Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hooligan's Wake Up: FIFA expands World Cup to 48 teams

Yesterday's Scores
FA Cup- Third Round
Cambridge United 1-2 Leeds United
(Ikpeazu 25')-(Dallas 56', Mowat 63')

La Liga
Osasuna 3-3 Valencia
(Riera 7', Torres 62', Clerc 90+2')-(El Haddadi 2', Riera OG 45+1', Montoya 73')

European League Tables

The FIFA Council has unanimously voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams. The change will go into effect for the 2026 tournament, which will likely be hosted in North America. The format will feature 16 groups of three teams each with the top two in each group advancing to a 48 team knockout round. Here is my basic breakdown at Last Word on Soccer, but I'll have something a little deeper and more thought provoking later in the day.

Cristiano Ronaldo has another major award to display on his mantle. He won the Best Player award at the first annual Best FIFA Football Awards in Zurich. He won it over Lionel Messi. In other awards, Carli Lloyd won the Best Female Player award and Claudio Ranieri was named the best coach. The Best FIFA Football Awards exist because of FIFA's separation from France Football's Ballon d'Or, which now hands out that award on its own.

The FA Cup Fourth Round draw was held before the start of the Cambridge-Leeds match. The big guys avoided each other once again in this round of 32 teams. Here is the full draw:

Tottenham Hotspur v. Wycombe Wanderers
Derby County v. Leicester City
Oxford United v. Newcastle or Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon or Sutton United v. Cambridge United or Leeds United
Plymouth Argyle or Liverpool v. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Southampton or Norwich City v. Arsenal
Lincoln City or Ipswich Town v. Brighton & Hove Albion
Chelsea v. Brentford
Manchester United v. Wigan Athletic
Millwall v. Watford
Rochdale v. Huddersfield Town
Burnley or Sunderland v. Fleetwood Town or Bristol City
Blackburn Rovers v. Barnsley or Blackpool
Fulham v. Hull City
Middlesbrough v. Accrington Stanley
Crystal Palace or Bolton Wanderers v. Manchester City

There are a couple of Premier League clashes, pending the results of replays. The biggest could be Southampton against Arsenal. There is also a West London derby between Chelsea and Brentford. For the most part, however, there aren't many high profile matches.

With their provisional D II sanctioning in the bag, the USL has finally announced its conference alignment for 2017. Joining their fold will be the expansion Reno 1856 who will join the West, while Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury from the NASL will be in the East. On their way out will be the failed FC Montreal and Wilmington Hammerheads. That sets the league at 30 teams for next year in two 15 team conferences. Here's the full alignment:

Eastern Conference
Bethlehem Steel FC
Charleston Battery
Charlotte Independence
FC Cincinnati
Harrisburg City Islanders
Louisville City FC
New York Red Bulls II
Orlando City B
Ottawa Fury FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Richmond Kickers
Rochester Rhinos
Saint Louis FC
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Toronto FC II

Western Conference
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
LA Galaxy II
OKC Energy FC
Orange County Blues FC
Phoenix Rising FC
Portland Timbers 2
Real Monarchs SLC
Reno 1868 FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
Sacramento Republic FC
San Antonio FC
Seattle Sounders FC 2
Swope Park Rangers
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

The teams will play a 32 team regular season that will feature each team playing a home and away against each other conference team. The other four matches will be played against local rivals. The season begins on March 24.

Yesterday's Transfer News
  • Young Americans dominate the transfer wire today. First off, Emerson Hyndman is headed to Glasgow Rangers on loan from Bournemouth until the end of the season.
  • Second, Gedion Zelalem is close to a move to Borussia Dortmund from Arsenal, where he would join with fellow American teenager Christian Pulisic.
  • Peter Crouch, who has been a mainstay at Stoke City for as long as anyone can remember, has signed an extension that will keep him there until the end of next season.
Today's Matches
EFL Cup- Semifinals First Leg
Manchester United v. Hull City- 3pm- beIN

Copa del Rey- Round of 16 Second Leg
Atletico Madrid v. Las Palmas- 3:15pm

Coppa Italia- Quarterfinals
Napoli v. Spezia- 3pm

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