Photo Credit: @HarJournalist on Twitter

Welcome to a new series here at the Area 51 Sports Network. You know we like to write about soccer here and we write about it a lot. (Well, mainly Nathan Durec and I.)

Soccer is a sport that never stops. There is always something to talk about. From the big leagues in Europe to national teams to MLS and more. Here at the Area 51 Sports Network, we cover the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Canadian national teams.

But the purpose of these articles is to write about the big stories going on in the soccer world, local, national and international. That is basically what Nathan Durec and I do on the Terminal City FC podcast but don’t expect too much Chelsea and Tottenham talk here unless those clubs do something really major.

Let’s get into it.

Canada must win against Ireland

It is three points or bust for the Canadian Women’s National Team at the Women’s World Cup.

After an underwhleming 0-0 draw against Nigeria, Canada is looking to get back on track as they play the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday. Ireland lost their opening game to co-hosts Australia.

Canada’s head coach Bev Priestman is expecting a tough battle against Ireland.

“They’re [Ireland] a horrible team to play against so we one million percent have to match that,” said Priestman per Tom Nightingale of Canadian Soccer Daily. “Ireland know that about Canada, too. It’s probably a two-way street. Ultimately, we must stay with the process and what we think it will take to beat this Irish team.

Canada struggled in the final third against Nigeria and only managed three shots on target from a total of 16 despite having 68% possession. They lacked offensive creativity.

Part of it has to do with midfielder Jessie Fleming missing the game due to a calf injury.Priestman expects Fleming to be avaliable for the game against Ireland. However, she might need to come off the bench instead of start.

Centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan did not train on Tuesday according to Har Johal of Equalizer Soccer. According to Clair Hanna of TSN, Buchanan felt ill. Priestman confirmed that Buchanan did not train as a precautionary.

Ireland on the other hand, are looking to make life difficult for Canada. They made it a close game against Australia and showed a lot of determination and resilience. They goal they conceded was from a penalty scored by Australia captain Stephanie Catley.

Ireland’s back three of Megan Connoly, Louise Quinn and Niamh Fahey were very good against the Australians and Canada need to find a way to unlock them.

Canada Soccer labour dispute continues

Despite Canada being in a golden generation for both the women and men, Canada Soccer continues to mess things up. We all know about the ongoing labour dispute. In fact, the women are in the World Cup and the sides are not even close to a fair deal.

Well, things got worse for Canada Soccer. On Tuesday, TSN’s Rick Westhead reported that The Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association has sent out cease and desist letters to Canada Soccer sponsors. They demanded that they stopped using their names, images and likenesses.

The men’s team has been standing in solidairty with the women’s team for a long time. That included them boycotting a friendly against Panama in Vancouver last year due to the labour talks being far apart.

“CSB’s sponsors continue to profit from the unauthorized use of our names, images and likenesses, with most sponsorship funding not going to Canada Soccer or its national teams or development programs,” the men’s players association wrote in a statement per Westhead. “Such sponsors do not have a right to associate themselves with the men’s national team players. To address this, and being left with no choice, cease and desist letters were sent to CSB sponsors, demanding that they stop such unauthorized use. We cannot stand idly and watch our federation – a non-profit organization – unable to fulfill its obligations as the governing body of our sport in Canada and brought to its knees financially by virtue of diversion of funds to for-profit entities, while the future of soccer in Canada suffers.”

The men’s World Cup happened and there was no deal agreed. Ever since, Nick Bontis stepped down as Canada Soccer president and Earl Cochrane stepped down as general secretary. Bontis was replaced by his former vice president Charmaine Crooks (First as interim president but was eventually elected president) and Jason deVos has stepped in as interim general secretary. But still, no deal.

deVos has even said bankruptcy has been discussed but has not been considered…yet.

Can you blame the men? They are fed up and the women are as well. Talks have been happening but there is no progression. It is going to take time to rebuild Canada Soccer but it starts a fair deal for the players, especially the women.

The Philippines make history

Back to the Women’s World Cup for a bit.

The Philippines were one of eight debutants at the World Cup. After a 2-0 loss to Switzerland, they faced a tough test against co-hosts New Zealand in Auckland. The Philippines ended up winning 1-0 on their only shot on target. That was thanks to midfielder/forward Sarina Bolden’s powerful header in the 24th minute. Bolden by the way, plays for Australian club Western Sydney Wanderers. That was the Philippines’ first ever goal at a World Cup.

Despite being outplayed, the Philippines managed to hang on. Thanks to a tight offside call that disallowed New Zealand’s equalizer and great goalkeeping from Olivia Davies-McDaniel.

Look at how much it means to them.

The Philippines is a poor country. Obviously, sport unfortunately, isn’t big there. Well, other than basketball and boxing. (Thanks to the legendary Manny Pacquiao) Soccer? Not really.

As someone who is Filipino, I hope that the win by the Filipinas on Tuesday and however they do for the rest of the World Cup, is the start of something special. I hope this inspires young soccer players in the Philippines and gets people there to invest in their youth soccer teams.

I should also mention that 18 out of the 23 members of the Philippines women’s team are born in the United States. They were allowed to play for the Philippines thanks to the parents. That includes Davies-McDaniel, Bolden, defender Alicia Barker and forward Katrina Guillou.

One of them, midfielder Jaclyn Sawicki, was born in Coquitlam and went to the University of Victoria and even played for the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team from 2011 to 2012.

The Philippines isn’t a soccer country but hopefully, this is just the first step for them to become one. It will take a long time for it to happen however.

Kylian Mbappe to Al Hilal?

Paris St-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe is always involved in transfer rumours. However, Mbappe was left off PSG’s preseason squad for their tour of Japan as they have decided to sell him instead of lose him for nothing next summer.

Mbappe has been linked to Real Madrid for what feels like an eternity and sure enough, those rumours swirled. In fact, he could have joined them for free last summer but chose to sign a contract extension with PSG. Mbappe has also been linked with club such as Barcelona, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur over the past few weeks.

But the most interesting link was to Al Hilal of the (insert 442oons sound effect here) Saudi Pro League.

The Saudi Pro League has never been a top league but Cristiano Ronaldo joining Al Nassr last winter is changing that. Many players have left Europe for Saudi Arabia already. Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Ruben Neves, Alex Telles and Marcelo Brozović and more have took the oppurtunity to play in the SPL and earn a ton of cash.

On Monday, it was reported that PSG accepted Al Hilal’s bid of 259 million pounds for Mbappe. That would be a world record transfer fee.

It was also reported that if Mbappe joins Al Hilal, he would get 700 million euros to play for them for one season.

Mbappe would jump into a pool of money like Scrooge McDuck if he accepts the offer.

Transfer insider Fabrizio Romano reported on Monday that no talks between Mbappe and Al Hilal have happened yet.

The Saudi Pro League is growing very fast. Could it be a big league next year? Yes. But in five to ten? I’m not sure. Ronaldo has said that he thinks the SPL can be a top five league in the world and claimed that it is better than Major League Soccer. (The latter was an obvious shot at Lionel Messi)

It is obvious that the players that do join the SPL are after the money. After all, they play soccer for a living and the SPL gives them huge raises. But you have to remember, that this is Saudi Arabia. Not only is it hot, but many people, especially women, have no rights. Is this sports washing? Yes.

Will Mbappe go to the SPL, or stay at PSG or go to Real Madrid or another European club. We shall see.

Lionel Messi and the Leagues Cup

The Leagues Cup has entertained so far. There have been some great games. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Club Leon had a penalty shootout that went 19 rounds, Pumas and CF Montreal got into fisticuffs, St. Louis and The Columbus Crew were delayed four hours due to the weather, Atlas quoted the Nazis on Twitter and so much more has happened.

Of course we can’t forget Lionel Messi. He made his Inter Miami debut last Saturday against Cruz Azul and you couldn’t write a better script for it: a free kick goal that eventually became the match winner.

Messi and Inter Miami played Atlanta United on Tuesday and Sergio Busquets made his Inter Miami debut. Both made their first Inter Miami starts.

Messi had two goals and an assist and Busquests made a really nice pass to him for his second goal. It was just like old times for the two of them.

Thanks to Messi, Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass is nearing one million subscribers.

I think Messi will do just fine in MLS.

League 1 BC playoffs

League 1 BC is only in their second season but they are helping grow the game of soccer in BC. The playoffs for both the men’s and women’s teams have been set and here is the schedule.

If you can come out to one of these games, you should. It is great to support local soccer and that includes clubs such as TSS Rovers, Nautsa’mawt, and the Victoria Highlanders. I haven’t been a game myself yet but from what I have seen from the highlights, League 1 BC provides some entertaining soccer.

I should also note the League 1 BC finals will be held on August 5 at BC Place and tickets are on sale now!