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Which American Cities Should Host the 2026 World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup is getting closer to kicking off in Qatar, but plans are also moving forward with the 2026 edition in North America.

Canada, Mexico and the United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup, marking the first time in the tournament’s history that three nations will host the event

Canada and Mexico’s sites have already been set with Edmonton and Toronto north of the border, while Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City will host in Mexico.

Looking back on the 1994 World Cup — the last time the U.S. hosted the tournament — the featured cities for the competition were East Rutherford, NJ (close to New York City), Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Although Chicago is out for the 2026 edition of the tournament by the city’s own choice, the other three cities will likely host multiple matches as some of the biggest markets in the U.S.

Major League Soccer has made tons of progress over the years with its initiatives for clubs to design soccer-specific venues, but for the World Cup we’ll see matches played in American football stadiums due to the demand to watch games.

For Mexico, it will be the second time the Latino nation has hosted the World Cup, while Canada will be doing so for the first time in the country’s history.

Here’s a look at the top 11 American cities that FIFA should select for the 2026 World Cup.

Ranking the American World Cup venues

Host cities

1. New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)

2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium or Inglewood)

3. Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)

4. Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)

5. Seattle (Lumen Field)

6. Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

7. San Francisco/Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium)

8. Dallas (AT&T Stadium)

9. Denver (Mile High)

10. Boston (Gillette Stadium) 

11. Washington, D.C. (FedEx Field)

On the bubble

12. Nashville (Nissan Stadium)

13. Houston (NRG Stadium) Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)

14. Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium) 

15. Houston (NRG Stadium) 

16. Orlando (Camping World Stadium)

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Sports Strength

Four Players to Watch in the 2021 NBA Draft

Like the front page of a newspaper (remember those?), the NBA Draft packs the most important action at the top. Broadly speaking, the expected value and importance of a pick declines as the draft recedes into its later stage—if a player is chosen with the 24th pick, there’s a reason that 23 players were selected ahead of him.

Still, what makes this year’s edition so fascinating is its relative flatness. Sure, the likes of Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley are considered franchise-changing players, but there’s surprisingly little difference this year between the eighth and 38th picks. More than perhaps any other year, teams will have to navigate a minefield of hidden sleepers and busts, hoping that they can provide an environment where players can actualize their potential. Below, the best draft picks to keep an eye on—after the jump.

Usman Garuba

Across all sports, chicks dig the long ball. As such, Usman Garuba’s game is remarkably unsexy. Although the 19-year-old forward is a defensive genius, Garuba has been largely unappreciated because his offensive skillset doesn’t really exist in any practical sense; he has shown flickers of three-point shooting and short-roll passing during his time with Real Madrid (arguably the best team outside of the NBA), but those are largely theoretical for now.

Still, Garuba is undoubtedly worth a lottery pick because he’s the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft and just about any other year’s too. Standing 6’8” with a 7’2 wingspan, Garuba plays with a coiled, focused aggression, rotating so quickly, it’s as though he materialized from the ether to contest a shot or corral a drive. He’s the rare teenager who plays defense on both an intellectual and physical level—most players with his positional intelligence developed it as a way to compensate for athletic shortcomings; most big men with his quickness and explosiveness don’t need to develop his foresight. Thanks to his defensive excellence, Garuba has been a productive pro player in Europe for the last three seasons and will be an even more successful one in America for the next decade. 

Jalen Johnson

According to a certain crotchety class of the college basketball intelligentsia, Jalen Johnson is evidence of everything that’s wrong with kids these days: after only 13 games at Duke, he abandoned his teammates and Coach K to pursue personal glory. Plus, he was expelled from IMG Academy in January of his senior year of high school. To detractors, he’s selfish, a quitter, a bad egg. Really, he’s none of those things—he left IMG because he was allegedly caught smoking weed (the horror) and he left a very bad Duke team so he could rehab a foot injury and prepare for the draft.

Unfortunately, this nonsense has eclipsed the one undeniable truth about Johnson: he’s a stupendous player. In terms of pure talent, he’s conservatively one of the seven best prospects in this class, even if his draft position reflects otherwise. He’s a big, powerful athlete who can dominate the rim on both sides of the floor; he’s dynamic in transition, creating quick, easy offense; he dribbles and passes with grace that belies his size. Aside from a wonky jump shot and a defensive intensity that fluctuates like cryptocurrency, Johnson is what a modern power forward should be. 

Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland

If, like figure skating, basketball awarded extra points for degrees of difficulty, “Bones” Hyland would be one of the greatest scorers alive. Instead, he’ll have to settle for just being one of the best scorers in this draft class. A 6’3” guard from VCU, Hyland is the draft’s best and most daring shooter, averaging 19.5 points and making 37 percent of his eight three-point attempts per game during his sophomore season. While he doesn’t have the highest three-point percentage, Hyland is unique in that he can maintain remarkable accuracy even on a hearty helping of astoundingly hard unassisted attempts—it’s one thing to drain open looks when you’re standing still in the corner and another thing entirely to splash contested shots off the dribble from so far away that even your defender daps you up.

Accordingly, it’s hard to imagine any scenario where Hyland isn’t at least a useful player, even if he cannot overcome his weaknesses; he may never put on enough weight to become a true deterrent to burlier guards or muster the required playmaking oomph to be a full-time point guard in the NBA, but his elite, versatile shooting at once guarantees a high baseline level of goodness while also heralding the possibility of future stardom. But aside from any hazy armchair augury of how his talents will translate to the next level, Hyland is ultimately a prospect to watch out for simply because he’s so much fun to watch. 

Vrenz Bleijenbergh

Okay, let’s get weird with it. Vrenz Bleijenbergh is a Belgian 6’11″ point guard/shooting guard/small forward/power forward/center who plays like he learned to play basketball from YouTube mixtapes. Conventional wisdom says that 6’11″ players aren’t supposed to toss 30-foot lobs with one hand or dribble between the legs for a stepback three; Bleijenbergh laughs in conventional wisdom’s face.

Playing for the Antwerp Giants in last year’s EuroCup (basketball’s equivalent to soccer’s Europa League), he averaged 9.4 points (on 7.6 shots), 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, demonstrating that he’s a legitimate player and not some freakshow novelty act. Despite his rare and obvious talents, though, he hasn’t gained much traction in mainstream draft coverage—ESPN projects him to go undrafted and other prominent mock drafts have him no higher than 48th. Granted, there are genuine mechanical concerns—namely that he looks like Flat Stanley and he’s so tall that his dribble is high enough for a medium-sized child to comfortably walk under—but, like, come on: what he’s doing is almost without precedent. It’s a mystery whether Bleijenbergh’s mind-expanding psychedelic stylings are compatible with NBA stardom or even NBA mediocrity, but either way, investing in him is a trip worth taking.   

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Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: July 19-July 25

WWE Raw

High Spots: SmackDown got the first stab at doing things in front of a live crowd last week. Now it was Monday Night Raw’s turn. And to be quite honest, it paled in comparison to last week’s Friday night extravaganza. There were some fun highlights worth mentioning here, though. First off, John Cena delivered a pretty strong promo that was all about letting Roman Reigns know he’s gonna pull up on him on SmackDown. He and Riddle had a brief encounter, which was corny as all hell but I still smirked once it happened. The six-man tag team match that followed proved to be one of those barnburners that gave the crowd something substantial to chew on. Mansoor has finally seen the light, it seems! Now he’s going to team up with Ali next week in a match that’s sure to give Mansoor another lesson that will push him further down the dark side. Embrace the hate, Mansoor.

KEITH LEE IS BACK! Man, I was so elated to see the glorious behemoth make his way back to Monday nights. Reality soon set in when he took that disappointing L to Bobby Lashley, however. It was pretty much grand opening, grand closing for the big(ger) guy. Jeff Hardy filled my eyes with tears of nostalgic joy once he came out to his classic 2008 tune “No More Words.” Once those opening chords kicked in, I felt like I was back at that legendary SmackDown WWE Championship celebration he had with all the confetti and fireworks going off. Good times. Oh and he beat Karrion Kross. Which sucks for NXT cause he’s supposed to be their unstoppable killer that reigns supreme as the black and yellow brand’s top champion. Yet he lost in less than three minutes. I can’t stand the guy anyway, so this was a plus in my book.

Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley squared up with each other once again for the Raw Women’s Championship. But at the end of the evening, Nikki A.S.H. swopped in from her secret superhero hideout, cashed in, and ended up holding the big white and red belt once the credits hit the screen. That was a cool way to send off the show. I might hate Nikki’s new gimmick, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the fact that she finally won her first women’s championship in all of WWE.

Botches: And now, the bad. Jaxson Ryker and Elias had a match that had its moments, but it’s so hard to care for either man since they’ve faced each other countless times and haven’t developed anything worth caring about every time. Their hardcore brawl just felt like a halfhearted attempt at filling airtime. The women’s tag was another case of “it’s time to hit the beer and popcorn stands!” Nothing to see here, folks. Poor Reggie caught a mean headbutt from Nia Jax, which looks to be the end of their strange cuckold partnership. Whatever. Sheamus and Humberto Carrilo had yet another matchup, which ended up being average at best and instantly forgettable.

Instead of getting the match everyone called for in Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar, we’re getting a far worse consolation prize in Lashley vs. ‘Oldberg instead. Ay, you know what? I would have been much happier if Lee got the big push here instead and had their match planned for SummerSlam instead of giving it away on this episode. With a proper build, that clash of the titan’s matchup would have proven to be monumental in Las Vegas. But alas, Vince wants his aging veterans to fill the card at one of the biggest shows of the year as always. Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal bores me to tears, so I don’t feel the need to pay any attention to what they’re doing during their feud. Eva Marie and Piper Niven (I refuse to call her by her new nickname!) paid a visit to Alexa’s Playground. And as you probably guessed, I checked all the way out during that complete waste of a segment.

NXT

High Spots: So this installment of NXT was nothing to really write home about. I feel like Kross’ embarrassing loss to Jeff Hardy on Raw set a bad tone coming into this one. As always, mediocre wrestling shows have their few bright spots. Samoa Joe got some mic time, which is always a plus. He clearly wants to put Kross to sleep and it looks like he might get the chance to do so at the next TakeOver (which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 22). If they can hold off long enough for that match to build to a fever pitch, then it should make for a hotly contested encounter. William Regal getting laid out by Kross at the end of the show added an extra bit of fuel to the raging fire that is Kross vs. Joe. So The Diamond Mine have already taken a loss! Pretty shocking considering they recently debuted for the black and yellow brand. But hey, at least they were defeated in a good match. Bobby Fish will forever bore me to tears, but I’ll give him credit for putting in the work alongside Kushida to make their opening match pop.

Kyle O’Reilly and Austin Theory put on their working boots as usual. They made sure to fill up the 14 minutes they were given with some intense back and forth action. Seems like Kyle slips into a crazed state of mind now whenever he comes across a set of steel steps. Hopefully, he repays Adam Cole for what he did to him on those same steel steps when the time finally arrives for their rubber match. We got an interesting wrinkle in the ongoing LA Knight/Cameron Grimes storyline. A fluke victory from Drake Maverick led to him catching a severe beating from the Million Dollar Champion – Grimes was forced to get in a quick lick of his own, which obviously pained him to do so. Man the crowd is gonna pop huge once Grimes finally defies Knight and goes the full babyface route! That needs to be a feud ending TakeOver match, don’t you think? Bronson Reed is gonna get his big meaty hands on Adam Cole on the next episode of NXT. He made his violent intentions quite clear during his sit-down interview with Wade Barrett, which I definitely appreciated.

Botches: We were treated to two squash matches on this episode. And quite frankly, I mentally checked out when they happened. Franky Monet and Odyssey Jones (the random WWE name generator strikes again!) made quick work of their victims. It worked to solidify them even more, but I wasn’t all that into their pure domination segments. Hit Row sucks the life outta me every time they’re on screen, so I definitely felt depleted of all my energy during their run-in with Legado del Fantasma. I’ve lost all interest in the tag team contingent of Imperium, so I’d be lying if I said I was excited about their teased meeting with MSK. Here’s hoping Pete Dunne and Oney Lorcan step up to MSK at some point in the near future. Sucks what happened to Xia Li – Raquel Gonzalez came down hard on that top rope senton and looked to have put Li out of commission for real. The match was going just fine until that injury forced a rushed finish into place. Get well soon, Li!

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: BIG LANCE FTW! For the longest time now, “The Murderhawk Monster” hasn’t really been given something meaningful to get wrapped up in. Seeing someone of his caliber be so aimless these past few months has been upsetting. I was happy that he got booked on this episode for such an important match for the IWGP United States Championship. But I figured Lance Archer was going to just be another warm bod for Jon Moxley to overcome. But lo and behold, the big man shocked me and everyone watching by defeating Moxley and getting his hands back on one of NJPW’s most prestigious titles. Their Texas Death Match was befitting of the main event slot – it had crazy brawling in the crowd, Archer throwin’ a MF’er at another MF’er, plenty of bloodletting, and jaw-dropping moments. At the end of it all, Archer chokeslammed Moxley through a pair of barbed wire tables and became a champion in his hometown. His next challenger in Hikuleo doesn’t excite me one bit, however. All I know is this – Archer better destroy him in a quick fashion to really get his title reign started on a strong note.

So yeah, this episode of Dynamite was another good showing for the company. While it wasn’t as great as the previous week’s airing, I still enjoyed most of what this episode had to offer. Britt Baker and Nyla Rose put on a solid match for the AEW Women’s World Championship that gave D.M.D. her first successful title defense. Orange Cassidy finally overcame The Butcher and proceeded to put him to sleep with a Brass Knuckles-assisted Orange Punch. Earlier in the show, he had a hilarious interaction with Sting during Wheeler Yuta and Darby Allin’s matchup (which was also pretty good, by the way). Even the opening match with Chris Jericho and Shawn Spears ended up being better than expected. The post-match announcement of Jericho’s next trial was bonkers, though. At Fight for the Fallen, Jericho will enter into a hardcore war with NICK F’N GAGE! If you don’t know who that is, just go look up his episode of Dark Side of the Ring and check out some of his CZW & GCW work. The dude is a menace to society that will definitely give Jericho a run for his money.

Kenny Omega and Adam Page are headed for a collision course for the AEW World Championship, which I hope and pray gets saved for All Out. I don’t know if they can hold off until September 5, but I think AEW can find it in themselves to book their first encounter in the company all the way up until that PPV main event. Can’t wait to see Omega’s Elite backup and Page’s Dark Order besties square up real soon. CHAVITO IS IN AEW! And now he’s the newest manager for Andrade El Idolo. Andrade and Vickie Guerrero weren’t a good fit in my opinion, so this union makes far more sense. All signs are pointing to The Death Triangle each getting the chance to impress with Andrade, which are three matches I can’t wait to see (especially him vs. Rey Fenix!). I wouldn’t be mad if Fenix and Penta El Zero M turned on Pac and linked up with their Latino brethren in the end.

Botches: Kaz and Luke Gallows had a nothing match, honestly. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Gallows, so I had a feeling this match wasn’t going to be worth a damn. And sadly, my prediction proved to be true. QT Marshall and his cronies showed up once again and got some more promo time. I didn’t hear a word they said ‘cause I didn’t really care to, honestly.

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: Now that crowds are back in the Impact Zone, the mood has definitely changed for the better and everything feels a bit more eventful post-Slammiversary. Every one of the matches that were shown on this episode clearly had that extra bit of energy to it thanks to the loud response from those in attendance. Chris Bey vs. Rohit Raju, the six-man tag, the Parking Lot Brawl between Eddie Edwards & W. Morrissey, the tag team match that took place later in the show, and even the Knockouts Tag Team Championship bout ended up being lively contests. News already came out about Kiera Hogan taking her leave from Impact, so it made sense for her to compete alongside her Fire n’ Flava partner Tasha Steelz and wrestle her final match in the main event slot. Hope to see the fiery young queen make the move over to NXT in the near future.

Mickie James and Deonna Purrazzo kept the inter-promotional hype going with their strong promo segment. Purrazzo is headed to NWA Empowerr and I hope she ends up getting booked against James herself or possibly Melina! I’m super excited to see who gets booked on that all-women’s show from Impact, ROH, and the rest of the indies as we get closer to the event. The Bullet Club vs. The Elite war continued here as Jay White exuded all the confidence in the world as he spoke down on his former stablemates. White certainly knows his way around the mic, which was clearly evident during his segment. Chris Bey may have just earned himself a spot on White’s BC clique due to his aid, which points to the X-Division star getting booked in New Japan in the coming months. This episode of Impact had a lot of life to it and I can’t wait to see the company maintain its momentum in the coming weeks.

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: This episode of SmackDown was a show of two halves. Let’s talk about the better half first. The opening promo exchange between John Cena and Paul Heyman was great. I’m gonna need Heyman to do his own renditions of everyone else’s theme songs from now on cause his version of Cena’s tune was super tough! That tongue roll was masterful sir! Whoa…that sounded kinda crazy. Excuse me for that. The closing promo that saw Roman Reigns deliver a scathing line about Cena’s act being comparable to that boring old missionary position was also damn good! So we’re getting Finn Bálor vs. the “Tribal Chief” for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam? Probably not – I feel like that match will go down on a random episode of SmackDown in the coming weeks. Reigns vs. Cena is pretty much a lock for the August spectacular, in my opinion.

Edge vs. Seth Rollins is pretty much a done deal for SummerSlam now. The intensity levels for their segment were off the charts and the longstanding hate-filled history between the two made for an interesting faceoff that sets their grudge match up perfectly. If I’m WWE, I’d go ahead and book their SummerSlam war with a Street Fight stipulation put in place. Side note – Rollins doesn’t run out of suits, does he? I need to holla at that man’s wardrobe maestro ‘cause I gotta get like him! SmackDown’s midcard is in a great state since it’s filled with a wealth of quality talent. I’m excited to see who ends up getting a shot at Apollo and his Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. Cesaro should be that guy is all I’m saying!

Botches: And now let’s get into the worse half of this episode. So WWE decided to film two of its matches for the evening in front of the crowd at Rolling Loud Miami. From listening to both matches, you could tell the people there didn’t give a single you-know-what about what was transpiring. Which is an indictment on WWE’s lack of star-making ability since barely anyone reacted to the who was wrestling in front of them. If I were in charge of booking matches for this festival, I’d have pitted Rey Mysterio vs. Jeff Hardy and Edge vs. Randy Orton. Most of the crowd at Rolling Loud Miami recognize those names since they signify hot periods in wrestling where the casuals tuned in, so at least those performances would have gotten a pop. So yeah, the Rolling Loud Miami experiment was a total bust.

The match quality as a whole on this episode was severely lacking as a matter of fact. None of them stood out or really offered anything all too entertaining. Bálor vs. Sami Zayn was meh, Toni Storm vs. Zelina Vega was a boring squash, and there was an obvious botch during the Jimmy Uso vs. Dominik Mysterio match. Oh and the down bad Baron Corbin segment we got on this episode didn’t really land with me as much as his GoFundMe bit from the previous episode of SmackDown.

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: So check this out – on January 1, 2022, WWE is going to Atlanta to put on a Peacock PPV event at the State Farm Arena. Like, how wild is that? On the first day of the New Year, we’re getting a major wrestling card? It usually takes forever to get to the Royal Rumble that month, so setting up this new event for the first month of 2022 should keep everyone satisfied ‘till the big 30 man/woman battle royal. Oh and shout out to the new king of hardcore, Matt Cardona! He walked into GCW Homecoming like Cena did during ECW Extreme Rules 2006, weathered the storm from the hardcore fed’s rabid fanbase, and managed to defeat Nick Gage to capture the company’s top championship. WHAT IS WRESTLING IN 2021, BRUH? I spoke on all the CM Punk and Daniel Bryan going to AEW rumors in an extensive article, by the way. Go ahead and check that one out when ya can!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

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Sports Strength

5 Weird and Wonderful Sports to Watch During the Tokyo Olympics

The Olympics are a destination for our greatest athletes and also our strangest—while the Simone Bileses and Katie Ledeckys of the world may monopolize the spotlight, they’re a minor part of the spectacle. Look beyond the shimmer of mainstream favorites like gymnastics or sprinting or swimming and gorge instead on the rich buffet of weirdness: here there be dancing horses. With the Summer Olympics officially underway after their longest hiatus since World War Two, here are five events that are destined to become your new favorite sports.

Speed Climbing

Swimming is nice and all, but there’s not a ton of romance in splish-splashing back and forth in a straight line while gasping for air. Do you know what has romance to spare, though? A race to the sky. Although speed climbing is just one component of the larger sport climbing program, it’s undeniably the most exciting, with competitors scampering up a 50-foot climbing wall, ascending side-by-side as they vie for ethereal supremacy. The best climbers summit the wall in about six seconds. Making its Olympic debut this year, speed climbing represents a new racing frontier, one freed from the shackles of the X-axis.

Handball

There’s probably a reason that handball hasn’t ever caught on in America, but it remains a mystery. Whereas other Olympic sports are relegated to obscurity because they’re inaccessible (the aforementioned dancing horses) or complicated (rhythmic gymnastics) or torturous (marathon swimming), handball seems like the creation of an enterprising P.E. teacher. A cross-section of basketball and soccer, the game has a simple premise: two teams of seven players try to yeet a fancy little dodgeball into their opponent’s goal. The game is fast-paced as teams quickly alternate ends of the court, hurling the ball at frightened goalies. The throws are calibrated with finesse and power, beauty and fury. There are worse ways to procrastinate than to disappear down a handball highlights YouTube rabbit hole; the rest of the world should pray that Patrick Mahomes and Jacob DeGrom never decide to do so. 

Badminton

Badminton is whimsical tennis, the wiffle ball of racquet sports, if you will. If tennis is a protracted land war between exhausted combatants, badminton is its ditzier little sibling. The tennis ball is replaced by a shuttlecock, which flutters more than it zooms; big heavy racquets are substituted for little racquet faces perched on a giraffe-necked handle. But unlike tennis, where the sheer power of the players can stifle rallies before they begin, badminton is non-stop action. Rallies are long and frantic as players scramble after the happily floating ‘cock while trying to outwit their opponent. This isn’t your grandparents’ badminton.

BMX Racing

In recent years, bike riding has been co-opted by middle-aged dads who need a hobby on the weekends and don’t pull off a spandex bodysuit as well as they think they do. BMX racing, in turn, offers a more hardcore alternative to idly pedaling down uninterrupted stretches of level road. The concept: American Ninja Warrior, but on bikes. Each race pits eight riders against each other as they’re forced to navigate a dirt track packed with moguls, jumps and hairpin curves. Like a Dan Flashes shirt, the reason this sport is so interesting is because these courses are soooo complicated. 

Modern Pentathlon

Most Olympic sports have a very clear purpose. The 100 meter dash reveals the fastest person alive; gymnastics shows who can do the most perilous flips; weightlifting determines which person is the strongest. Modern Pentathlon, though, seems to be purely based on vibes. Composed of fencing, horse jumping, swimming, and laser-running (a combo of pistol-shooting and running), the modern pentathlon is what happens if you put the Olympics on shuffle. There’s no discernible purpose for its existence—besides, of course, finding the best horse jumper, who can also run and swim really fast while also being an accurate marksman who can fence—and that’s the beauty of it. 

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Sports Strength

One Transfer Target for Every Premier League Club

A new Premier League season will kick off in three weeks, but a busy summer of competitions held up transfer business for many clubs.

Now that the European Championships are completed teams will resume their normal practices and teams will be preparing for the 2021/22 campaign, while also looking to boost their squads.

High-profile players like Harry Kane and Jack Grealish have been the subject of transfer rumors for some time now, and with the season starting in less than a month it might be time for Manchester City or another giant to step in.

Meanwhile, newcomers Brentford, Norwich City and Watford will look to fill out their respective teams as they rejoin the top flight in England. Brentford has been no stranger to selling off major talents as of late, with Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma both making big-money moves to Aston Villa and West Ham, respectively.

Here’s a closer look at one player each Premier League club could benefit from signing ahead of the new season.

Arsenal – James Maddison
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Only 24 years old, Maddison would be a tremendous complement to Arsenal in the attacking third, especially with the emergence of Bukayo Saka, Nicholas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe. Maddison has been successful at Leicester and would be an immediate upgrade in the Arsenal midfield. 

Aston Villa – Leon Bailey
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The growing possibility of Jack Grealish leaving this summer or next would create a significant hole in the Villa attack. Adding Emi Buendia was a positive move from the Villains, but Bailey’s presence on the wing would completely solidify the club’s plans moving forward.

Brentford – Harry Wilson
Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Welshman brings Premier League experience and will likely go out to another club due to lack of playing time at Liverpool. Brentford hasn’t been in the top flight in over 70 years, so the team can benefit from a player like Wilson after losing various top-level players over the past season.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Nathaniel Phillips
Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Reds defender has only appeared in 17 matches since turning pro in 2019, but Phillips eased into the team nicely towards the end of last season when Virgil Van Dijk and others were sidelined. Brighton needs an upgrade at the back, and Phillips would be a strong addition to a defense that features Tariq Lamptey.

Burnley – Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The Arsenal man has made a limited impact but remains highly coveted at the Emirates Stadium so it won’t be shocking if he moves to a Premier League club where he can earn more playing time. Burnley has prided itself on defensive prowess in its tenure in the top flight, and a young midfielder would certainly be a much-needed asset to protect the back line.

Chelsea – Erling Haaland
Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The prospect of signing Haaland this summer remains highly unlikely for Chelsea, which is why their attention may ultimately turn elsewhere, but the Norwegian is arguably the second-best striker in the world and would make the Blues an immediate title threat. The club has seemingly moved on from Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud has already completed a deal with AC Milan, therefore, Chelsea needs to make a significant move up front.

Crystal Palace – Ozan Kabak
Lukas Schulze – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The former on-loan Liverpool defender filled in when needed at Anfield last season in the midst of the club’s long injury list at the back. Kabak would be a major upgrade defensively for Palace, who finished with 66 goals allowed last season — third-most in the Premier League.

Everton – Kalidou Koulibaly
Franco Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Toffees have improved massively in their attack over recent seasons, but defensively the club still remains a bit behind the top sides above them. Koulibaly has been linked with moves away from Napoli for years, but as he approaches 30 it seems like now or never for the Senegal international.

Leeds United – Samuel Umtiti
Eric Alonso/Getty Images

It’s been a given that Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds have been one of the most fun attacking teams in the Premier League to watch up front, but defensively there are questions. Umtiti has battled injuries for years now at Barcelona, but a change of scenery in a new league could be a huge upside move for Leeds, especially with his price tag dropping.

Leicester City – Sven Botman
Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

The Lille defender has been on many team’s radars recently and Botman is only going to draw more interest this season if the French side continues towards another successful campaign in Ligue 1. Botman is only 21 years old and seems a matter of time until he signs at a bigger club.

Liverpool – Franck Kessie
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The Reds midfield will look significantly different this season given the departure of Giorginio Wijnaldum, so Jurgen Klopp will need to make a splash to find a legitimate replacement. Kessie has been a star at Milan and would immediately offer a creative presence in the Liverpool midfield. 

Manchester City – Harry Kane
Visionhaus/Getty Images

With the departure of Sergio Aguero for Barcelona, Pep Guardiola and Co. are in the market for a formidable striker, and it’s quite clear that Kane would be a suitable replacement after finishing last season as the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner.

Manchester United – Eduardo Camavinga
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This one has been rumored for some time, but with United strong up front and at the back, Camavinga would be the perfect fit as the deep-lying midfielder of the future. With Scott McTominay not securing the position based on his play over recent seasons, Camavinga’s youth and versatility would help make United one of the most complete squads in the Premier League.

Newcastle United – Mario Lemina
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The Magpies could really benefit from a true box-to-box midfielder like Lemina, especially with the emergence of Miguel Almiron in a more attacking position. Newcastle struggled on both ends of the pitch last season and Lemina’s Premier League pedigree and creativity could seriously improve the Magpies’ midfield.

Norwich City – Billy Gilmour
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The Scotsman is still a year or so away from getting a legitimate chance to start regular minutes at Chelsea and after a tremendous showing at Euro 2020 Gilmour could really help Norwich in the midfield. Gilmour would add some youthful exuberance to the squad in 2021/22 and have an opportunity to play an entire season.

Southampton – Dynel Simeu
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For a player like Simeu, it was going to be difficult to break into Chelsea’s first team and Southampton offers him a clear pathway to starting in the Premier League. Simeu was a regular with Chelsea’s Under-23 team last season and proved that he’s on the precipice of earning a chance to start at center back. The Saints allowed 68 goals in 38 matches last season, the second-most in the top flight.

Tottenham Hotspur – Cristian Romero
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Spurs have several major needs this summer with Harry Kane expected to leave and Gareth Bale returning to Real Madrid, but the Tottenham back line could certainly use a refresh and Romero would be the perfect option. The Juventus defender has been a strong help at Atalanta on loan, and while the club may opt to keep him in the long term Spurs would be smart to convince him to come to London.

Watford – Matheus Pereira
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The Brazilian playmaker could spearhead a rejuvenated midfield at Watford after a successful season at West Brom in 2020/21. Pereira has a strong background in Europe after starting his career at Sporting Lisbon and could bring a unique veteran presence to the club.

West Ham United – Jesse Lingard
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This one seems easily explainable given Lingard’s goal scoring prowess with the Hammers while on loan last season, but the England international offered more than just goals. Lingard seemed to enjoy his time at West Ham immensely and he’s the sort of player that needs regular minutes in the Premier League to continue to have a chance at earning England call ups. United simply doesn’t offer that at this stage.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Philippe Coutinho
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Coutinho would be the perfect fit for a Wolves side desperately in need of another attacking force this season. With Raul Jimenez finally back from his horrific head injury and Adama Traore seemingly staying at the club, the Brazilian could offer a tremendous presence in attack and help set up his teammates.

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Are CM Punk and Daniel Bryan Really Going to AEW?

The professional wrestling landscape is wild in 2021. Appreciative fans are back in the arenas & stadiums, companies are allowing cross-promotional matches to transpire, indies are making a welcome comeback, and big names are seemingly jumping ship for greener pastures. In the past year and a few months, the rosters of Impact Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling have expanded to include a number of ex-WWE superstars and contracted NJPW talent. Turning on an episode of Impact Wrestling and AEW Dynamite to watch the likes of Satoshi Kojima, Juice Robinson, Andrade El Idolo, and Malakai Black is the sort of thing wrestling fans never thought they’d ever see. And thanks to some recent rumors circulating throughout the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community for those now in the know), those same fans might be treated to even more shocking developments within AEW in the coming months.

The two tweets above have probably made their way onto your timeline if they haven’t already. And based on recent developments within the ever-changing world of pro wrestling, those two monumental signings seem less like a dream scenario and more of a reality now. CM Punk’s return to the squared circle has become a running meme at this point. Every time a major PPV takes place, you can hit up a random comments section on a wrestling forum of some kind and see people’s hilarious “PUNK IS COMING BACK!” conspiracy theories littered all over it. Reading about Punk’s rumored talks with AEW feels like another desperate attempt at drumming up interest for his return for some. And for others, this latest rumor sounds like it actually has a sense of credibility to it. Punk’s failed UFC run and lackluster run as an analyst on WWE Backstage may have dulled the man’s shine a bit. But his presence is still strong enough to elicit a huge reaction from wrestling fans and increase AEW’s relevance amongst fans far & wide.

The prospect of Punk doing business with AEW is highly intriguing. His mic skills are still sharp and, if he’s willing to get back into wrestling shape, can provide another amazing worker for the upstart wrestling promotion. Getting Punk involved in dream matches and feuds with the likes of Kenny Omega, Adam Page, MJF, and Darby Allin could be electrifying. And as someone that’s been at the very top of the pro wrestling scene throughout different points in his career, Punk has the experience and knowledge needed to tighten up the younger generation that AEW houses. Punk’s legal woes with his former best friend Colt Cabana would certainly have to be remedied before this deal really comes to fruition, however. If that major hurdle can be overcome, then Punk would make a great addition to AEW’s friendly backstage atmosphere. Debuting Punk in All Out in Chicago and having him target the AEW World Champion would surely be a wrestling moment for the ages. Here’s hoping AEW secures the rights to either Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” or even his ROH theme song “Miseria Cantare – The Beginning” by AFI.

Now let’s have a chat about the “American Dragon.” Daniel Bryan has done anything and everything there is to do within WWE – he’s won world titles, delivered great matches with a wide swath of equally impressive wrestlers, and produced a wealth of unforgettable moments that have guaranteed him a WWE Hall of Fame spot in the future. After losing his last televised match to Roman Reigns, everyone has been itching to find out if he’d resign with WWE or take his talents elsewhere. If the rumors are indeed true, then we could all bear witness to one of the craziest pops in AEW’s short history. If Tony Khan is willing to throw a bag of cash at acquiring the rights to Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” then Bryan’s first-time appearance in AEW would blow everyone’s minds and evoke memories of the early 2000s golden era of indy wrestling. Bringing him out at AEW’s New York City debut in Arthur Ashe Stadium would get quite the pop, wouldn’t it?

Today’s version of Daniel Bryan is an asset to whichever wrestling company chooses to bring him into the fold. His most recent performances point to a man that still has a lot of gas left in the tank. And with such a huge gathering of quality wrestlers on hand in AEW, Bryan has so many opportunities to deliver modern-day classics this late in his career. The world would rejoice if Bryan stepped into the ring to lock horns with Omega, Malakai Black, Pac, and Rey Fenix. Even a comedy/shockingly competitive match with Orange Cassidy could produce an unexpected gem! Bryan signing with AEW elicits even more excitement when you consider the possibility of him getting the chance to also ply his trade in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Bryan’s a pro wrestling purist who would surely jump at the chance to go head to head with Shingo Takagi, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada. And those are the sorts of international dream matches the world needs to see.

AEW signing both Punk and Bryan could be the next step towards it becoming even more of a legitimate force in the ever-expanding world of professional wrestling. With a new Friday night show on the schedule, a roster full of noteworthy pros, and an increasingly large amount of live event sellouts, those two mega acquisitions would most certainly prosper.

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Conor McGregor’s Next Fight, Everything We Know So Far

Conor McGregor fights are always eventful for one reason or another but his last fight against Dustin Poirier was something else entirely. We look back on the event, the fallout from it and what could be next for the Irishman.

Conor McGregor’s Last Fight: McGregor Vs. Poirier At UFC 264

If you saw the fight, you know that it ended horrifically, with Conor breaking his tibia in an incident that brought people flashbacks to Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman’s similar injuries. We now know that Conor came into the fight with stress fractures which were then worsened by Poirier’s checks of his leg kicks and his kick at Poirier’s elbow.

In terms of the event, it did very well. It was the second highest-selling MMA pay-per-view of all time, second only to UFC 229 when Conor fought Khabib. It earned around $15.7 million in sales and the Vegas crowd was 20,062 strong.

How Conor McGregor Approached The Fight

The story of the first rematch was that Conor McGregor came in only worrying about boxing because his large plans included a fight with Manny Pacquiao next. For this reason, the wrestling and leg kicks caught him off guard and were a big part of why he got finished. In his own words, “a little single disciplined in my approach and stance with mostly boxing.” However, framing things this way, even if it’s true, was never fair to Dustin Poirier. That’s why it was so great that we got the trilogy fight, so everything could be settled. Of course, the result wasn’t as final as we’d hoped.

Most avid fans were not fooled by Conor’s “shooting ass shelling ass bitch,” and “little bitch kicks from a shell” comments from Twitter a few months ago. It was important to remember that coming into his rematch with Nate Diaz, leg kicks were a big part of his game. Through all of his vintage trash talk, even though it didn’t always seem like it, Conor McGregor undoubtedly respects all aspects of mixed martial arts and used every tool in his arsenal to try to get the win at UFC 264.

In terms of his own offense, McGregor did have success with boxing very early on in the fight. Despite the result, his timing and accuracy are still some of the best we’ve ever seen in the sport. A change that some predicted Conor could make for this third fight was making kicks a bigger part of his attack, and although we acknowledged that his gas tank likely couldn’t support a kick-heavy attack for anything close to 25 minutes, that’s exactly what he did. Just like he did back at featherweight, he came out throwing a variety of kicks.

He also went all the way in on a guillotine, which was a surprise to those that followed his interview before the fight because he dismissed submission wins entirely. It was also puzzling that he’d commit to something with such a high risk against Poirier, who is more experienced in Jiu-Jitsu than him.

How Much Conor McGregor Got Paid

Before the fight, it was tough to say how much Conor would be paid, but we could make an educated guess based on his past purses. For his last few fights before the second Poirier fight, Conor was getting a base pay of $3 million, but for the rematch at UFC 257, he was guaranteed $5 million. It was safe to assume that the Irishman would make either the same or slightly less for the trilogy bout, considering he was coming in off a loss.

Now that the event is over and we have some purse numbers, we can see that Conor was still guaranteed $5 million for the fight.

How Long Will Conor McGregor Need To Recover From His Injury?

Conor McGregor will be on crutches for the next six weeks, as he announced on his Instagram right after surgery. However, the injury isn’t as simple as Conor getting off crutches and getting right back to training. He will have to spend months simply relearning how to walk and move properly with the new titanium rod in his leg. The truth is that it’s likely that his leg will never be the same. But if all goes well, we could see him healthy enough to be back in the octagon for very late this year or early 2022.

What’s Next For Conor McGregor?

Past recovery and rehabilitation for his injury, it’s really tough to say what the future looks like for Conor McGregor. Predicting his future opponents is one thing (and we do that later in the article), but it’s almost up in the air how he’ll look in a cage.

Conor’s coach John Kavanagh did an interview with Laura Sanko the day after the fight, and he was optimistic about things, even commenting that Conor looked great in the fight up until the injury, but that felt a little delusional to most. Conor had some success with some big kicks, but he ended up engaging in the grappling when Dustin found some boxing success of his own. On his back, despite his elbows, Dustin mostly worked him in a way that could have brought Conor flashbacks of the Khabib fight.

The truth about Conor is that it’s still really tough to gauge where he is as a fighter relative to his peers. He’s absolutely lost four of his last seven in MMA, which would suggest a fall since his featherweight run where he went undefeated, but a deeper dive into those losses does Conor favors. One of the four is to Nate, who he’s since beaten; one is to Khabib, the best grappler in the sport, and the other two are both to Dustin, arguably the best lightweight on the planet. Conor’s fans will call him the best, and his haters will call him the worst when of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

To get a real sense of where Conor is and answer the questions about whether the game has passed him, he needs a bigger sample size of opponents. This brings us to his next fight.

Potential Match-Up #1: Dustin Poirier

Two fighters rarely fight each other four times, but it does happen. By the end of their careers, it looks like Conor and Dustin could step into the cage against each other one more time, and that just might be what’s next for Conor. The argument would be that they were one apiece and that though Dustin technically won the trilogy bout via doctor stoppage, it was inconclusive. It must be said that another fighter wouldn’t be afforded such a luxury, but Conor isn’t just any old fighter.

As much as a fourth fight could excite fans, we’re not sure that would be great for Conor. Notoriously (no pun intended), MMA doesn’t do tune-up fights in the way that boxing fights, but it’s probably best that Conor gets a fight against someone lower down the food chain before he goes for Dustin again. One, because adjusting to the injury could take some time. Two, because Dustin could be champion by then, and Conor would have to win at least one fight to challenge for the title.

Potential Match-Up #2: Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos, or RDA as most call him, is not a name known to most casual fans, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an incredible fighter. He’s the former lightweight champion, and if his name does ring a bell, it’s likely because RDA is who Conor McGregor was scheduled to fight at UFC 196 after he knocked out José Aldo. RDA broke his foot and ended up pulling out, forcing Conor to take on Nate Diaz.

So why does the fight make sense now, you ask. RDA was actually the backup fighter for UFC 264, which means that he made weight at the same time as all of the other fighters on the card just in case something happened to either man in the main event. It gives the UFC a fight to fall back on in a bad scenario, and even if nothing happens, it puts some money in the backup fighter’s pockets and puts them in good stead with the company.

Backstage at the weigh-ins, Conor and RDA exchanged some words which had fans excited about a future match-up between them. Now is the most sense it’s made in a while to make that fight, with the two close to each other in the rankings and already have a history together.

Stylistically, it’s a tough match-up for Conor. Just like Dustin, dos Anjos is a southpaw with good boxing, wrestling, and leg kicks. Though RDA has racked up a few losses in the last few years, his strength of resumé is incredibly high. He’s arguably had the toughest schedule in the entire sport for a few years now, with fights booked against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman, Tony Ferguson, Colby Covington, and Eddie Alvarez, all before they went on to become champions or interim champions. Most of them beat him with wrestling, which Conor would not do, but with years of tough fights behind him, RDA is also a winnable fight for Conor at this stage.

Potential Match-Up #3: Nate Diaz

Last but not least is a man that all Conor fans and MMA fans are familiar with. None other than Nathan Diaz.

This is a fight that Dana has even acknowledged the UFC could go back to at any point in time, but with the two both coming off of a pair of losses, it makes perfect sense right now. It’s a massive trilogy fight for the UFC to sell, and it’s winnable for both men. For Conor specifically, the sense of danger is there to spectators because we’ve all seen what Nate can do to Conor, so a win here gives him some momentum moving forward.

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Chris Paul’s Legacy: A Recap of the 2021 NBA Finals

For a while, at least, things were going surprisingly great. After 16 exhausting seasons and 102 television commercials–and after the Phoenix Suns’ playoff bracket cracked open like a walnut—Chris Paul found himself two games away from his first championship. In Game One, he bedeviled the Milwaukee Bucks, manipulating their defense into switching a hopeless big man onto him and making them regret it. In Game Two, he quarterbacked one of the greatest team shooting performances in NBA Finals history. In Games Three, Four and Five, he was badgered to the outermost corners of the known universe by Jrue Holiday. And in Game Six, he slunk off the court with tears in his eyes. 

Watching a title slip away is the cruelest outcome for Paul, but it’s also the most logical. Although he has firmly ensconced himself amongst the greatest point guards ever, his career has been one of all-consuming competency and gnawing inadequacy. No one has played such flawless ball with such tepid results; after this Finals loss, he’s the only player to have blown four 2-0 series leads. This isn’t to say that he’s a choker, just that he’s limited in ways his peers aren’t. 

At the most basic level, the difference between the prophecy-fulfilling Bucks and the vanquished Suns lies in the physical differences of their respective stars. In Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hands, basketball looks simple. Whether he’s a “hooper” or not, Antetokounmpo is almost always bigger, stronger or faster than the guy guarding him—often, he’s all three. Against the Suns, he was at his rampaging best, averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists and winning Finals MVP; his 50 point, 14 rebound, five block master stroke in Game Six is an instantly iconic performance. He may not have developed a deep bag of countermoves and counter-countermoves, but that’s because he doesn’t need one.

When he’s on the court, the inherent cat-and-mouse game between offense and defense is rendered obsolete—his permanent plan of attack is to pile-drive his way to the hoop and the defense’s only reasonable response is to panic. Accordingly, there’s no point in learning the finer points of foul-drawing chicanery when opponents crumple from a single blow to the chest; it’s a waste of time to snake a pick-and-roll when you can simply snake your giant arm beyond the reach of any defender’s contest. Lesser, shorter players can whinge all they want about how it takes no skill to be seven-feet tall, run, and just dunk, but that criticism ignores a central truth: being seven-feet tall, running, and dunking is the ultimate skill. No matter what question the Suns’ defense posed, the answer was always Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Whereas Antetokounmpo is one of the world’s most startling athletes, Chris Paul is roughly the size of your kinda tall friend. Once injuries dejuiced his legs, he maintained his Point Godliness by evolving into one of the smartest and most skilled players to ever live. Every decision and move that Paul makes on the court is informed by an awareness of his physical limitations; his continued success is an act of defiance against his own body. Too slow to blow by defenders, he’s infused his dribbles with a slippery economy, gliding to his spots without any profligate movement. Too small to challenge big men at the rim, he has become the greatest mid-range shooter this side of Michael Jordan. Here is basketball as extreme couponing—small gains and microskills compiled into a giant stockpile of greatness. As such, Paul has become basically the perfect basketball player by necessity.

In this sense, Paul’s climate-controlling style leaves no margin for error. His success depends on his ability to drain difficult shots and maximize every advantage; in the last four games of his season, he could only maximize most of them. Compared to his torrid playoff run that spanned from the second round through the first two games of the Finals, Paul shot the ball a little less often and a little less well; he racked up slightly fewer assists and more turnovers.  Still, excepting an on-court blimp fire in Game Four, he played extremely well, even as the balance of the series shifted against him in subtle yet fatal ways. 

In Game Six, Paul controlled the game until he couldn’t. He led the Suns with 26 points and scored with remarkable efficiency; he created 16 assist opportunities, although only five of them were converted. But during the game’s final seven minutes and 38 seconds, he didn’t even attempt a single meaningful shot; he finally succumbed to his own overmatchedness while Antetokounmpo took over.

During this season-ending—if not season-defining—stretch, Paul struggled to advance the ball against Jrue Holiday’s hellhound full-court defense, sapping any tempo from the Suns’ attack as clumsier teammates were delegated with initiating the offense. He was skittish off the dribble and spooked by Milwaukee’s collective length as he passed out of shots that he normally would take. Unable to create an advantage against the Bucks, he passively followed the script of the game and turned into a cardboard cutout of himself. The hidden cost of refusing to make a bad play is that sometimes you don’t make any play at all—and the hidden tragedy of Paul’s career is that his singular commitment to greatness will never be good enough.

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Andre Beverley and Team ICECREAM Are Back

After a multi-year hiatus, Andre Beverley is finally back with Team ICECREAM. A few months ago, some social media posts seemed to hint at the return of Pharrell’s legendary skate brand, but nothing had been officially confirmed. But earlier this week, the iconic brand—and iconic skater—released their first part in years, featuring Brooklyn’s Andre Beverley demonstrating his absolute wizardry—skating everything from rails to ledges to gaps in NYC and LA.

Let’s run it back real quick. ICECREAM is more widely known these days as a streetwear brand, but not everyone knows the story of its genesis as a mainstay of 2000s skate culture. Skateboard P launched ICECREAM back in 2006 with the announcement of the brand’s first skate program and the release of their video, TEAM ICECREAM Vol 1. 

To this day, it’s one of the sickest, vibiest videos ever released. A few months ago, Team ICECREAM started a new Instagram account, hinting at the relaunch of the brand’s skate program. They’ve posted a few clips since then, and the video release earlier this week finally set the record straight. Team ICECREAM is back.

The latest video was filmed by RB Umali, Stefano Kerster, Stefan Singh, Dave Hoang and Ty Evans and features music from Lil Polo Tee, an upcoming artist from Brooklyn that ONE37pm had the honor of interviewing back in May.

The video and the credits demonstrate that Team ICECREAM and Pharrell are back to their roots, highlighting skaters with the sickest style and putting the spotlight on up and coming artists we’ll be sure to know years down the line. Team ICECREAM perfectly encapsulates what a good skate brand is about; it’s not just an entity meant to release video parts, but an overall lifestyle brand built for the culture. Music, streetwear and skating are all inextricably intertwined. No one knows that better than Pharrell Williams.

Team ICECREAM is back. I can’t wait to see what they drop next.

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20 Best Players to Watch at Men’s Olympic Football Tournament

The Olympics aren’t traditionally the time for football fans to keep a close eye on the men’s competition given the rigors that players go through during the club season, but this year’s tournament features several very exciting prospects for the future.

Spain and Brazil are two of the tournament favorites heading into the competition, while France and Mexico boast talented squads of their own. 

All eyes will be on the Spanish and Brazilian players though, with a number of stars competing at Europe’s biggest clubs, including Pedri, Richarlison and Marco Asensio.

Brazil enter the 2020 Olympics as the tournament’s defending champion, while Spain hopes to hoist its first trophy in the competition since 1992 when they won on home soil.

Below, ONE37pm takes a look at the 20 best players to keep an eye on at this summer’s men’s Olympic football competition in Japan.

20. Max Kruse – Germany

One of the more decorated veterans at the competition, Kruse will likely play a significant role up front for the Germans at the age of 33. Despite rarely seeing the pitch for the senior national team, Kruse offers experience for a young Germany team.

19. Marco Asensio – Spain

Asensio has gone through his share of injuries over the years, but traveling to the Olympics gives the Real Madrid winger a chance to find his form once more heading into the La Liga season with a new manager. 

18. Thiago Almada – Argentina

The Velez Sarsfield midfielder is one of several domestic-based players making their Olympic debuts for Argentina and Almada will be an influential piece in the center of the park for La Albiceleste.

17. Nehuen Perez – Argentina

Similar to Almada, Perez has a big opportunity to move into the full national team picture with a good showing at the Olympics. Perez completed a move to Spain in 2018 with Atletico Madrid, but with Diego Simeone’s stout back line, the Argentine hasn’t had the chance to earn regular minutes yet.

16. Reinier – Brazil
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The Real Madrid man didn’t see much time at Dortmund on loan in 2020, but Reinier is the real deal and it would be quite surprising if he isn’t involved in the Los Blancos side soon. Reinier became a star at Flamengo before drawing enough interest to complete a move to Europe.

15. Takefusa Kubo – Japan

Kubo is one of the youngest full Japanese internationals on their Olympic team and the Real Madrid winger has yet another chance to show that he genuinely could have a future with Los Blancos. Kubo can serve as one of the most versatile players in the competition and make Japan a dark horse in the tournament. 

14. Mikel Merino – Spain

Merino boasts tons of experience based on his time in La Liga, and the 25-year-old midfielder will be a suitable partner in the midfield with Pedri and other young players. Spain can definitely benefit from his creativity as well.

13. Franck Kessie – Ivory Coast

Kessie has become an instant star at AC Milan in recent seasons, and the Ivorian will be the lead man for his African side. The 24-year-old will serve as one of the veterans of the group and given his experience in Serie A, Kessie will be leaned upon heavily.

12. Dani Olmo – Spain

While Olmo didn’t have the best showing at Euro 2020 despite starting regularly under Luis Enrique, there’s no doubting the potential of the RB Leipzig attacker. Olmo figures to be a key piece for Spain for many years to come as a wide player and his opportunity to build relationships with players like Pedri, Oyarzabal and others at the Olympics is significant for his future.

11. Nathanael Mbuku – France
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Mbuku’ time at Reims has brought significant attention to himself over recent seasons, and now he has the chance to excel with a talented group of Ligue 1 youngsters at the Olympics. Mbuku played a role in France’s 2019 Under-17 World Cup bronze medal.

10. Bryan Gil – Spain

Gil is on the verge of a big swap move to the Premier League and joining Tottenham Hotspur, so a strong effort with Spain will validate that move. Gil showed glimpses of promise at Sevilla and Eibar, but the 20-year-old winger will need to break into a squad that features Mikel Oyarazabal, Pedri and Dani Olmo.

9. Enzo Le Fee – France

Le Fee is looking to break into a French midfield that is loaded at various levels of the national team set up, but the diminutive Lorient man fits the build. Despite not scoring in Ligue 1 last season, he provided five assists and appeared in 36 matches.

8. Diego Lainez – Mexico

The Mexican star hasn’t exactly clicked yet in La Liga, so Lainez will need to use this time at the Olympics as a chance to carry solid form into the new season. The Real Betis winger has three senior team goals for El Tri, and with a host of young talent in the squad Mexico will be expected to make a deep run.

7. Fausto Vera – Argentina

For those that don’t watch South American football regularly, Vera won’t be a household name after playing at Argentinos Juniors. However, the 21-year-old midfielder has quickly become a key member of his squad and is already on the radar of various European teams, including Anderlecht.

6. Mattheus Cunha – Brazil

The Hertha Berlin goal scorer could very easily be higher on this list given his track record for Brazil. Cunha has nearly scored a goal per game in his 19 matches for the Under-23 national team and will figure into the full national team picture very soon.

5. Antony – Brazil
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The Ajax man will be one of the most coveted players after the Olympics, but Antony will need to step up for Brazil in one of his first opportunities to shine on a big stage. After a strong season in the Netherlands, Antony will look to build off of his nine-goal season.

4. Arne Maier – Germany

The Hertha Berlin midfielder has succeeded at various Germany youth levels, and now has an opportunity to lead his team without regular midfield presences like Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich. 

3. Pau Torres – Spain

Spain’s attacking group will receive plenty of focus this month, but Torres can be a huge figure at the defensive end after another successful season with Villarreal where the Yellow Submarine won the Europa League. Torres will likely feature with another talented young defender in Eric Garcia, who is rejoining Barcelona.

2. Richarlison – Brazil

The Everton forward will have a chance to shine on a big stage without Neymar present, and given Richarlison’s track record in the Premier League there’s no reason to believe he can’t lead Brazil deep into this competition. 

1. Pedri – Spain
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If anyone has watched Barcelona over the past 12 months it’s becoming more and more evident that Pedri is going to be an influential figure in the Blaugrana midfield for many years to come, similar to predecessors like Andres Iniesta and Xavi. His play at Euro 2020 earned him Team of the Tournament honors and now with Spain heavy favorites at the Olympics, Pedri can be at the forefront of another success story.