CCL Rewind: Monterrey too much once again for Sporting KC

Leave a comment

The odds were never in their favor.

Sporting KC scored two first half goals but they couldn’t defend against mighty Monterrey, falling 5-2 on the night and 10-2 on aggregate in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. Monterrey showed what MLS is missing with clinical finishing on the counter attack and for the most part, strong, resolute defending.

[READ: Top Premier League storylines for Week 34]

While the result was expected, after Monterrey’s thumping 5-0 first leg win, it showed that even when Monterrey had little to play for, they could still put one of MLS’ best teams to the sword.

Sporting KC opened the game with attacking vigor and it resulted in a pair of goals from Gerso. In just the sixth minute of the match, Gerso chopped home a cross from Johnny Russell on the volley to put Sporting KC in front on the night, and in the 29th minute, Gerso was quickest to the ball after a shot was parried towards him by Monterrey goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero.

But even with the goals and the forward momentum, Sporting KC had no answers for the likes of Rogelio Funes Mori, Aviles Hurtado and Rodolfo Pizarro. Funes Mori finished with two goals with Hurtado, Pizarro, and Miguel Layun each scored one goal.

The defeat, in embarrassing fashion, is another stark reminder of how far off MLS clubs are from those at the top of the Liga MX table. Last year’s CONCACAF Champions League final between even a struggling Chivas de Guadelajara side and Toronto FC showed that MLS was even a ways off in that battle. This time, it wasn’t even close.

It’s unclear what has to change moving forward. Should MLS start their season earlier? Should they allow for more DPs? Should teams be able to spend as much money as they want? Obviously, MLS has the long-term view on the growth of soccer, and it would be unwise to burn this shining star out quickly instead of creating sustained success. But without any changes, it will be more of the same as Mexican clubs continue to improve along with MLS sides.

CONCACAF Gold Cup matches to be played in Kingston, Jamaica

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be played in the Caribbean for the first time when a group-stage doubleheader takes place on June 17 in Kingston, Jamaica.

[ MORE: Valencia eyed by MLS club ]

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football said Tuesday that Jamaica will join Honduras in Group C, which also plays in Houston on June 21 and Los Angeles on June 25.

CONCACAF plans to announce the full schedule on June 10. The United States opens on June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, plays four days later in Cleveland and finishes the first round on June 26 at Kansas City, Kansas. Semifinals are July 2 at Glendale, Arizona, and the following day at Nashville, Tennessee. The final is July 7 at Chicago.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Barcelona against haste of bigger Club World Cup

Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding Friday whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament.

European clubs have publicly resisted FIFA’s bid to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played annually in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July.

[ MORE: Analyzing the draw ]

Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu backs a revamp of the competition, just not until the entire calendar for club and national team matches is reconfigured for 2024 and beyond to cope.

“We have to take care of the footballers,” Bartomeu said in an interview with The Associated Press in Miami, where the FIFA Council is meeting. “We have to take care about the way of training and the vacation they need to recover every season that they do. If the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree.”

In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches – which is likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers – running May 31-June 8. The Club World Cup would be held June 17-July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played July 5-July 31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.

FIFA believes the proposed 24-team Club World Cup would “promote and grow football for the benefit of all confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs and fans,” according to a task force report on new FIFA competitions seen by the AP.

In the first edition, South America would have six slots – one based on previous performances. Three each would go to teams from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America. Oceania would get one representative. The confederations would decide their own qualification process, whereas now each continental champion qualifies for the Club World Cup along with the host country.

“We know the current form doesn’t work,” FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani told the AP. “The top clubs in the world have fans all over the world. So, I think it’s a natural progression of that competition.”

The expanded tournament would start with eight groups of three, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Teams would play two to five matches over a maximum of 18 days.

According to a FIFA document seen by the AP, the governing body’s council will be asked on Friday to approve a trial 24-team Club World Cup running from June 17-July 4, 2021. That is the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which serves as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.

“An opportunity to keep growing the competition will always be accepted from our league and our clubs,” Enrique Bonilla, the president of the Mexican league, told the AP. “It helps to give exposure and it helps to make clubs from other parts of the world to be more competitive, and to grow, and to learn from those great players that are now playing in Europe.”

Also Friday, the FIFA Council will be asked to approve the recommendations of a feasibility study into adding another 16 teams for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The council will be asked to allow FIFA and Qatar to jointly submit a proposal on using “one or more additional co-host countries” in the Persian Gulf before a final decision in June on enlarging the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

A document sent to the FIFA Council says its members will be asked if they agree with the report’s conclusion that World Cup expansion is “feasible provided that neighboring countries host some matches.”

The FIFA study seen by the AP says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022 but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.

Venues in at least one more country would be required to cope with the additional 16 teams and 16 games under the expansion proposal.

“As long as it’s well studied and well thought out, I think CONCACAF would have no issues supporting that,” said Montagliani, who leads the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sporting KC pulls away late v. CAI to advance to CCL quarterfinals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It took 74 long, painful, never ending minutes. Then Sporting KC finally found the breakthrough.

Peter Vermes’ side kept the flame alive for MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League, pulling away late to rout Club Atletico Independiente of Panama, 3-0, on Thursday evening in Kansas City, Kan. Kristzian Nemeth scored a brace, including the opener with an assist from his fellow Hungarian, centerback Botond Barath. With the win, Sporting KC advances to take on Monterrey in the CCL semifinals.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

From the opening whistle, Sporting KC attacked the CAI defense, with Johnny Russell and Gerso dribbling in from the wings at their opposing defense. However, goalkeeper Jose Guerra was equal to the task, leading to a frustrating first half and first 25 minutes of the second half. Sporting KC had six shots, eight corner kicks and 74 percent possession in the first half.

That “74” number though was key, as it was when Sporting KC finally got on the board. A corner kick was lofted into the box, where Barath jumped highest and headed the ball down, into the mixer. Nemeth reacted quickest and rifled a shot past Guerra in for a goal. With that goal, Sporting KC were tied on aggregate but would advance on away goals, meaning that CAI had to push forward a bit to find a goal of their own.

CAI’s push up the field left spaces out wide yet again for Sporting KC to exploit. After Gerso missed a wide-open chance and had another called back for offside, he finally made CAI pay. Gerso launched an attack forward and crossed the ball in from the left. It found its way to Russell, who tapped it to Roger Espinoza for the easy finish in the 81st minute

In a similar play in the 86th minute, Sporting KC put the game beyond reach with a Gerso cross that was slotted home by Nemeth.

Report: FIFA pushing for 24-team Club World Cup in 2021

Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Leave a comment

FIFA will try to push through a 24-team “test” Club World Cup at a meeting on Friday.

The AP’s Rob Harris reports that Gianni Infantino is about the stress the FIFA calendar by plugging a 2021 Club World Cup into the space reserved for the recently-canceled Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Pep loving “bold” Man City ]

It would also present a sublime opportunity for the clubs of Major League Soccer, who’ve been serially foiled by Liga MX in the CONCACAF Champions League.

That means a June/July Club World Cup which would feature as many as eight European teams, six South American teams, three each from CONCACAF, Africa, and Asia, and one from Oceania.

It would run from June 17-July 4, 2021.

The tournament usually occurs with eight teams, one from each of seven confederations and an additional from a host. Recently, that’s been a Middle Eastern team.

The 2018 CWC included Real Madrid, Kashima Antlers, River Plate, Esperance de Tunis, Chivas Guadalajara, Team Wellington and Al-Ain.

So how could a 24-team look, based on how the Champions League-style competitions have played out recently? Consider what could’ve been the 2018 tourney:

Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester City
Manchester United
Juventus
Ajax
Porto
Barcelona
Bayern Munich
Palmeiras
Gremio
River Plate
Cruzeiro
Corinthians
Libertad
Kashima Antlers
Suwon Samsung Blues
Persepolis
Toronto FC
Chivas Guadalajara
Club America
Al-Ahly
Esperance de Tunis
1de Agosto
Team Wellington