Gifts: FIFA common sense, '26 Cup for U.S.

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C.Image via Wikipedia


Christmas is six days away. The malls are getting crazy busy. Here is my soccer shopping list:
 For the FIFA Executive Committee: Common sense. Is there any way to get a re-vote on the 2022 World Cup? I'm still having a hard time accepting that the most fabulous sporting event in the world will be held in Qatar, a country smaller than Connecticut, a country with no soccer tradition to speak of, and a country with serious human-rights issues. Not to mention the fact that the World Cup is supposed to be a mega-party, and partying of most types is prohibited in Qatar. Brazilian women surely will not be allowed to parade around in their traditional ``festive'' skimpy outfits, and German and Dutch fans might as well forget about drinking beer in the streets.
 For the U.S. Soccer Federation: The 2026 World Cup. Your bid for 2022 was near flawless, and your work should not go unrewarded.
 For Arsenal: A redraw for the Champions League Round of 16. For the second year in a row, the Gunners drew the short straw. Chelsea gets to play Copenhagen in the next round, Manchester United got Marseille, Tottenham gets AC Milan (tough, but not unbeatable) and poor Arsenal got Barcelona again. Of course, the Gunners are largely to blame. They started off strong with 14 goals in the first three matches but finished second in their group, behind Ukrainian club Shakhtara Donetsk, which gets to face the much-easier Roma in the knockout stage, which begins Feb. 15-16 and ends March 15-16.
 For Bayern Munich: A deep run in the Champions League, because things aren't looking so good in the Bundesliga. Bayern sits 17 points behind leader Borussia Dortmund heading into January.
 For Jose Mourinho: Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor or Javier Hernandez. Those are the three players the Real Madrid manager has targeted for the January transfer-window shopping spree. Last month's 5-0 thrashing by Barcelona still hurts, and Mourinho is eager to load up with another weapon.
 For Tevez: Happiness, either at Manchester City or wherever he might end up. A player this talented should not seem as unhappy as he often seems.
 For Sir Alex Ferguson: A neck warmer. The Manchester United manager has prohibited his players from wearing 'snoods' -- the neck warmers that are the rage this year in the EPL. He said they're not manly.
 For Charlie Davies: A return to the form he displayed before his horrific car accident, Oct. 13, 2009. The U.S. forward was on the verge of a potentially huge year, with a spot on the 2010 World Cup team practically secured, and everything was put on hold. He sustained life-threatening injuries and is just now getting a shot to win back his job with French club Sochaux.
Davies, 24, has played in some exhibition games, but this week was slotted to play for the first team against Bordeaux.
``Physically, I haven't felt this good in a year or so, so I'm feeling like my old self which is great because that's the most important thing because we all know the football will come by itself,'' Davies told The Associated Press.
His ultimate dream is to play in the English Premier League and for the U.S. national team in a World Cup.
``My long-term goals have definitely not changed; they're just maybe taking a little longer to achieve,'' he said. ``But in terms of moving to England and hoping to play for Arsenal one day and making a difference with the national team and helping the USA to a top-four finish at the World Cup and just to be that player that everyone can count on, that hasn't changed at all.''
 For Edson Buddle: A winter stint with Premier League club Birmingham. The Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. forward is trying out with the club during the MLS offseason, and Buddle, 29, deserves a chance. He was the league's second-highest scorer with 17 goals in 25 matches, and he might be able to help keep Birmingham from the relegation zone.
His Galaxy teammate, Landon Donovan, spent last winter in England at Everton and had a career-boosting experience. Anytime a U.S. player gets a sniff of the EPL, he should take it.
 For South Florida soccer fans: A full house for the June 10 Gold Cup matches at FIU Stadium. Soccer-savvy fans should make it a point to attend to show this market can, indeed, get behind a soccer tournament that isn't being played overseas.
 Finally, to the naysayers, who still think Americans don't care about soccer: Proof you're wrong.
Last Monday's 1-0 Manchester United win over rival Arsenal in the EPL was seen on ESPN2 by an average of 438,000 homes (570,000 viewers), making it the most-watched Premiership telecast on U.S. cable television, according to Nielsen.
The previous high was 420,000 homes (526,000 viewers) for Manchester United vs. Chelsea on April 3.
Through the first 21 matches of the season, ESPN2 is averaging a 0.3 household rating, 261,000 households and 324,000 viewers, increases of 50 percent in ratings, 24 percent in households and 25 percent in viewers from the first 20 matches in the 2009-10 season.

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