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Around the Leagues: Final Round of World Cup Qualifiers underway

By Emile Guzman, 09/07/21, 3:15PM PDT

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Domestic and International Competition Heats Up

Professional soccer both at home and abroad met high stakes in the past week with playoff scenarios continuing to take shape and on-field preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar getting underway. 

United Soccer League

Week 20 of USL action continued over the weekend, with a number of inter-division matchups grabbing attention. 

Tampa and Pittsburgh separated themselves from Miami in the East, with the Rowdies taking three points from Oakland Roots and Riverhounds SC splitting points with San Antonio. After a tough stretch, Orange County SC drew on the road with Mountain Division leader El Paso Locomotive.

FC Tulsa took down Louisville City 1-0 in a gritty Central Division road contest on Friday, inching them closer to second-place Birmingham Legion, who also dropped points. After being held scoreless for the first time all season on August 21, Phoenix Rising has responded by scoring nine goals in three matches. The Arizona side took down Tacoma Defiance 3-1 on Sunday, maintaining their lead over El Paso for most points in USL.

World Cup Qualifying

The final qualifying rounds for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar got underway last week, with countries worldwide looking to punch their ticket to the world’s most-watched tournament. After two matches, Mexico leads CONCACAF action after taking its first two matches against Jamaica and Costa Rica, followed by Panama and Canada in the second and third spots. The United States, Honduras, and El Salvador are all on the outside looking in after splitting points amongst themselves over the weekend. 

Despite having their match canceled on Sunday due to health and safety concerns, Brazil and Argentina still lead the pack in CONMEBOL with Ecuador and Uruguay following closely behind. Over the weekend, Ecuador and Chile split points while Uruguay took down Bolivia 4-2.

In Europe, Ukraine split points with defending champion France while England and Germany all cruised to victories to keep the top spot in their respective groups. The Netherlands inched closer to the top spot in Group G with a 4-0 win over Montenegro, and Serbia continued their chase of Portugal with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg. 

Major League Soccer

World Cup qualifying didn’t stop MLS play this week. Nashville inched further ahead of New York City FC and kept pace with Orlando with a 3-1 victory, while a win for Colorado jumped the Rapids over second place Kansas City and just one point behind Seattle for first in the west. 

Dallas and Real Salt Lake played an eventful matchup on Saturday with the Utah side emerging victorious after putting two scores in during the second half. FC Dallas knocked on the door late, but Jesus Ferreria’s 80th minute goal- which garnered a nomination for MLS Goal of the Week- would be all they would manufacture in a 3-2 loss. 

NWSL

A week after recording the highest attendance ever in league history, OL Reign saw their three match win streak come to an end after splitting points on the road against Racing Louisville. However, the club remains in a tie for second place after taking three against Houston on Wednesday. 

On Sunday, Houston drew with Orlando, while Kansas City split points with North Carolina courage.