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Messi scores Barcelona’s 6,000th league goal in opening win

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona scored its 6,000th goal in the Spanish league after another ingenious strike by Lionel Messi got its title defense off to a winning start.

Messi cleverly sent his free kick underneath Alaves’ wall to open the scoring in the 64th minute of Barcelona’s 3-0 win at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday. He also closed the scoring in injury time after substitute Philippe Coutinho had added to the lead in the 83rd.

Messi’s low free kick fooled Alaves’ players, who jumped to intercept an expected high shot. Goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco couldn’t get to the ball in time after it suddenly appeared underneath the barrier.

“Messi never fails to surprise you,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Messi, the league’s top scorer last season, had struck the crossbar with a free kick – this time over the wall – in the first half. He also hit the post from inside the area a few minutes after his opening goal.

Messi also scored Barcelona’s 5,000th league goal back in 2009.

Barcelona has opened its league campaign with a win for the 10th straight season.

Messi’s second goal came in the second minute of injury time, an easy shot from close range after a breakaway.

Barcelona had missed chance after chance in its league debut at Camp Nou, which was far from packed with around 52,000 fans for the 10:15 p.m. start local time.

Ousmane Dembele, who started up front with Messi and Luis Suarez, squandered a series of chances, including a one-on-one with goalkeeper Pacheco in the first half.

Valverde brought Coutinho off the bench in the second half and the Brazil playmaker added the team’s second goal after a nice play that culminated with an easy strike from inside the area.

La Liga plans to play regular-season matches in U.S.

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A regular-season Spanish league game is coming to the United States, possibly as early as this year, but a “clasico” between Real Madrid and Barcelona is pretty much out of the question.

The league said Thursday it is planning to play a match across the Atlantic as part of a new 15-year partnership with sports and entertainment group Relevent to promote soccer in North America.

EDIT: A report from Yahoo has challenged the announcement from La Liga and Relevant Sports.

[READ: Real Madrid players, manager react to UEFA Super Cup defeat]

The group operates the International Champions Cup, the world’s largest summer club tournament. Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other in the tournament in Miami last year.

The league gave few details on the planned regular-season game. League president Javier Tebas, however, dismissed the possibility of taking the “clasico” away from Spain.

The league said it is still making arrangements for the game and there is no timetable for when it will happen, but it could be this season.

The Spanish league has been trying to expand internationally for some time, hoping to grow and keep pace with the powerful Premier League in England.

Tebas last year also talked about the league possibly playing a regular-season match in China, and a few days ago the Spanish Super Cup was held in Tangier, Morocco, marking the first time it was played outside Spain. The league game in the United States would be the first to be played outside of Europe.

“Joining with Relevent to create LaLiga North America is a major milestone in our international expansion strategy,” Oscar Mayo, the league’s international development director, said in a statement. “This agreement ensures not only a bright future for soccer in North America, but also for LaLiga and our clubs.”

The league said “the operation will support the league’s growth in the U.S. and Canada through consumer related activities including youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations, exhibition matches and plans to have an official LaLiga Santander match played in the U.S.”

A decade ago, the Premier League tried to introduce an additional international match but plans for each team to play a 39th game overseas were abandoned amid opposition from FIFA and fan groups.

The Premier League has more exposure than its Spanish counterpart in the United States, in part because of a six-year TV deal with NBC worth about $1 billion.

Since 2012, the Spanish league has been on BeIN Sports, which was received by less than a quarter of American English-language television households even before it recently was dropped by the Comcast Xfinity cable system.

Relevent was founded and is owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who called the partnership “the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America.”

“This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world,” Ross said.

The Spanish league called the agreement “an inflection point for soccer in the U.S. and Canada,” coming in anticipation of the 2026 World Cup that will be hosted in North America.

Messi wins record 33rd title as Barcelona lift Super Cup

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TANGIER, Morocco (AP) — Lionel Messi won his 33rd title with Barcelona on Sunday to become the most successful player in the Catalan club’s history.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Tim Weah scores first Ligue 1 goal in goofy fashion ]

Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-1 in the Spanish Super Cup as Messi overtook Andres Iniesta, who had 32 titles when he left this summer for the Japanese league.

Ousmane Dembele scored a late winning goal with a blistering strike from outside the area. The 21-year-old France winger stunned Sevilla’s defense with a right-footed shot that hit the underside of the crossbar in the 78th minute.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a penalty kick from Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder in the 89th after Ter Stegen fouled former Barcelona forward Aleix Vidal.

[ MORE: Ronaldo made Juventus fans wait only eight minutes for first goal ]

Pablo Sarabia opened for Sevilla in the ninth, when the video assistant referee overruled an offside call in the first use of VAR in Spanish competition.

Gerard Pique equalized three minutes before halftime when he finished off a free kick by Messi that hit the post and ricocheted off the back of goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik — and again off the upright — before falling to the Barcelona defender.

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal debuted for Barcelona as a late substitute.

[ MORE: Pogba makes eyebrow-raising comments about Man United ]

The Super Cup is played between the previous season’s league and Copa del Rey winners. Since Barcelona won both competitions, Sevilla played the match as the Copa runners-up after losing 5-0 in last season’s cup final to Barcelona.

Played in Tangier, Morocco, this was the first Spanish Super Cup held outside Spain and the first time it was played as a single match, instead of a two-leg series.

Sevilla threaten to quit Super Cup if Barca field ‘improper lineup’

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The 2018-19 Spanish Supercopa is in danger of being boycotted and abandoned by Sevilla, should their opponents on Sunday, Barcelona, field what they deem “an improper lineup” made of up too many non-European Union players.

[ PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Arsenal; Liverpool vs. West Ham ]

The limit for non-EU players for La Liga fixtures is three. The same limit was previously applied to — or, at least thought to have been — the Supercopa, which pits the previous season’s league and Copa del Rey winners against one another. Since Barcelona won both trophies last season, Copa runners-up Sevilla are slated to face the Blaugrana in Tangier, Morocco.

Sevilla released the following statement on Saturday:

“Sevilla FC is surprised by the Spanish football federation’s statement 24 hours before the Supercopa.

“It has been stated that as many non-EU players as desired can be registered. In their last notice for the 18-19 season, only three were due to be permitted, without exception.

“The club’s legal department is studying the matter and should FC Barcelona submit a team with more than three non-EU players, it would present possible ground for withdrawal on account an improper lineup.”

Arturo Vidal, Malcom and Arthur are expected to be the three non-EU players selected by Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, but the Catalan club has traveled a fourth, defender Marlon, leading Sevilla to make the above claims and threats. The likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez — South American-born superstars — are EU citizens after years of living on the continent. Philippe Coutinho is also said to have recently received a Portuguese passport through his wife.

WATCH: Iniesta’s sensational turn leads to Vissel Kobe goal

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And now we take a quick trip to Japan, where Andres Iniesta is developing his wine business and OH… MY… GOODNESS.

The Barcelona legend, 34, scored a wonderful goal off a silky turn for his new club Vissel Kobe on Saturday.

[ MORE: Yedlin injured for Newcastle ]

Iniesta starts the play at midfield and then runs 50 yards seemingly unnoticed to get on the end of a terrific ball.

He then turns it with barely a touch, spinning to work his way into a familiar scoring position.

Wow.