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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 09:01:55 -0400
Burnley-Southampton Preview

Lionel Messi is ready to make his return for Barcelona. The Argentina forward has been out for three weeks with a right groin strain, but Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said Friday that Messi could play against Deportivo La Coruna at Camp Nou on Saturday. ''I never give clues to opposing coaches,'' said Luis Enrique, who will announce his squad on the day of the matc

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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:52:09 -0400
FIFA blocks Europe from hosting 2026 WCup, lifting US hopes

European countries will only be able to bid to host the 2026 World Cup if none of the eligible candidates are good enough, soccer's governing body said on Friday. In a further boost to a possible joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026, FIFA said that co-hosting would be permitted and there would be no restriction on the number of countries in a given bid. The FIFA Council agreed to the "general principle that member associations from confederations of the last two hosts of the FIFA World Cup will be ineligible to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup," FIFA said As Russia and Qatar will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, the decision means that neither European nor Asian countries will be eligible to stage the tournament in 202

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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 07:39:35 -0400
Bayern have learned from mistakes, says Ancelotti

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Germany will kick off the 2017 international soccer season with a friendly against England in Marc

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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 06:52:48 -0400
Soccer-Liverpool - Klopp, Spurs Son win monthly Premier League awards

(Reuters) - Liverpool's Juergen Klopp has been named Premier League manager of the month after leading the club to three consecutive wins in September, the first time the German has won the award. Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min won the player of the month prize for the first time after an impressive run of form. "I went into the office of my coaches and said, 'We are manager of the month!' I don't need personal prizes but it's nice now I have another one," Klopp sai

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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 06:31:10 -0400
Soccer-Hull under no illusions, survival is priority - Phelan

(Reuters) - Hull City cannot afford to rest on their laurels if they are to retain their place in the Premier League for next season, manager Mike Phelan has said. Hull, promoted at the end of last season, made a bright start to the campaign with wins over champions Leicester City and Swansea City, but they have picked up only one point from their last five league games. Phelan was put in temporary charge of the team after Steve Bruce left in July and he was handed the role on a permanent basis this wee

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Fri, 14 Oct 2016 06:20:45 -0400
Soccer-Liverpool - Mignolet keen to return for Man United clash

(Reuters) - Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is itching to return to the team for the Premier League match against arch-rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Monday. Manager Juergen Klopp has preferred Loris Karius for the last three games, but erratic performances from the 23-year-old German have prompted calls for Mignolet to be restored to the starting line-u

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 23:02:49 -0400
Soccer-US championship results and standings

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) -- Kevin Doyle scored two goals and the Colorado Rapids beat San Jose 2-1 on Thursday night to take the MLS overall lead and eliminate the Earthquakes from playoff contentio

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 22:28:49 -0400
Soccer-US championship results and standings

Steven Gerrard will miss the LA Galaxy's next match after traveling home to Liverpool for treatment on his frequently injured hamstring. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena confirmed Thursday that Gerrard won't play Sunday at Houston. Gerrard missed four weeks with his persistent hamstring injury before playing as a substitute in the Galaxy's last two matche

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:41:26 -0400
Soccer-Neymar vows to continue showboating despite criticism

By Brian Homewood ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday that proposals for a 32, 40 or 48-team World Cup in 2026 were still on the table and that a larger tournament would not mean a drop in quality. A document presented to the FIFA Council, and seen by Reuters, offered 10 different possible formats, for varying numbers of teams. "There is a positive feeling around the council but the details are still to be elaborated, whether it's 40 teams, eight groups of five or 10 groups of four, or 48 teams with a playoff at the start," Infantino told reporter

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:16:03 -0400
Soccer-Phelan appointed permanent Hull City manager

(Reuters) - Manager Ronald Koeman has praised Pep Guardiola's impact at Premier League leaders Manchester City, but says his Everton team can exploit the Spaniard's "risky" playing style when they travel to the Etihad stadium on Saturday. City dropped their first points this season when they were beaten away at Tottenham Hotspur in their last match, and Koeman is confident Everton can use the space left by Guardiola's high-press tactics to their advantage. "I see a lot in the teams managed by Pep... Dutch football," Koeman told reporters on Thursda

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:12:06 -0400
Soccer-Confident Koeman says Everton can prevail over risky City

FIFA wants to decide in January if the 2026 World Cup will expand from its 32-team format, with 40 or 48 teams the favored options. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Thursday he expects a decision when the ruling council meets for the first time next year. ''The general feeling is rather positive,'' toward expansion, Infantino said at a briefing after FIFA's ruling council me

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:43:38 -0400
Soccer-Chelsea agree long-term kit deal with Nike

Chelsea announced on Thursday a long-term partnership with Nike from next year in a deal that media reports suggested could be worth 60 million pounds ($74.61 million) a season. Without giving financial details, Chelsea said it represented the largest commercial deal in the Premier League club's history. "Nike will produce strips for the first team, academy and ladies teams, as well as a full range of clothing for Chelsea’s millions of supporters around the world," the club said in a statemen

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 09:20:30 -0400
Lahm wants Bayern to rediscover aggressive edge

Ask people to describe Swansea's style of play and most would detail the free-flowing, possession-based approach that has been the hallmark of teams under managers such as Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup over the last decade. Some have even dubbed them ''Swanselona'' over the years, a reference to Swansea's passable imitation of Barcelona's preferred style. Bob Bradley has to decide if it's time for a chang

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 09:08:40 -0400
Soccer-Lahm wants Bayern to rediscover aggressive edge

Champions Bayern Munich need to find their edge again if they are to challenge for trophies this season, captain Philipp Lahm said as they prepare to face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday in the Bundesliga after the break for international matches. Bayern dropped their first points of the season in their previous match, a draw against Cologne, following five straight wins. "What is clear is that we need to improve if we are to challenge for all titles," Lahm sai

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 07:45:20 -0400
Soccer-Liverpool, Man United warn fans ahead of league clash

(Reuters) - Liverpool and Manchester United have warned fans that they will be removed from Anfield and could face criminal charges if found engaging in "offensive or discriminatory behavior" in Monday's Premier League clash. The English clubs were fined by UEFA earlier this year over a variety of charges, including illicit chanting, during their Europa League last-16 tie in March. "There is great rivalry between our fans and we ask all supporters to be respectful and help eradicate all forms of offensive and discriminatory behavior from the game," the clubs said in a joint statemen

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 06:19:45 -0400
Soccer-Bigger World Cup is "complete insanity", says Dortmund CEO

By Karolos Grohmann BERLIN (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino's proposal for a bigger World Cup is complete insanity, putting more pressure on already stretched players and risking damage to the sport's showcase event, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Reuters on Thursday FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed this month increasing the World Cup to 48 teams up from the current 32. A decision will be taken in January, but FIFA is discussing it this wee

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 06:19:45 -0400
Soccer-Bigger World Cup is "complete insanity", says Dortmund CEO

By Karolos Grohmann BERLIN (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino's proposal for a bigger World Cup is complete insanity, putting more pressure on already stretched players and risking damage to the sport's showcase event, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Reuters on Thursday FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed this month increasing the World Cup to 48 teams up from the current 32. A decision will be taken in January, but FIFA is discussing it this wee

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 00:33:43 -0400
Soccer-US championship results and standings

Most nights, Stefan Frei would be thrilled with a shutout on the scoresheet and a point in the standings. On Wednesday, the Seattle keeper and the rest of the Sounders clearly were hoping for more. Frei made five saves, deflecting one shot off the right post, and the Sounders played to a 0-0 tie with the Houston Dynam

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Thu, 13 Oct 2016 00:33:43 -0400
Soccer-US championship results and standings

Stefan Frei made five saves, deflecting one shot off the right post, and the Seattle Sounders played to a 0-0 tie with the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night. The draw moved the Sounders (13-13-6, 45 points) closer to securing a spot in the MLS playoffs. Houston nearly got on the board in the 30th minute on a shot by Will Bruin from the top of the penalty are

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 14:11:23 -0400
Aston Villa hires Bruce in bid to return to Premier League

Talk about a crooked team: A club in soccer-mad Argentina has been playing nearly 30 years on a crooked field. Liniers club in the country's fifth-division has called the field home since 1987. Liniers President Marcelo Gomez says that officials realized that the field was crooked after they saw aerial images on Google Map

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:49:34 -0400
Soccer-Bruce replaces Di Matteo as Villa manager

Second-tier club Aston Villa has hired Steve Bruce as its fourth manager in the past year, turning to a coach with proven ability to get team promoted back to the Premier League. Villa, the European champion in 1982, is languishing in 19th place in the 24-team League Championship as it struggles to adapt to life out of the Premier League following relegation last season. Villa announced the arrival of the 55-year-old Bruce on Wednesday, without disclosing the length of his dea

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 12:02:20 -0400
Reuters Sports Schedule at 1600 GMT on Wednesday, Oct 12

Former England coach Steve McClaren is back as manager of Derby County, 17 months after being fired by the club for failing to secure a return to the English Premier League. After leaving Derby, McClaren was hired by Premier League club Newcastle but lasted just nine months before being sacked. McClaren, who coached England from 2006-07, took charge of Derby for the first time in September 2013 and led the team to the League Championship playoff final that season, where it lost to Queens Park Ranger

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 09:05:49 -0400
-Soccer-Five memorable Liverpool v Manchester United clashes

MADRID (AP) -- Real Madrid says it has extended the contract of Germany midfielder Toni Kroos until June 202

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 05:56:00 -0400
Soccer-Romania players complain of burglary in Kazakhstan

So, it turns out dropping Wayne Rooney isn't the simple cure to England's problems. ''We have taken over a mess, really,'' interim manager Gareth Southgate said after seeing his team stutter to a scarcely deserved 0-0 draw at Slovenia in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday. Southgate has been in charge for two weeks after coming in as an emergency replacement for Sam Allardyce and clearly understands the challenge facing him and the national team, which possibly reached an all-time low in losing to Iceland in the last 16 of the European Championship in Jun

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 23:36:24 -0400
Soccer-Brazil beat Venezuela to go top of South American group

Green scored his second goal in two matches, before Monty Patterson's equalizer forced the U.S. to settle for a 1-1 draw in an exhibition against New Zealand on Tuesday night. Lynden Gooch also impressed Klinsmann in his U.S. debut as a second-half substitut

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 22:46:02 -0400
Soccer-Green scores again for U.S. in 1-1 draw with New Zealand

(Reuters) - Bayern Munich's Julian Green scored with a long-range shot for a largely second-string United States side in their 1-1 draw with New Zealand on Tuesday, the last friendly for Jurgen Klinsmann's team before they start the final phase of World Cup qualifying. Teenager Monty Patterson equalized for the visitors in the second half at RFK Stadium in Washington. Klinsmann's team had beaten Cuba 2-0 in a friendly four days ago in Havana, with Green scoring one of the goal

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 22:26:42 -0400
Green scores again, US settles for 1-1 draw vs New Zealand

Liverpool will be looking to end a dismal Premier League run against Manchester United and build on a promising start to the campaign with victory over their bitter north west rivals on Monday. Resurgent Liverpool are three points ahead of United in the table as Jose Mourinho's rebuilding programme stutters, but their current run of four successive league defeats to the Old Trafford club is their worst against them for eight years. Liverpool, who knocked United out of the Europa League last season, have not beaten them in domestic competition since March 2014, but they meet for the first time in this campaign with Juergen Klopp's men in supreme for

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 22:00:01 -0400
Soccer-Liverpool bid to end woeful league run against United

Argentina, lacking the inspiration of injured captain Lionel Messi, suffered a humiliating setback in their World Cup qualifying campaign when they lost 1-0 at home to Paraguay on Tuesday. Paraguay stunned the twice world champions with a fast break from deep in their own half, Angel Romero playing the ball into the path of Derlis Gonzalez who beat Sergio Romero with a shot inside the near post in the 18th minute. The defeat left Argentina in fifth place in the South American group with 16 points, one point ahead of Paraguay and four behind leaders Uruguay, who could be overtaken by Brazil if they win in Venezuela late

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 18:41:22 -0400
Germany wins again, England stumbles in World Cup qualifying

Two quick-fire goals earned Germany a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland to put the defending champions in control of World Cup qualifying Group C on Tuesday. Early goals from Julian Draxler and then Sami Khedira maintained Germany's perfect start after three games with no goals conceded and moved it two points clear of Azerbaijan, which settled for a scoreless draw against the Czech Republic in Ostrava. ''We completed the job,'' said Joachim Loew, who equaled Sepp Herberger's record of 94 wins as Germany coac

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 17:39:34 -0400
Soccer-Inspired Hart earns sloppy England a point in Slovenia

England required a series of brilliant saves from Joe Hart to salvage a 0-0 draw at Slovenia in World Cup qualifying, with the dropping of captain Wayne Rooney failing to have the desired effect on Tuesday. The goalkeeper tipped Jasmin Kurtic's header onto the bar off a corner early in the second half with the best of his saves, and rushed from his line to keep out two one-on-one chances after sloppy England back-passes were intercepted. England's 100 percent start to Group F, after wins over Slovakia and Malta, ended on a night that saw Rooney begin on the bench in a big call from interim manager Gareth Southgat

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 17:16:10 -0400
Germany beats Northern Ireland 2-0 in World Cup qualifying

Robert Lewandowski proved once again to be Poland's lethal weapon on Tuesday, scoring deep in stoppage time to earn his team a 2-1 victory over 10-man Armenia in their World Cup qualifier. The Poland captain struck in the 95th minute at the National Stadium in Warsaw, scoring for the eighth consecutive qualifier and just three days after his hat trick secured a 3-2 win over Denmark. Armenia's Gael Andonian was sent off in the 30th minute after he received two yellow cards in two minutes, but the hosts struggled to use the numerical advantage until Lewandowski's goa

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 12:04:46 -0400
China coach resigns after 2018 World Cup setback

Global soccer governing body FIFA has appointed Sarai Bareman as its first ever Chief Women's Football Officer, the association announced on Tuesday. The New Zealand native will lead the newly created Women's Football Division as part of FIFA's management board, Zurich-based FIFA said. "As the only female member of FIFA's 2016 Reform Committee, Sarai was a strong advocate for change within the organization, in particular calling for concrete requirements on women in leadership positions at FIFA," FIFA said in a statemen

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:04:47 -0400
Japan holds Australia to 1-1 draw in World Cup qualifying

Taking their cue from interim manager Gareth Southgate's decision to drop Rooney from England's starting XI for its 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Slovenia on Tuesday, some observers are now prematurely digging the 30-year-old's footballing grave, predicting that his time is running out. It doesn't take a genius to argue that age, the wear-and-tear of nearly 700 appearances for clubs and country and the displacement of older players by younger ones will, in the not unforeseeable future, combine to permanently sideline Rooney. It has for several seasons been clear to all, including Rooney, that he no longer has the scything speed that made him such a bulldog forward in his younger days and that he is increasingly struggling with football's ever-quicker tempo, notably in England's Premier Leagu

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 07:19:51 -0400
Infantino - grand World Cup plan under scrutiny

A second-half penalty from Mile Jedinak gave Australia a 1-1 draw against Japan in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday. Genki Haraguchi had put Japan ahead in the sixth minute after a mistake from the Australian backline, but the Hertha Berlin forward gave away a penalty early in the second half with a push on Tomi Juric. Jedinak, who plays for Aston Villa, then scored from the spo

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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 07:15:40 -0400
Soccer-Infantino - grand World Cup plan under scrutiny

By Brian Homewood ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA president Gianni Infantino's controversial proposal for a 48-team tournament will come under the microscope when the decision makers at soccer’s governing body discuss the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup this week. The FIFA Council, which meets on Thursday and Friday in Zurich, still has to decide on basic questions such as the size of the tournament and which continents are eligible. A decision was due this week under the timeline drawn up in May but Infantino has now said that discussions will continue until Januar

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 21:50:53 -0400
Argentina look to improve in third qualifier without Messi

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Forward Yura Movsisyan has been permanently acquired by Real Salt Lake from FC Spartak Moscow, general manager Craig Waibel said Monda

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 21:32:37 -0400
Soccer-Argentina look to improve in third qualifier without Messi

(Reuters) - An injury to talisman Lionel Messi and suspensions of his defenders have created some serious thinking about Argentina's lineup for coach Edgardo Bauza ahead of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier at home to Paraguay in Cordoba. Messi, who missed the 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru with a groin injury that had his side drop from top of the South American qualifying group to fifth, looks set to return for his club Barcelona at the weekend. Bauza is holding his breath the five time Ballon d'Or winner stays healthy in the next month before they have to travel to Belo Horizonte to face arch-rivals Brazil on Nov. 1

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 18:26:38 -0400
Soccer-Captain Rooney dropped for England trip to Slovenia

Jurgen Klinsmann rejects Bob Bradley's claims the former German star angled in 2010 to succeed him as U.S. coach. Bradley was fired soon after a 4-2 loss to Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final and replaced by Klinsmann, a former German national team star player and coach. Bradley made the claim Friday when he was introduced as Swansea, the first American head coach in England's Premier Leagu

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 18:03:08 -0400
Belgium leads Group H with fastest World Cup goal: 7 seconds

The fastest goal in World Cup history capped a night of 6-0 routs and the Netherlands' further fall in European qualifying on Monday. Seven seconds ticked by when Belgium forward Christian Benteke's shot finished his surging run through the Gibraltar defense which kicked off but coughed up the ball. Benteke beat the 8.3 seconds that FIFA timed Davide Gaultieri taking to score for San Marino against England in 1993 and set the tone for the visiting Belgians' 6-0 wi

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:19:57 -0400
Belgium leads Group H with fastest World Cup goal: 7 seconds

France lived up to its billing as favorite in World Cup qualifying Group A by beating the Netherlands 1-0 Monday, thanks to a long-range strike by midfielder Paul Pogba and a late save by Hugo Lloris. Sweden, meanwhile, continued to show it can play without retired superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, going level on points at the top of the group by registering its second victory in qualifying for the 2018 tournament in Russia, beating Bulgaria 3-0. European Championship runner-up France looked dangerous throughout the match at the Amsterdam Arena, with Pogba bossing the midfield and the searing pace of right back Djibril Sidibe and powerful runs of Moussa Sissoko and Kevin Gameiro proving a menac

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:04:47 -0400
Soccer-Silva hat-trick for Portugal brings Faroes down to earth

Cristiano Ronaldo may have finally have found a worthy goalscoring partner in Portugal's 6-0 rout the Faeroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Monday. Andre Silva, the 20-year-old Porto prospect, scored a first-half hat-trick before Ronaldo added a fourth midway through the second half in a comfortable visit to the North Atlantic for the European champion. In stoppage time, goals from Joao Moutinho and Joao Cancelo completed Portugal's second six-goal shutout in four day

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:41:20 -0400
Soccer-Captain Rooney dropped for England trip to Slovenia

England captain Wayne Rooney has been dropped from the starting lineup for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. The 30-year-old Rooney was deployed in midfield in Saturday's win against Malta, when he was booed by sections of the Wembley Stadium crowd. England's all-time top scorer and most-capped outfield player will be among the substitutes for Tuesday's Group F qualifier in Ljubljan

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:41:20 -0400
Soccer-Captain Rooney dropped for England trip to Slovenia

England captain Wayne Rooney has been dropped from the starting lineup for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. The 30-year-old Rooney was deployed in midfield in Saturday's win against Malta, when he was booed by sections of the Wembley Stadium crowd. England's all-time top scorer and most-capped outfield player will be among the substitutes for Tuesday's Group F qualifier in Ljubljan

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 11:49:39 -0400
Napoli eyes January return for injured Poland forward Milik

Sergio Ramos is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks because of a knee injury sustained while playing for Spain's national team. Real Madrid said test results Monday showed the defender sprained a left knee ligament. It's unclear whether he will be fit for the league derby at Atletico Madrid on Nov. 2

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Mon, 10 Oct 2016 11:23:47 -0400
Soccer-Germany - fast start a reaction to Euro 2016 loss - Hummels

NAPLES, Italy (AP) -- Napoli hopes to have Arkadiusz Milik back in training in January after the in-form Poland forward was injured on World Cup dut

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Sun, 09 Oct 2016 21:06:08 -0400
Western NY Flash beat Spirit on penalties for the NWSL title

China's lengthy exile from the top table of international soccer looks set to continue for at least another six years unless Gao Hongbo can deliver a major turnaround in fortunes after a miserable start to the final round of World Cup qualifying. While moves inspired by President Xi Jinping to turn the country into a dominant player in the sports marketing sector continue apace, and the cash-rich club scene flourishes, there has been no upturn for the national team. Xi's "three wishes" for Chinese soccer are that the country qualifies for another World Cup after their first and only appearance in 2002, host a World Cup and eventually win on

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Sun, 09 Oct 2016 19:46:24 -0400
Soccer-Pique to quit Spain team after latest controversy

Influential Spain defender Gerard Pique has said he will retire from international soccer after the 2018 World Cup, because he is "tired" of the criticism leveled at him from supporters. The Barcelona center-back was the focus of attention in Sunday's World Cup qualifier with Albania after having cut off the sleeves from his shirt which bore Spain's colors of yellow and red. Pique, who has an awkward relationship with Spain fans for his repeated jibes at Real Madrid and his support for a referendum on Catalan independence, was heavily criticized on social media and in the sports press for the ac

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Sun, 09 Oct 2016 18:57:03 -0400
Soccer-Ecuador championship 2nd round results and standings

Gerard Pique says the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be his final tournament with Spain because he feels he is not wanted in the national team. The Barcelona defender made the announcement after Spain's 2-0 win at Albania on Sunday in European qualifying for the World Cu

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Sun, 09 Oct 2016 18:03:04 -0400
Soccer-Venezuelan championship results and standings

Iceland is showing that its run to the European Championship quarterfinals was no fluke. The small nation keeps surprising and Turkey was the latest victim at the Laugardalsvollur stadium in Reykjavik, beaten 2-0 thanks to two goals shortly before halftime Sunday in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The first was an own-goal from center back Omer Toprak before Iceland forward Alfred Finnbogason scored with a volley 90 seconds later, hitting the back of the net for his third international game in successio

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Sun, 09 Oct 2016 17:51:52 -0400
Ukraine beats nomadic Kosovo 3-0 to end winless run

Spain's Diego Costa and Nolito scored second-half goals to seal a battling 2-0 win away to Albania on Sunday that moved them top of World Cup qualifying Group G on goal difference. Costa took advantage of a horrendous error by goalkeeper Etrit Berisha in the 56th minute to break the deadlock in a tight game on a rainswept night in Shkoder before substitute Nolito finished off a slick team move in the 63rd. With full backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto injured, Spain coach Julen Lopetegui included Arsenal's Nacho Monreal to form an unusual back three with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqu

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