> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Premier Development League outfit River City Rovers continues its push this evening for a playoff place when it takes on Chicago Inferno in its penultimate home game of the regular season at Centurion Soccer Field in Louisville (7 p.m.).
It may be too much to wish for, but the team and its supporters will be hoping for slightly cooler climes than the 100-plus degrees witnessed during last Thursday's 2-1 victory over Toronto Lynx.
That win puts Rovers, now in its second season of existence, in a great position in the eight-team Great Lakes Division to clinch a playoff berth.
The team sits in second, four points ahead of third-place FC London and six ahead of fourth-place Cincinnati Kings with just six games to play. The top two qualify for a 16-team nationwide playoff which starts at the end of the month.
It's all in stark contrast to last year, its first as a franchise, when it finished bottom of its division.
“This year we have bigger player pool and better quality,” Rovers coach Muhamed Fazlagic said. “We are a year older and wiser.”
The River City squad comprises players from ages 17-30, many of which play or played with college teams.
“In addition to our franchise players from the last year — Ryan Smith, Dustin Downey and Peter May — we have added Two-Boy Gumede, a former UAB star; Fabricio Pittaluga, a great player from Miami; and Damir Turko from Texas A & M.”
Another crucial addition is Dillon “Buck” Tufty of the University of Louisville, who has scored an impressive nine goals in nine games.
After tonight, Rovers will play three away games over a four-day span at Forest City London (July 6), Hamilton FC Rage (July 8) and Toronto Lynx (July 10).
Then they have home-and-away games against top-of-the-table Michigan Bucks (home Friday July 13; away Sunday July 15) to round out the regular season.
The 73-team PDL, part of the United Soccer Leagues, is seen as a shop window for Major League Soccer clubs looking to discover and identify aspiring professionals.
Game day tickets cost $7 for adults and youths, while children under 2 will be admitted free (parking $2).
For further information, check out the team's website at www.roverssoccer.com
Regional champs move on
Both Kentucky and Indiana will be without representatives at the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships for the third successive year.
Of the 31 teams from the two states that played at the Midwest Region II Championships in Saginaw, Mich., four made the semifinal stage but none progressed to the final.
They included Carmel United '93 (U19 boys); Kings Soccer Academy '99 (U13 girls); SFSC Lady Bluez '97 (U15 girls) and Mockingbird '93 (U19 girls).
Of the 14 Region II champions crowned last Wednesday, six were from Ohio (who had none last year), four were from Michigan, three were from Illinois and one was from Missouri.
Some 212 of the top U13 to U19 teams from 14 different state associations participated.
As we reported last week, seven locals made it to Saginaw with their respective teams.
They included Casey Marlin, Rebekah Burgan, Taylor Patty and Lauren Haley (Mockingbird '94 girls); Leah Mattingly and Kasey Wallace (Javanon '95 girls); and Pierce Crawley (United 1996 U17 Internationals).
Midwest Region II winners from U14 through U19 age groups earn a berth to the national championships, which will be held in Rock Hill, South Carolina from July 25 to 29.
Majestic Spain reign, but are they the best ever?
Majestic Spain won its third consecutive major title, trouncing Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev on Sunday.
Goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba in the first half gave La Roja a commanding lead in a game watched by an estimated 250 million people worldwide.
They added another couple in the second half courtesy of subs Fernando Torres and Juan Mata to turn it into a rout.
Having won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, Spain became the first nation to win three major trophies in a row and in doing so made a mockery of comments before the final that their tiki-taka style was becoming dour and negative.
Now all the talk is of this squad being the best national team ever — better than the Brazil teams of 1958 and 1970, the French team of 1998-2000 and the West German squads of the early 1970s.
Fans are already anticipating a memorable 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and that's before qualifying around the globe has even got into gear.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the final, UEFA President Michel Platini suggested at a press conference that the 2020 European Championship could be spread around numerous cities across the continent, rather than being staged in just one or two countries, like it was in Poland and Ukraine this time round.
“The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe,” Platini said. “You could have one country with 12 host cities, or we could have it in 12 or 13 cities all over Europe. It is just an idea, but in these days of cheap air travel anything is possible.”
Turkey had been favorites to host the event in eight years' time but their bid has been complicated by Istanbul's campaign to also host the Olympic Games in the same year.
Expressions of interest have also been expressed by Ireland, Scotland and Wales as triple hosts, and Georgia and Azerbaijan as co-hosts.
The next Euros, in France in 2016, will see eight more teams added to make it a 24-team tournament.
You can contact Aidan Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.