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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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