Club soccer goes mostly quiet this week as a FIFA window starts Wednesday, with big games in Europe and South America. There’s also a busy slate in MLS, as the league has to play through to finish the regular season.
Here’s your guide to the top games to watch.
Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN)
Though the coronavirus pandemic has understandably sidelined the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico arranged a pair of friendlies in Europe. Of the 26 players Mexico called up, 11 are based in Mexico, 11 are in Europe, one is in Qatar, and three are in MLS: Miami’s Rodolfo Pizarro, Kansas City’s Alan Pulido and the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Jonathan dos Santos.
All three MLS players are in states with local quarantine restrictions that aren’t as restrictive as those elsewhere in the country. But the league’s rules still apply, which means the players will have to quarantine for 10 days upon returning to the United States.
Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Of the four teams at the top of the Eastern Conference playoff race — the Union, Orlando, Columbus, and Toronto — Orlando is going to be hit the hardest by national team call-ups and the subsequent quarantine period. Starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese is with Peru and midfielder Jhegson Sebastián Méndez is with Ecuador. The Lions are currently on a nine-game unbeaten run, and Gallese has played every minute of the season.
Click here for Wednesday’s full MLS schedule.
Thursday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN3)
Scotland hasn’t qualified for a major men’s international tournament since the 1998 World Cup, depriving those big stages of one of the world’s great national team fan bases. The Tartan Army is almost there now, as the Scots host this one-game playoff semifinal in qualifying for next year’s European Championship. Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Sheffield United’s Oli McBurne are the squad’s headline players. But Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong won’t play after testing positive for COVID-19, and two more players — Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney and Celtic’s Ryan Christie — are quarantining as close contacts.
Israel’s major tournament drought dates back to the 1970 men’s World Cup. That’s in part because it was in the Asian confederation until 1974, then had no official confederation home until joining UEFA in 1990. The nation has never played in a Euros, closest in a qualifying playoff defeat for the 2000 edition. Its current squad is led by PSV Eindhoven forward Eran Zahavi and Hoffenheim forward Mu’nas Dabbur, and coach Andreas Herzog — a former U.S. national team assistant who oversaw the failure to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
This piece originally said the games were playoff finals, not semifinals. Apologies for the error.
Thursday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN2)
This is the most star-studded of the Euro qualifying games, all of which are Thursday. Norway, trying to reach a major tournament for the first time since 2000, has Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland and Real Madrid’s Martin Ødegaard. Serbia has Inter’s Aleksandar Kolarov, Ajax’s Dušan Tadić, Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić, and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrović — and as you’d expect from that much talent, no major-tournament drought. The nation played at the World Cup two years ago.
But Serbia hasn’t been in a Euros since 2000, which goes back to before the split with Montenegro. Back then, it was still called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Click here for the full Euro qualifying playoff schedule.
Longtime American soccer fans had flashbacks to years gone by when it was announced that the start of South America’s World Cup qualifying campaign would only be available on pay-per-view. Even worse, the cost is $30 per game or $180 for a nine-game package from Oct. 8-13. It’s the way things used to be for U.S. national team road games in Central America and the Caribbean, and lots of other high-profile contests before they became profitable for mainstream TV networks.
Fanatiz has an offer for $49.95 with your pick of two qualifying games and three free months of their basic streaming service, which includes beIN Sports and Argentina’s TyC Sports.
The 10th game in the October slate, Venezuela-Paraguay on Oct. 13 at 4 p.m., will be carried via beIN Sports Xtra. It’s a streaming channel that’s distributed on Roku and a few other streaming platforms, plus via over-the-air TV in markets including Philadelphia. You’ll have to have an antenna to get it here, on channel 8.4.
Click here for the schedule of this month’s South American World Cup qualifiers.