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W2W4: 2018 World Cup preliminary draw

Five Aside

Messi by the numbers on 28th birthday

Five Aside

Pele at the Cosmos: Five things to know

Five Aside

Five aside: Stats breakdown of UCL final

Five Aside

Friedel's career by the numbers

Five Aside

Can Bayern overturn a 3-goal deficit?

Five Aside

Assessing teams in Championship playoffs

Five Aside

Statistical breakdown of UCL semis

Five Aside

PSG's odds in Barca, Real better vs. Atleti

Five Aside

Five Aside: Barca, Bayern are favourites

Five Aside

2018 World Cup preliminary draw in Russia: What to watch for

Sepp Blatter has arrived in Russia ahead of the preliminary 2018 World Cup draw.

The 2018 World Cup preliminary draw is on Saturday at 4 p.m. BST, (11 ET) at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The six continental confederations will determine the groups, matchups and/or schedules for upcoming phases of qualifying, as 183 nations remain to compete for 31 World Cup berths (host Russia receives an automatic berth). Plus playoff matchups will be determined for teams from four confederations.

There were 208 nations that began the qualifying process for 31 World...

Matteo Darmian versatility a huge boost to LVG and Manchester Utd

ESPN FC's Ross Dyer tells you all you need to know about Manchester United target and Italian international Matteo Darmian.
ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti responds to the reports suggesting Matteo Darmian's possible move to Manchester United next season.
Torino full-back Matteo Darmian is heading to Manchester United.

The right-back position at Manchester United was considered a problem area by Louis van Gaal last season, with the club acting to address the matter in this transfer window.

A deal for Torino and Italy wing-back Matteo Darmian is expected to be completed, with Rafael's days at Old Trafford now very much numbered and Antonio Valencia set to lose his starting berth.

Perhaps the most pertinent thing to mention with regard to Darmian is that he is predominantly a wing-back, capable of playing on either...

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo behind Diego Godin for most minutes played

Diego Godin must continue his superb form for Atletico if Uruguay is to contend for top honors this summer.
Diego Godin celebrates after scoring for Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

There's been a lot of football played over the past two years, and one player leads the way in minutes played by some considerable distance. This player has effectively played over four more games than any other. 

He has led his team to La Liga glory, to the verge of ultimate European glory and has taken over the captaincy of his country.

But while he plays in Spain, he isn't one of the biggest stars of the world game at Barcelona or Real Madrid. 

In first place is Atletico Madrid...

Lionel Messi -- By the numbers on his 28th birthday

International soccer star Lionel Messi turns 28 years old on Wednesday. Here are some notes on Messi, already one of the most accomplished soccer players in history:

-- Messi has scored 412 goals for Barcelona in 482 games, 180 more goals than any other player in Barcelona history, having broken the club record back in March 2012. Messi is 52 goals shy of doubling Cesar Rodriguez's previous club record. The argentine holds career scoring records in La Liga (286), UEFA Champions League (77) and...

Pele at the New York Cosmos: Five things to know

Pele arrived in America in 1975.

On June 10, 1975, the New York Cosmos announced Pele was joining the club. Widely considered the greatest soccer player of all time, he led Brazil to three World Cup titles -- the first in 1958 when he was 17-years-old -- and for Brazilian club Santos he scored 1,091 goals, leading them to 21 titles.

Here are five things to know about Pele's time in the North American Soccer League.

1. Pele signed a three-year $2.8 million contract, making him the highest paid athlete in the world.

2. The forward...

Statistical breakdown of Champions League final

The UEFA Champions League final is Saturday at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, with both Barcelona and Juventus looking to complete the final piece of a treble for the season. Here is a statistical look at the match, complete with the Soccer Power Index (SPI) projection:

Juventus finished first in Serie A for the fourth consecutive season, clinching the title with room to spare. Juve then defeated Lazio in the Coppa Italia final on May 20. Barcelona won La Liga for the fifth time in the last seven...