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Soccer on TV: Bundesliga kicks off on ESPN, Weston McKennie’s Juventus debut, NWSL on CBS, Chelsea-Liverpool

This weekend is a huge one for soccer across Europe and North America. Here’s your viewer’s guide to the top games to watch.

Robert Lewandowski leads Bayern Munich as it tries to win a record ninth straight Bundesliga title.
Robert Lewandowski leads Bayern Munich as it tries to win a record ninth straight Bundesliga title.Read moreDavid Ramos / Getty Images via AP Pool

This weekend is a huge one for soccer across Europe and North America. Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A kick off their seasons, Real Madrid starts its La Liga campaign, England’s Premier League has some big games, Mexico has its biggest rivalry, and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride play their first game in almost a full year.

Here’s your viewer’s guide to the top games to watch.

Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04

Friday, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes; pregame coverage starts at 2 p.m.)

ESPN kicks off a six-year deal as the new home of the Bundesliga with the first game of the new season, and the network is going in big. Along with televising this game on its flagship channel, ESPN+ will have live games, studio shows, and an archive of the famous old “Soccer Made In Germany” show that PBS aired in the 1970s and 80s.

Bayern is the eight-time reigning German champion and won the Champions League this summer. Prolific striker Robert Lewandowski leads the attack, and Canada’s Alphonso Davies is a star at left back. There’s a big new signing in winger Leroy Sané, and American fans have high hopes for 20-year-old centerback Chris Richards.

Schalke has become well-known to U.S. fans in recent years thanks to Weston McKennie. He moved to Juventus this summer, but there’s a new American prospect to watch in 21-year-old Nick Taitague.

Leeds United vs. Fulham

Saturday, 10 a.m. (Peacock)

Leeds left quite an impression on the world in last Saturday’s 4-3 season-opening loss at Liverpool, including a great goal by former New York City FC winger Jack Harrison. This weekend, the Premier League returns to Elland Road, one of England’s most famous stadiums – but the stands will be empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Which, by the way, is getting worse over there right now.)

Fulham got routed 3-0 by Arsenal last Saturday, and U.S. defender Tim Ream didn’t look good. The club has reinforced its defense with American left back Antonee Robinson, who debuted in a 1-0 win at Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup on Thursday.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

The spotlight keeps getting brighter on Gio Reyna, Dortmund’s 17-year-old American playmaker. He’s expected to play a leading role for Dortmund this season alongside Erling Haaland, the Norwegian striker who took the sport by storm last season.

Mönchengladbach can say the same about forward Marcus Thuram, whose goals and antiracism protests this summer made worldwide headlines. The team no longer has American Fabian Johnson, who became a free agent in July and doesn’t have a new home yet.

Click here for this weekend’s full Bundesliga schedule.

North Carolina Courage vs. Orlando Pride

Saturday, 1 p.m. (CBS)

The Pride haven’t played a game since last Oct. 12, having not been in the NWSL Challenge Cup due to a coronavirus outbreak in the team. A long and frustrating wait finally ends this weekend.

Alex Morgan won’t be there, as she’s off to England’s Tottenham Hotspur through the end of the year. But veterans Sydney Leroux, Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris will be there, and Marta is always worth watching. The Brazilian playmaker will duel against compatriot Debinha, who leads North Carolina’s midfield.

Also this weekend: Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS All Access); Portland Thorns vs. Utah Royals (Sunday, 3 p.m., Twitch)

Club América vs. Chivas Guadalajara

Saturday, 10 p.m. (Univision, TUDN)

This will be the most-watched soccer game of the weekend on U.S. TV. It’s the biggest rivalry game in Liga MX, the most popular soccer league in this country. Chivas is led by 20-year-old rising star J.J. Macías and veteran forward Oribe Peralta. América’s big names include forward Giovani dos Santos, midfielder Nicolás Benedetti and stalwart goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Ajax vs. PEC Zwolle

Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN+)

The Dutch league doesn’t often get a lot of attention here, but it will this weekend thanks to Ajax outside back Sergiño Dest. He already has three senior U.S. national team caps at age 19, and played in last year’s Under-20 World Cup. Bayern Munich and Barcelona have been in hot pursuit of him, and Bayern is now reportedly in talks for a deal.

Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Sunday, 11:30 a.m. (Peacock)

It’s a good thing that Comcast cable subscribers with X1 boxes get Peacock Premium free of charge. Fans' complaints about NBC Sports moving big Premier League games off NBCSN will only get louder this weekend. If Comcast subscribers had to pay up too ($4.99 per month or $49.99 per year) they’d be impossible to ignore.

Chelsea’s new signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner looked good in Monday’s 3-1 win at Brighton, as did 20-year-old academy product Reece James. Christian Pulisic is still out as he battles a hamstring injury. Liverpool is signing Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcântara to boost an attack that already has Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah, but he likely won’t be ready for this game.

Click here for this weekend’s full Premier League schedule.

Juventus vs. Sampdoria

Sunday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+)

Any Juventus season opener is a big deal because of Cristiano Ronaldo, but this season is even bigger thanks to McKennie’s arrival in Turin. He’s the first American to join the 38-time Italian champions, and new manager Andrea Pirlo – yes, the legendary Italian player – seems to quite like him. That’s a great sign.

Click here for this weekend’s full Serie A schedule.

Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid

Sunday, 3 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

Spain’s La Liga season kicked off last weekend, but the party doesn’t really start until Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing. Real got a week off after playing in the Champions League tournament, and now begins its title defense after an unusually quiet summer transfer window. (Barcelona’s opener is next weekend.)

Keep an eye on Real’s 20-year-old winger Vinícius Júnior. A long-heralded prospect, this could be the Brazilian’s true breakout season.

Sociedad made a big splash by signing former Manchester City playmaker David Silva, but he only started training with the team this week after testing positive for coronavirus at the end of August.

Click here for this weekend’s full La Liga schedule.