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Around the Leagues: USL Preseason Heating Up and UCL Quarterfinals on the Horizon

By William Strome, 04/06/21, 9:45AM PDT


No shortage of major midweek matchups, both domestic and abroad

The regular season in the USL Championship is just weeks away but competitive play in other corners of the world is very much in full swing. 

Over the weekend, a number of top European clubs earned all three points and took one giant step closer towards their respective league titles including FC Bayern Munich in Germany, Manchester City in England, Lille in France and Inter Milan in Italy. 

But in Spain’s La Liga, the title race is heating up following league leaders Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 loss at the hands of fourth-place Sevilla on Sunday. Real Madrid downed Eibar 2-0 on Saturday and Barcelona’s 1-0 win on Monday over Valladolid means Atletico’s lead at the top has been slashed to just a single point. 

USL Championship Preseason

As European teams chase for league silverware their respective standings, in the USL Championship continues its preseason campaign with Sacramento Republic FC visiting Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes this past Friday. The clubs went head-to-head in four, 30-minute periods to tune-up for each of their 2021 seasons ahead. 

Last week, LA Galaxy II – SRFC’s opponent to open the regular season – fell 2-1 on the road against League One club FC Tucson. The same day, Tampa Bay Rowdies nearly downed an MLS opponent before being beaten 1-0 by Nashville SC in Bradenton, FL.

Wednesday’s preseason slate showcases some interesting friendlies including LA Galaxy II hosting Seattle Sounders FC, Real Salt Lake visiting Phoenix Rising FC and Louisville City FC traveling to FC Cincinnati. Two days later, the Quakes welcome Oakland Roots SC from the East Bay. 

Concacaf Champions League

While some MLS clubs are fully focused on preseason training camp, others are fixated on their Concacaf Champions League campaigns. 

The Round of 16 begins on Tuesday when Portland Timbers travel to C.D. Marathon in Honduras while Atlanta United visit L.D. Alajuelense in Costa Rica.

On Wednesday, Mexico’s reigning league champions Leon host Toronto FC while Columbus Crew SC visit Real Esteli the following day in Nicaragua. 

NWSL Challenge Cup

The NWSL regular season kicks off in mid-May but before the campaign is underway, the 2021 Challenge Cup begins on Friday when reigning champs Houston Dash host Chicago Red Stars. The opening day of the competition also sees Portland Thorns FC go up against Kansas City. 

The following day, Washington Spirit visit North Carolina Courage followed by Racing Louisville playing host to Orlando Pride.  

UEFA Champions League

However, all eyes in the soccer world will turn to midweek UEFA Champions League action starting Tuesday and carry over into Wednesday when the stellar Quarterfinal showdowns kick off across Europe as clubs fight for a spot in the competition's Semifinals. 

Manchester City host Borussia Dortmund in the first leg – welcoming former Man City starlet Jadon Sancho and promising U.S. Men’s National Team player Gio Reyna to the Etihad. 

Tuesday’s other contest in the quarters is a rematch of the 2018 UCL Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool FC. Los Blancos were victorious in the match, but the Reds lifted the trophy the following season. 

On Wednesday, another USMNT star’s side is gearing up for a colossal road clash in the Champions League when Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea FC travel to Portugal to take on Porto in the first leg. The fourth and final quarterfinal match is a rematch of last season’s UCL Final when FC Bayern Munich – the reigning champions of Europe – host Paris Saint-Germain at the Allianz Arena. 

Midweek European Matches

Champions League isn’t the only competition that has some ferocious fixtures during the week, as Italy’s topflight sees league leaders Inter host Sassuolo on Wednesday while at the same time in Turin is a heavyweight bout between Juventus and Napoli.

A win for fifth place Napoli – currently level on 56 points with Juve – can leapfrog the Old Lady of Italy and snag a spot in the top four. 

The Europe League Quarterfinals all kickoff on Thursday when Ajax host Roma, Slavia Prague visit Arsenal, Dinamo Zagrab take on Villarreal in Croatia and Manchester United travel to Granada. 

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