Christmas and Chanukah are here, and this is what soccer fans around the world may have on their wish list:
For Bob Bradley: Success at Swansea. The former U.S. national coach worked extremely hard to become the first American head coach in the English Premier League. He took on international challenges most American coaches would never dream of — like coaching the Egyptian national team during a time of political unrest. For all that, he deserves to win and save his club from relegation.
For the National Women’s Soccer League: A T.V. contract. Of any kind. Would be nice to be able to watch these talented women play more than once every four years during the World Cup. Maybe they could televise a few games as double-headers with MLS.
For Barcelona fans: A new contract for Argentine superstar Lionel Messi. The five-time Ballon D’Or winner is signed until summer 2018, but would like to renegotiate a deal soon. And if he doesn’t get what he wants, he may go elsewhere. Manchester City is already rumored as one of his possible destinations.
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For Clint Dempsey: A clear bill of health to return to the Seattle Sounders and the U.S. national team after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He had to watch as the Sounders won the MLS Cup, which must have been difficult.
For Bruce Arena: Victories over Honduras and Panama in upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March. Arena, who led the U.S. to two World Cups, was rehired to replace Jurgen Klinsmann after the team suffered a home loss to Mexico and road loss at Costa Rica. The Americans sit in last place in the hexagonal group with an 0-2-0 record, and more disturbing, looked uninspired against Costa Rica. Arena is fired up to get going with his first camp in January.
For Darlington Nagbe: An invitation to Arena’s U.S. January camp. The Portland Timbers midfielder, who is being wooed by Celtic of the Scottish League, is the kind of dynamic player the U.S. national team needs more of.
For Cristiano Ronaldo: Humility. There is no disputing the Real Madrid star deserved to win his fourth Ballon D’Or trophy, given to the world’s most outstanding player. Ronaldo’s team won the Champions League for the second time in three years, and Portugal’s national team was a surprise winner over France in the Euro 2016 final. But it sure would be nice if Ronaldo could have been more humble. A few days before the winner was announced, he dyed part of his hair gold, as a hint that he expected to win.
For Leicester City: A little more pixie dust. A year ago at this time, the charming little club was atop the EPL standings and fans were wondering how long their good fortune could last. Turns out it lasted the entire season, and their improbable run to the Premier League title was one of the greatest sports stories in recent memory. The ultimate David beats Goliath tale. But things aren’t going nearly as well this season. Leicester is three points above the relegation zone, and if things don’t turn around, they could become the first reigning champion to be demoted the following season since Manchester City in 1938.
Finally, for South Florida soccer fans: An ownership group that can keep the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers afloat. Another great season for Miami FC, a club that did far better — on the field and in the stands — than anybody predicted. And, once and for all, a resolution on David Beckham’s seemingly never-ending quest to bring an MLS team here. In February, it will be three years since the British icon showed up in town with his plan. He was met with VIP parties and much fanfare. Fans here are still waiting while new teams are starting up in Atlanta and Minneapolis in 2017, and in Los Angeles in 2018. Will Beckham and his partners close the Miami deal? Or not? We need to know.
EPL: Chelsea (43), Liverpool (37), Manchester City (36), Arsenal (34), Tottenham (33)
La Liga: Real Madrid (37), Barcelona (34), Sevilla (33), Villarreal and Real Sociedad (29)
Ligue 1: Nice (44), Monaco (42), PSG (39), Lyon (34), Guingamp (30)
Serie A: Juventus (42), Roma (38), Napoli (35), Lazio (34), Milan (33)
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (39), Leipzig (36), Hertha (30), Eintracht (29), Hoffenheim (28)