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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Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy are out for the season.Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston starters Cristian Javier and José Urquidy are both scheduled to have right elbow surgery, a big blow to an Astros team trying to rebound after a terrible start to the season.

General manager Dana Brown made the announcement Wednesday, saying Urquidy will have surgery Wednesday while Javier's is set for Thursday.

“Right now, they are both having an elbow surgery,” Brown said. “We’re not sure to the extent of it, but Tommy John is certainly a possibility talking with both of them.”

Both players will miss the entire season and would miss part of next season if Tommy John surgery is needed, with the typical recovery from the ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery taking 12-18 months.

Recovery from internal brace, which uses artificial material to make the repair, has allowed pitchers to return to the majors in as little as nine months.

The Astros already were dealing with injuries to their rotation, with starters Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers not pitching yet this season because of injuries and not expected to return until after the All-Star break.

But Brown said he believes the Astros' rotation, which is led by Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, will be just fine despite the injuries because Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Ronel Blanco have filled in nicely.

“Losing Urquidy and Javier is tough, but thank God, we have the young kids stepping up and they’re starting to throw the ball well,” Brown said. “So I think our rotation's pretty good right now. You never want to lose those type of arms, but there’s no panic because our guys are really throwing well.”

Houston, which has reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last seven seasons, entered Wednesday's games in third place in the AL West with a 28-34 record.

Brown said the injuries won't change how he approaches things leading up to the trade deadline on July 30.

“We’re always in the market for pitching because of reasons like this,” he said. “I’ve been in baseball for 34 years and I know how long and how tough the season is. It’s a grind of 162 and so we’re always in the market of claiming pitchers... and we’re always trying to add to the depth. And so it’s business as usual, we don’t wait until things fall apart before we find answers.”

Urquidy hasn’t pitched this season after straining his right forearm in spring training. He appeared close to coming off the injured list before he left a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Sugar Land with right elbow inflammation on May 24.

The 29-year-old had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and made his big league debut two years later. He was 3-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 10 starts and six relief appearances last season.

In five major league seasons, Urquidy is 27-16 with a 3.98 ERA in 70 starts and nine relief appearances.

Javier was 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA in seven starts for Houston this season. He was placed on the injured list with right forearm discomfort on May 24.

The 27-year-old is 33-18 with a 3.59 ERA in 116 career appearances with 82 starts over five MLB seasons.

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This story has been corrected to show that the elbow surgery Javier and Urquidy are both facing might not be Tommy John surgery.

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