This holiday weekend is going to be a historic one for soccer fans in the United States, with games on three major broadcast networks. In addition, England’s FA Women’s Super League launches its new season with new stars — and the possibility of more to come.
Here’s your viewer’s guide to the top action to watch.
Friday, 2:45 p.m. (TUDN, ESPN+)
The best of Friday’s eight UEFA Nations League games is brimming with European club stars. Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, Lyon’s Memphis Depay, Ajax’s Quincy Promes and newly-signed Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek lead the Netherlands. Poland star Robert Lewandowski is absent after winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich last month, so Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik will lead the attack.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. (NBCSports.com/Live)
U.S. star Sam Mewis is expected to make her City debut alongside English veterans Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Ellen White and Keira Walsh as England’s FA Women’s Super League kicks off its new season.
This will be the first of 50 games in the campaign streamed on NBC’s website and apps, free of charge with TV provider authentication required. There won’t be another option for watching, such as Peacock or NBC Sports Gold, but subscribers to streaming platforms including YouTube TV and FuboTV can get access.
Saturday, noon (6ABC, TUDN)
The Big Ten’s postponement of its college football season left big gaps in ABC’s programming schedule. This weekend’s hole will be filled by a Nations League doubleleahder.
Iceland has been one of world soccer’s great Cinderella’s stories in recent years, reaching its first ever European Championship in 2016 and its first ever World Cup in 2018. The current squad doesn’t have Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson, but it does have a forward who plays in England, Milwall’s Jón Dadi Bödvarsson. And it has a goalkeeper, Hannes Thór Halldórsson, who works as a filmmaker in addition to his playing career.
Saturday, 1 p.m. (CBS3)
Carli Lloyd is still out because of a long-term knee injury she’s been rehabbing all year, and midfield general McCall Zerboni just had surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the first game of the Challenge Cup. (Amazingly, she played through it.)
The good news is that U.S. national team winger Mallory Pugh will play in the Fall Series after missing the Challenge Cup with a right hip injury. There should also be big roles for dynamic midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe, who signed a new contract last month; Lehigh Valley-born centerback Gina Lewandowski; and outside back/winger Margaret Purce, who was recently elected to her alma mater Harvard University’s Board of Overseers.
Saturday, 2:45 p.m. (6ABC, UniMás, TUDN)
All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, but he’s far from the only star on this Portuguese team. Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, Wolverhampton’s João Moutinho and Diogo Jota, and Atlético Madrid phenom João Félix are also in the squad. Croatia’s squad doesn’t have all its stars, but has plenty of dynamism in Inter Milan’s Ivan Perišić (who spent last season at Bayern Munich) and Marcelo Brozović, and Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramarić.
Saturday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+, TUDN.com)
France’s games are always worth watching, thanks to World Cup-winning big names like Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé, Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann and Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud. There are some big-time young players in this squad too: RB Leipzig (for now) centerback Dayot Upamecano, 17-year-old Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, and Lille forward Jonathan Ikoné.
But they’ve all been overshadowed by Les Bleus’ announcement Thursday that starting goalkeeper Steve Mandanda tested positive for coronavirus four days after the team’s training camp started. That’s a much bigger worry than the threat of Sweden’s Emil Forsberg, a teammate of Upamecano’s at Leipzig.
Saturday, 8 p.m. (Fox, Fox Deportes)
MLS also benefits from college football’s pandemic postponements, as Fox fills a prime time slot with this rivalry game. Orlando won in Atlanta last Saturday, its first ever win in the series. Atlanta followed that loss with a scoreless tie at home against Inter Miami on Wednesday. The visitors will need Jürgen Damm to step up, especially with Gonzalo Martínez reportedly being sold to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr.
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. (NBCSports.com/Live; tape-delayed on NBCSN at noon)
Pernille Harder should make her Chelsea debut this weekend after the Blues broke the women’s soccer transfer fee record to sign the Danish scoring ace from Wolfsburg. She joins a squad that’s already the favorite to repeat as FAWSL champs thanks to Australia’s Sam Kerr, South Korea’s Ji So-Yun, and England’s Fran Kirby and Bethany England.
As for Manchester United, the entire women’s soccer world is waiting for the Red Devils to announce the signings of U.S. stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Multiple sources have told The Inquirer this week that the expectation is the deal will be announced before Sunday’s game, and it could be as soon as Friday.