Soccer on TV: Big World Cup qualifying games to watch in Concacaf, South America, Europe and Africa
Plus star-studded women's club matchups in the NWSL, France and England, where a new FA Women's Super League season kicks off this weekend.
Montpellier vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Though PSG lost some big-name players this summer, it began its defense of its French women’s league title with an emphatic 5-0 season-opening win over Fleury. Sandy Baltimore, Sara Däbritz and Kadidiatou Diani were among the big-name scorers.
Montpellier should pose a tougher test even though it finished unusually low in seventh last season. Keep an eye on forward Mary Fowler, an 18-year-old who’s one of Australia’s top prospects.
Cameroon vs. Malawi
Friday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Union right back Olivier Mbaizo might play for his country in the Indomitable Lions’ first game of Africa’s World Cup qualifying tournament group stage. Cameroon’s next game is Monday at Ivory Coast (3 p.m., ESPN+).
There’s a story with the broadcast rights that’s worth knowing. Just before the group stage started on Wednesday, ESPN did a deal to bring the games to ESPN+. If not for that, the games would have only been available on FIFA’s YouTube channel. FIFA forced the African confederation to tear up a rights agreement, took over the rights itself, then failed to find a broadcaster for them.
FIFA’s power grab was controversial, but flew under the radar here and elsewhere because African soccer gets little attention most of the time.
Gotham FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
Saturday, 7 p.m. (Paramount+)
Gotham plays its first game since Freya Coombe stepped down as manager to move to expansion team Angel City FC. Her successor, Scott Parkinson, will miss this game because of a family commitment, so assistant coaches Bev Yanez and Becki Tweed will run the bench.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Sunday, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSports.com, atafootball.com, tape-delayed on NBCSN at 9:30)
Two-time reigning FAWSL champion Chelsea’s squad is once again stacked: Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder and many more stars are joined this season by former Manchester United forward Lauren James. Arsenal had a busy summer, adding Nikita Parris and Mana Iwabuchi after Daniëlle van de Donk moved to Lyon. And on Friday morning, they made their biggest move of all: U.S. national team star Tobin Heath has joining the Gunners, though she won’t debut until after this game.
Albania vs. Hungary
Sunday, noon (ESPN+, TUDN.com)
Brazil vs. Argentina
Sunday, 3 p.m. (Pay-per-view)
You’re going to have to spend a lot of money to watch the biggest game in South American soccer: $29.95 for TV pay-per-view, $72 for a FuboTV monthly streaming subscription in English, or $33 for Fubo’s Spanish channels.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a bar that will have the game and air it without a cover charge. Otherwise, condolences. This is where the rights are for all of South America’s World Cup qualifiers. It’s a shame that these games, which are some of the highest-quality and most intense on the planet, are so inaccessible.
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash
Sunday, 4 p.m. (CBS3)
The NWSL returns to big CBS, and we’ll see if Alex Morgan returns to the Pride after missing games since the Olympics with a calf injury.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's NWSL schedule
Jamaica vs. Panama
Sunday, 6 p.m. (Paramount+, TelemundoDeportes.com)
Jamaica nearly stole a tie in Mexico, but gave up an 89th-minute goal in a 2-1 loss. The Reggae Boyz will be boosted by having their English-based stars who couldn’t travel to the Azteca because of Britain’s pandemic travel rules. Adding in Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio and other big names will make the home team favored to get their first points of the round.
Costa Rica vs. Mexico
Sunday, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network, Telemundo 62, Universo)
Costa Rica didn’t look the part of a perennial World Cup participant in a scoreless tie at Panama. The Ticos were outshot 18-4 and had no shots on target. Sure, the game was in Panama, but it was still surprising that the visitors were so flat. Let’s see how they do at home in what is almost always a wide-open game no matter where it’s played.
El Salvador vs. Honduras
Sunday, 7 p.m. (Paramount+, TelemundoDeportes.com)
The tenacity and spirit El Salvador showed against the United States was outstanding, even if their lack of finishing punch was clear. It says here that La Selecta will beat some teams at home over the course of the Octagonal. One such team might just be the one they face next, which happens to be their biggest rival.
Honduras battled Canada to a 1-1 tie in Toronto on Thursday. The atmosphere for the Catrachos’ visit to San Salvador should be just as electric as it was for the Americans.
United States vs. Canada
Sunday, 8 p.m. (FS1, UniMás, TUDN)
Are you panicking over the U.S.’ scoreless tie in El Salvador? Then you might be new to this. Good American teams have played far worse in Central America and gotten beat. The rule for as long as World Cup qualifying has existed is you win at home and tie on the road.
But that doesn’t excuse two big flaws we saw Thursday night. Sergiño Dest’s defending still isn’t good enough, and Josh Sargent’s play at striker wasn’t good enough. If Dest moves to right back against Canada, he’ll have to contend with one of Concacaf’s best left wingers in Alphonso Davies — and that matchup likely won’t end well.
Up top, Sargent didn’t help his case to remain a starter. Jordan Pefok seems to fit the system better, especially when creativity is coming from the wings instead of central midfield. And with Christian Pulisic likely to return for this game, wing play will be even more significant.
The U.S. team’s young players have now had their first taste of reality in World Cup qualifying. It’s time to come home to Nashville and put three points in the bank.