Seven Hot Matches
Featuring the U.S.' latest attempt to win a FIFA tournament, and what might be the game of the season in the English Premier League.
Seven Hot Matches
United States Under-17 women vs. France
5:45 a.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Having recently won the FIFA Under-20 women’s World Cup, the U.S. national team program now turns to the FIFA Under-17 women’s tournament. The event is taking place in Azerbaijan, which will mean another round of early wake-up calls for American fans.
Despite the U.S.' historical dominance of women’s soccer, its best ever finish in this tournament was second place at the inaugural edition in 2008. Two years ago, the U.S. did not participate because it failed to qualify in the first place. This year, coach Albertin Montoya will hope that the third time is the charm.
Bayern Munich at Schalke 04
9:30 a.m. Saturday (GolTV)
A pair of Teutonic titans clash with first place in the Bundesliga at stake. Bayern Munich is off to a flying start this season, scoring 12 goals combined in three wins. Seven of those goals have come from players who star for Bayern and Germany’s national team: Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos.
Shutting down that dynamic trio will be a big challenge for Jermaine Jones, the U.S. national team stalwart who anchors Schalke’s midfield.
Paris Saint-Germain at Bastia
11:00 a.m. Saturday (Univision Deportes)
Paris Saint-Germain is finally starting to look like the team that fans expected when it spent over $200 million in transfer fees this summer. Star forward Zlatan Ibrahimović has scored in each of the team’s last three games, and has shown he can mesh well with playmaking midfielder Javier Pastore.
This weekend, those big names will play in one of Ligue 1’s smallest stadiums. Bastia’s Stade Armand-Cesari seats just 16,000 fans, less than one third of the capacity of Paris’ Parc des Princes. That difference won’t be lost on Bastia midfielder Jérôme Rothen, who played for PSG from 2006 to 2009.
Granada at Barcelona
4:30 p.m. Saturday (beIN Sport)
At this point, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi needs no introduction. Indeed, many of his goals leave soccer fans around the world at a loss for words.
That’s not the case for beIN Sport color analyst Ray Hudson, though. The loquacious Englishman has gained cult status for his irreverent and dramatic descriptions of Messi’s brilliance. Even though Granada is one of Spain’s worst teams, the theatrics of Messi and Hudson make this game worth watching.
Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
8:00 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network)
Despite their small market size, Real Salt Lake has been one of Major League Soccer’s elite teams in recent years. They'll get their due this weekend with their only nationally-televised home game of the season.
Despite being well out of the playoff race, Portland has lost just once in its last five games. The Timbers' 2-2 draw with Western Conference-leading San Jose on Wednesday featured two goals from former Union draft pick Danny Mwanga.
It was a rare moment in the spotlight for Mwanga, who has made just five starts in the Timbers’ 17 games since trading for him in June. Most of his time in Portland has been spent on the bench alongside Designated Player Kris Boyd.
Mwanga is guaranteed $356,250 this year; Boyd is guaranteed $1,515,000. Add up those numbers and you get a sum that’s more than 30 times the salary of Bright Dike, who has started six of the Timbers’ last seven games as a lone forward.
Manchester United at Liverpool
8:25 a.m. Sunday (Fox Soccer Channel)
It's always a big deal when English soccer’s most famous rivalry is renewed, but this game’s significance extends well beyond the soccer field.
This is Liverpool’s first home game since the publication of new research into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 fans were killed at a Liverpool-Nottingham Forest FA Cup game played in Sheffield.
For years, Liverpool fans have been blamed by police and the media for causing the crush of people which led to the deaths. But recently-published evidence proved that to be untrue. Ambulance crews could have done more to save lives, and the local police department covered up evidence in order to deflect blame.
Though the lives that were lost can never be replaced, there is finally a sense across Merseyside that justice has been delivered. On Sunday, the fans at Anfield will get the collective emotional release that they have long craved. Whether you're a Liverpool fan or not, the pregame rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" will be appointment television.
Arsenal at Manchester City
10:30 a.m. Sunday (Fox Soccer Channel)
Arsenal fans spent much of the summer grumbling about their team’s lack of spending on new players. But those complaints are a distant memory now. The Gunners have started the season unbeaten through four Premier League games, including three shutouts.
Reigning Premier League champion Manchester City has also started the Premier League season unbeaten, but its Champions League campaign flew off the rails Tuesday. City blew a late 2-1 lead at Real Madrid in a 3-2 loss, giving up goals in the 87th and 90th minutes.
We’ll see on Sunday just how bad the scars were from that defeat.