Chelsea vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Tuesday, 3 p.m. (Peacock)
The news of the week in the soccer world is the announcement by a dozen of Europe’s biggest clubs that they’re forming a Super League, and plan to kick it off as soon as next year. To no one’s surprise, Chelsea is one of the English giants involved with the plan. Fans across the world are irate, but plans have been floated for years to have Europe’s elite break away and take all the big money with them.
The only entities with any real power to stop the Super League from happening are UEFA, the European confederation, and FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. UEFA can expel clubs from the Champions League — including this season, where Chelsea faces Real Madrid in the semifinals — and FIFA can ban players from the World Cup.
So, over to you, Christian Pulisic, even though he surely had no say in the league forming. Will he stay in London and risk being ineligible to play in the World Cup for the United States, or will he quit? And how many teammates will go with him?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton
Wednesday, 1 p.m. (Peacock)
Of course Tottenham would be among the first teams to get in line for the Super League. The club has a swanky stadium in North London, a big and increasingly global fan base, and just one trophy in the last 30 years.
It’s joining a party where each founding member gets a share of a $4.2 billion cash pile that megabank J.P. Morgan has put on the table — plus broadcasting revenues from however many TV and streaming partners sign on. And there’s no threat of relegation, or of getting no prize for finishing seventh, Tottenham’s current place in the Premier League standings.
Juventus vs. Parma
Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+)
Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli isn’t just the leading drum-banger for the Super League, he’s been playing half the instruments in the orchestra. Last spring, he claimed that Atalanta shouldn’t be allowed in the Champions League because it had just one high finish in Serie A up to then, and said he preferred to award berths based on historical performance in the competition.
Well, here’s a historical performance stat for Signore Agnelli. In 13 seasons since Juventus returned to Serie A from a forced relegation due to match-fixing, the club has made the Champions League final twice. The rest of the time, it has gone out in the round of 16 four times, the quarterfinals three times, and the group stage twice, plus one season in the Europa League and one not in Europe at all. Juve hasn’t won the Champions League since 1996.
No wonder Agnelli wants to be in a fixed — er, a closed competition. He won’t have to worry about losing to Porto, Lyon or Ajax, the clubs that have knocked Juventus out of Europe in the last three seasons.
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City
Wednesday, 3:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Universo)
It’s no surprise that Man City is at the front of the Super League charge too. The club bickered with UEFA for years over the governing body’s failed attempts to impose Financial Fair Play sanctions, until the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld City’s appeal last summer — in part because UEFA botched its case.
City’s owners in the United Arab Emirates don’t really need UEFA or the Premier League. If they can look good in a closed Super League each year, and use their network of farm teams around the world as a talent pipeline (including New York City FC in MLS), they’ll be able to say all is sunshine and roses.
But there’s one small caveat: the big bosses see winning the Champions League as their ultimate goal. Not only would it validate all the money they’d spent, it would be a huge PR win for a UAE government that has long been guilty of human rights abuses.
It also just so happens that Man City’s opponent in this season’s Champions League semifinals is its biggest rival: not Manchester United or Chelsea, but Paris Saint-Germain. Why PSG? Because its owners are the Qatari government, and Qatar and the UAE can’t stand each other. If UEFA expels the breakaway teams from this season’s Champions League, it would take out all the other semifinalists and crown PSG winner by default.
Cádiz vs. Real Madrid
Wednesday, 4 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
What do you get the team that already has everything, including more European Cups than anyone else by a mile? You get its president the Super League chairmanship, of course. At the end of the 2019-20 season, Real Madrid had over $1 billion in outstanding debt obligations. The Super League would clear almost all of it out, faster than you can ask when we’ll see the same thing in American college sports.
Barcelona vs. Getafe
Thursday, 4 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
For over a century, Barcelona has presented itself as a different kind of club: one that spends big on stars, yes, but whose leadership is elected by a vote of members who have an actual say in who’s in charge.
Alas, principle only goes so far when you’re over $1.4 billion in debt, and Barcelona’s socios know it. Plus, it wouldn’t be good to have Real and Atlético Madrid run away to the Super League but Barcelona not. (Nor, whisper it, would it be in the Super League’s interest to not have Barcelona involved.)
Köln vs. RB Leipzig
Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Normally we list games here in chronological order, but we’re breaking the rule this time. If you want to watch a major European soccer league that is loudly against the Super League, your first destination should be the Bundesliga. Leipzig, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are among the clubs leading the charge to not destroy the sport’s soul.
In some ways, it’s surprising. Leipzig is part of the Red Bull global conglomerate, and Bayern is as much of a global superpower as Real Madrid, Manchester United and the rest (including a big-money sponsorship deal with Qatar). But it’s still good to see.
Also at the front of the anti-Super League fight is Paris Saint-Germain, which along with Bayern got invited to the Super League and hasn’t yet accepted. If you’re surprised, you should know that PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is on UEFA’s executive committee. He’s also chairman of beIN Sports, which has Champions League broadcast rights in wide swaths of the world. Oh, and he’s also been a minister in Qatar, which is hosting next year’s World Cup. You get the idea.
This week’s NWSL Challenge Cup games
At this point, we all need a palate-cleanser. Perhaps some American soccer will do the trick. On Tuesday, Gotham FC plays its first home game of the Challenge Cup, against the North Carolina Courage at Montclair State University (6 p.m., Paramount+). Gotham upended the Orlando Pride, 1-0, in their opener, and now faces a tough test in Courage stars Debinha, Lynn Williams and Debinha.
On Wednesday, there are three games: Chicago Red Stars vs. Kansas City, pushed back a day due to snow in the midwest (6:30 p.m., Paramount+); Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit, as Washington’s Emily Sonnett makes her first visit to her former club (7 p.m., Paramount+); and the league’s biggest rivalry, Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign (10 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
Portland should have Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith back from post-national team quarantines. OL Reign will hopefully have Megan Rapinoe. And the rivalry will only get spicier this summer when the Reign add German star playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsán and French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi from parent club Lyon in France. They’ll arrive after the European season ends, probably toward the end of May.