América at Tijuana
10:30 p.m. Friday (Azteca America, ESPN Deportes)
U.S. national team veterans Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Hérculez Gómez lead Tijuana against the reigning Mexican champions. As the World Cup grows ever closer, it’s a chance for Tijuana’s big American contingent to make a statement that they want to be on the plane to Brazil.
In Philadelphia, Azteca America is available over the air on Channel 33, and via some cable and satellite systems.
Sunderland at Fulham
10:00 a.m. Saturday (Premier League Extra Time, NBCSports.com)
Both of these teams have U.S. national team stars on their rosters: Jozy Altidore at Sunderland and Clint Dempsey at Fulham. But Altidore doesn’t play much, and Dempsey is on a short-term loan. If they both play, this game will be worth the effort to watch. NBC is betting that it won’t happen, though – and they might be right in the end.
Swansea City at Manchester United
12:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)
Even though he’s only in his first season, United manager David Moyes is feeling the heat. After Swansea knocked Moyes’ team out of the FA Cup last weekend at Old Trafford, Sunderland beat them in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals on Tuesday. Now the Swans and Red Devils meet again. United, led by Wayne Rooney, isn’t out of the race for the Champions League yet. But another loss could leave the team facing a hill that’s too big to climb.
Barcelona at Atlético Madrid
1:55 p.m. Saturday (beIN Sport)
Even though it’s only January, this might be the game of the season in Spain. Atlético hasn’t won a La Liga title since 1996, and they’re tied with Barcelona in first place right now. Led by super-hot striker Diego Costa, Los Colchoneros would take a big step towards ending their drought with a win this weekend. But the Blaugrana have Lionel Messi back at full health, to go with Neymar, Xavi and the rest of their star-studded squad.
Liverpool at Stoke City
11:10 a.m. Sunday (NBCSN, mun2)
U.S. national team and Stoke defender Geoff Cameron faces a huge test. Luis Suárez, the Premier League’s top scorer, leads Liverpool into the Britannia Stadium for a game the Reds have to win to keep up in the title race.
Real Madrid at Espanyol
12:55 p.m. Sunday (beIN Sport)
Real Madrid isn’t used to its neighbors taking the spotlight. But for once, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and company are looking up in the standings at Atlético. They’re in third place, five points behind. This weekend, they go to Barcelona – but not to face the big boys. Espanyol, led by forward Sergio García, are used to being the lesser team in town.
Arsenal at Aston Villa
3:00 p.m. Monday (NBCSN)
In a way, Arsenal can thank Aston Villa for the fact that they’re in first place right now. Villa’s opening-day win at the Emirates Stadium set off alarm bells in the Gunners’ front office, leading to the purchase of superstar midfielder Mesut Özil. With Villa in the relegation zone, this game is yet another must win for Özil and his teammates.
Major League Soccer SuperDraft
12:00 p.m. Thursday (ESPNews, Philly.com)
Okay, so it's not a game per se. But it's still a big deal. All eyes across MLS will be on Philadelphia as the Pennsylvania Convention Center hosts one of American soccer’s signature winter events. The draft will be held in the grand ballroom, and it is free and open to the public. Doors open at 11:00 11:30 a.m.
I offered some thoughts on who the Union might pick in the latest KYW/Philly Soccer Page podcast. Click here to listen to it.