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U.S. U-23 men learn group opponents for Olympic qualifying

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The United States knows the opponents on its path to a first men’s Olympic berth since 2008.

Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica will be the Yanks’ group stage opponents between March 20-26 in Mexico.

Honduras, Haiti, Canada, and El Salvador comprise Group B.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Jason Kreis’ U-23 side will need to finish first or second in its group and then win its semifinal to clinch a spot in Tokyo 2020.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Richie Ledezma, and Jonathan Lewis were in Kreis’ last group of call-ups, while players like Miles Robinson, Josh Sargent, and Timothy Weah are among the eligible.

Andreas Herzog’s Yanks cruised through group play in 2015 before being stunned by Honduras in the semi, then losing a two-legged playoff with Colombia.

The U.S. didn’t even escape the group stage in 2012 under Caleb Porter.

Women’s qualifying begins Jan. 28 in the United States, the ladies facing Costa Rica, Panama, and Haiti in group play.

Spurs recall USMNT center back Carter-Vickers from Stoke loan

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Tottenham Hotspur has recalled USMNT center back Cameron Carter-Vickers from his loan at Championship side Stoke City.

The loan stint started off with promise, and CCV played in 10 of 11 games while starting nine of them between Sept. 14 and Nov. 4.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Carter-Vickers made just two appearances, both at right back, since manager Michael O’Neill took over on Nov. 8.

He turns 22 on Tuesday, and would seemingly be a candidate for another loan or a sale. A report earlier this month said Spurs would want $5 million for the American.

Carter-Vickers has four first team appearances for Spurs, but 83 between loan stops at Swansea City, Ipswich Town, Sheffield United, and Stoke.

He has eight USMNT caps, but only an 18-minute cameo under Gregg Berhalter.

Jack Clarke and Kazaiah Sterling were also recalled, and will join CCV at Spurs HQ on Jan. 2.

Toronto FC adds Agudelo in Re-Entry Draft; Cincinnati picks Abdul-Salaam

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Few selections in Major League Soccer’s re-entry draft inspire true intrigue, but Toronto FC’s newest selection warrants a close look after what the Reds did in 2018.

The latest pick-up is Juan Agudelo from New England, and Toronto will be thrilled if he has the same impact as last season’s selection of Nick DeLeon, who scored 10 goals across all competitions in a career year. One of those was an MLS Cup-clinching wonder goal against Atlanta United.

[ MORE: MLS announces conference tweaks ]

The 27-year-old Agudelo is coming off two rough seasons in which he only scored three goals, but scored seven goals in each of his first three MLS seasons since returning from overseas, where he had signed for Stoke City but only appeared for FC Utrecht in the Netherlands having not gained a work permit.

Agudelo brings 28 USMNT caps and three goals to Greg Vanney’s Reds, and is now 27 years old.

The only other selection in Tuesday’s Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft was FC Cincinnati taking Saad Abdul-Salaam from Seattle Sounders, the former Akron man moving closer to where he starred in college.

Longtime Premier League striker Peter Crouch retires

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At 38 years old, Peter Crouch has finally decided to call time on his career, hanging up his boots after a fabulous 19-year career that saw him attain numerous highs. Literally.

Crouch, known for his height and the finishing abilities that came with it, came up through the Tottenham youth system, but never made it initially with the London club, instead making his professional debut in the Championship (then known as the First Division) in 2000 with Queens Park Rangers. He went on to play for Portsmouth before making his Premier League debut with Aston Villa in 2002.

Eventually, the journeyman would play for Norwich City, Southampton, and Liverpool before returning to Tottenham in 2009 to play two full seasons at his boyhood club. At Liverpool, Crouch would reach the Champions League final in 2007, a game where Rafa Benitez decided to leave Crouch on the bench instead of start him despite his contribution of six goals during the European campaign, a decision which Crouch has admitted is still a difficult memory as the Reds fell 2-1 to AC Milan.

After leaving Spurs in 2012, Crouch would spend eight seasons at Stoke City, by far his longest spell at any club. He left Stoke City this past winter after 202 Premier League appearances with the Potters, playing the last half of the season at Burnley before calling time on his career.

All told, Crouch made 467 Premier League appearances across his career, scoring 106 goals and popularizing his robot dance celebration. He would also attain 42 caps for the England national team, scoring 22 goals for the country, including his only World Cup goal in 2006 against Trinidad & Tobago. He also appeared as a substitute in the 2010 World Cup, including a 12-minute substitute appearance against the United States in the opening group stage game. Oddly enough, Crouch never appeared in a Euro match for England, as the country did not qualify for Euro 2008, the only competition that took place during the meat of his international career.

In his retirement announcement, an article with the Daily Mail, Crouch says he had hoped to play until he was 40 but said “circumstances over the last couple of seasons have made me realize that this is the right thing to do.”

Crouch admitted in his announcement he had grown weary of being a late-game bench option. “I will be 39 in January but I am physically fit and could have carried on. What I didn’t want to be was someone who was thrown on to have balls smashed up to them.”

Still, the Spurs youth product says he never could have dreamed where his career would take him.

“Football has opened up avenues that I never thought were possible when I started scoring goals in the Hayes and District league as an Under 10. Football, simply, made my dreams come true. I think back to when I was 17. I was a trainee at Tottenham then but there were 10 forwards in front of me, blocking my route to the first team. They loaned me out to Dulwich Hamlet then I went to IFK Hassleholm in Sweden. Let’s be honest – you would not have taken odds on me making it then. If you had told me at that point I would go on to play for England 42 times and score 22 goals, play for Liverpool in a Champions League and FA Cup final and score the goal that put Tottenham back in the European Cup for the first time in four decades, I would have had you locked up.”

Crouch, known for his beaming smile and happy-go-lucky attitude, has built a strong off-the-field image and seems primed for a strong post-football media career. He has built a brand with his self-titled podcast and regular written appearances in the Daily Mail.

QPR close in on USMNT’s Geoff Cameron

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Geoff Cameron looks set to head back to Queens Park Rangers, but this time permanently.

Cameron, 34, spent last season on loan at QPR from Stoke City and the U.S. men’s national team midfielder was a huge hit at Loftus Road.

He currently has one year left on his contract at Stoke but Pro Soccer Talk understands that QPR are waiting for Cameron’s situation at Stoke to be sorted out before making their move. It is believed Cameron’s future at Stoke will become clearer in the coming 24 hours, as he prefers a permanent move away from the bet365 Stadium rather than another loan deal.

The versatile American didn’t travel with Stoke City’s first team squad on their preseason tour of the Netherlands and is among eight players — Bojan, Gianni Imbula, Kevin Wimmer, Mame Biram Diouf and Moritz Bauer are also among that list — who were not part of Nathan Jones’ plans as he rebuilds the Potters following their relegation from the Premier League during the 2017-18 season.

Cameron ranks sixth all-time in terms of PL appearances for Stoke and played in six-straight seasons in England’s top-flight, as the Potters finished in ninth place three seasons on the trot under Mark Hughes during that stretch.

Following Stoke’s relegation Cameron went on loan to QPR and played 19 times for the west London club but suffered a serious ankle ligament injury in December and he didn’t fully recover until April. Before that injury he was hailed as a key man in QPR’s early-season push for promotion under former boss Steve McLaren, but that push fell apart midway through the season and coincided with Cameron’s injury.

QPR’s new manager, Mark Warburton, has already signed eight new players this summer but he’s spent a grand total of $70,000 with the R’s believed to be in a seriously restricted financial situation following their overspending and relegation from the Premier League in 2015. They are expected to make an outside push for the playoffs in the Championship this season, with a midtable finish more likely.

As for Cameron, the Massachusetts native has been linked with a return to Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy and others but the former Houston Dynamo star has previously revealed his desire to stay in Europe and particularly in England.

A mainstay of the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann, Cameron has made 53 appearances for the U.S. and scored four goals. He was influential in their run to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup and their appearance in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

However, Cameron hasn’t featured for the USMNT since 2017 after criticizing former head coach Bruce Arena and the U.S. Soccer Federation in the wake of their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.