6 clubs fined, risk FIFA transfer bans for debts to players

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ZURICH (AP) Clubs from Russia and Qatar are among six fined by FIFA and warned they risk one-year transfer bans for failing to settle debts to players.

[ MORE: Steffen to England? ]

FIFA says the clubs also face deductions of six league points if they fail to pay the debts in 30 to 90 days.

The clubs are: Kuban of Russia; Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat of Qatar; Zamalek of Egypt; Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; and Mersin Idman Yurdu of Turkey.

FIFA says all failed to comply with rulings by FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport “to pay significant overdue amounts of money to players.”

They were fined between 15,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs ($15,000 and $30,000).

FIFA says national soccer federations face disciplinary cases if they fail to enforce the verdicts.

Premier League friendlies: Liverpool meets BVB; Everton in Portugal

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The Premier League is three weeks and one day from opening its 2018-19 slate, when Leicester City will visit Old Trafford for a Friday afternoon match with Manchester United.

The end of the World Cup has eyeballs trained on friendlies, with 19 Premier League teams doing work over the weekend.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

The International Champions Cup has a pair of matches on the docket.

Friday sees Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, sans many of their World Cup stars, mixing it up with Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund in Chicago.

Then Sunday will see Borussia Dortmund switching gears and time zones, tangling with Liverpool in North Carolina as Pulisic renews acquaintances with old pal Jurgen Klopp.

Manchester United takes on San Jose on Sunday, two days after facing Club America.

Other marquee friendlies of the weekend include Bournemouth facing American back Shaq Moore and Levante on Friday, with Fulham hosting Lyon on Saturday, and Everton meeting Lille and Porto on consecutive Portuguese days Saturday and Sunday.


Bournemouth vs. Levante
Burnley vs. Macclesfield Town
Burnley vs. Curzon Ashton
Cardiff City vs Torquay
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund (in Chicago)


Brighton and Hove Albion vs. AFC Wimbledon
Crystal Palace vs. Oxford United
Everton vs. Lille
Fulham vs. Lyon
Huddersfield Town vs. Real Betis
Huddersfield Town vs. Roy-Weiss Essen or Werder Bremen
Leicester City vs. Notts County
Southampton vs. Derby County
Watford vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf
West Ham United vs. Preston North End


Everton vs. Porto
Huddersfield Town vs. Darmstadt
Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund (in North Carolina)
Manchester United vs. San Jose Earthquakes (in Santa Clara)
Wolverhampton vs. TBD

Transfer rumor roundup: Japan, South Africa strikers to Premier League

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Percy Tau’s name isn’t yet widely known outside of South Africa, what with Bafana Bafana absent from the World Cup.

But the 24-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns winger may soon get to test his skills on a much bigger stage.

[ USMNT: More accolades for Pulisic ]

Tau, who has five goals in 12 caps, will reportedly join Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League if a medical goes well, with Sky Sports saying it’ll will be the biggest transfer fee yet for a South African Premier League player.

Yoshinori Muto could be bringing his 25 caps to the Premier League.

The 26-year-old striker made just one appearance at the World Cup, but has had a nice run with Mainz since joining from FC Tokyo. He’s bagged 23 goals in 71 appearances.

Bild report says there have been no formal offers for Muto, but that Newcastle United and West Ham are interested in the striker. Newcastle badly needs a striker, but West Ham has been spending money and Magpies owner Mike Ashley hasn’t green lit much in recent seasons.

Open Cup draw postponed as Portland protests LAFC win

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The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw is not going as planned, as the Portland Timbers protest the roster of victorious LAFC.

[ RECAP: Four USOC semifinalists minted ]

Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston were the other sides to get a place in the final four teams.

LAFC’s victory had already been marred by Adama Diomande‘s claims of a racial slur hurled his way, and now their victory may be in question altogether as U.S. Soccer issued a press release saying Thursday’s scheduled draw was postponed.

From a U.S. Soccer press release:

The decision comes as a result of a protest filed by the Portland Timbers in relation to the number of foreign players fielded by Los Angeles Football Club during Wednesday night’s Quarterfinal at Banc of America Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.

The rule says a maximum five players without green cards can be in the 18. Portland started only two Americans, Jeff Attinella and Zarek Valentin, but have green cards for many others and rules are rules.

Will the Timbers take a semifinal berth via protest?