THE SOCCER REPORT

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

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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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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