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Expect the unexpected: MLB’s best bats aren’t all familiar

Bryce Harper is hammering his usual homers for the Philadelphia Phillies. Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are flashing their expected MVP-level skills while second-year phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. has been arguably the game’s best player.

But like most things in 2020, Major League Baseball hasn’t followed the expected script.

Nearly halfway through baseball’s condensed 60-game schedule, some of the game’s best bats belong to young or surprising players. Here’s a look at a few who have thrived under less-than-ideal circumstances:

— Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners: It’s been a rough season so far for the Mariners, but there’s hope for the future thanks to this 25-year-old star who was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He’s batting .368 with seven homers and been worth close to 2.0 Wins Above Replacement according to baseball-reference.com.

— Anthony Santander, OF, Baltimore Orioles: The 25-year-old is the face of a franchise that has been much more competitive in the AL East than many expected. He’s got 10 doubles, 10 homers and 27 RBIs.

— Luke Voit, 1B, New York Yankees: The 29-year-old Voit has shown some power during the past few seasons but this season he’s occasionally carried a lineup that’s dealing with injuries to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Voit’s hitting .311 with 10 homers and 25 homers while his .730 slugging percentage leads the American League.

— Jake Cronenworth, IF, San Diego Padres: He’s probably the most unexpected contributor for the young and exciting Padres, who are quickly pushing into the National League’s elite. The rookie is batting .348 with three homers while playing all four infield positions.

— Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants: Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson was a feel-good story last year as a long-time minor league who finally had some success in the big leagues. This season, the 30-year-old has been among the best in the game. He’s batting .309 with seven homers and leads the National League with 23 walks.

— Brandon Lowe, IF, Tampa Bay Rays: Lowe’s not a total surprise considering he made the All-Star team last season and was third in the AL’s Rookie of the Year voting, but the versatile 26-year-old has developed into one of the cornerstones of an up-and-coming Rays roster and he’s hitting .313 with nine homers in 2020.

20-20 CLUB

In a surprising twist, the two teams that have reached 20 losses the fastest this season are the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels. Both hit that mark on Sunday.

The Red Sox expected some regression this season after losing Betts in a trade and ace pitcher Chris Sale to injury. But it’s been even worse than expected: Andrew Benintendi’s been hurt, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers have had slow starts at the plate and the pitching staff has an ERA that’s close to 6.00.

For the Angels, even a lineup that includes stars like Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon hasn’t kept them out of the AL West cellar. Much like the Red Sox, inconsistent pitching has been a problem.

40 IS FABULOUS

Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz continues to be an ageless wonder, smashing a solo homer in the ninth inning off hard-throwing Royals reliever Trevor Rosenthal that gave the Twins a crucial insurance run during Sunday’s 5-4 win over Kansas City.

Cruz now has 10 homers for the season and 411 in his career, which ranks fourth among active players and 55th all-time. His next homer will tie him with Alfonso Soriano at No. 54.

STAT TRENDS

In 2020, two of baseball’s disappearing plays include the sacrifice bunt and the intentional walk. There are just 0.07 successful sacrifice bunts per game and 0.09 intentional walks.

Both numbers are the lowest since tracking of those stats began.

The reason for those trends can likely be traced to the National League adding the DH for the 2020 season. Pitchers were among those who were often asked to lay down a bunt. They also often had to bat after the hitter in front of them was intentionally walked.

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Bayern chair says UEFA ‘didn’t do a great job’ on City case

UEFA “didn’t do a great job” investigating Manchester City after the English club’s two-year ban from European competitions was overturned, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Monday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled two weeks ago that some of UEFA’s accusations of financial violations by City could not be proven and others were “time-barred” because they did not meet a five-year statute of limitations.

It means the Abu Dhabi-owned club will be able to rejoin teams like Bayern in the Champions League next season.

“I believe the final decision made by CAS was an outcome because the UEFA panel responsible for Champions League matters didn’t do a great job, it’s looking like,” Rummenigge said in a video call. “What I heard from different sources is that it was not good organized in advance.”

The full judgment has yet to be publish. In a statement after the verdict, UEFA highlighted the “insufficient conclusive evidence” presented to CAS but said it would not comment further.

“Congrats to the colleagues of Manchester City that they can participate next year in Champions League and the year after as well,” said Rummenigge, a member of the European Club Association’s executive board.

Bayern recently did business with City, buying Leroy Sane in a transfer worth up to 60 million euros ($70 million) — one of the biggest deals concluded amid the financial instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic

“The transfer market is looking like affected by corona because we had been interested to transfer him one year ago when the transfer amount was totally different than today,” Rummenigge said. “So we are happy that we have been able to transfer him now in favor of Bayern Munich. The only thing it’s looking like that the agents are trying to keep their salary on a very high level.”

The German champion will miss out on cash from its abandoned summer tour of China, instead launching a virtual version on Monday with sponsor Audi to connect fans with the players.

Due to the loss of income from also playing games without fans and disruption to broadcast contracts, UEFA has eased its rules for monitoring spending by Europe’s top clubs. Two accounting years for clubs have effectively been combined into one that will be assessed next year.

“I believe, still optimistic that Financial Fair Play done in a different way could be very helpful to come back on a bit more rational basis,” Rummenigge said. “Because I believe that is a request from our supporters and we should listen to them as well.”

UEFA’s FFP program requires clubs which qualify for European competitions to approach breaking even on their spending on transfers and wages against commercial income. Club owners are allowed unlimited spending on stadium projects and youth training, but not to bail out debts.

Rummenigge said break-even rules “maybe should be considered much more in future than we did … in the past, but we have to modify Financial Fair Play because in the past 10 years, football changed dramatically in the financial behavior and so we have to find different tools.”

Rummenigge is seeking a change of heart from France Football, which canceled the Ballon d’Or due to the pandemic. The player of the year award has been given out every year since Stanley Matthews won the first one in 1956.

Rummenigge believes Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski would have been a strong contender to win for the first time after scoring 34 goals in the Bundesliga, six in the German Cup and 11 in the Champions League, where Bayern resumes next month with a 3-0 last-16 lead over Chelsea.

“We are not very happy and I believe in the end, it’s not very fair,” Rummenigge said, “not just for Robert Lewandowski because maybe this year he deserved to win this golden ball.

All the major European leagues apart from France did resume their seasons during the pandemic.

“It has to be possible that the golden ball is given at the end to the best footballer in the world,” Rummenigge said, expressing hope that FIFA continues its annual awards.

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Black Players for Change lead protest at MLS is Back tourney

Now that Major League Soccer has re-started, a group of Black Major League Soccer players is using the moment to call attention to systemic racism across sports and society.

Black Players for Change was formerly the Black Players Coalition of MLS, but changed its name this week while joining forces with the Players Coalition, the NFL players group founded by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins.

Black Players for Change made its first public demonstration since coming together last month at Wednesday night’s opening game of the MLS Is Back tournament in Florida.

Players stood, fists raised, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that has become a symbol of police brutality, after a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck when he died. More than 170 Black players, some wearing “Silence is Violence” T-shirts and Black Lives Matter face masks, took part in the pregame protest.

“Really this protest is about fighting for racial equality and human rights,” organizer Justin Morrow of Toronto FC said. “We’re standing with all of our brothers and sisters across the world — definitely across the North American sports landscape, but we see what’s happening over in Europe as well, how soccer players are fighting against racism there. We’re standing with all of our brothers and sisters to fight this fight.”

Black Players for Change sprung from an Instagram group started by Morrow after the death of Floyd. The death sparked protests worldwide against racism and policy brutality.

Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse, Chicago’s CJ Sapong, Nashville’s Jalil Anibaba, NYCFC’s Sean Johnson and Colorado’s Kei Kamara are among some of the other players involved. The group has the endorsement of both MLS and the players’ association.

“It was very powerful to put my fist up and to be there on the field with so many people that are trying to make a change in this country. And that’s what we need to do,” Inter Miami’s Juan Agudelo said.

The group has called on the league to increase diversity hiring in coaching, front office and executive positions, appoint a chief diversity officer, implement implicit bias training and expand cultural education.

It has also discussed developing the game in black communities and partnering with charities, and has already secured $75,000 in charitable contributions from the MLS Players Association.

“This moment for us as a black player pool, is that we can stand up, we can make this statement that’s come completely from us. It was so important that it was player led, it couldn’t have worked the other way around,” Morrow said. “This moment of solidarity with our brothers and sisters fighting this battle for racial equality and human rights is so important. And we want to make sure that the narrative was player led, player driven in coming strictly from us.”

The Players Coalition partnership allows the two groups from different sports to share resources in a common goal. The NFL group, which aims to address social justice and racial inequality, was started in 2017 after team owners objected to players kneeling during the national anthem.

“The commonalities and goals of both our organizations presented a natural opportunity to align,” Boldin said in a statement. “I am excited to continue the growth of Players Coalition as an opportunity for all athletes across all professional sports leagues to make a significant impact in our communities.”

Players Coalition reached out to the MLS players upon hearing about their group.

“All of these people are reaching out to us, wanting to help us, and that just gets to what we’re doing here, Morrow said. ”We’re putting together something really solid, an organization that is here for future generations, here to make lasting change in Major League Soccer and in our communities.”

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MLS returns to action after poignant moment of silence

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Nani called it beautiful and emotional.

He wasn’t talking about either goal he played a part in during Orlando City’s 2-1 victory over Inter Miami on Wednesday night.

Nearly 200 players took the field for an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence to protest racial injustice before Major League Soccer’s return to action. Players wore black T-shirts, black gloves and black facemasks emblazoned with Black Lives Matter. The shirts had varying slogans that included Black And Proud, Silence Is Violence and Black All The Time.

The players walked toward midfield, raised their right arms one at a time and held the pose so long that some could be seen stretching fatigued muscles afterward.

It was a poignant moment that put two of the nation’s most prominent changes over the last four months — masks and movements — at the forefront of the sport’s return.

“I felt for a couple of minutes,” Nani said shortly after scoring the go-ahead goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time. “We all want to change the world. We want a better world — no differences, no discrimination. … Everyone in the world should stop for a couple of minutes and think about our children and teach them how to be a better person and create a better world.”

The group setting the tone was formerly called the Black Players Coalition of MLS but changed its name this week to Black Players for Change. Originally announced on Juneteenth, the group started in the wake of George Floyd’s death with the hope of combating systemic racism both in soccer and the players’ communities. The league and the players’ union endorsed the organization.

Several other players from Orlando City and Inter Miami took a knee near midfield during the demonstration.

The two in-state teams delivered their own moment of silence by taking a knee along with the referee and the line judges just before the opening kick.

The national anthem was not played before or after the demonstration. MLS previously said it would not be played because no fans were in attendance.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Prosecutors said that a police officer had his knee on the neck of Floyd for 7 minutes, 46 seconds — not the 8:46 that has become a symbol of police brutality.

MLS players had weeks to decide what to do prior to the MLS is Back tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.

The league’s teams are sequestered in resorts for the duration of the World Cup-style tournament, which began with a Group A match that was the first meeting between two Sunshine State teams.

FC Dallas withdrew Monday after 10 players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19. A day later, Nashville SC’s status was thrust into doubt with five confirmed positive tests.

Nashville was supposed to play Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday but it was postponed.

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had each played two regular-season games.

The reboot had a considerably different feel — without fans and with plenty of concern even amid a safety bubble.

“Today we made the noise,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said.

But 25 teams that include nearly 700 players plus coaches, trainers and other support staff do everything right for a month? And what’s the threshold for more positive tests?

The NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball surely have a close eye on what’s happening outside Orlando.

The NBA should get an up-close look. The league already has part of its bubble established at the sprawling ESPN venue. NBA team flags fly on every flagpole, and some areas have been sanitized and cordoned off for basketball’s return later this month.

MLS is using three fields near the back of the complex, two of the ones the NFL used for Pro Bowl practices the last four years. The league mandated masks for everyone other than players. Miami star Rodolfo Pizarro, though, wore one during warmups. Soccer balls knocked out of bounds were wiped down before being placed back into the mix.

Many of the protocols are similar to those being used in other sports. Of course, there’s no social distancing on the field.

Miami’s Andres Reyes left on a stretcher early in the second half after a scary collision with Orlando’s Dom Dwyer. Replays appeared to show Dwyer hitting Reyes in the throat as they went for a 50-50 ball.

Reyes had trouble breathing as teammates and the referee called for help. Adding to the growing concern on the field, the emergency crew got hung up trying to gain access to him.

Security personnel struggled to open a gate, delaying the medical team’s response. It was slow enough that one of Reyes’ teammates, Juan Agudelo, ran across the field to help and ended up assisting in pulling the stretcher across the soggy grass.

Miami coach Diego Alonso said afterward that he had “no information” on Reyes’ condition.

Chris Mueller scored the equalizer for Orlando, getting a sliding toe on a perfect cross from Nani to the back post in the 70th minute.

“We deserved to win that game,” Pareja said. “It was a reward for the players, what they did on the field.”

Agudelo scored the first goal of MLS’ return, drilling a left-footer past Pedro Gallese to cap a play that started with two teammates on top of each other in the box.

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LA Story: Rams, Chargers to appear on ‘Hard Knocks’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It will be lights, cameras, Los Angeles again for “Hard Knocks” but for the first time the show will feature two franchises.

With the Rams and Chargers both moving into SoFI Stadium in Inglewood this year, HBO and NFL Films announced Thursday that the show will include both teams as they attempt to bounce back from disappointing seasons. The five-week series will premiere Aug. 11.

The two wouldn’t have been selected if they had not volunteered. Teams aren’t usually eligible if they have appeared on the show during the past 10 years (the Rams did “Hard Knocks” in 2016, their first year back in LA), or appeared in the playoffs the past two years (both were in the postseason in 2018), or have a first-year coach.

The Rams join the Cincinnati Bengals (2009, ’13) and Dallas Cowboys (2002, ’07) as teams that have done “Hard Knocks” twice while the Chargers are making their first appearance. This will be the 15th season for the show, which started in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. HBO and NFL Films also announced Thursday that they have agreed to renew the series through 2024.

The Chargers and Rams usually hold training camp only six miles apart from each other, but that will not be the case this season with the NFL mandating that teams have to hold camp at their own facilities. The Rams, who have held camp at UC Irvine the past four seasons, will be at their home base in Thousand Oaks, about 80 miles from the Chargers’ facility in Costa Mesa.

The Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018 but missed the postseason last year with a 9-7 record. The Chargers were 5-11 in 2019, which was a seven-win decline from two years ago. Rams coach Sean McVay and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn are both going into their fourth season leading their respective teams.

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Building bubbles: Cautious 1st steps toward football season

College football is scheduled to kick off in less than three months and there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that games will be played Labor Day weekend.

Universities across the country are taking the first cautious, detailed steps toward playing football in a pandemic, attempting to build COVID-19-free bubbles around their teams as players begin voluntary workouts.

“I think the start of the race has a lot to do with how you finish it,” Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

Thousands of athletes will be tested for COVID-19, though not all. Masks will need to be worn — most of the time. Some schools will have players pumping iron this week. Others are waiting a few more weeks.

“There’s an element of this that’s kind of like building an airplane as you fly it in that we’re learning so much more really every week,” Notre Dame football team Dr. Matt Leiszler said. “But it’s a moving target at times.”

For months, health officials including the NCAA’s chief medical officer have said widespread and efficient COVID-19 testing is pivotal to bringing back sports. Now that exists, and at many schools every player will be tested before they are permitted to enter a team facility.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said the school has conducted just under 500 tests on coaches, staff and athletes since May 18. The Pac-12 is the only major college football conference in which all the members have agreed to test all returning athletes for COVID-19.

Athletes testing positive for the disease have already been reported at Arkansas State, Marshall and Oklahoma State and elsewhere.

Expect that list to grow, and there is no standardized protocol for testing under the most recent NCAA guidelines, which is why plans are different from school to school. Missouri initially announced it would not test all athletes for COVID-19, then said it would. Michigan State will give its athletes two PRC tests (often done with a nasal swab), with a seven-day quarantine in between, before they cause use team facilities. Tulane will be giving every football player PRC and antibody tests.

“You know, there’s nothing that says my testing is going to protect my guys any better than their screening is going to. We don’t know,” said Dr. Greg Stewart, team physician for Tulane’s athletic department. “And probably for most of the schools across the country, you know athletic departments are the canary in the coal mine.”

Defending national champion LSU is testing each athlete for coronavirus antibodies upon arrival to campus; some will also get a PCR test to check for an active infection. A positive antibody test at LSU will trigger a PCR test and a positive PCR test means that player will have to isolate for a period of time.

Shelly Mullenix, LSU senior associate athletic director and director of wellness, said some players who test positive for antibodies but negative for active infection will also be isolated depending on symptoms or risk of previous exposure. All players were prescribed a seven-day “quasi-quarantine,” Mullenix said, after receiving their antibody tests.

Having players return to campus infected is worrisome but inevitable. The protocols being put in place are designed to catch and address that. The real challenge is keeping the players from getting infected after they return.

At Notre Dame, football players will be housed in single rooms at the on-campus Morris Inn hotel. They will face temperature screens and a health questionnaire every time they want to enter a facility to work out.

Notre Dame is planning to structure workout groups by academic schedules. Other schools are using a mix of factors such as keeping friends, roommates or position groups together.

“But you also have to think about things like, do you want all of your quarterbacks with the same group?” Wake Forest athletic director John Currie said.

As the small groups avoid infection they can be merged to form bigger groups.

“We think we’re going to create four pods,” Stewart said of Tulane’s plan. “We’re going to have the offense that is on campus as a pod. The defense that is on campus is a pod. Special teams that is on campus is a pod. And those that live off campus are a pod.”

While the workouts are voluntary, athletic staffers will be setting up strict schedules and moving equipment to allow for appropriate social-distancing. Masks will be required at times, though not necessarily when they work out. Bjork said Texas A&M will clean workout rooms after use, though the locker rooms at many schools will remain closed.

Southeastern Conference schools agreed to allow voluntary workouts starting Monday. The Big 12 and Pac-12 have set June 15 as their opening date. Other conferences, such as the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference, are letting schools figure out what’s best for themselves. Ohio State and Iowa in the Big Ten started voluntary workouts Monday, along with Louisville in the ACC.

Oklahoma from the Big 12 is waiting until July 1, sticking with a plan it was working on before the NCAA last month cleared the way for voluntary workouts starting June 1. The Sooners didn’t see benefits in rushing but others decided the sooner the better.

“We wanted to actually go as early as we could because if we did have a problem, then you could you could actually manage it in with a lot more time,” Bjork said.

Schools hope to transition to required team activities in mid-July. A copy of the the Football Oversight Committee’s six-week plan includes a typical four-week preseason practice schedule preceded by two weeks during which teams can do up 20 hours per week of weight training, conditioning, film study, meetings and walk-throughs with coaches.

Players would not be permitted to wear helmets and pads during walk-throughs, but a ball could be used for instruction. The plan, which still needs to be approved by the Division I Council, was obtained Monday by The Associated Press and first reported by Sports Illustrated.

Of course, there is only so much schools can do to manage 18- to 22-year-old football players.

“What you worry about ism this is two hours a day, right?” Rhoades said. “And so what are student athletes, what are young men as it pertains to football, doing the other 22 hours?”

The message coaches, administrators and medical staff are trying to get across to their players is their behavior is an important as testing, screening and disinfecting. Limit the exposure to people outside the team bubble. That night out at the bar or the weekend trip to the beach could lead to an infection that sets back the whole team — or something worse.

“What we’re trying to impress upon them,” Stewart said, “is that if this season is important to you, then you have to do things different this year than you have done ever before and maybe even ever again.”

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USWNT wants soccer federation to repeal anthem policy

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. women’s national team wants the U.S. Soccer Federation to repeal the anthem policy it instituted after Megan Rapinoe started kneeling during the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The U.S. women’s team also wants the federation to state publicly that the policy was wrong and issue an apology to the team’s black players and supporters.

“Further, we believe the Federation should lay out its plans on how it will now support the message and movement that it tried to silence four years ago,” the U.S. women’s team said in a statement posted on the Twitter feed of its players association Monday night.

Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who silently took a knee during the national anthem before NFL games to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.

The U.S. Soccer Federation then approved a policy in February 2017 that stated players “shall stand respectfully” during national anthems. The policy remains in place, though the unions for the men’s and women’s teams believe it doesn’t apply to their players because of their collective bargaining agreements.

Kaepernick and Rapinoe each faced sharp criticism for the protest for years. But public sentiment has changed since George Floyd’s death last month.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the country, some of which became violent.

A lawyer for the men’s team union also called for the repeal of the policy and an apology in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, which was the first to report on the U.S. women’s statement.

A message was left by the AP seeking comment from the federation.

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The Latest: Dortmund players fined for breaking restrictions

Borussia Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Manuel Akanji have been fined by the German soccer league for breaking coronavirus-related restrictions to get haircuts.

The league says Sancho and Akanji “apparently violated general hygiene and infection protection standards” to have a barber visit them at home. There were no facemasks visible in photos posted on social media.

There were similar photos of Dortmund teammates Dan-Axel Zagadou and Raphäel Guerreiro with Düsseldorf-based barber Winnie Nana Karkari but they were not mentioned in the league’s statement. The Bild tabloid reported that Karkari also visited Dortmund players Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard last Thursday.

The league says “it goes without question that professional soccer players also need their hair cut” but “this must be done in accordance with the medical-organizational concept at the moment.”

___

The Asian qualifying tournament for the World Cup is set to resume in October after the coronavirus pandemic forced games in March and June to be postponed.

The Asian Football Confederation says it agreed with FIFA to schedule two dates in October and two in November to complete the current groups.

The AFC says the planned schedule must comply with “government travel and medical restrictions” in the 40 countries taking part.

Twelve teams will advance to a further group stage next year.

Four Asian teams will advance directly to the World Cup in Qatar. A fifth team will enter an intercontinental playoff round.

Liverpool could win the Premier League title at home after all.

Police originally indicated they wanted Liverpool’s second game after the restart against Crystal Palace to be staged at a neutral venue because of concerns that supporters could congregate outside Anfield.

But the league now says the game on June 24 is scheduled to be at Liverpool’s home stadium.

The Merseyside derby against Everton could still be played away from Goodison Park on June 21. The league says the venue is still to be confirmed.

Liverpool leads Manchester City by two points and is two wins from ending its 30-year title drought. But Liverpool could clinch the trophy in its first game back against Everton if City loses to Arsenal on June 17.
Chelsea has been declared Women’s Super League champion after the season was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The English Football Association’s board decided to determine the final standings on a points-per-game basis. Manchester City was a point ahead of Chelsea but had played an extra game when the season was suspended in March.

Chelsea had seven games remaining.

City will still qualify for the Champions League with Chelsea. Liverpool has been relegated.

 

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Ibrahimovic, Villa pull out of MLS All-Star Game

Newly-minted Major League Soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Spain’s David Villa have both withdrawn from Wednesday’s All-Star game against Italian club Juventus, ESPN reports.

The LA  Galaxy’s Ibrahimovic withdrew from the game citig fatigue, while NYCFC’s Villa is still recovering from an injury he suffered last month. Tyler Adams of the New York Red Bulls and Darwin Quintero of Minnesota United will step in for the two  players.

Galaxy officials say Ibrahimovic needs a rest period after playing three games in the week leading up to the Juventus match. For his part, Ibrahimovic said he’s sad to miss the All-Star game but could use a much-needed break.

“I am disappointed to miss the 2018 All-Star Game against Juventus, one of my former clubs,” Ibrahimovic told the Galaxy website. “I want to thank the fans for voting me to the team. My main focus is to score goals and help the LA Galaxy to the playoffs.”

The 36-year-old Swedish striker has wasted little time in showcasing his talent, scoring three goals in LA’s 4-3 victory over Orlando on Sunday. The hat trick takes his season total to 15 goals in just 17 games with his new team and moves the Galaxy into third place in the Western Conference.

Villa, meanwhile, has played in the last three MLS All-Star games but is still hobbled by a knee in jury that’s kept him sidelined for NYCFC’s last six games.

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Joachim Low says Schweinsteiger still had much to offer Man U

Germany head coach, Joachim Low, lauded midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger became another in a trend of older European league stars who have moved to Major League Soccer in the United States of America. Schweinsteiger, 32 years of age, joined the Chicago Fire in a move that was confirmed on Tuesday by his former side Manchester United. Schweinsteiger moved to Manchester United in 2015 from Bayern Munich, where his play had made him a German international team fixture. He only made 18 appearances with United, however, as he was not favored by newly hired boss, Jose Mourinho. According to Low, although Schweinsteiger made a good decision to move to the MLS, he still had a lot to offer Man U.

“I chatted to him a few weeks ago and he told me that he tried everything and gave it his all,” said Low. “And, yes, there was a glimmer of hope for him at times, he played in a few games. But it appears that he had the feeling he was no longer part of Manchester United’s plans.”

Low expressed his disappointment that the Man U run for Schweinsteiger would end with him on the bench.

“His performances in training were very, very good. I’ve also been told from others,” Low said. “The team would have wished for him to help them on the pitch. And I believe that he could have still done that. I’ve seen a few United games, and a Bastian Schweinsteiger could have helped in a central role in midfield, organising the match. But the coach made a different decision. He has given it his all, but it wasn’t enough. Thus the transfer is a certainly a good decision.”