Well, NEC Nijmegen appears to be solid mid-table contenders this deep into the season. They're at 12th currently which seems to be about where they've been for most of the season. Since last we checked in, however (December 5th) they've done okay for themselves- beating Den Haag 3-0 and scraping out to a 2-2 draw with Excelsior. Then Christmas happened...  things don't pick back up for NEC until January 15th- but they've got Willem II and Roda coming up before Feyenoord and Go Ahead Eagles to start off February.

Willem II should be a decent match. They're sitting at 11th in the table right now- and if NEC wants to move up in the table, a win here would probably help. Roda and Go Ahead Eagles are at the bottom of the table, so good results there should help the cause- but they can't afford to drop points either. Feyenoord...   woof. Well, they're at the top of the table with 42 points. NEC is in 12th with 19 points. Fingers crossed for an upset here, but I'm not optimistic.

The Chinese Super League
Can we talk about the Chinese Super League for a second? They went and brought Oscar from Chelsea for a ludicrous amount of money and I think it's time we took a deep dive. A little digging on the Interwebs reveals that China (no surprise) has a similar soccer pyramid to pretty much every country with the exception of the United States. They've got the China Amateur Football League, China League Two, China League One and then the Chinese Super League at the top of the heap. Sixteen teams in the top division, currently Guangzhou Evergrande FC is on top with 64 points.

So where the hell did the Chinese Super League come from? All of a sudden China is spending money like a drunken sailor and you have to wonder if MLS might be looking over it's shoulder a bit. Well...  China has it's eyes on a future World Cup bid- that combined with a President who is a huge fan of football seems to have driven a massive investment in creating the domestic infrastructure to make a run at future bids. With China having a surplus of large companies with money to spend, they're pouring money into their domestic league.

As a result, they've been able to post transfer fees big enough to pull legitimate European stars away from their leagues and into theirs- something MLS hasn't been able to say. We'll have to see how the next few years develop, but I think if China continues their upward trajectory at some point MLS is going to have to revisit the whole promotion-relegation debate. I think they're getting to a point with their infrastructure that they could potentially get there, but I don't know. Maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't. It's crazy to watch though.

Amercan Handegg News
Well, that Bowl Game didn't quite go the way I wanted it too. I think CJ Beathard getting hurt trying to get the ball over the goal line and then not getting pulled from the game (I understand why, but it still might have made a difference. Or at least a closer score.) That makes six bowl losses in a row for Iowa. Where do we have problems, you say? Well, on the offensive side of the ball! Imagine that! Imagine my shock! It would be nice- nay, it would be great to have a change at Offensive Coordinator in the off season. Do I think we'll get one? Well, I didn't think we would, but apparently I was wrong. Greg Davis officially retired and the general consensus is that Brian Ferentz is the expected heir apparent. But we'll see.

The good news is that we're keeping a lot of solid pieces from this year. The bad news is that the schedule gets harder. Let's take a look, shall we?

vs Wyoming: No Idea. Will tell us a lot about what kind of season we're going to have
at Iowa State: No Idea. See above and we're in Ames for Year 2 of the Matt Campbell era.
vs North Texas: W.  God, I hope so.
vs Penn State: L, because Penn State looked fast and scary despite pissing the Rose Bowl away.
at Sparty: W, I'm going to go with a W because Sparty was less than good this year.
vs Illinois: W, because we're at home.
at Northwestern: W, because if we're going to have a middling season the least we can do is beat NW
vs Minnesota: W, I had no idea they ended their season 9-4. Could be a tight one.
vs Ohio State: L, because it's Ohio State.
at Wisconsin: L because, it's in Madison
vs Purdue: W because it's Purdue
at Nebraska: No idea.

I think we make a Bowl next season. Probably not the Outback Bowl and hopefully one we can actually, you know, win- but I'm feeling a 7-5 season more than an 8-4 or 9-3 season. But we'll see.

Late Breaking Sportsyball
So, FIFA is expanding the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026. A lot of people view this as a greedy, money grubbing sort of move, but this is a pretty good defense of the idea I think. (In general, I'm indifferent- if it makes the event more global than it is now, then great. The bigger issue is the fact that both Russia and Qatar are hosting the next two World Cups under dodgy circumstances.)

Public money for an MLS Stadium in St. Louis seems to be a no-go at least for now, which is good. In general, I'm against this whole 'public money for stadiums' bullshit. It's socialism for billionaires.


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