Wayne Rooney
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Rooney pens op-ed on pay cut controversy, calls it a ‘disgrace’

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There a few more resonant voices amongst active English players than Derby County captain Wayne Rooney.

A legend from his time with England and Manchester United, the Everton product carries a weight to which most players can only aspire.

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Now the 34-year-old is lending his voice to the current controversy regarding players taking pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, with the government even making statements regarding the perceived necessity of sacrifice.

The Professional Footballers Association has weighed in a few times. Now, Rooney wrote a column that appeared in The Times (subscription required) on Sunday, in which he made several points on the issue.

“The first thing to say is that if Derby County needed me to take a pay cut to save the club I would understand and look to support them in whatever way I could. And if the government approached me to help support nurses financially or buy ventilators I’d be proud to do so — as long as I knew where the money was going.”

But Rooney says the story is more than simply foregoing wages in order to keep non-playing staff on the books or from going on furlough.

He says the government has made the players “easy targets” and asks why this process needs to play out in the public eye, saying that the players have been in the process of figuring out the best way to contribute via wages.

Rooney also says that Health Secretary Matt Hancock is trying to use Premier League players as a distraction to the English government’s actions during the pandemic. From Sky Sports:

“I’m in a position where I could give something up. Not every footballer is in the same position. Yet suddenly the whole profession has been put on the spot with a demand for 30 per cent pay cuts across the board. Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?

“How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. He (Hancock) was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes. Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his government’s handling of this pandemic?”

Curfew-breaking Serbian national teamer gets 3 months house arrest

Aleksandar Prijovic
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Well-traveled Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic isn’t going anywhere for three months, regardless of when coronavirus dangers subside in the eyes of authorities.

The 29-year-old was arrested along with 19 others for violating Serbia’s lockdown policy by attending a bar between the hours of 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.

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Now the Swiss-born, 13-times capped Serbian international has been sentenced to three months of home detention.

Fellow Serbian striker Luka Jovic of Real Madrid was investigated for a similar offense earlier this month.

Prijovic was part of the 2018 World Cup team for coach Mladen Krstajić and has 13 caps and two goals for Serbia. He currently plays for Saudi side Al-Ittihad.

He’s been a part of 12 clubs in his career including English sides Northampton Town, Derby County, and Yeovil Town. Prijovic has double-digit goal seasons for Turkish side Boluspor (2014/15) and Greek powers PAOK (2017/18).

A punishment like this may seem harsh to some, but the message should be pretty clear in Serbia: National team member or not, following the laws is critical.

More on coronavirus pandemic in soccer:

What does Olympics postponement mean for U.S. men?

2020 Olympics
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The postponement of Tokyo 2020 means the United States U-23 men and their loaded roster will have to wait for their chance to qualify for a first Olympics since 2008.

That’s not news, but who comprises the qualifying roster might be.

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The cut-off birth date for the tournament was set for Jan. 1, 1997, but there’s some question as to whether the International Olympic Committee will move that forward a year or keep the original date.

Considering the amount of time coach Jason Kreis and U.S. Soccer have put into making this team a force, that’s a big question.

Who could the roster lose if the date gets moved to exclude 1997 birthdays? Jackson Yueill, Justen Glad, Erik Palmer-Brown, Sebastian Saucedo, Jeremy Ebobisse, JT Marcinkowski, Aaron Herrera, Hassani Dotson, and Jonathan Lewis.

That’s nine of the 20 Kreis named for qualifying. It would also removed injured or uncalled players like Antonee Robinson, Keaton Parks, Brooks Lennon, and Haji Wright.

It’s not a terrible worry, to be honest, because it does affect the field. Erick Aguirre, Cesar Montes, and Uriel Antuna are amongst 12 Mexican players who would miss the cut.

There will be also players 23-and-under who grow leaps and bounds as players in interim. It is, however, a worry.

If there’s a big winner, it’s probably Canada. Many of the key pieces for Mauro Biello’s Les Rouges are safe even if it’s moved to 1998.

What’s up for lower leagues in the United States this summer?

USASA
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If you’ve played, coached, or watched soccer in the United States over the past couple of decades, there’s a good chance John Motta had a hand in your competition.

As president of the United States Adult Soccer Association, he’s also being trusted to make wise decisions on when you might be able to get back on a field in a world suffering through the coronavirus pandemic.

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Motta also serves on the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board of directors as the chairman of the adult council, and is also navigating a tricky time as the owner of 30 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

We thought now would be as good a time as ever to ask Motta what’s up next for soccer in the United States.

ProSoccerTalk: John thanks for your time. Can you fill our readers in on the USASA and your role within it and soccer in America?

John Motta: “We start from your NPSLs and UPSLs which are the higher premier leagues, the women’s premier leagues, all the way down to the local club leagues in your town and the over-the-hill leagues. Our motto is, ‘We’re the game for life.’ I kinda oversee the board which directs all the policy. I’m also the chairman of the adult council, which is one of the four councils of the U.S. Soccer Federation. I serve on the Board of Directors of U.S. Soccer, representing the amateur players and amateur soccer in this country. It’s interesting, especially with everything going on with the federation now. It keeps me busy.”

PST: Now is an insane time for all of us, let alone trying to plan for how soccer’s going to look once it’s safe to get back out there. There’s no good time for a pandemic, obviously, but right before summer is a sincerely daunting challenge in timing. Where is the USASA in the forecasting and decision-making process?

JM: “We’ve got a U.S. Adult Soccer call next Wednesday and we’re gonna evaluate all our programs for the whole year. We had a historic event that was gonna happen in May: The champions of US adult soccer, which was Newtown Pride, were gonna play the UEFA Regions’ Cup champions from Poland (Dolny Śląsk). We already had to cancel that because of travel restrictions. This was gonna be the first time U.S. Soccer and UEFA combined to have an international event. We were psyched, but now we have to wait another year.

“Also the HankSteinbrecher Cup, which was gonna be played in late May. That’s not looking good, only because I don’t see this blowing over that quickly. I hope it does. Being that it’s two months away, it’s hard to keep it on the schedule but we might be able to wait longer because all the clubs are in busing distance. And the soccer festival, our biggest event, from open divisions to Over 75s, was gonna be held in California this year. Even though it’s scheduled in July, we may still wait until May 1. I don’t see us canceling that until at least a month from now.

[ MORE: USL League Two plans to play ]

“And the USASA National Amateur Cup, which has grown in popularity because of the automatic berth in the Open Cup, the Steinbrecher Cup, and $15,000 in prizes. That usually happens in August with the elimination rounds happening now, which obviously they are not. Maybe we push that final in October to give all the teams in the states the opportunity to hold their qualifiers. That’s what I’m going to recommend to the board on Wednesday. I think they’ll agree, hopefully they’ll agree. When this is over everybody’s gonna wanna do something, anxious to play soccer and watch games. Postponing everything (for a year) is not good idea right now.”

PST: How about all the local leagues that carry so much weight in their communities? New York City and Maryland have institutions. I know the league in my home town of Buffalo (the BDSL) is a monstrous part of summer here with many divisions and promotional/relegation. What advice would give players wondering what their summer holds?

JM: “We definitely contacted our insurance provider to give us some guidance. It takes one incident, let’s say a player is playing and catches it, claims he caught up from playing soccer and passes away. That’s a tragedy and a huge lawsuit, right? That’s why we postponed all activities until April 30. In a couple of weeks, we will have to get together and maybe again extend that. But we’ve told our members if they go out and play, they are on their own because our insurance company wasn’t going to cover anything for the month of April.”

PST: As a soccer lover, how do you feel at an emotional level, watching leagues contemplate their summers and clubs contemplate their present and futures?

JM: “I’ll be honest: In the 1990s I owned a Division 3 professional team, the New Hampshire Phantoms. I think they still exist today in the USL amateur league. As a former owner of a team, you rely on games and your sponsors rely on your playing. I know the difficulties of running teams in the NPSL, even the UPSL. Even though they aren’t classified as professional, they run their teams in a professional manner. I’m saying to myself, Wow, here are these owners that put all this capital up front to run these teams and now they are just doing nothing. I own Dunkin’ Donuts shops, luckily they are open cause it’s called an essential business but I can imagine what it would be like if I have to close all my doors. How will I survive? There’s no difference with lower league soccer clubs. Hopefully they will survive. Every day that goes by it just kills me because I know they want to get on the field and this damn virus is keeping us all locked up.

PST: What else should people know about the USASA right now?

JM: “They should know that we’re doing everything we can. I gotta call from (a professional league) the other day to talk about the possibility of a combined event or schedule, and we are in the process of contacting our insurance company. I’ll jump over a mountain to play soccer, so hopefully we can get something done this summer once this is over.”

USL League Two exec: ‘Still our intent to play in 2020’

USL League Two
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The United Soccer League can wait a while to make the wisest decision on the seasons for two of its leagues, but a third carries a running timer.

The fully professional USL Championship and USL League One are delayed through at least May 10, a date that costs the developmental USL League Two only 13 matches.

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League Two operates at the unofficial fourth tier of American soccer and has long been a showcase for top college players wishing to maintain their eligibility. Tim Ream, Graham Zusi, and Geoff Cameron are among a long list of USMNT veterans to have played in L2 — formerly called the PDL — before going pro.

The problem is that the season is played in a tight window between the end of college spring semesters and the recalling of players for fall. And each week that passes in May shrinks the window for clubs, some of whom are filled with a majority of out-of-town players.

Throw in the variety of obstacles for small clubs spread across a gigantic country in the coronavirus era and you’ve got a significant challenge.

The National Premier Soccer League, a fellow “fourth-tier” operation, announced earlier this week that it was “canceling” its 2020 schedule and re-evaluating how it can support its clubs should they want to play this summer. The UPSL postponed its season’s start to May 2, though that’s looking quite early, too.

So we talked this weekend with USL vice president Joel Nash about plans for the summer with League Two. He says a lot of clubs are raring to play once it’s safe, and that they will find the right road together.

“Our first priority has to be the health and wellness of everyone involved with our league, but based on the feedback we’ve received from our owners, it’s still our intent to play in 2020,” Nash said.

He says that some clubs or even entire divisions may find that it “makes sense to forego participation in this year’s competition” and that the USL will support those clubs.

“Our decision-making going forward will be rooted in the information we receive from public health experts.  We’re in regular communication with local, state, and national health authorities, as well as the CDC. We also sit on a national COVID-19 task force comprised of medical, legal, and operational experts from U.S. Soccer, Major League Soccer and the NWSL, to ensure that we are all aligned, and sharing guidance and best practices. Based on the information we receive, and the input of our owners, we’ll continue to make decisions that put the health and safety of our players, supporters and staff first.”

Could that mean an odd league season structure or some unusual competitions? Maybe. This is an atypical time in the world.

“We may have to get creative with our competitive format, but that’s true of everyone in sports at the moment,” Nash said. “We’re in daily conversations about how we can all work together give our clubs as many games as possible. … We are going to prioritize getting the greatest number of games in for the most number of L2 teams that want to play. We will then work with our owners to identify other non-L2 teams that we could supplement for additional games.”