THE SOCCER REPORT

Soccer Recap: Liverpool win FIFA Club World Cup, Dynamo eye Liga MX goalkeeper

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The year may be winding down but the soccer schedule sure isn't. The Premier League will have the spotlight for Boxing Day while a new Liga MX champion will be crowned. Below is a list of upcoming matches plus a review of the past week in the world's most popular sport.

Liverpool FC conquer first Club World Cup title

European Champions Liverpool joined the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup with a 2-1 win in stoppage time over Concacaf Champions Monterrey in the semifinal midweek. They would close out the deal with an extra time 1-0 win over South American Champions Flamengo. Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino was the hero with the late goals in both of the matches.

Monterrey defeated Asian Champions Al-Hilal 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the third place match. Monterrey now returns to Mexico with their sights set on the Liga MX final for the Apertura 2019 season.

Liga MX talent continues immigration to MLS

Lucas Zelarayan was the latest name this week to go from a Liga MX club to Major League Soccer this offseason. The former Tigres UANL midfielder joins Columbus Crew on a reported $8 million transfer fee.

Other Liga MX to MLS moves this offseason:

  • Alan Pulido - CD Guadalajara to Sporting Kansas City (~ $9.5 million)
  • Lucas Cavalini - Puebla to Vancouver Whitecaps FC ($6 million)
Among the transfer season hot stove between the two leagues are the Houston Dynamowho have shown interest in former U.S. Men's National Team goalkeeper William Yarbrough, a two-time Liga MX champion with Club Leon. The move would reunite the Mexican-born goalie with new Dynamo coach Tab Ramos, a former USMNT assistant under Jurgen Klinsmann.

ESPN 97.5 FM host Glenn Davis has confirmed interest in the player by the Houston club, citing transfer fee negotiations as the "final hurdle." The Athletic's Jeff Reuter has added that a loan deal could be a possibility.

European Roundup

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (49), 2. Leicester City (39), 3. Man City (38), 4. Chelsea (32), 5. Sheffield Utd (28), 6. Wolves (27)

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

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 10 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (39), 2. Real Madrid (37), 3. Sevilla (34), 4. Atletico Madrid (32), 5. Real Sociedad (31), 6. Getafe (30)

Bottom three: 18. Celta Vigo (14), 19. Leganes (13), 20. Espanyol (10)

Scoring leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 6 - Four players tied

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. RB Leipzig (37), 2. Monchengladbach (35), 3. Bayern Munich (33), 4. Dortmund (30), 5. Schalke 04 (30), 6. Bayer 04 (28)

Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (15), 17. Werder Bremen (14), 18. Paderborn (12)

Scoring leader: 19 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 11 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Inter Milan (42), 2. Juventus (42), 3. Lazio (36), 4. Roma (35), 5. Atalanta (31), 6. Cagliari (29)

Bottom three: 18. Brescia (14), 19. SPAL (12), 20. Genoa (11)

Scoring leader: 17 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (45), 2. Marseille (38), 3. Rennes (33), 4. Lille (31)

Bottom three: 18. Amiens (17), 19. Nimes (12), 20. Toulouse (12)

Scoring leader: 13 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 7 - Three players tied

TV listings (All Times CT):

Thursday, December 26

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

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

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Leicester vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

7:30 p.m. - [Liga MX Final - 1st leg] Monterrey vs. Club America (FS1, FOX Deportes)

Friday, December 27

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

Saturday, December 28

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

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

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Norwich vs. Tottehnam (NBC)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Burnley vs. Manchester United (NBC)

Saturday, December 29

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Wolves (NBC Sports)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Final - 2nd leg] Club America vs. Monterrey (Univision, TUDN)

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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