The U.S. women’s national team returns to action for the first time since March 11, and it does so in spectacular fashion: a visit to the team it faced in last year’s World Cup final.
Here’s your viewer’s guide to all of the weekend’s top soccer action worldwide.
Friday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN2, TUDN)
Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Sam Mewis, Crystal Dunn and Rose Lavelle have all made the trip to Breda, a city that U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart knows well. He played at the city’s club, NAC Breda, for seven years, and later was its technical director.
Across the field, the Dutch — also the reigning European champions — will have their own array of stars. Daniëlle van de Donk, Lieke Martens, Sherida Spitse and Jill Roord are among the names to watch. So is Jacky Groenen, who plays with Heath and Press and Manchester United.
“We had to get back on the field for a real game at some point, so it might as well be against one of the best teams in the world,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. Though the team hasn’t played in nine months, it still has its classic swagger.
Friday, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
After the U.S. women play, two U.S. men’s team stalwarts face off in Germany’s Bundesliga. John Brooks has been in great form for Wolfsburg lately. Josh Sargent had an assist last weekend in a 1-1 tie against Bayern Munich.
Friday, 3 p.m. (beIN Sports Connect)
The biggest story in European women’s soccer these days is the fracturing of France’s locker room. Head coach Corinne Diacre dropped star Amandine Henry for last month’s European Championship qualifiers, and a few days later Henry went on TV and let loose.
Henry was recalled this month, perhaps with a nudge from Diacre’s bosses. It also helps that Diacre needs Henry, because France and Austria are tied atop the group standings after a scoreless tie last month. France will also be without veteran forward Eugenie Le Sommer and defender Marion Torrent, who are injured; and defender Aissatou Tonkara, who has COVID-19.
Perhaps Diacre will turn to forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who led Paris Saint-Germain over Lyon and into first place in the French league last weekend. Katoto, of course, is the forward whom Diacre infamously declined to put on last year’s World Cup team. If you see a pattern here, you aren’t alone.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN+)
Sunday, 8 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
Barcelona was Diego Maradona’s first European club. And as he knew best, it’s the home of his heir to Argentina’s throne. Lionel Messi takes the field for the first time since Maradona’s death this weekend. He’s always worth waking up early for, but especially now.
» From our archives: Diego Maradona scored his last World Cup goal in the United States
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic could finally return to action in this London derby after recovering from a hamstring injury. Tottenham, led by Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane, enters the weekend tied with Liverpool atop the Premier League standings. Chelsea is just two points back in third.
Sunday, 3 p.m. (6ABC, ESPN Deportes)
After the extraordinary penalty shootout win in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Orlando now must beat surging New England without suspended goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and defender Ruan.
Union fans need no reminding of what the Revolution did in their last game. If Carles Gil plays as well in this game as he did at Subaru Park, his team might just leave Orlando with a win.
Sunday, 8 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
The game could also be postponed, and there’s room for that since the conference finals aren’t until next Sunday. But this is the scenario MLS feared most — and it’s overshadowing outstanding performances by both of these teams in the quarterfinals. Columbus beat the New York Red Bulls 3-2, and Nashville upset Toronto FC 1-0 in extra time.
Monday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+)
The second round of the men’s FA Cup gives us another feast of lower-league Cinderella stories. ESPN+ will stream eight games this weekend, including two with semi-pro teams from the nation’s eighth tier. There are also teams from the third, fourth, fifth and sixth tiers.
Canvey Island is one of those eighth-tier teams. Based in southeast England, near where the Thames River meets the English channel, its Park Lane Stadium is two blocks from the water. Fifth-tier Boreham Wood is based in a northern London suburb. It’s best known for its contributions to women’s soccer, as its stadium hosts Arsenal’s women’s team. There’s crossover between the two: Boreham assistant coach Vic Akers used to be Arsenal’s manager.
Here are the other FA Cup games on ESPN+ this weekend:
Friday, 2:55 p.m.: Tranmere Rovers (3rd tier) vs. Brackley Town (6th tier)
Saturday, 7:30 a.m.: Morecambe (4th tier) vs. Solihull Moors (5th tier)
Saturday, 10 a.m.: Portsmouth (3rd tier) vs. King’s Lynn Town (5th tier)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Peterborough United (3rd tier) vs. Chorley (6th tier)
Sunday, 8:30 a.m.: Shrewsbury Town (3rd tier) vs. Oxford City (6th tier); Bristol Rovers (3rd tier) vs. Darlington (6th tier)
Sunday, 9:45 a.m.: Marine FC (8th tier) vs. Havant & Waterlooville (6th tier)