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Spain approves changes to Copa del Rey and Super Cup

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish soccer federation approved format changes to the Copa del Rey and the Super Cup on Monday despite opposition from the Spanish league.

The Copa del Rey will be played in single-match series until the semifinals, while the Spanish Super Cup will adopt a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

The changes are expected to take effect at the beginning of next season, although the Spanish league could still appeal the federation’s decision, which was approved during its general assembly.

The Spanish league voted last week in its own general assembly not to support the changes, saying it should have been directly involved in the discussions.

The federation said the changes will help reduce the number of games for clubs and players.

Federation president Luis Rubiales said last week the entity was considering playing the new Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, prompting some criticism by human rights groups who have denounced conditions in the Middle East nation.

The competition has been played at the beginning of the season in a one-game final between the Copa del Rey and the league champions. The final four will now be played in January.

Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

The Spanish federation also approved changes aimed at giving more visibility and improving women’s soccer. The women’s league will have two divisions and a Super Cup will be created.

The federation said it will take actions to increase the number of professional women’s players and the number of girls involved in the sport.

Spain revamps Super Cup (and others should follow suit)

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Ever read a tournament concept and immediately think nearly every other league should adopt it?

La Liga is taking its version of England’s Community Shield — the Spanish Super Cup — and making changes that see the league season kick off in style.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League returns Tuesday ]

Normally the winners of the Copa del Rey and La Liga meeting for a piece of hardware, the Spanish federation will now hold a four-team tournament abroad.

The tournament would include the Copa del Rey finalists and the two top league finishers (obviously extending to the third and fourth place teams if needed).

Flip it on its ear and imagine that MLS was kicking off its season not with myriad friendlies and the CONCACAF Champions League, but the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner, MLS Cup finalists, and Supporters’ Shield winner (especially if it was mandated that the cup finalists mixed it up in the semis).

For the Community Shield, you could include the Premier League winners, League Cup winners, FA Cup winners, and either the second place team or the “reigning Community Shield winner.” The gut reaction might be to rebel against “ugh, another game,” but if it’s taking the place of a Stateside friendly between second-choice sides? Come on!

Barcelona, Sevilla to play Spanish Super Cup in Morocco

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La Liga champions Barcelona will meet Sevilla in the 2018 Spanish Super Cup in Tangier, Morocco on August 12.

[ MORE: Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool spending ]

The Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) announced the decision on Sunday, as Barca looks to kick off the 2018 season against last year’s Copa Del Rey runners’ up.

Lionel Messi and Co. defeated Sevilla, 5-0, in the 2017/18 Copa Del Rey final, giving the Blaugrana a domestic double for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign.

La Liga play opens up in Spain on August 19, however, the full fixture list will be revealed on Tuesday.

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Cristiano Ronaldo to get 12-game ban for pushing referee?

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Cristiano Ronaldo had an eventful game in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.

[ MORE: Ronaldo comes on, scores, sees red ]

Coming on as a sub in the 58th minute he scored a stunner in the 80th minute to put Real Madrid 2-1 up (they went on to win 3-1) and celebrated by taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Real fans a la Lionel Messi at the Santiago Bernabeu back in April.

Cheeky, but he picked up the mandatory yellow card for removing his shirt. Moments later he received a second yellow for going down in the box and responded by pushing the referee, Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea, in the back as he walked off the pitch.

That shove could see him suspended for at least four games, and a maximum of 12, by the Spanish federation as article 96 in their rules states that if a player “catches, shakes or shoots” a referee in an aggressive manner then a four to 12-game ban can be imposed. A six-game suspension is commonplace in England if an official is pushed or touched in an aggressive manner by a player.

It has been reported De Burgos said the following about the incident in his match report: “After being shown the red card, the player pushed me gently to show his dissent.”

Real and Ronaldo will now wait anxiously to see if he could face further action for the push. Although it wasn’t hard enough to push the referee over, the intent was there and Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone was handed an eight-game ban for tapping an assistant referee on the head during a Super Cup game in 2014.

Ronaldo, 32, has only just returned to action after a long break following his exploits for Portugal at the 2017 Confederations Cup following the June 3 UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff, but it appears he could be facing a break on the sidelines for the opening weeks of the Spanish season.

One thing that is for sure is Ronaldo will miss the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Barca beats Sevilla 3-0 to win Spanish Super Cup

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Arda Turan scored two goals before Lionel Messi added a third as Barcelona beat Sevilla 3-0 on Wednesday to win the Spanish Super Cup with a 5-0 victory on aggregate.

Turan, who struggled to find his stride last season, continued to fill in successfully for Neymar while the Brazil star plays at the Rio Olympics.

The Turkey midfielder scored from Messi’s pass in the 10th minute before striking from long range two minutes after halftime. His goals at Camp Nou followed his excellent assist for Luis Suarez in the 2-0 first-leg win.

Messi headed Barcelona’s third in the 55th, his first goal this season.

Barcelona finished with 10 men after Javier Mascherano asked to be substituted with 10 minutes left and after coach Luis Enrique had made all three changes.

Messi, sporting his new died-blond hairdo, raised the trophy after the final whistle. Barcelona added the minor title to last season’s Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles to complete its haul for 2016.

Sevilla, meanwhile lost its second final in as many weeks, after also falling to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

The visitors threatened Barcelona sporadically in the first half, before being overwhelmed in the second.

Turan slotted in the opening goal after Messi played him clear following a passing combination with Andre Gomes, who was making his club debut along with central defender Samuel Umtiti

Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla had a chance from the penalty spot after Umtiti was whistled for a handball in the box after half an hour, but goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved Vicente Iborra’s try.

Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado also headed the ball onto the bar just before halftime.

But it was all Barcelona otherwise, as it geared up to start its Spanish league title defense against Real Betis on Saturday.

Turan got his double with an audacious, first-touch strike to curl a bad Sevilla pass he had pounced on over goalie Sergio Rico.

Messi then sent Rico flailing in vain to keep out his lofted header from a cross by summer signing Lucas Digne.