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Lion Links: 12/26/20

Orlando City is a contender, Chris Wondolowski will return, Americans playing on Boxing Day, and more.

Orlando City SC v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you all had a merry Christmas as we now enter the weird time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when everything feels like it’s in limbo. Today is the last Saturday of 2020 and I’ll be spending it buried under a new weighted blanket with wine. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Will Contend for 2021 MLS Cup

Greg Seltzer of MLSsoccer.com provided a list of early favorites to lift the MLS Cup in 2021. LAFC, the Seattle Sounders, and the Columbus Crew are the top clubs to win it all, while Orlando City is in the second tier alongside other teams like the Philadelphia Union and Minnesota United. Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja will lead a cohesive core of returning players after a successful 2020 season. With a strong defense, deep midfield, and talent up and down the wings, the Lions are trending in the right direction and can add a Designated Player to take them to the next level.

Chris Wondolowski Staying in San Jose

The San Jose Earthquakes signed MLS veteran Chris Wondolowski to a one-year contract after a difficult 2020 season during a pandemic. The 37-year-old led the Earthquakes in 2020 with seven regular-season goals and scored a late equalizer in the club’s playoff game against Sporting Kansas City. Wondolowski holds MLS records in many scoring categories with a total of 166 regular-season goals over the course of his prolific career and it will be nice to see him return for one more season.

“2020 will certainly be a year we never forget. And while the pandemic has caused so much pain throughout the world, it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on the things I value the most,” said Wondolowski. “I was fully committed to making 2020 the final year of my career, but I’ve reconsidered and can’t wait to join my teammates one more time as we look to bring an MLS Cup back to San Jose. The fans have consistently supported me through the ups and downs and I’d always regret not properly saying goodbye.”

Americans Abroad This Weekend

There is plenty of English Premier League soccer to enjoy that features Americans. At 12:30 p.m., Christian Pulisic and Chelsea will take on Arsenal in just one of today’s Boxing Day match-ups. Zack Steffen may make his EPL debut when Manchester City hosts Deandre Yedlin and Newcastle United at 3 p.m., while Fulham’s Antonee Robinson will likely feature against Southampton at 10 a.m.

The action continues tomorrow, with American midfielder Owen Otasowie possibly earning more minutes with Wolverhampton in a tough match against Tottenham Hotspur. Both Chelsea and Manchester City have quick turnarounds before games on Monday as well.

SheBelieves Cup Details Leaked

In an interview, Brazilian Football Confederation Coordinator Duda Luizelli spoke about the women’s team’s preparations and plans for the 2021 calendar year. You’ll need translation, but the article does include some details regarding the 2021 SheBelieves Cup expected to take place in the United States in March. Along with Brazil and the United States Women’s National Team, the four-team tournament will apparently feature Japan and Norway. If this is the case, it would be Norway’s first inclusion in the tournament and the first time England doesn’t participate.

Free Kicks
  • In the latest transfer news across the pond, Chelsea joins the hunt for Ecuadorian midfielder Moises Caicedo. The news comes after the 19-year-old was linked with Manchester United. Meanwhile, Liverpool is trying to get a deal done for 16-year-old defender Stefan Bajcetic before Brexit regulations start on Jan. 1.
  • Here’s a great guide breaking down all of the Boxing Day action. It’s the perfect time to introduce the sport to your reluctant family or just learn a thing or two before watching. With so many big games throughout the day, it’s great TV fodder while figuring out how to set up your new gifts.
  • Manchester City will be without Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker until 2021 after the pair and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

That’s going to be it for today, Mane Landers. I hope each and every one of you has a fantastical final weekend of 2020. Stay safe, stay jolly, and try to find some time to relax during this stressful time of year.