Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

2018 EU LCS changes helping or hurting Europe?

Riot is rolling out big plans for European professional League of Legends, according to a recent report from ESPN esports. Jacob Wolf’s sources outlined a new format for the EU LCS starting in 2018, which includes “the league…[splitting] into four regions… 24 total teams,” “a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket,” and “a multi-year license from Riot Games.”

These updates come in response to several instances of dissatisfaction from organizations that own teams in the EU LCS. Top-tier European teams applying to join the NA LCS in 2018, and H2K’s recent public announcement to the community are two recent, high profile examples. These organizations cite financial unsustainability and insecurity as primary causes of strife within the EU LCS.

Maintaining the current promotion-relegation model creates an environment of uncertainty and risk for LCS teams, which scares sponsors from making high-value investments. European organizations also suffer from a more fragmented, regional market, when compared to those in North America. Without more certainty for organizations, and without the possibility of larger investment, the value of EU LCS slots has stagnated.

As reported by TheScore esports, EU LCS viewership is on the decline, especially when compared to the NA LCS. While Riot has developed and announced plans for franchising in the NA LCS next year, fans and players are worried that the EU LCS will suffer without serious change. The newest report shows Riot EU is looking to bring needed changes in the following areas.

BUSINESS & FINANCES

Misfits Academy sold to Mysterious Monkeys for $400,000

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

First and foremost, these changes aim at improving the economic environment of the EU LCS. Growth and excitement in esports, professional League of Legends included, revolve around money. Viewership, audiences and fans create opportunities for advertising, which allows developers, like Riot, to monetize the broadcasting of their games. Business organizations, such as Roccat or Splyce, view esports events as opportunities to advertise their products by sponsoring teams to compete. Players and coaches see esports as opportunities to make a living.

The decline in EU LCS viewership and the maintenance of the promotion-relegation model, coupled with the immense potential of an expanded, franchised NA LCS, present problems for European League of Legends organizations. While other regions and esports are taking major steps forward to increase revenue opportunities, the EU LCS is lagging behind. For example, while North America’s most recent LCS slot purchase (FlyQuest) clocked in at $2.5 million, Europe’s (Mysterious Monkeys) only sold for $400,000. Mysterious Monkeys was relegated within one split of entering the EU LCS, demonstrating the riskiness of such a venture.

From a financial perspective, the most compelling portion of Jacob Wolf’s’ report states “Participating teams will be granted a multi-year license from Riot Games to compete in the league, but a hard date on those licenses has not been established, sources said. This means teams won’t have to fear the possibility of relegation from their domestic leagues.” Doing away with relegation boosts the security for teams within the league, which, in turn, makes them more attractive as investment opportunities. This change removes the risk of a team, like Mysterious Monkeys, entering and exiting the LCS within a split or two.

Another element that should affect the business side of the EU LCS is the localization. Since there will now be four domestic leagues centered in Berlin, Paris, London and Barcelona, companies and organizations with more ties to specific locations may be more likely to invest. Spanish businesses may be drawn to sponsor a team in the Barcelona league, while French agencies might invest into Paris. Assuming this localization is more attractive to European investors, splitting parts of the LCS should be a beneficial move.

A final, less direct benefit of these new changes is the fact that Riot EU has tangible plans for next year. Financial backing is impossible without clear, executable strategies for the future, especially when organizations are targeting investments that may not return over several years. Once Riot unveils more detailed plans, organizations, team owners, sponsors and investors can begin to seriously consider their financial future with less uncertainty.

The only possible problem with the new EU LCS league format would be the need for more overall investment in a short period of time. There are currently 10 teams in the LCS and six teams in the Challenger Series. The reported 24-team league would require eight additional professionally funded organizations. This would mean each localized region would need to find two additional major organizations to enter the league from scratch. It is unclear if this is feasible. However, Riot EU has most likely analyzed the market to a point to determine this as a realistic goal for 2018.

COMPETITIVE INTEGRITY

Fnatic Academy sold to Ninjas in Pyjamas for $500,000

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

When talking about professional sports and esports, the competitive environment is of utmost importance. No one wants to watch matches that are excessively one-sided or low overall quality. The EU LCS has not struggled too much with these two problems up to this point, but the new reported format could have an impact.

Riot will break up the EU LCS into four regional leagues. The  increase in overall league size will bring in at least 40 new players to the big stage, most likely more. This will have an effect on competitive integrity by drawing in a larger pool of players, which may not be impactful immediately, but it will train a mass of players as professionals.

The second part of the reported formatting that will affect the competition is this:

“The top two teams of each domestic league will automatically qualify into the greater league, which will run alongside the competitive seasons of the domestic league, similar to the Champions League, according to sources. The third- and fourth-place teams will compete in a play-in, while fifth and sixth places will play in an open qualifier. The greater league will house a total of 16 teams, with a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket.”

Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London will now have their own domestic leagues with six teams representing each. These teams will play within their locality first to qualify for the greater league and the play-in. This format will create competition by having all teams competing to get into the greater league, rather than having only the bottom two LCS teams facing off against the top two CS teams for slots.

The major downside to this is that there will most likely be even more striation within localities than what currently exists in the EU LCS. For example, during the regular season this year, Group A created clear first, second, third, fourth and fifth place teams with Fnatic being a couple of wins ahead of G2, G2 a couple of wins ahead of Misfits, etc. Imagine this concept stretching to four groups, and that layered effect may be more extreme.

On the flip-side, this may create more competition, just more often at a lower level. Unicorns of Love may be able to crush all of the teams in the bottom four, but maybe the fights for third through sixth within the Berlin locality would be closer. Maybe the greater league will have closer match-ups more frequently between the bottom 10 teams, while the top six continue to duke it out for championship points.

It is also possible the concentration of high-profile players will decrease if the team market expands. Instead of having several star players within a few rosters, and less notable players meshed together for Challenger teams, perhaps more teams will be able to sign one of the very best and build around them with lower-profile and rookie players. 

FAN EXPERIENCE

Origen may rejoin the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Esports are nothing without an audience. This is where the cycle of monetization begins, and a major factor in the success of professional League of Legends. Making headway with EU LCS fans is vitally important to the future of the league. As stated earlier, viewership for the EU LCS has been on the decline, so investors, organizations, teams and players are looking at Riot to make changes to address the issue.

However, Wolf’s report does not really touch on this part of the conversation, leaving many questions unanswered. With so many more teams, there must be many more games. How will this affect streaming? Will Riot schedule simultaneous broadcasts in Paris, Berlin, London and Barcelona? Will they be in their native languages, or English for all? Are these going to be best-of-ones, twos, or threes? Are these the only changes directed at gaining more viewers?

Audiences have expressed dissatisfaction with best-of-ones and best-of-twos in the past. The two group format for 2017 has also been underwhelming. Splitting even further into four groups may make everyone even more fractured, causing viewership to further decline. If fewer of the match-ups are of higher competitive quality, then viewers may elect to spend time watching other regions, rather than Europe.

There is also the question of production staff. Can Riot get enough casters and analysts to effectively carry four different domestic leagues? Will the quality of the overall production decrease in response to the increase in the total amount of production? The EU LCS already has less week-to-week content when compared to the NA LCS. Will stretching those resources across more broadcasts affect this disparity?

Hopefully, more information will come to light to address these concerns. While it is understandable that Riot may be primarily focused on the health of organizations and the financial future of the league, they cannot completely forget about the fuel for esports: the viewers. Creating opportunities for investment into the league is not enough. Viewership has to scale with the investment, or else it will all be a sink.

PLAYERS’ & COACHES’ WELL-BEING

Paris St. Germain may join the EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://lol.esportsmatrix.com

The EU LCS is not the EU LCS without its players and coaches. These are the individuals that train day in and day out to achieve peak performance and beat all opponents. Professional League of Legends, and esports as a whole, would be nothing without them. Organizations sign contracts with these people to provide them enough resources to get on stage, play the game and gain viewers. Investors have no business in the EU LCS without these talents.

Of course, there is a bit of cyclic nature to professional esports athletes. Money and material gains are the incentives that bring high quality talent up to create professional teams. High quality players need to exist for audiences to watch regularly. But the players may not play if the financial incentives are not high enough.

It is unclear how these changes for 2018 will affect players and coaches in the EU LCS. Will most players’ and coaches’ salaries go up due to an overall larger pie, due to investment? Will the top players and coaches maintain the same pay and benefits, while only nascent teams bring in new money? Is it possible that the top players and coaches already make too much money, and they may see a decline, as the market expands into four separate leagues with more teams and players available to choose from?

The report also does not mention anything about revenue sharing or players’ associations, akin to the announcements for the NA LCS. While owning organizations and teams may be gaining more investment opportunities, there is no guarantee that players, coaches or other staff will actually benefit. Players and coaches should expect higher salaries and more resources, but that may be naive thinking. Some investors may simply view these updates as a chance to recoup losses before expanding their costs in any meaningful way.

OVERALL

Challenger teams may join EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://windandrain.org

These reported changes do seem to be overall beneficial for the EU LCS in the grand scheme. Creating four district leagues that compete alongside a greater regional league seems to address European investors’ issues with the small, localized markets. Removing relegation and introducing multi-year licenses should ease organizations’ fears of the risk-reward nature of the league. Formatting the LCS to include more teams may create a healthier environment for developing more European talent, upping the overall competitive spirit.

There are some concerns with regards to the logistics and quality of broadcasting, as well as the effects on players and coaching staff. These should be addressed more in-depth in the near future. More steps may need to be taken by Riot EU to ensure that these increased economic opportunities are not lost on the individuals that make esports work at the end of the day, audiences and players. Higher investment ceilings only mean so much if there are no consumers to drive the advertising and monetization of the broadcast.

Finally, organizations have been rather quiet in response to Wolf’s report. This silence may be due to non-disclosure agreements with Riot EU. However, considering how vocal owners and organizations have recently been, one would expect more public announcements expressing thoughts and feelings on the subject.

In the report, Wolf mentions “other teams with ventures in League of Legends, such as Paris Saint-Germain, Origen and Red Bulls, have expressed interest in participating.” Misfits’ owner, Ben Spoont, gave some brief insight on Reddit, and former H2K manager, Chris Kalargiros, wrote an opinion piece for Blitz Esports. However, not much else has been heard from the rest of the professional League of Legends community. This may turn out to be a critical moment for European League of Legends. The community is waiting for more clarity from European organizations.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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What the EU LCS announcement could mean for NA LCS

The Announcement

After spending a weekend in Boston at the NA LCS Finals my mind has been focused on one thing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Worlds, duh.” Sorry but you’re wrong. The more people I talked to who were in the know or even had inside information made me wonder about my favorite League of Legends topic, franchising.

Courtesy of: https://eu.lolesports.com/

We all know there will be a major announcement for who has been accepted sometime in November. It has also been reported that over 100 teams applied for the NA LCS franchising opportunity. This means that over 100 teams/organizations have either found investors or have the $13 million necessary to join the league.

What this also means is that there is an insane amount of interest in League of Legends for these spots.

Jacob Wolf announced earlier today that EU LCS would be splitting into four regions. With this there will be 24 teams that are all at the top league, six in each region. It sounds like there will be no minor league teams or challenger scene, and with that it will end relegation which has been a huge thorn in the side of teams. They will be playing in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

What does this mean?

How will this effect NA? Well for starters one would expect there to be at least 16 or more teams in the new league. With over 100 teams applying I can definitely see more. There has been much debate around this over the weekend and especially within The Game Haus.

One of the major concerns that has been brought up is if there is enough talent to allow for this many teams. We have seen in the past that League of Legends normally has about four upper echelon teams in each split with some middle tier teams and then normally at least two teams that struggled mightily.

This is a valid point and a similar one can easily be made for EU as many people feel they are a weaker region. The hope is that with salaries and more of a budget to officially pay players, some of the best in each region will eventually spread out to the different teams. It is also possible that some of the top players in each region may jump back in. Could we see the return of Dyrus to the main league? Although doubtful, the possibility is there.

Courtesy of: http://wwg.com

An argument could be made that this may extend careers as well. Plenty of people have worried about the fact that most League players either burn out or lose their edge once they reach their middle to upper twenties. That would allow more time for development of newer players and expectations may be lowered.

Another point that can be made for NA is that it looks likely that they will at least follow a similar format to EU. It is completely conceivable that NA goes regional and has all of their teams in each region like EU. There could be Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern and Western regions that could accommodate a similar number of teams.

Or, they could do what Overwatch league is planning on doing and have teams in separate cities like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. With the team owners of the OWL building Esports arenas, it is also possible that there will be League teams sharing those stadiums similar to traditional sports.

There are clearly so many different questions that can be asked with this news. One that has been answered is that Riot is not letting EU die out. Instead their goal of revamping it and adding franchising should give EU fans hope.

For NA it allows excitement to start brewing for the announcements to come after Worlds. For now League fans can theorize and discuss this on the forums while also enjoying Worlds. Big changes are coming to League of Legends. Riot clearly has a vision that includes League being around for the long haul and one can see that this is only the beginning.


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Weekend Review, Arsenal humiliated and Madrid drop points

It was a big week in club soccer as the teams get prepared for the international break. Too many managers these weeks are going to be frustrated with the break. As it puts them two weeks without the squad and they can’t fix many of the problems that team have. So any team coming from a win, it is huge they go into the break in a good mood and will most likely keep their form, On the other hand, the teams that lose don’t have a chance to work on the problems and will only have 2 or 3 days before the next matchup.

 

England

The big match up of the weekend was Liverpool vs Arsenal. Many expected a high scoring match from both teams as they both are considered to have leaky defenses. Yet, only one team showed up at Anfield and that was Liverpool. The Reds won the game 4-0 dominating both half of the game creating chance after chance. They showed that they could still be elite even without Coutinho in the side. They have to fight off Barcelona for a couple more days but if they lose the Brazilian to a transfer the front three of Saido Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mouhammed Salah will have no problem scoring and creating chances.

 

Arsenal though probably had their worst performance in the last five years falling to put a single shot on target. This has lead many Arsenal fans to bring back the campaign of Wenger out. To make matters worse Arsenal has to fight off losing some of their key players these next few days and have no time practice because of International break. The Gunners are in a crisis. Their new formation isn’t working with many players looking disinterested in playing and the squad is nowhere deep or as good as the Arsenal fans expected. With three matches in, I doubt Wenger loses his job but during his whole time at Arsenal this might the worst position he has ever been.

Here are the game highlights

In the rest of the league of Chelsea dominated most of the game beating Everton 2-0, finally looking like the champions of last season. Alvaro Morata and Fabregas particularly impressed as the Spaniard duo connected for the goal and were influential. It’s early in the season but Alvaro Morata scored in the weekend and has been showing he could be the perfect replacement to the departure of Diego Costa from the squad.

 

Tottenham dropped points again at home, officially dropping more this season than in all of the last year. The team is trying to convince that the Wembley form is not a problem but these were more points drop at the end when Spurs are playing in this stadium. This a problem if it continues throughout the season and they don’t have their home form of last year they will have no chance of winning the premier league. They dominated most of the game finally breaking through with Dele Ali’s goal but they couldn’t see the result out and letting Chris wood have a good run at the box score.

The Manchester Squads both had wins over the weekend. United continue their scary good form to start the season by dominating a Leicester City side to win 2-0. United has been in amazing form to start the year and is becoming the clear favorites to win the premier league before the transfer window completes. Mourinho seems to always win titles in his second years and this team seems to finally feel like the old Ferguson teams.

Manchester City won on a 90-minute winner versus Bournemouth right at the end. Sterling hit the shot and celebrated with the fans but to the surprise of the whole stadium, he got a second yellow. This means Sterling will miss the next game for celebration with the fans but he didn’t really do anything over the top. Bournemouth might come out of the game feeling gutted as the southern team had Charlie Daniels score an amazing goal in the 11th minute. They lost the lead by a goal from Gabriel Jesus who plays a smartly taken quick free kick to catch the team sleeping.

The rest of the EPL saw 3 draws, Newcastle surprised with a 3-0 win over West Ham and Swansea stealing a win at Crystal Palace. Manchester is the only perfect side and sits on top of the table but the upcoming days with transfer window closing it will let us know where everyone truly stands.

 

Spain

In Spain, the great Real Madrid dropped points at home drawing to a resilient Valencia side in a game that was back and forth and either club could have won.The champions couldn’t survive with missing two of stars with both Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo out with a suspension. Marco Asensio came to the rescue for Madrid with an amazing performance that might set him up to be a starter even when Ronaldo comes back. Bale was jeered out after his performance bringing his departure back into question. Barcelona cruised into another 2-0 with an outstanding performance from Messi who scored twice. the team doesn’t look as strong upfront but they are still able to really control matches versus the mid table Spanish sides. To Many Barca is in crisis but things are looking up they will add a couple more signing before the transfer market closes a go into the international break top of the table.

Italy

In Serie A the weekend was highlighted by the comeback 3-1 win by Inter Milan over Roma on the road. The Italian capital side dominated the first half and created chances after chances scoring ones with a true striker’s goal from Dzeko hitting the post three times. In the second half, Icardi took over and score two quick finishes to give Inter the lead and Vecino finishing it in the 89th minute putting home a Perisic cross in for his second assist in the game.

 

The other big clubs also took care of business. Juventus completed a two goal comeback to beat Genoa 4-2 on the road. Dybala scores a hat-trick bringing his team back after conceding two goals in the opening 15. The defence is not as sound but if Dybala keeps playing like this It won’t matter. AC Milan won 2-1 at home versus Cagliari with an amazing free kick by Suso. Milan scored early with the teenage sensation Patrick Cutrone putting home a cross but lost the lead. The Suso free kick was the ultimate kick in the game. The big spending squad has yet to reach its potential but have started the season on the right foot. Napoli also had a comeback win beating Atalanta 3-1 with Zielinski scoring an amazing goal.

The transfer window is wrapping up and it will curious to see how the teams look after the three days that are left. It will be interesting to see which teams set themselves up for success or failure, so expect random big news this couple days.

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Analysis the Champions League Draw

Here are the Groups:

Group A: Benfica, Manchester United, FC Basel, CSKA Moscow.
Group B: Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Anderlecht, Celtic.
Group C: Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Roma, FK Qarabag.
Group D: Juventus, Barcelona, Olympiakos, Sporting CP.
Group E: Spartak Moscow, Sevilla, Liverpool, NK Maribor.
Group F: Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester City, Napoli, Feyenoord.
Group G: Monaco, FC Porto, Besiktas, RB Leipzig.
Group H: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham, APOEL Nicosia.

 

Real Madrid in the Group of Death

Two-time defending champions get drawn in the Group of Death. (Image by Getty Images)

Group H is clearly the group to watch as the two-time defending champions Real Madrid have drawn Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham in their group alongside Cyprus side Apoel.

Real Madrid will have to continue the high form they are in if they want to survive. The Spanish side is still favorite to come out of the group, but they can’t afford to have slip-ups. Unless they are the top team in the world, they might not survive.

Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid are in a group again after being grouped together last year. Borussia Dortmund will look at the same challenge as last year when they also had a tough group with the defending champs, and they found some success winning the group.

Both games between the clubs ended in 2-2 draws, so it looks like things will be settled this year. The rematches should be fun to watch.

The addition of the Spurs drama is extra to the group this year. Spurs completely underwhelmed in last year’s competition, losing three games and two at Wembley. Many believe Spurs can’t fill and play well there.

Spurs will have to put the Wembley curse behind them with the difficult group. (Image by Getty Images)

Well, this year all their games are at Wembley because of the new stadium being built. If the Wembley form continues, or if the curse is true, it will be a tough year for Spurs, who will have to host the two-time champions and the high attacking Dortmund side.

Still, this group will feature six games of high-quality football in three cathedrals of the sports. The Bernabeu, Westfalenstadion and Wembley are world-class places. Every match between the clubs will be a spectacle to watch. This group will showcase the beauty of European club football.

Rounding out the group is Apoel, who will be the underdog in every match in the group. Not much is expected from them.

The Cyprus team does have some experience in the competition from 2012 when the team surprisingly got to the quarterfinals. The club will be looking to replicate the run they had, but it will be difficult with the group they were drawn in.

The Group of Life is Group G

Group G has Monaco, Porto, Besiktas and Red Bull Leipzig. It is the group where everyone seems to have a genuine chance of winning it.

There are no favorites in the group. Monaco is the champions in the group, but they have sold many of their stars from the semifinal side last year. With even more sales to come, it will difficult for the club to bring back the form they were in.

Monaco was given a lifeline with the difficult group, but none of the true football giants are in it. It will be challenging for the French Ligue side. Depending how they use the huge amount of funds that are coming in, they might be alright.

Porto, on the other hand, has been accustomed to making the second round of the tournament and will like their chances against teams who don’t really have experience. Porto has the side full of veterans that look poised to take control of the group. The Portuguese side will have the tough test, but with most of the squad at Monaco being sold, they seem destined to win the group.

Besiktas is the other team that will fancy their chances of coming through. They see the lowering of the level at Monaco and want to break  the bad streak Turkish football has had in Europe.

The Turkish league has risen in funding in recent year, but it has yet to have translated to Europe. Now Besiktas has the opening of making some noise with this group. They have a big fanbase and the funding to really make noise. Don’t be surprised if you see Besiktas in the second round.

Red Bull Leipzig is the last team and really makes the group interesting. The German side finished second in the Bundesliga and will make their European debut with this group. The German side hasn’t really made the addition of the squad, but have been keeping many of the players in the team from the surprise year, something Monaco hasn’t been able to do.

With this draw, the Leipzig side will definitely fancy their chances of going through. Expect a young high-pressure side that attacks anytime they can.

This group seems the most entertaining on paper from the point of view that every team will believe they are the better side. This will give us a group full of open matches.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester city get favorable groups

All three teams came into the draw with nightmare possibilities and left with scenarios they will like.

Manchester United gets an easy favorite and becomes a contender to win it all. (Image by Getty Images)

United got drawn in group A alongside Benfica, Basel and Cska Moscow. All are games where the Red Devils will be favorites to win.

Manchester United may have gotten in the tournament through the back door of the Europa league, but now the three-time winners look poised for a deep run this year. They have started the league with two 4-0 thrashings. Things are looking bright for the English giants and Jose Mourinho.

If United can get one or two more players, they could be serious contenders to win the champions this year. It wouldn’t have been the first time Mourinho has won the Europa League and then the Champions League the following year.

Liverpool is the middle of the Coutinho drama, but there is good news. The Reds got drawn into Group E with Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor. They got one of the best options they had as their group’s champions with Spartak Moscow from Russia, a side Liverpool could get a win against.

Liverpool gets some much needed good news in the draw (Images : Getty Images )

They also get a win over Sevilla, which is the most favorable Spanish side they could have gotten and gives them the chance to avenge the loss they had in the Europa league final two years ago.

The last side Maribor is the Slovenian side that is among of the worst teams in the 32. They will look to shock the world, trying to get results with clubs much bigger in fan base and funding.

The Reds now look to be in a good place to make a run. Maybe this news makes them a little more willing to sell Coutinho. Liverpool could sell a couple players and still make it into the second round of the competition.

Man City ended up with the toughest group out of the three, but one that the club should handle. Group F is Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord, along with the Manchester club.

Man City should be favorite, but face a very good Napoli side, who could easily get a result. Napoli returns a very cohesive squad that will challenge any team. A Shakhtar side that is a veteran of the competition and seems to be in final 16 every year. Feyenoord is a young side that will surprise this year.

Man city is favorited, but if Pep doesn’t get the squad focused, things could go wrong fast in this group. Compared to Liverpool’s and United’s group, it’s hard, but Manchester City should have the squad to go through easily.

Chelsea dealt with tough group

Chelsea have tough test as they come back to the competition (image: Getty Images )

The blues are in a group that will test how deep the squad is as they will have no easy games.

Chelsea is in Group C alongside recent finalist Atletico Madrid, Roma and debutant Qarabag. Chelsea is coming from missing the Champions League last year and want to be among the leaders in the competition again.

Atletico Madrid is among the favorites to win it all, losing two recent finals, but face the unique challenge of being transfer banned. For the group stage, the club will be without reinforcement which might make it tough for the Spanish side.

Roma will look to take control from Chelsea with locker room troubles and an Atletico side that can’t improve themselves. They have brought in some talent and brought in a young Italian manager Eusebio Di Francesco.

Qarabag is the side in trouble. The side is the first club from Azerbaijan to ever make the Champions League group stage and will prove to be a long trip for the three big European clubs. Besides the Group of Death with the defending champions, this seems to be the toughest group on paper.

Big matches you won’t want to miss

Bayern Munich vs PSG – September 27 at Parc des Princes and December 5 at Allianz Arena
Atletico Madrid vs Roma – September 12 at Stadio Olimpico and November 22 at Wanda Metropolitano
Roma vs Chelsea – October 18 at Stamford Bridge and October 31 at Stadio Olimpico

Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid – September 27 at Wanda Metropolitano and December 5 at Stamford Bridge
Juventus vs Barcelona – September 12 at Camp Nou and November 22 at Juventus Stadium
Sevilla vs Liverpool – September 13 at Anfield and November 21 at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Manchester City vs Napoli – September 26 at City of Manchester Stadium and November 1 at Stadio San Paolo
Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund – September 26 at Westfalenstadion and December 6 at Santiago Bernabeu
Borussia Dortmund vs Tottenham – September 13 at Wembley and November 21 at Westfalenstadion
Tottenham vs Real Madrid – October 17 at Santiago Bernabeu and November 1 at Wembley

 

Featured Image from Full Matches and Shows

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Weekend preview: Games to watch

All the leagues are now going this weekend and here is a guide to the five games you must watch.

Bayern Munich vs Bayern Leverkusen

Bayern Munich kick off the Bundesliga with a tough test.

Bayern Munich will try to erase the bad preseason today (Images: Getty Images)

Bayern will look to start the season off with a good start. They have won the last five titles and are looking for a record sixth in a row. Yet, the feeling has changed after a bad preseason, where the team lost four games, many are believing this might be the most vulnerable we have seen the Munich side in years. Many of their stars like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are ageing and they have many new signings that have yet to find their place in the squad.

Friday will be the start of this squad and we will get to see if what everyone fears are true.They face a tough opponent in Bayern Leverkusen who look to improve from the form they showed last season. Leverkusen had a huge fall from grace dropping from playing in the Champions League to finishing 12th in the table. Adding more to the problem. they have sold their best-attacking options in selling Chicharito and Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Still one would expect them to improve from their form last year. They bring back most of the spine of the team and bring in the veteran and former title winner in Sven Bender to play along side his twin brother. They are a side that is not going to beat itself.

The game will show if Leverkusen is still able to play at a Champions league level and if they will miss their two main men up front. On the other hand, this game will let us see if Bayern Munich are the team we saw in the pre-season or the one we saw the last five years. The game is today at 2:30, which is the perfect way to start your weekend.

Barcelona vs Real Betis

Ernesto Valverde will have the tough job of surviving without Luis Suarez ( Images: Getty Images)

Barcelona is in the middle of a crisis and begins the league this Sunday. After losing by an overall 5-1 margin to their bitter rivals Real Madrid, losing Neymar to PSG and now facing four to five weeks without Suarez, Barcelona is desperate for good news.

With less than two weeks left in the transfer window, Barcelona is desperate to get talent in through the door to improve the level and depth of the squad. This is something they need badly. The level they showed in the Spanish Super Cup is far from what we expect from the Spanish giants and not good enough to win the league. On Sunday we will see a Barcelona we haven’t seen in a while, one without Neymar nor Suarez. This will be a big test at home to show that they can survive this stretch without Suarez and the new signing that have yet to come in. Ernesto Valverde will have to work with what he has.

The game is also important because the last few years the league has gone down to the final moments and a bad start to the season can create a gap in the points on the table too big for them to make up during the year. This stretch will prove how good of a Manager and fit Valverde is as the team will have to find a new way to play.

From the Real Betis point of view, they see a weak Barcelona and a chance to get points at the Camp Nou. A place where not that many teams will find success this year. Any points are good for the Seville side as they look to get out of the relegation battle they were in last year. Betis did find success last year against the Catalan side drawing 1-1 and only dropping the 3 points by a Suarez goal at the last minute. The teams face off Sunday at 2:15 pm

Tottenham vs Chelsea

Spurs will face Chelsea Sunday in the first top six match up of the year (Images: Getty Images)

The top two teams from England last year face off in a London derby that has been full of sparks the last couple of seasons. Chelsea is coming off a shocking home loss against a Burnley side that was dreadful on the road last year. Adding insult to injury the squad will be without Cahill because of the red card last game and Eden hazard who is still hurt. Another loss will put pressure on Chelsea as the defending champions will be looking at back to back defeats to start the year.

Spurs, on the other hand, will want to prove that they are true title contenders this year. Chelsea cost them their title chances two years ago and beat them last season they will still look for revenge. The North London side are one of the title favourites and nothing will go better in the squad than a derby win over the reigning champions. This is setting up to be a very heated encounter.

Expect an amazing atmosphere as this will be the first game the Spurs will play at their temporary home of Wembley. Tottenham will play all their home games this year at Wembley while their new stadium finishes up for next year. The Spurs will look to kick off the season right in the historic stadium while Chelsea will look to make up for their recent performances at the grounds. Coming from losing back to back finals against the other North London side, Arsenal.

It may be only the second week of the season but this game could be crucial as both teams expect to be in title contention. Being the first game between the top six this year, everyone in England will be locked into this match. The game kicks off at 11:00 am on Sunday

 

Inter Milan Vs Fiorentina

Matias Vecino and Borja Valero joined Inter Milan from Fiorentina, which they face this weekend. (Image: Getty Images)

Serie A is also beginning this weekend and the game to watch is Inter Milan vs Fiorentina. Inter Milan want to consider themselves a title contender and there is no better test that an established team in Italy like Fiorentina. The game will also have an extra flavor to it as Inter got two of the most important players from the Florence side this summer.

Matias Vecino and Borja Valero moved into the Milan side this summer giving up on the Florentine side, a side Valero was the captain of. Fiorentina is one of the most ambitious clubs in Italy and is doing a massive overhaul of their roster this summer, bringing in 19 players and letting 15 go. Creating a massive earning of 79 million. The squad is now young and full of potential highlighted by the signing of Giovanni Simeone and will look to surprise the Milan side in the season opener.

Fiorentina has the potential with this squad to create a young core for years to come and this game will be the first test for the inexperienced squad against one of Italy’s finest. For Inter it is important to start with a win as having good momentum this year will be huge as an extra Champions League place has been added to the Italian league. With their main rivals A.C. Milan having big spending summer, Inter wants to have a good showing to bring up the morale of the fans who were expecting a bigger transfer window up.

Both squad vision themselves being among those top four in Italy and playing Champions League next year. They have very different setups: Fiorentina with the young talented squad and Inter Milan with big very diverse and veteran squad and on Sunday we will see who is better set up for the year to come.

Other games to keep an eye on.

Other games that should peak interest are Arsenal and Manchester United who both get their first road test of the year. Mourinho’s Squad takes on a Swansea side that has just lost their top player in Gylfi Sigurðsson. Arsenal goes to Stoke to face a team who keeps being very ambitious with the signings. Expect former Madrid player Jesse to make his debut in the game.

In Spain both Madrid side starts on the road with winnable games, the great Madrid side that will be without Ronaldo to start but if the super cup is any indication the team the team will have no problem with Deportivo La Coruna. Atletico Madrid plays Girona FC the recently promoted side that has five Man City loan players on the roster.

The last good game to keep an eye on is Schalke 04 versus Reb Bull Leipzig, both teams are the favourites to push Bayern this year expect a high level back and forth encounter. In Italy Roma play Atalanta in a game that faces off two teams that were in the top four last season and set up to be a very entertaining encounter.

With all the leagues now going strong, and a transfer window that is still open it will be a good weekend to be a soccer fan.

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Soccer is finally back! Madrid dominates and much more

Real Madrid steamroll Barca in an instant classic

Real Madrid beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou by a score of 3-1 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. After a close first half, the European champion took control finding the lead when Marcelo’s cross was deflected in by Pique for an own goal in the 50th minute. Barcelona did find a way back, they dominated the possession in big spells but when it came to the final third Barcelona couldn’t find the back of the net. Many chances were missed and they struggled in numerous attempts to link up in front of goal, something they are known for. This Highlighted throughout the game what the squad is missing from the departure of Neymar.

Barcelona found a way back in very lucky fashion when the team was awarded a penalty that wasn’t there. While Suarez does in a sense move out-of-the-way of what would have been a foul by Keylor Navas, the striker rolled on the ground like he had been hit with a lead pipe. The theatrics came with great success as Messi buried the penalty the penalty and it was game on.

The draw didn’t last long. Minutes later Madrid’s speed and organization took control. Madrid look deadly in every counter they had in the game and Barca seemed to struggle in covering back their tracks constantly getting caught out of position.  This became more evident with the subs brought in. Ronaldo coming in fresh was hard to handle by a tired defence in Barca. It’s rarely the case one of the best players in the world is an option coming off the bench.

Ronaldo takes Center Stage

Then the game became perfect for Ronaldo scoring a true Golazo on the counter where the keeper could do nothing. Taking his shirt off and having a revenge celebration to respond to what Messi did in the last Classico played in the Bernabeu. Then a couple of minutes later the Portuguese superstar was thrown out the game for falling in the box. The referee saw the action as a simulation trying to deceive him into giving a penalty, Ronaldo was baffled with the decision ending it with a push of the referee. Ronaldo got a five match suspension for the action yesterday and faces a month without playing.

Yet, even after Ronaldo was sent off and playing with 10 men, Madrid was still able to control the game. Madrid never really felt the pressure by Barcelona and continued creating on the counter. Culminating with another Golazo from the left-hand side this time by Asensio.

What was learned from this first leg is Real Madrid might be even better than last year. In the match, they didn’t have two of their most important players to start with Ronaldo and Modric. It made no difference. Madrid played what they wanted and created at will showing how deep the squad really is.  Barca, on the other hand, looks in crisis, the Neymar hole is there and no solution seems to be on the roster right now. The midfield looks weak and struggles to be present in almost all of Madrid’s counter attacks and a defence that in recent big games haven’t really shown up. With only a couple of weeks left in the transfer market, Barca looks in real need of reinforcements more than just their recent signing of Paulinho. Creating real depth to the squad has to be the goal for Barcelona in the coming days.

 

Here are other things that happened in the world of soccer

Juventus lost the Super Cup.

Juventus lost the Super Cup in dramatic fashion when they conceded a goal in the dying minutes of the game. Juventus known for one of the best defences conceded three to Lazio, two coming from Ciro Immobile. The Lazio striker made problems of the Juventus’ back line highlighting the departure of Leonardo Bonnuci to Milan. Losing aerial battles and scrambling to clean things up is something you would have never seen last year.  Juventus did well to get back in the match coming back from two goals down but fail to secure the game. The defence let Lazio right back into the lead only minutes from the end, something you would have bet before hand would never happen. Juventus must look elsewhere for another centre back if they want to have the same elite defence they have had the last couple seasons, especially with other teams in Italy spending big to catch them this year and end the streak of Serie A titles.

EPL is back and better than ever.

The EPL is finally back and it started with a thriller at the Emirates where Arsenal survived a 4-3 game versus Leicester city. Yet this turned out to be just the curtain raiser. The defending champions Chelsea lost 2-3 at home against Burnley, who won only one game last year away from home, as Chelsea finished the game with nine men. Liverpool also started with a thriller drawing with Watford 3-3 in a game that was back and forth for the whole 90 minutes, showcasing why the EPL is the most entertaining league in the world.

In the other results, the two main title contenders both won by a score of 2-0 on the road. Tottenham took care of Newcastle dominating the possession and the pace for almost all the 90 minutes. Manchester city played well as well, displaying patience with their system as they faced a very organized and compact team in Brighton slowly becoming more of a team that we are accustomed to seeing with Pep Guardiola.

Manchester had the best opening weekend in England finishing the match day at the top of the table beating West Ham by a huge score of 4-0. Lukaku scored twice and the team played well around him, creating chances after chances and not letting the hammers create much. After week one Mourinho is on top but if the season is like the first week we are all set up for one of the best English premier league seasons and one full of surprises.

Here are all the goals from the weekend.

Neymar made his debut

The biggest signing this summer, Neymar finally makes his debut( Image: Getty Images )

Neymar finally made his debut for PSG scoring and assisting, which was his first debut in his career he was able to score. The team looks pretty cohesive in the rout win over Guingamp. Neymar looks comfortable with the squad and fitting right in with the type of play of the league. It will be interesting to see the moves PSG ends up to clear their books for Financial Fairplay and if the squad can stay playing at this level. One thing is for sure, Neymar will have no problem scoring in this league.

Transfer window is still open and a lot of teams need help

These coming weeks expect a lot of action in the transfer market as teams will be desperate to get deals done to improve the squad. Too many teams the next two weeks are the most important and shape up their seasons. Getting in and keeping talent can be as important as anything a team did on the field. So expect big names to move that you wouldn’t have expected and teams signing players you have never heard of ridiculous amounts. The next two weeks will probably be filled with huge flops and big steals and will be very interesting to follow.

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http://thegamehaus.com/2017/07/27/soccer-players-u…ison-u-s-leagues/ ‎

Are soccer players underpaid? A comparison with U.S. leagues

In soccer, getting and signing contracts is still the wild west. There is no salary cap. There’s no player’s union. Players have very little leverage and what ends up happening is the players get underpaid.

So while you see massive transfer figures going on this summer, remember that the players see none of that money. It’s just billion dollar clubs trading millions and the player can’t get a bit of the money he just made the club he was sold from. Money in soccer is bigger than ever before yet the players seem to be getting less of the pie as the pie is getting bigger.

How is it that the global game in a globalized society is falling behind the American league in Average salaries and in highest salaries paid out?

So when people say a player is valued at over $100 million, he gets none of that money. Players are getting less portion of the revenues and it can be seen when you compare it to the American leagues. While you see the average salary keep getting raised in baseball and basketball, in Soccer it’s barely a gap and it’s  less than noticeable. All the money is ending up in transfer fees and in the hands of a billionaire instead of in the players who actually put in the hard work.

European Leagues compare to American Leagues

soccer players underpaid

Even though Messi signed a mega contract this summer most players in La Liga make less than $1milion (image: Getty Images)

If you compare the English Premier League’s average salary with that of the other leagues it dwarfs the rest of Europe. In the United States, the NFL is considered the worst paying of the major sports with no guaranteed contracts and an average salary of $2.4 million, yet only one soccer league in the world passes it.

The EPL passes it with the average salary of $3.2 million. La Liga is the next closest falls behind with just $1.6 million.

What factors into these numbers is the TV rights money not being shared. In England, money is shared equally among teams in the league and its the reason is the only league close to the American ones.

In Spain Real Madrid and Barcelona get most of the money and it creates a massive difference with the clubs they are competing against. This explains why the league has the lowest median salary. While Barcelona and Madrid have two of the highest payrolls in all of sports, only eight Spanish teams boast an average salary of over a million. Barca or Madrid’s payroll is bigger than the bottom ten teams combined and money would be left over.

Top Salaries compared

soccer players underpaid

Steph Curry makes $12 million more than any player in the EPL. (images: Getty Images)

Yet looking at these numbers, you want to think at least the highest-paid player’s contracts in soccer must be around the same as any other sport. Nope, and it’s not even close.

Paul Pogba is the highest-paid player in the EPL. He cost Manchester United over $100 million last transfer window and will make less money in his contract than Jrue Holiday. That’s right, one of the best soccer players in the world will make the same money as the starting point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year.

So while of course, it is not like soccer players are not getting good money, but the transfer fees keep rising and the reach of the game is growing by the year. Why aren’t players receiving more of the pie? The EPL is the highest-paying soccer league in the world and even its top grossing players aren’t close to the money other athletes are getting.

The global sports, like soccer, should bring the most in terms of players wages and rights, yet they are trying to play catch up with American leagues’ systems. The worst part of it all is there really isn’t a soccer player’s union that fights for the rights of the players. So the money of everything will keep staying in the owner’s hand and the player will be stuck having no leverage and using rumors to get bigger deals done.

 

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Top 5 Current Transfer Stories

Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal

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Alexis Sanchez,who has yet to sign an extension and would be free to go next summer (Image:Getty Images)

Alexis Sanchez is on the last year of his current contract and there has still been no announcement of him signing an extension. This means even thou Arsenal has started preseason with him in the squad if no contract is signed they will be forced to sell the player or face the fear he leaves on a free transfer next summer(which Arsenal will never let happen). Currently Manchester City and Bayern Munich are looking for the Chilean signature and if Alexis Sanchez doesn’t sign a contract it  might just force Arsenal to sell there main man. While Arsenal will demand a lot of money for the Chilean, teams know the situation and low ball their offers. Sanchez score 24 goals and gave 10 assists for the Gunners last season. What also adds stress to the situation is Arsenal missed out on Champions League Football and it would be very hard to find a proper replacement for the Chilean. They may have the money but Emirates Stadium is not that attractive without Champions League Football. It is essential for Arsenal to try to keep Alexis.

To understand how essential it is for Arsenal I posted a link HERE of Sanchez highlights last season.

Ivan Perisic To Manchester United

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Inter Milan are asking £50 million for Perisic. Who scored 11 and had 8 assist last season.(Image: Getty Images)

This transfer negotiation has been going on back and worth for a while now. The sides are supposedly only £9 million apart with pricing. Ivan Perisic is coming off one of his most productive season with Inter Milan netting 11 goals and creating eight assists, dominating the left-wing. The Croatian is a quick player who is also big and great in the air, things that are usually needed to succeed in the physical English premier league. Manchester United look to bring in the player to bolster their attack, which only scored 53 goals last season. Perisic’s play style also fits the Mourinho classic counter attack style and fits well with United latest signing Romelu LukaKu. From the Inter Milan point of view their isn’t much to do except try to get a much as you can for him. Inter want to keep Perisic but he his trying to force the move and its never smart to try to keep a player if they want to leave.

Highlights explaining his £50 million price can be seen HERE.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid or Arsenal

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Where will he be “the main man” next season? (Image: REUTERS)

The Mbappe saga has been the longest of the summer since it started before the summer had arrived. Kylian Mbappe broke into the scene last season as an 18-year-old earning his spot in Monaco’s starting XI. With that spot he became the best player on the side scoring 15 and totaling eight assists in Ligue 1 and netting six goals in Champions League play. He led the team that won the French league and reached the Semifinal of the biggest tournament in Europe at such a young age. It is no wonder why the 18-year-old kid is rumored to be going for the biggest transfer fee in history, or close to it. Real Madrid seem to be the front-runners but they still haven’t sold Alvaro Morata to make the money and clear the space for French International to come. Arsenal on the other hand can’t offer him Champions League play, a tournament he would be able to participate if he doesn’t move. No deal is close, leaving Monaco worried it all might come down to the deadline. Monaco is trying to convince the youngster to stay one more year in the French league before moving to one of the big teams in Europe.This would give Monaco more time to get the right deal. Ultimately Mbappe has said to press he wants to play for Madrid and it is only a matter of time until the Spanish giants get the financial and squad space together.

Highlights of the wunderkind can be seen HERE.

Nelson Semedo to Barcelona

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After missing out on Bellerin,Semedo has become Barcelona’s main right back target (Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Barcelona has been desperate in their look for a right back. Most of last season they played with Sergi Roberto at the position, a natural midfield player. Their long transfer target for the position. Hector Bellerin, has officially ruled out the move and Barcelona in recent weeks have changed their focus to the Portuguese international Nelson Semedo. The 23-year-old right back started 31 of the 34 games for the Portuguese champions, Benfica, and created seven assists coming from the back. Semedo also has great passing and dribbling skills which goes hand in hand with Barcelona’s system. The negotiations have been slow but expect them to speed up quickly now that it’s official Bellerin is not coming and preseason is starting.

Highlight of the player you might be seeing in every Classico next season HERE

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the last proven striker left in the market, Where will he land? (Image:Getty Images)

Chelsea is desperate to get a world-class striker into the building after missing out on Romelu lukaku and telling Diego Costa he is not wanted. They don’t have a proven goal scoring threat up top. While Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang is not the greatest fit to Antonio Conte’s style, the other strikers Chelsea are looking at are to overpriced. Morata and Andrea Belotti are more ideal targets for Conte but both are priced slightly lower than Aubameyang and are not as proven. The Gabon striker scored 31 goals in 32 appearances and Borussia Dortmund seem to want to cash in on the striker. Chelsea made an 70 million offer for the forward late Thursday night and negotiations are starting to begin. Aubemeyang has become Chelsea’s main target for the position. If the Costa situation isn’t resolved then don’t be surprised if the Blues go a spend as much as they can on Aubameyang, as he really is the last proven world-class striker left in the market.

HERE are highlights of all the goals Aubameyang scored in this year’s Bundesliga.

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Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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