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Will increased spending by promoted clubs turn Premier League upside down?

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Fulham, Wolverhampton, and Cardiff City have spent a combined $180 million this summer.

Manchester United, Manchester City, and Tottenham have spent a combined $185 million this summer.

The gap is closing. The influx of money from top to bottom across the Premier League table is having an effect, and lower-table teams are able to join the whirlwind at an unprecedented level. The three newly promoted teams in the Premier League have spent this summer at previously unimaginable levels.

So will this have an effect on the bottom of the table? Absolutely, positively it will.

Overhauling a squad following a successful season is always a major risk, but teams are more and more willing to take on that risk when it comes to ensuring Premier League safety, and ensuring the yearly checks continue to flow. Fulham alone has spent $89.5 million this summer, and could end up changing a whopping six members of their EFL Playoff Final starting lineup.

[ PREVIEWS: Fulham | Cardiff City | Huddersfield ]

But money isn’t good money unless it’s smart money, and these teams are closing the gap there too. Fulham pulled off a coup when they nabbed passing wizard Jean-Michael Seri from OGC Nice, a player coveted by Champions League teams in England, Italy, and Germany. They paid a pretty penny too, costing them $34.7 million, a Fulham transfer record. Wolves looks to have pulled off a steal by snagging 21-year-old Diogo Jota from Atletico Madrid, with the $16 million looking well worth the damage after leading the team with 18 goals last season in the Championship. They’re set to add to that total with the impending capture of Adama Traore for a reported $23 million, breaking Wolves’ transfer record as well. Cardiff bolstered its mediocre attack by spending $26 million on a pair of English wingers in their prime.

Both Fulham and Wolves also kept their top talent, no easy feat with sharks in the waters. Ryan Sessegnon stayed on at Craven Cottage despite becoming the first lower-division player to be nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, and 21-year-old Ruben Neves signed a new six-year contract at Wolves this summer after carving the Championship to pieces last campaign. Both players had bigger clubs circling, waiting to strike.

Even smaller clubs in the Premier League not yet considered established are ponying up the cash. Brighton has shelled out $60 million this summer, $53 million of which came on three players. Huddersfield Town, a club that had never sniffed the top division in English soccer before promotion last year, has found $53 million to spend.

[ PREVIEW: Burnley | Newcastle ]

With the new standard being wildly shifted, where does that leave clubs like Burnley, Newcastle, and Watford, who have barely spent a dime? Each of these requires a different answer at the more microscopic level, but it all boils down to one result – they will be left behind. With smaller clubs able to splash the cash, the margin for error is getting thinner by the year. It’s harder and harder to find three teams worse than [insert financially strapped club here]. Burnley, for example, has a Europa League campaign to navigate plus a follow-up to their 7th place finish last season, but they have purchased just one player this summer, with manager Sean Dyche vocally protesting increasing player prices.

What about Tottenham, an established upper-tier club that literally hasn’t spent a dime this window? Will they be punished for not improving this summer at all?

That’s more complicated of an answer. The short version is no. Spurs has such a deep team with so few true holes, they can afford to take a summer off. If it becomes a more long-term strategy? Sure, they’ll fall back. But we all know that’s not the case.

Yet for the clubs in peril every waking moment of their Premier League existence, the writing is on the wall is clear: spend or wilt. The newly promoted clubs know long-term investments require short-term movement, and the time is now to keep up with the boat, or sink into the perilous waters below.

River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

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There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

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NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.

Wenger hints he may be retired from management

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It’s been a year since Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal departure was announced, and the legendary manager remains on the sidelines.

Whether by his choice or not, Wenger has spent the year away from soccer, instead vacationing and being a studio TV pundit in France. In his latest public comments, Wenger hinted that while he still plans to return to a role in soccer, he likely won’t be a club manager anymore.

“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance,” Wenger told the BBC. Now I’m at a crossroads.”

Per the BBC, Wenger later added: “You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.”

In the weeks and months after Wenger was effectively forced out of Arsenal after 22 seasons, Wenger repeatedly said that he had many offers to return to management, and it was only a matter of time before he’d accept one of these offers. And yet, it’s been a year and Wenger remains on the outside, perhaps a clear sign that today’s soccer has passed him by, and unless he wants to move to the Middle East or another soccer outpost, he won’t be able to get a top job in Western Europe.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Wenger still supports the Gunners and had some thoughts on the team’s season, as well as the club’s run to the Europa League final.

“I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there,” Wenger said. “I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

“I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club.”

Pochettino hopeful Kane can “give us a hand” in UCL final

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Harry Kane returned to training this week as Tottenham continues preparations for the UEFA Champions League final.

The England and Tottenham captain has been out with yet another ankle injury since April 9. Initially feared he would be out for the rest of the season, Kane now looks set to play in the final match of the season, and his manager Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful he can make an impact.

“He’s training and has entered the final stage of his recovery, Pochettino told a conference in Bilbao, via video link, per AS. “We’re hoping he’ll be able to give us a hand – either from the start, from the bench or if not, then by giving us moral support in the dressing room. But we are optimistic that he’ll be able to help us on the pitch.”

Pochettino completed a magnificent feat guiding Tottenham to the Champions League final, but he may have one of the most difficult decisions he has to make in his managerial career ahead.

Should Kane be available to start, Pochettino has to decide whether he should break from the lineup that came back from a 3-0 deficit to Ajax, and potentially put Lucas Moura on the bench. If Tottenham loses, Pochettino is probably darned if he does, darned if he doesn’t with Kane.

Either Kane wasn’t fit enough to play and make a big impact, or he clearly was and he didn’t have enough time in the match.

Regardless, Pochettino will hope to have a full squad available, with Kane able to make a difference should be needed.