THE SOCCER REPORT

Soccer Recap: Champions League draw reveals Round of 16; MLS adds 30th team

Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus got a favorable encounter in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Photo: adidas

The week in soccer has left plenty to talk about in domestic and international news. Wednesday will feature some important matches as Mexico's Monterrey faces England's Liverpool in the FIFA Club World Cup and FC Barcelona host Real Madrid in the most notorious rivalry in the sport, "El Clasico."

Major League Soccer announces Charlotte as 30th franchise

Expansion is a recurring topic these days in MLS as more and more teams sign up to join the league. This time it's Dave Tepper, owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, who has ponied up a record $325 million expansion fee to join the largest first division league in the world (in terms of teams).

For the upcoming 2020 year, 26 teams will play in MLS - the league's 25th season. The league only had 12 teams total in 2006 when the Houston Dynamo debuted as the latest "expansion" side after relocating from San Jose. Twenty teams have joined the league since 2005.

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 pits Real Madrid vs. Man City

The Round of 16 matchups for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage are set. The glaring series is between Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. Both sides are contenders every year because of the unlimited cash behind their squads but the storyline is the bout between Madrid and the former Barcelona manager. It will also be the first time Zidane and Guardiola meet as managers, both icons of their respective Spanish clubs.

Atletico Madrid versus defending champions Liverpool and Chelsea versus Bayern are also enticing matchups. Defensive Atleti will have a tall task against the heavy metal offense of Liverpool, who will return to Atleti's Wanda Metropolitano stadium - the site of the 2019 UCL final where Liverpool lifted their 6th title. Chelsea and Bayern will have a similar feel as Frank Lampard returns to the site of Chelsea's 2012 Champions League triumph.

Juventus, Tottenham and Barcelona look to be winners of the draw with favorable matchups in the Round of 16. The knockout stage begins in February.

UEFA Europa League Round of 32 announced

The draw for the Europa League was also held on Monday in Switzerland. England's Manchester United and Arsenal plus Italy's Inter Milan are among the favorites to win it all and grab the coveted Champions League entry for the 2020-21 edition.

U.S. Soccer Players of the Year named

No surprise, Pulisic was named the best male player for U.S. Soccer.

Julie Ertz was named U.S. Soccer Women's Player of the Year given after her performance in last summer's FIFA Women's World Cup. Megan Rapinoe was named Sports Illustrated's 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. The entire U.S. Women's National Team was named TIME Magazine's Athlete of the Year.

FIFA Club World Cup

The end of the year tournament to determine the Club World Champion is underway in Qatar. Flamengo defeated Al-Hilal on Tuesday in the semifinals. The Copa Libertadores champions now await the winner of Wednesday's bout between European Champions Liverpool and Concacaf Champions Monterrey.

European Roundup

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (49), 2. Leicester City (39), 3. Man City (35), 4. Chelsea (29), 5. Tottenham (26), 6. Man Utd (25)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. Southampton (15), 19. Norwich City (12), 20. Watford (9)

Scoring leader: 16 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 9 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (35), 2. Real Madrid (35), 3. Sevilla (31), 4. Getafe (30), 5. Atletico Madrid (29), 6. Real Sociedad (28)

Bottom three: 18. Celta Vigo (14), 19. Leganes (10), 20. Espanyol (10)

Scoring leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) / Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Assists leader: 6 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) / Rodrigo (Valencia)

German Bundesliga

Updated after Tuesday, Dec. 17 results

Top six: 1. RB Leipzig (34), 2. Monchengladbach (31), 3. Dortmund (30), 4. Schalke 04 (28), 5. Bayern Munich (27), 6. Freiburg (25)

Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (12), 17. Cologne (11), 18. Paderborn (9)

Scoring leader: 18 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) / Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)

Assists leader: 10 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Updated after Tuesday, Dec. 17 results

Top six: 1. Inter Milan (39), 2. Juventus (39), 3. Lazio (36), 4. Roma (32), 5. Cagliari (29), 6. Atalanta (28)

Bottom three: 18. Brescia (13), 19. Genoa (11), 20. SPAL (7)

Scoring leader: 17 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)


French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (42), 2. Marseille (35), 3. Lille (31), 4. Rennes (30)

Bottom three: 18. Metz (16), 19. Nimes (12), 20. Toulouse (12)

Scoring leader: 11 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 7 - Islam Slimani (Monaco) / Yoann Court (Brest)

TV listings (All Times CT):

Wednesday, December 18

11:30 a.m. - [FIFA Club World Cup] Liverpool FC vs. CF Monterrey (FS2, FOX Deportes)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin (FOX Soccer Plus, TUDN)

11:30 a.m. - [Dutch Cup] Telstar vs. Ajax (GolTV)

11:55 a.m. - [Serie A] Sampdoria vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

1:00 p.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Everton vs. Leicester City (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Oxford vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [English League Cup] Manchester United vs. Colchester (ESPN+)

Friday, December 20

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Dortmund (FS2, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Eibar vs. Granada (beIN SPORTS en Español)

Saturday, December 21

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [FIFA Club World Cup Third Place] Liverpool/Monterrey vs. Al Hilal (FS2, FOX Deportes)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. VfL Wolfsburg (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Augsburg (TUDN)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Norwich vs. Wolves (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Barcelona vs. Alaves (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Leicester City (NBC)

1:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Osasuna (beIN SPORTS)

Sunday, December 22

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Watford vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [FIFA Club World Cup Final] Liverpool/Monterrey winner vs. Flamengo (FS2, FOX Deportes)

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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