THE SOCCER REPORT

Soccer Recap: Messi, Rapinoe named Ballon d'Or winners, Liga MX playoffs down to four

Lionel Messi is the only player to win six Ballon d'Or trophies. Credit: Getty Images

Messi wins record 6th Ballon d'Or, Rapinoe wins first

Lionel Messi is back on top of the men's soccer pyramid as the "best in the world" after winning the famed Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) award for the first time since 2015 - breaking a tie with Cristiano Ronaldo for most all-time with six. Ronaldo finished third in the 2019 voting with Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk finishing second.

In the women's category, USA forward Megan Rapinoe was named the winner ahead of England's Lucy Bronze and fellow USA teammate Alex Morgan. It is only the second year that a Women's Ballon d'Or is awarded.

The Ballon d'Or has been awarded since 1956 by France Football magazine and is considered the standard for recognizing the world's best player, even over FIFA's annual Player of the Year award.

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (40), 2. Leicester City (32), 3. Man City (29), 4. Chelsea (26), 5. Tottenham (20), 6. Wolves (20)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. Southampton (12), 19. Norwich City (11), 20. Watford (8)

Scoring leader: 13 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

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

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (31), 2. Real Madrid (31), 3. Sevilla (30), 4. Real Sociedad (26), 5. Athletic Bilbao (26), 6. Atletico Madrid (25)

Bottom three: 18. Celta Vigo (13), 19. Espanyol (9), 20. Leganes (6)

Scoring leader: 10 - Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Assists leader: 5 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Monchengladbach (28), 2. RB Leipzig (27), 3. Schalke 04 (25), 4. Bayern Munich (24), 5. Dortmund (23), 6. Freiburg (22)

Bottom three: 16. Hertha Berlin (11), 17. Cologne (8), 18. Paderborn (5)

Scoring leader: 16 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 8 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Inter Milan (37), 2. Juventus (36), 3. Lazio (30), 4. Cagliari (28), 5. Roma (28), 6. Atalanta (25)

Bottom three: 18. Genoa (10), 19. SPAL (9), 20. Brescia (7)

Scoring leader: 17 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 9 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (33), 2. Marseille (28), 3. Angers (24), 4. Bordeaux (23)

Bottom three: 18. Dijon (15), 19. Nimes (12), 20. Tolouse (12)

Scoring leader: 10 - Moussa Dembele (Lyon)

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

Liga MX Playoffs

The playoffs stage in Mexican football kicked off with the quarter-finals, a round in which all top four seeds feel over the two-leg series.

Quarterfinal results:

  • Club Leon 4-5 agg. Monarcas Morelia
  • Queretaro 2-6 agg. Necaxa
  • Santos Laguna 3-6 agg. Monterrey
  • Club America 2-4 agg. Tigres UANL

Liga MX Femenil Playoffs

The final of the female Liga MX division kicked off it's two leg series with a 1-1 draw between Monterrey rivals Tigres UANL and Rayadas in front of a league-record 41,615 attendance. The return leg is scheduled for Saturday, December 7 at Estadio BBVA.

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10th-ranked UH looks poised for a great season

Here's why UH could make a deep tournament run

The Coogs are off to a hot start. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Through eleven COVID stricken weeks, the University of Houston football team has mustered three wins.

The UH men's basketball season began on November 25th. It took them five days to catch up.

The Cougars came into last week ranked 17th in the nation in the AP preseason poll, the highest they've begun a season in 37 years. They took little time to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the nation.

UH shot out of the gate last week to a 3-0 start, including a double-digit win over 14th ranked Texas Tech. That, combined with a myriad of week one upsets, sent the Cougars soaring even further up the rankings.

By Monday afternoon, Houston was already one of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation.

Now it's important to note that it's incredibly early in the season, and there is plenty of time for something to go haywire. With TDECU stadium right across the street, they've had a front row seat to see just how sideways COVID can flip a season. The football team may only have 3 wins, but that's partly because they've had to postpone 5 games.

Regardless, they remain 10th in the nation at the moment, and it's no fluke. This is a solid team that has shown glimpses for the past three years.

Led offensively by sophomore guard Marcus Sasser (17.3 ppg) and Kansas transfer guard Quentin Grimes (16.0 ppg), the Cougars field a deep backcourt that has received welcome early contributions from freshman Tramon Mark (14.0 ppg) who's already earned an average of 19 minutes per game.

Speaking of minutes, UH brings one of the most important skills to the court this season: experience. In the era of one-and-done turnover among NCAA programs, the Cougars bring back four players that averaged over 20 minutes per game last season. That type of experience playing with one another and understanding the system head coach Kelvin Sampson plays could prove invaluable come tournament time.

What truly gives this team a shot though is their defense and hustle, both of which are a direct result of Sampson. They're simply relentless on defense. After finishing 11th in the nation last season only allowing 62.1 ppg, they've shown no signs of letting up. Through their first three games they've given up an average of 52 ppg. Even with double-digit leads, this is still a team diving for loose balls and mixing it up for offensive rebounds.

All of those ingredients make for a very salty, and very entertaining college basketball team. The Cougars have proved in the past three seasons that they're legitimately tournament worthy, and as the preseason American Conference champion favorite, this is a team that could—and should—have their eyes set even higher than their sweet sixteen appearance in 2019. Nothing is certain in the COVID era, however, but if they can make it through the season relatively unscathed they should be a tough out in during March Madness.

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