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Around the Leagues: USL Preseason in Full Swing

By William Strome, 03/30/21, 5:00PM PDT


While World Cup Qualifiers are being played around the globe, Championship clubs are ready to ramp up the friendly fixtures

The boys in Old Glory Red have a handful of preseason matches lined up before the season begins with the first being an exhibition match in Utah against MLS-side Real Salt Lake this past Saturday. 

Republic FC fell 2-0 to a strong RSL squad in the first scrimmage before playing a second 40-minute scrimmage that included a group of Real Monarchs and RSL Academy players. 

Next up for the Indomitable Club is a trip to San Jose this Friday for a tough test against the Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. 

USL Championship Preseason

But Sacramento isn’t the only USL side that has a friendly fixture under its belt in 2021. 

Phoenix Rising FC - the 2020 Western Conference champs - have tested themselves against a few MLS clubs but the southwestern powerhouse was recently was downed 2-1 by League One-side Union Omaha. 

Louisville City FC is the first Championship club this preseason to triumph over an MLS opponent when LouCity cruised by FC Cincinnati, 3-0, to open its preseason campaign. Louisville followed up its victory with a 4-0 defeat to another MLS-side, Nashville SC, before being handed a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Houston Dynamo FC. 

A pair of Floridian clubs managed to earn a victory over topflight competition when Tampa Bay Rowdies beat Inter Miami FC, 1-0, and The Miami FC handed New York Red Bulls a 2-0 defeat in Bradenton, FL. 

Over the weekend, Birmingham Legion FC put in a fine showing against Atlanta United FC before the MLS-side escaped with a 1-0 win. San Antonio FC held FC Dallas to a 0-0 score line on Saturday while New Mexico United lost 1-0 on the road against Colorado Rapids. 

A few midweek friendlies are scheduled for this week including Inter Miami CF against Charleston Battery in Bradenton, Houston Dynamo FC hosting Austin Bold FC and Vancouver Whitecaps paying a visit to Real Monarchs on April 1. 

2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup

The Open Cup will have a tremendously different look and feel to it this year – after the competition was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic – with just 16 clubs competing in the knockout tournament in 2021. 

The pandemic has limited the number of participants this season and only last season’s Championship Playoff Semifinalists will be entered into the Cup while just one League One side – the 2020 champs Greenville Triumph SC – will try to make a run at snagging some silverware. 

Of the 16 teams, just four USL Championship clubs will participate in the competition – El Paso Locomotive FC, Louisville City FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising FC. 

As for MLS clubs, those with the highest number of points per game during the 2021 regular season through the first three weeks – April 3 through May 3 – will qualify for the competition. 

Biggest Bouts in the European Leagues

Over the last week, World Cup Qualifiers and Olympic Qualifiers have dominated the global soccer schedule, but this coming weekend marks the return of club play. 

The Barclay’s Premier League has a pair of mammoth matches on Saturday morning when third-place Leicester City host table-toppers Manchester City. Leicester trails second place Manchester United by a single point in the standings. To close out the morning in England, ninth-place Arsenal host a Liverpool-side currently in seventh place and looking to get back into top four contention. 

Germany’s Bundesliga pits fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt against fifth-place Borussia Dortmund in Frankfurt on Saturday morning. Dortmund’s Gio Reyna found the back of the net against Northern Ireland over the weekend in a friendly while representing the U.S. Men’s National Team. 

But just a few hours later is a heavyweight bout in the Bundesliga when first-place FC Bayern Munich travel to second-place RB Leipzig. If Leipzig can defeat the Bavarian giants, then the margin between the two clubs at the top of the table will be cut to just a single point. 

In Italy, it’s a classic regional rivalry when the two teams from Turin go head-to-head as Torino host Juventus on Saturday morning. The Derby della Mole is always a fiercely contested match and this weekend’s match should be no different as the Old Lady of Italy is hungry for a win to keep pace with the two Milan clubs that sit above third-place Juve in the Serie A standings. 

Atletico Madrid has been at the summit of the standings in Spain’s La Liga for quite some time now, but a tough test awaits the side this weekend when fourth-place Sevilla plays host to the current league leaders. Atletico have a four-point lead over second-place Barcelona in the table. 

In France, it’s a four-team race for the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain currently in first with 63 points – tied with Lille – but PSG has a superior goal differential. But Lille can leapfrog the French juggernauts when PSG host Lille Saturday morning. Lille is currently three points above third-place Lyon but a win would secure sole possession of first place in the league standings. 

Women's Games Across the Pond

While most major men’s club leagues were on a brief break with an abundance of international games – the women’s game had a historic fixture over the weekend

This past Saturday, the Manchester United Women’s team played its first-ever match inside one of the most famous venues in all of global soccer – Old Trafford. 

Inside the Theater of Dreams against West Ham United, the Reds earned a 2-0 victory with USWNT star Christen Press bagging one of her teams’ two goals on the day. Lauren James netted in the 49th minute to become the first female to score a goal inside Old Trafford. 

But the action in the women’s game didn’t stop at the weekend, as UEFA Champions League action picks up on Wednesday with a trio of phenomenal fixtures. The midweek matchups include Chelsea trying to maintain its lead in the aggregate – 2-1 – when the West London club travels to German-side Wolfsburg, FC Bayern Munich aiming to hold onto its 3-0 aggregate advantage at Rosengard and Manchester City hoping to overcome a 3-0 deficit at home against Barcelona. 

One massive Quarterfinal matchup – the second leg between PSG and Lyon – has been postponed due to coronavirus. 

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