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U-17 World Cup semifinals feature 3 powerhouses, one minnow

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On Wednesday morning, the final of the U-17 World Cup will be decided. In contention are three familiar faces and one very unfamiliar one.

Mali stands among habitual powerhouses Spain, Brazil, and England as the African nation looks to find a stunning path to the U-17 World Cup final. They will take on Spain in the semis, opposite a mouth-watering matchup between the electric young England side against a Brazil squad that took down Germany in the quarterfinals.

England will have its hands full with tournament favorite Brazil with a 7:30 a.m. ET kick from Kolkata. The young South American squad boasts wins over Germany and Spain already, and they have conceded just two goals all competition. Their attacking talent is incredibly balanced, with Santos product Lincoln running the show in attacking midfield. Internacional striker Brenner is his target man up front, while Cruziero’s Gabriel Brazao holds things down between the sticks, conceding just a penalty and an own-goal so far this tournament. Their captain is Palmeiras center-back Vitao, who ranked #16 on Sports Illustrated’s Top 20 Under 20 list, and he will lead the charge for Brazil’s first U-17 World Cup trophy since 2003.

England will be up to the task. They dispatched the United States in the quarterfinals thanks to a hat-trick from Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster, who has recently joined the Reds after spending much of his youth development at Chelsea. They have been prolific most of the time, but a 0-0 performance against Japan in the Round of 16 (where they won in penalties) leaves them vulnerable against a stifling Brazil defense. They will need to muck up the midfield, where Brazil makes its hay, in order to have a chance in the match. That might fall to Manchester City youngster Phil Foden, along with the more defensive-minded Tashan Oakley-Boothe of Spurs development.

What makes the Mali and Spain matchup – scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET in Navi Mumbai – so intriguing is that both teams lost their very first game of the competition. They have both recovered in spectacular fashion, with Spain finishing second to Brazil in Group D, while Mali finished second to Paraguay in Group B. Despite their early slip, the two sides have been spectacular.

Mali has outscored opponents 13-3 since their opening match loss, including a five-goal output against Iraq in their first knockout match. 17-year-old striker Lassana Ndiaye has been spectacular, tied for the tournament lead with five goals and the only man standing of the other two individuals level with him. On the other end, goalkeeper Youssuf Koita has made 19 saves, although he has just one clean sheet to show for it. This team has been here before, as runners-up at the 2015 World Cup, but their knockout path in that run included North Korea, Croatia, and Belgium.

They take on Spain who has been exactly what you’d expect from the European giants. After falling by a single goal to Brazil in the opening match, they have dispatched opponents by a combined 11-2, holding a pair of clean sheets in group stage matches but looking somewhat beatable in knockout games against France and Iran. Nevertheless, they have spectacular talent, led by captain and leading goalscorer Abel Ruiz, a striker in the Barcelona youth system. Another Barcelona youth product Sergio Gomez is a dangerous attacker down the left flank. This should be a match of stunning attacking quality and fabulous future talent.

Both matches will prove to be of delicious intrigue, with the stars of the future set to make their mark on the international stage.

Mourinho bemoans ‘very bad’ preseason for Man United

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MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has described the team’s preseason as “very bad” because of the disruption caused by the World Cup and the absence of Alexis Sanchez for the tour of the United States.

Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones will not return to training with United until close to the start of the new season because their countries got to the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia.

Sanchez wasn’t among the United squad heading across the Atlantic because there was an issue with his visa after the Chile forward accepted a 16-month suspended sentence in Spain over a tax issue.

Mourinho said “preseason is very bad, I have to say that,” adding that “I am worried because I am not training with all my players.”

On Sanchez, Mourinho said “he’s very sad, it’s not good for him or me, not good for anyone. There is no one to blame — the club is making an effort. I have to respect the U.S. authorities in their process of selection of visas. I hope he will come to join us.”

Mourinho said he is set to start the season with Sanchez, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial as his strike force.

United flew to Los Angeles on Sunday and will play five games, including three International Champions Cup matches against Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool, during its stay.

United plays its first English Premier League game of the season on Aug. 10 against Leicester at Old Trafford.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals Wed. night

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The 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open is back, with all four quarterfinal matchups set for Wednesday night.

[ MORE: USWNT names veteran team for Tournament of Nations ]

It’s a mixed bag of haves and have-nots from the 2018 MLS regular season still alive in the competition. Current holders Sporting Kansas City are still alive and have been drawn away to the Houston Dynamo (8:30 p.m. ET), in something of a grudge match for Houston after coughing up a 2-0 lead and losing to Sporting KC 3-2 last month.

Los Angeles FC host Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET) in a rematch of Sunday’s league clash at Banc of California Stadium (a 0-0 draw). Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC open the night’s action at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m. ET), followed by Chicago Fire taking on the only remaining lower-division team still in the competition, Louisville City (7:30 p.m. ET).

All games will be streamed live on ussoccer.com, direct links below.

STREAMS

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC — WATCH
Chicago Fire vs. Louisville City — WATCH
Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City — WATCH
Los Angeles FC vs. Portland Timbers — WATCH

Miami City Commission sends Beckham stadium to Nov. ballot

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David Beckham and his business partners, the Mas brothers, are one top closer to securing the stadium deal required to bring an MLS expansion franchise to the city of Miami — maybe, but also maybe not.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

The Miami City Commission voted on Wednesday to place a referendum on the November ballot, paving the way for Beckham and Co.’s privately-funded complex on city land currently occupied by a golf course. The final vote tally was 3-2 in favor of sending the issue to ballot. A previous Commission session was conducted, and ended, last week without a final vote taking place as the fifth and final member had yet to make up his mind.

Beckham and partners used the last week, between Commission meetings, to put a full-court press on Miami’s general public, local media and the last remaining member of the Commission.

[ MORE: PHOTOS: 2018-19 Premier League jerseys ]

The key, and most contentious, part of the proposal is (at least) $35 million worth of toxic waste which must be removed from the site. That number could very easily double or triple once clean-up begins, and Beckham’s group would be on the hook for the total cost.

The proposed stadium would seat roughly 25,000 fans and would be just one part of the 58-acre park which will also include retail, restaurants and hotels.

Sarri hopes to convince Hazard, Courtois in face-to-face meeting

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The coming days and weeks will be immensely tense times for players, coaches, directors and fans of Chelsea alike — but, for no one more so than new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri, who faces the very real prospect of losing arguably his two best players before managing his first game at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

Forward Eden Hazard has made it pretty clear he’d prefer a move to his yet-unnamed “preferred destination,” and goalkeeper Thibut Courtois has said he’d like to continue playing with Hazard, either in west London or elsewhere. Sarri hopes he’ll have a chance to persuade the Belgian duo to stay another year, or longer, but he doesn’t plan on doing so until they return from their offseason breaks, at which point he can meet with them face to face — quotes from the Guardian:

“Clearly the players you are referring to are very high-level players and I would like to keep them. But a telephone call without looking them in the eye will not give me any certainty.

“I would like to meet these players face to face and talk to them and understand what the best thing is for everyone to do. Before that I would also like a player to come on the pitch for four or five days with me to have a clear idea of what the plan is.”

Given that the Premier League’s transfer window will close before the upcoming season’s opening weekend (Aug. 9), the period of time during which Hazard and Courtois will be available to meet with Sarri, and the amount of time to reinvest and replenish the squad should they leave, will be an extremely narrow window. After finishing third-place at the 2018 World Cup, they could very easily be away until the final 48 or 72 hours of the window.