World Football as 2017 ends and 2018 looms

World Football’s year 2017 is coming to a close, but a number of issues raised and competitions in progress over these past twelve months will have to await 2018 for a final resolution. Let us begin with Spanish Football’s 2017 and then check out what the sport has in store on a global scale for 2018.

The 2017 calendar year in Spanish Football saw Cristiano Ronaldo pick up the Best FIFA Men’s Player award on January 9, 2017, and then saw Real Madrid win the La Liga and UEFA Champions League trophies in the spring, the UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Super Cups back to back in the summer, and the FIFA Club World Cup in the winter. FC Barcelona won the Copa del Rey 3-1 over Alaves.

Lionel Messi won La Liga’s Pichichi with 37 goals, while Ronaldo led the Champions League scorers with 12. Messi tied Ronaldo winning his fourth European Golden Shoe (Boot). On December 7th, Ronaldo was awarded his fifth Ballon d’Or bringing him even with Messi. The two have split every best player award for the past decade and eight of the past eleven top European scorer awards.

On December 23rd we found out the fate of the first two FIFA executives tried in FIFAGate, as a Brooklyn, NY, jury returned guilty verdicts on both. But it will probably be late January 2018, before we know how long a prison term they will get and how their fate will play out both in terms of the many other FIFA officials involved and ultimately in terms of the global football picture.

Either late this year or early next, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) will meet with FIFA officials to hash out the federation’s perilous situation. The RFEF is up in arms because the Spanish government has suspended Angel Maria Villar’s role as president of the federation while he is free on bail while under criminal investigation.

FIFA has strict rules about government interference in football matters and the ousted president is playing his trump card by suggesting there is a possibility of punishing Spain by dropping the from the 2018 World Cup should the nation’s government not comply and reinstate him. In a year when Catalonian secession is still in mind, and the voters seemed bent on independence, the RFEF’s situation seems unnecessary added drama, but the issue will have to be dealt with and resolved before truly disastrous options begin to be considered seriously.

In February 2018, the mysterious voters who can select the new president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, will cast ballots to determine which of eight candidates will succeed Sunil Gulati, who will step down as president at the end of his current tenure.

The eight publicly declared and cleared candidates for the U.S. Soccer Federation presidency are former national team player Paul Caligiuri, former MLS player and TV analyst Kyle Martino, former professional player and current lawyer Michael Winograd, former USMNT player and current TV analyst Eric Wynalda, marketer Kathy Carter, USWNT star Hope Solo, USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro, and attorney Steven Gans.

In March 2018, FIFA will meet to discuss, among many things, the fate of the much maligned Confederations Cup, the Club World Cup, and youth soccer’s World Cup(s). The agenda for their meeting is extensive and some items are not yet officially on the document, so expect more fireworks out of this one.

By late May 2018 we should know the fates of all of the European domestic championships and cups and have crowned the Champions League winner.

In June-July 2018, we have the 2018 World Cup in Russia which, on paper, is shaping up to be one of the finest of all times with no fewer than six teams fancied as potential winners (Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Argentina, and Portugal).

By August 2018, we will know the names of the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball and their silver and bronze companions, the Golden Glove and Best Young Player awards, the FIFA World Cup XI, and we will have grist for the GOAT mill in terms of tournaments, teams, and individual players. The La Liga season will begin, and the UEFA and Spanish Super Cups will be contested.

By September 2018, we will be in full swing in the 2018-19 domestic seasons around the globe, and hopefully, the actions taken on those court, FIFA, and USSF decisions earlier in the year will begin to bear fruit.

The remainder or the year should see teams making statements in their domestic competitions, placing themselves for the second half of the season sprint to their respective trophies. These months will also culminate in a run for the Ballon d’Or if the World Cup has not already made a winner clear. So, look for players to be inflating their stats and trying to position themselves toward that goal, particularly if either Messi or Ronaldo seem to have dropped off the short list.

In early December 2018, the 15th FIFA Club World Cup will be contested, again in the United Arab Emirates, and nominations for best players of the world will have resulted in a short list. While the Ballon d’Or will be awarded this month, it will be next month before FIFA choses its Best. A busy and exciting year to come.

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