Soccer

U.S. Soccer bans headers for children under age 10

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U.S. Soccer bans headers for children under age 10

In 2014 the United States Youth Soccer Association reported over 3 million registered participants, again making soccer America’s most popular youth sport.

But starting Tuesday, most of those 3 million kids will be playing a fundamentally different game than their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In a press release earlier this week, the United States Soccer Federation announced a ban on headers for children ages 10 and under and a limit on the same practice for children ages 11 through 13.

From the U.S. Soccer statement:

The United States Soccer Federation and the other youth member defendants, with input from counsel for the plaintiffs, have developed a sweeping youth soccer initiative designed to (a) improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players; (b) implement more uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players suspected of having suffered a concussion; (c) modify the substitution rules to insure such rules do not serve as an impediment to the evaluation of players who may have suffered a concussion during games; and (d) eliminate heading for children 10 and under and limit heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.

The dramatic changes come as a result of a class-action lawsuit over FIFA’s handling of concussions. The suit, brought by a group of soccer parents and players and filed last year in California’s U.S. District Court, did not seek financial damages — rather changes to the sport’s rules.

The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) were also named in the lawsuit.

According to U.S. Soccer, the complete details of the new safety initiative along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign will be announced within the next month.

MORE SOCCER: Upon further review: United's season-ending loss to the Red Bulls

Coronavirus and Premier League: 'We're glued to the TV'

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Coronavirus and Premier League: 'We're glued to the TV'

The games will go on in the world's most lucrative and watched soccer league.

That's not to say clubs in the Premier League aren't wary of the fast-spreading new virus that is playing havoc with large sections of the sporting calendar.

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said Friday his players are no longer greeting each other with handshakes at the training ground, under medical advice.

Journalists heading to Arsenal for a pre-match news conference with manager Mikel Arteta on Saturday have been told to complete a questionnaire about their recent whereabouts before attending.

Posters have been put up across soccer stadiums and training centers, informing players and fans of the guidance coming from Britain's top health officials.

As it stands, though, the Premier League will go ahead as planned this weekend, saying it will follow advice from the government and not act unilaterally in response to the outbreak.

"We're glued to the TV for where it's going to go next," Bruce said, "and let's hope it doesn't get any worse in this country."

Premier League clubs are following the same medical guidelines as other businesses and venues used by large numbers of people, but there is currently no suggestion that they should be taking extra measures while the virus spreads.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said his club was acting like it would if there was an outbreak of flu.

"We take it really seriously but we cannot avoid everything," said Klopp, whose team leads the Premier League by 22 points and plays away to Watford on Saturday. "In the end, nobody tells us that we cannot play football. So as long as that doesn't happen, we will play football."

The latest figures reported by Britain's health authority shows there are 19 cases in the country. In total, 57 countries have been hit by the illness and there has been an inevitable impact on sports.

In soccer, Italy has announced that some matches -- including one between title rivals Juventus and Inter Milan -- will be played in empty stadiums this weekend. Across the border, Switzerland's soccer league has postponed all games in the top two divisions this weekend after a federal order that will see all events involving more than 1,000 people banned until mid-March.

The Spanish league said it has not considered suspending Sunday's "clasico" between Real Madrid and Barcelona but has a contingency plan in place for the outbreak of the virus, including playing matches in empty stadiums.

Javier Tebas, the president of the league, said local officials would ultimately decide whether games can be played, and that the league's first option would be to play them without fans to avoid scheduling problems later in the season. The league does not rule out having games postponed, though.

On Friday, Valencia said players and coaches will not speak in news conferences before or after games because a journalist who covers the club was found to have been infected with the virus after the team's Champions League match against Atalanta in Milan last week.

The club said players also will not speak to reporters after matches, and will not be involved in any other public activity besides the games. It said the measures would keep players and coaches from being at a greater risk of being infected.

Valencia said it was following authorities' recommendations after the disclosure of cases of the virus in Valencia. It said the cancellations would stay in place until further notice.

FIFPro, the world players' union, said Friday it was concerned about the "danger of football acting as a vehicle to spread disease" and was worried for its members.

"Players have contacted our member unions asking for assistance out of fear they could be made to perform in high-risk environments," the union said in a statement, adding it was in talks with stakeholders in the sport to address the rescheduling of international dates, including qualifying matches for 2022 World Cup.

"While we understand the inconvenience this causes worldwide, the COVID-19 outbreak is bigger than football, and we applaud the willingness of competition organisers to take firm action in this delicate period," FIFPro said.

England's authorities, however, are happy to keep monitoring the situation.

There are eight Premier League matches scheduled in England this weekend, as well as the League Cup final between Manchester City and Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

City manager Pep Guardiola isn't getting too hung up on the virus.

"We are shaking hands," Guardiola said, when asked if his club was taking any special precautions, "(and) I love to hug.

"Not like Jurgen (Klopp), he is a master of that. But I try."

The Big Twenty: DC United wins MLS Cup

The Big Twenty: DC United wins MLS Cup

For the next three weeks, NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 19.

A new phenom. A new coach. A renewed hope that DC United could return to glory and capture their first MLS Cup title since 1999.

That is exactly what transpired as the 2004 MLS season brought the fourth championship in team history to DC United.

The offseason started with the departure of Ray Hudson behind the bench, replaced by retired Chicago Fire star Peter Nowak. One of the best players in the early days of MLS, Nowak had retired from playing in 2002 before taking a job in the Chicago front office. When DCU’s ownership came calling, Nowak jumped at the chance to take over the most highly-decorated team in the league’s young history.

In the same month that Nowak took the helm, DC United brought 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu aboard, becoming the youngest American to ever sign a contract in any professional league. The youngster carried plenty of hype into his first professional season and finished third on the team with five goals while playing in every match.

The retirement of longtime club legend, and last remaining member of the inaugural 1996 team, Marco Etcheverry at the end of the 2003 season brought an end to the initial Golden Age of DC United when the club collected eight trophies across all competitions in the first three years of its existence. 2004 marked the start of a second golden age with the team winning another four trophies to add to the trophy case in the next four years.

The regular season started slowly for United with a 5-8-6 record in the first 19 games of the season. The team rebounded in August and rode a 6-2-3 close to the season to the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Forwards Alecko Eskandarian and Jaime Moreno shouldered the scoring load for the Black-and-Red with 10 and seven goals respectively as DC got set for a Conference Semifinal matchup with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars in the first round of the postseason.

United ran through the MetroStars with back-to-back 2-0 victories, booking its place in the Eastern Conference Final with the New England Revolution. A riveting back-and-forth game saw United take the lead three separate times only for the Revolution to equalize thrice themselves. All level at three after 90 minutes and extra time, the game was decided in the first-ever penalty shootout in MLS history. In the sudden-death sixth round, United’s Brian Carroll scored and goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved a Clint Dempsey penalty to advance to the club’s fifth MLS Cup in the first nine years of the league.

Kansas City Wizards emerged from the Western Conference to face the Black-and-Red in MLS Cup 2004 played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Kansas City took an early lead before DC scored three goals in seven minutes and held on for the fourth title in the club’s eight-year history, and to date, the last time the club has lifted the MLS Cup.