The Afghanistan Women’s National Team

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Modern football is a funny thing. Players are brands. Coaches are heads of state. And a club in China is willing to spend $64 million on Oscar. As Dickens said, portending that Oscar transfer specifically… Best of Times. Worst of Times.

Last week, we spoke with Haley Carter, goalkeeping coach and assistant manager for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Carter also happens to be a United States Naval Academy Graduate, two-time Iraq veteran, former NWSL goalkeeper for the Houston Dash, and, as she proudly points out, a mother and wife. While the conversation left us feeling even more inadequate than usual, the story she told was one that drove home our long standing belief that football is often the least important, most important part of life. Or as Haley put it so beautifully, “This little speck of optimism in a really chaotic world.”

After our interview, we produced a short digital video about the Afghanistan WNT, its history, the challenges players face, and the hope it provides for women across that nation. WATCH IT HERE.

As Haley says in the video, “The bottom line here is we’re talking life and death to be able to play this game.”

The team’s players are scattered around the globe with roughly a third coming from Afghanistan itself, a third coming from Europe and a third from North America. Despite what Haley called tremendous support from the Afghanistan Football Federation, funding for the team is tight, and they can rarely afford to get together for training camps. As a result, they rely heavily on funding from outside sources. The team has partnered with Soccer Without Borders in an effort to raise money. CLICK HERE for more on how you can help, and more on the team’s story. #Courage

Manchester United, Chelsea odds move in Premier League futures

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While one matchweek is the ultimate in small sample sizes, the outcomes have made oddsmakers adjust their prices in English Premier League futures significantly.

Manchester City remain at the top of the board, listed at +130 to be the EPL outright winner at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The big mover was their cross-town rival, as Manchester United have come down slightly to +275 after a four-goal victory in its opener, while Chelsea have doubled to +650 after an embarrassing stumble in their opener at Burnley.

Tottenham Hotspur (+800), which coincidentally will host Chelsea on Sunday, still have an attractive price for bettors looking for the higher-risk but higher-reward play; all the chatter about how they might be less offensively potent whilst displaced to Wembley Stadium overlooks their defense.

The board will be volatile early in the season, especially week to week. If one believes Man United and Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba are for real, now might be the best time for believers in Jose Mourinho’s men to get down since the Red Devils won’t face another big power until mid-October.

Conversely, a scan of the fixtures list shows Manchester City will have some big matches in September, including being home to Liverpool and a trip to Chelsea. A stumble might lead to an artificial price rise. Chelsea do present a buy-low opportunity, but they are working without their first-choice starting 11 and have some tough early-season tests.

Among this week’s Premier League fixtures, Manchester United (-275) face short-staffed Swansea (+900, +370 draw) on Saturday. The Red Devils are +105 on the goal line and winning by two should be doable.

Liverpool (-270) host Crystal Palace (+800, +400 draw) in a matchup of teams which each conceded three goals in their openers. The total is an even 3, which means playing the over offers a push as cushion.

On Sunday, Tottenham (+105) host Chelsea (+265, +245 draw). With suspended Gary Cahill off the back line, Chelsea might have trouble containing both Harry Kane and Dede Alli, but with their 0-1 record it will be desperate to batten down and try to get the draw and valuable (in the long run) point.

Newly promoted Huddersfield Town (+140) are still offering plus money for its home opener against Newcastle United (+210, +220 draw) on Sunday. Newcastle had a desultory opening loss, so riding with everyone’s new second-favorite team on sentiment makes some sense.

The matchweek wraps with Manchester City (-355) hosting Everton (+950, +450 draw) on Monday. Everton have won the last three matchups between the teams and offer some upset potential, especially if midfielder Idrissa Gueye contains playmaker Kevin de Bruyne.

Manchester City favored for title, Kane for top scorer on EPL odds

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Manchester City enters the English Premier League season as the favorite to top the table at the end of next May.

With the EPL season kicking off Friday, Man City is listed at +185 on the odds win the Premier League championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Defending champion Chelsea (+325) and Manchester United (+325) are the closest contenders, before a big drop-off to Tottenham Hotspur (+900).

Manchester City have made major roster upgrades and manager Pep Guardiola has had a full season to get a better read on his players’ capabilities. But what’s probably going to make or break the Sky Blues is the health of defender Vincent Kompany, who’s struggled to stay healthy for the last three seasons.

Chelsea remains a solid play, particularly after adding Alvaro Mota to their front line. Odds of greater than 3/1 on a defending champion are hard to pass up. The price on Manchester United, which was sixth last season, might stem from their popularity and the fact that manager Jose Mourinho delivered titles during his second season with each of the other four teams he’s guided (including twice with Chelsea).

Tottenham has been faded in the preseason prognostications, mostly on the assumption they will be thrown off due to using Wembley Stadium as a temporary home due to stadium construction. However, one of the league’s most explosive offenses will be moving to a bigger pitch, and they still have their airtight back line with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as centre-backs.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane (+275), the two-time reigning Golden Boot winner, is the chalk pick in top scorer futures. But it is possible the Spurs’ move will affect the volume the chances Kane gets in home games.

Man United’s Romelu Lukaku (+400) should have the supporting cast to have a big season. Man City’s Sergio Aguero (+550) and Gabriel Jesus (+800) could end up cancelling out each other. With Arsenal out of Champions League, Alexandre Lacazette (+1100) might have the extra energy to take a shot.

In first week matches of note, Arsenal (-210) faces Leicester (+550, draw +350) in the lone game on Friday. Arsenal has just one win in its last seven season openers, but it should be different this time since they had a confidence-builder in the Community Shield game against Chelsea last weekend.

Tottenham (-155) opens on the road against Newcastle United (+400, +290 for the tie). Newcastle added little during the transfer period and Tottenham should be capable of beating the 1.0-goal line, which pays +120.

Manchester City (-325) should have a full complement of talent when it takes on Brighton and Hove Albion (+900) on Saturday. City is -110 on the goal line.

Crystal Palace (-130) gets the privilege of welcoming Huddersfield Town (+380, +250 for the draw) to the top flight. This might be an instance where taking the newcomers Huddersfield to eke out a point pays out.

Man United opens at home against West Ham United on Sunday. The Reds are -110 on the goal line (1.5 goals) and will be looking to make a statement with a decisive victory.