It’s the final countdown!

Five matches you don’t want to miss

By David Rudin | Image via Cecil W Stoughton


*All times listed are for Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, July 3

USA vs. Guatemala
7:00pm / FS1

The USMNT has experienced recent friendly success, but this is their only official tune-up match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off next Tuesday. Michael Bradley will wear the captain’s armband in Nashville after Jurgen Klinsmann declared that he, instead of Clint Dempsey, would lead the side in the Gold Cup. While the Guatemalans, who reached the competition’s quarterfinals in 2011 , are not the fiercest of opponents, they should give the USMNT a good of where they stand ahead of the tournament.

Saturday, July 4

Chile vs. Argentina
4:00pm / BeIn

Chile has been waiting since 1916, when its national team first appeared in the Copa America, to win the title. Now Alexis Sánchez and company have the opportunity to end their country’s long-running title drought. Argentina, their opponents in this weekend’s final, have also had their patience tested. Nothing would bolster Lionel Messi’s domestic standing (like he needs the help) more than winning Argentina’s first major international title in 22. While the stakes are high, the quality of the football on display may be even higher. In between Chile’s intense pressing and Argentina’s panoply of attacking stars — La Albiceleste trounced Paraguay 6–1 in its semi — there should be no shortage of entertainment.

Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls
7:30pm / MLS Live

Independence Day brings with it a crucial match in the Eastern Conference as the Red Bulls, fresh off consecutive local derby wins, visit a Columbus side that only trails them by two points. Luckily for the Crew, who have failed to register a win in any of their last eight home matches, they get to play at Mapfre Stadium this weekend. That said, the Red Bulls have a history of performing well in Columbus and have only lost once in their last six visits. This pattern will need to be upended if Columbus is to overtake the Red Bulls in the East.

Sunday, July 5

USA vs. Japan
7:00pm / FOX | CTV

Here we go again: It’s America and Japan in a final, just as it was at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics. (Japan won the last World Cup. The USA took home Olympic gold.) Only it’s not déja vu all over again. Against Germany, the USWNT, led by Howler issue 08 cover star and Golden Boot nominee Carli Lloyd, demonstrated that it is capable of outplaying world class teams as opposed to simply overpowering them. You may also have heard that this is Abby Wambach’s last chance to win a World Cup. Indeed it is. As for Japan, the mesmerizing passing sequences are still present, but in this tournament they have been accompanied by an ability to grind out victories. To wit, Japan has won each of its matches in this World Cup by a single goal. All signs therefore point to another nail-biting instalment in this increasingly storied rivalry.

If you’re in New York City this Sunday, members of the Howler team will be joining American Outlaws NYC to watch the match at Jack Demsey’s. We’d love to see you there!

Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes
11pm / ESPN2

The chainsaws are out in Portland, and that isn’t just a reference to Fanendo Adi’s fantastic goal celebration. The Timbers have won five of their last six matches and look prepared to rip apart their adversaries. Shorn of the spectacularly-coiffed Chris Wondolowski who is on Gold Cup duty, San Jose may find itself desperate for goals. Not only is Wondolowski their top-scorer, he is one of only two Earthquakes players who have scored multiple times this season. The other, Sanna Nyassi, has scored twice. Should San Jose find a way to conjure up some goals, a win on Sunday would draw them level with the Timbers in the crowded Western conference.