The league season is well underway in the MLS, with things heating up in the race for the playoffs. In Europe, the top leagues are up and running as well, but they will now take a break as World Cup qualifiers kicks off on Sunday. Here are some of the games to keep an eye on this weekend.
FC Dallas – Portland Timbers (MLS Matchday 28):
FC Dallas welcomes the Portland Timbers to Toyota Stadium, as they look to keep ahold of the top spot in the West. Dallas tops the Western Conference on 48 points, five points ahead of chasing Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids. Reigning champions Portland sits in the final playoff spot, three points ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Dallas are still undefeated at home this season, posting nine wins and four draws. Portland’s away record is abysmal, with no wins, seven losses and six draws.
L.A. Galaxy – Columbus Crew (MLS Matchday 28):
Columbus Crew travels to California to take on L.A. Galaxy and try to pick up three points at the StubHub Arena to mount a playoff push.
L.A. Galaxy sits in fourth place in the West Conference with 40 points, and has an eight-point cushion down to rivals San Jose, who sit just outside the playoffs in seventh place. L.A. has five draws and one loss in their last six league games, along with an extra-time loss to FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
Columbus has picked up two wins, two losses and one draw in the last five league games, and is coming off a 2-0 win over San Jose after goals by Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram.
Slovakia – England (World Cup Qualifiers):
England kicks off their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign on Sunday with a trip to Slovakia to take on Marek Hamsik & Co. at the Stadion Antona Malatinskeho in Trnava. It’s Sam Allardyce’s first game as England manager.
Wayne Rooney is still the captain, and Allardyce hinted that Rooney will play in the same type of role as he has at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. Jack Wilshere was left out by Big Sam, with West Ham’s Michail Antonio brought in. Joe Hart, who was sent out on loan to Torino from Manchester City on the transfer deadline day, will be in net after Fraser Forster suffered an arm injury.
England are heavy favorites in Group F, which also includes Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Malta.
Czech Republic – Northern Ireland (World Cup Qualifiers):
The Czech republic host Northern Ireland at the Generali Arena in Prague on Sunday in Group C of the UEFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Czechs crashed out of the Euro 2016 group stage after finishing bottom of Group D with just a single point. They suffered a 1-0 loss to Spain, followed by a 2-2 draw to Croatia and a 2-0 loss to Turkey.
Northern Ireland had more success at the Euros, as they made it to the first knockout round after finishing third in Group C behind Germany and Poland. A 2-0 win over the Ukraine was enough to see them through. In the knockout stages, they were bounced after a 1-0 loss to Wales.
Germany are heavy favorites in qualification group C, with the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, and San Marino also featuring in the group.
Norway – Germany (World Cup Qualifiers):
Norway will look to get a positive start to the qualification campaign and keep World Cup winners Germany at bay at Ullevaal Stadium on Sunday.
Norway failed to reach Euro 2016 after finishing third in Group H behind Italy and Croatia to reach the qualification playoffs where they suffered a 3-1 loss on aggregate to Hungary. The Norwegians suffered a 1-0 loss to Belarus in a friendly on Wednesday after a goal by Sergei Krivets.
Germany reached the semifinals of Euro 2016 before losing out 2-0 to France after a couple of goal by Antoine Griezmann. The Germans won their group ahead of Poland and knocked out Slovakia 3-0 in the Round of 16 before defeating Italy on penalties in the quarterfinals. Germany is coming off a 2-0 win over Finland in a friendly on Wednesday. Max Mayer and Mesut Ozil scored in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s final game in a Germany shirt.