Kick Off: Big chance for USMNT reserves in final game of World Cup 2014 qualifying

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...

1. USMNT PLAYERS LOOK TO IMPRESS

It’s been a long road, but the US national team's game tonight in Panama (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport) is their final World Cup 2014 qualifier. MLSsoccer.com is in Panama City and will have full coverage. While the Yanks have already secured qualification and top spot in the Hex, manager Jurgen Klinsmann is looking for players to show just why they should make next summer’s squad. Something Brad Guzan fully intends to do.

2. US ODYSSEY

In order to really assess how Jurgen Klinsmann's squad has performed, ESPNFC.com's Roger Bennett spoke to three US internationals , past and present, to see what important messages might be taken away from the progress so far.

3. JOHANNSSON READY FOR MORE

Aron Johannsson made his first start for the US on Friday night and, after getting that taste, the young forward wants more: “It’s just amazing and I hope it’s the first of many.”

4. ALL OR NOTHING FOR EL TRI

Most intriguing situation in CONCACAF is Mexico's. Tonight’s game against Costa Rica (9:30 pm ET, Fox Deportes) is as close to a must-win as it comes, but either way, they will most likely end up finishing fourth in the Hex and lining up for a playoff against New Zealand. So what are the chances of Mexico winning in Costa Rica? History says the odds are pretty good. Also, what’s next for goalscoring hero Raúl Jiménez?

5. ANOTHER TEST FOR NEW-LOOK CANADA

London will play host to “the battle of the Commonwealths” on Tuesday afternoon as Canada take on Australia (3 pm ET, Sportsnet.ca). The Socceroos are currently without a manager, but Canada coach Benito Floro doesn’t take that into account: “We plan to play in our system, and for me, it doesn’t matter.” Is this Canada’s best chance to score their first goal since March?

6. FINAL TEST BEGINS FOR BRADLEY

Former US manager Bob Bradley and his Egyptian side travel to Ghana today in the first leg of their World Cup playoff qualifier (noon ET, beIN Sport). With the destination for the second leg still up in the air due to the continuing turmoil at home, the Pharoahs cannot count on any home advantage. So they will look to take care of business in Ghana

7. CHANGING THE SCHEDULE

The MLS Twittersphere went berserk yesterday when the New York Daily News reported that MLS was considering switching to a winter schedule, perhaps even as early as next season. However, MLS clarified that there will be no major changes to the 2014 schedule. SI.com suggests such a move might create as many problems as it solves.

8. THE BLAME GAME

Seattle manager Sigi Schmid was quick to fault Osvaldo Alonso for his red card in their 1-0 defeat to Portland on Sunday, but he also did some finger pointing at the antagonist, Portland's Will Johnson. A quick look back in time shows that this isn’t the first time the Seattle manager has been irritated by the Canadian.

9. KLOSE-ING IN ON MLS?

Here we go again. Germany striker Miroslav Klose is once again saying he is considering offers from two MLS clubs. The 36-year-old is out of contract with Lazio at the end of the season, but not yet willing to hang up the boots. 

10. FRANCHISE PLAYERS

In new franchise news, it seems that Sacramento Republic FC, the soon-to-be USL PRO team, has designs on one day joining MLS. But first they have to find a place to play. Down in Florida, Orlando City Lions owner Phil Rawlins told the Orlando Sentinel, among other things, that the club would make some changes if it joined MLS, but one thing won't change: "We're not going to go away from Lions and go to Giraffes or something." And with all the chatter about MLS expansion in Miami, NBC ProSoccerTalk's Steve Davis weighed in on potential stadium locations.

11. MLS PARTNERS WITH SPECIAL OLYMPICS

MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach program, has partnered with the Special Olympics to promote awareness, respect, inclusion and acceptance of Special Olympic athletes while bringing soccer to more athletes with intellectual disabilities.

12. LIFE SENTENCE FOR SALVADORANS

Last month, the El Salvador FA handed down lifetime bans to 14 players for activities related to match-fixing. Those bans meant the players involved were prohibited from playing for their national team. Now FIFA has extended those bans to include all soccer activities, sending a strong message to the rest of the world that such actions will not be tolerated.

13. NEW YORK GROOVE

It’s a good time to be a soccer fan in New York right now. Not only are the New York Red Bulls in the driver's seat to win the MLS Supporters' Shield, the New York Cosmos are charging toward the NASL Soccer Bowl. And French legend Lilian Thuram is set to discuss racism in soccer at New York University later this month. 

14. THE I-95 CORRIDOR CUP

Regional rivalries are a big part of soccer. For fans of their respective clubs, winning a series, picking up a local trophy and getting one over on your rivals is one of the best moments of the season. Just look at the three teams in the Pacific Northwest and their Cascadia Cup matches. Recently, writers at SB Nation – perhaps not realizing the existence of the Atlantic Cup – ask if a similar type of contest could take place on the East Coast.

15. GENERATION GAME

From wide-eyed rookies to grizzled veterans, the new MLS series "Generations," which takes you inside the lives and careers of the Generation adidas players. First up: two rooks already making names for themselves.

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