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Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

Foden can fill De Bruyne’s shoes

It’s time to let Phil Foden cook.

With superstar midfielder Kevin De Bruyne sidelined long term after a relapse of the hamstring injury he suffered in last season’s Champions League final, Pep Guardiola turned to the young Englishman to assume the mantle as Manchester City’s central creator – both literally and figuratively – on Saturday against Newcastle United.

Foden didn’t disappoint.

The 23-year-old playmaker was the focal point of City’s progressive play at the Etihad Stadium, consistently finding dangerous pockets of space and breaking free from the shackles of Bruno Guimaraes and Sandro Tonali to create chances for his teammates. He popped up everywhere and crafted City’s winning goal by identifying a hole, bursting into the Newcastle penalty area with his quickness and cutting the ball back for Julian Alvarez, who picked out the top corner with a wicked strike.

Foden is a very different player to the Belgian superstar he’s currently replacing. De Bruyne is a more domineering physical presence who powers forward with the ball at his feet before picking out killer passes. Foden, meanwhile, glides across the pitch, using silky dribbling and his cerebral understanding of space to carve up the opposition. He’s constantly scanning the field, seeking out areas between the lines, and has the technical ability to twist and turn and create passing lanes that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Losing De Bruyne is obviously a huge blow. But in Foden, City, now sitting on a club-record 17 consecutive home wins in all competitions, have someone with all the tools necessary to keep things ticking in his absence.

Big issues for Ten Hag to solve

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag was afforded a certain amount of leeway by supporters and pundits alike last season – and with good reason. The Dutchman, in his first campaign at the helm of the storied club, took an unbalanced team with glaring weaknesses and began to instill a clear identity, winning a trophy and creating newfound hope and excitement at Old Trafford in the process.

Now comes the hard part.

Ten Hag, following another summer of significant transfer expenditure, is expected to take the Red Devils up another gear. It’s a difficult task considering the level of competition within the Premier League, but a lateral season won’t be considered a success. Two games into the young campaign, there’s plenty of work to be done.

Rob Newell – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty

It’s important to reserve full judgment until we see how his team functions with marquee addition Rasmus Hojlund in the lineup, but regardless of the young Danish striker’s impact, Ten Hag needs to sort out the midfield. Bruno Fernandes, Mason Mount, and the increasingly creaky Casemiro were overrun for the second consecutive match in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. The Brazilian, in particular, looks like he’s aged 20 years in the offseason, and as a whole, the trio looks extremely wobbly when out of possession. Mount, meanwhile, is having very little impact for someone who cost £60 million.

United were lucky not to be punished by Wolverhampton Wanderers in their season opener – Wolves somehow wasted multiple opportunities after breaking free of the Red Devils’ press – but Spurs weren’t as generous.

There have been some positives early in the season – Andre Onana has completely transformed the team’s buildup play from the back – but if Ten Hag and his staff can’t get the middle of the pitch functioning and firing, United will take a step backward this season.

Liverpool seek balance in midfield

Speaking of midfield shake-ups …

Jurgen Klopp opted for the same ad hoc midfield trio in Saturday’s 3-1 comeback win over Bournemouth that started the season opener against Chelsea. In theory, deploying a forward (Cody Gakpo) along with attack-minded summer signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister – with Trent Alexander-Arnold tucking inside while in possession and adding his outstanding array of passing – should be nearly impossible to handle for the opposition. Szoboszlai, who won a penalty at Anfield on Saturday with some nifty footwork just inside the area, was the best player on the pitch versus the Cherries and seems to have settled very quickly. The Hungarian looks like a blossoming superstar.

Concerns remain about the functionality of the trio, though.

Mac Allister is more than willing to do some dirty work and cover large amounts of ground in defensive transition, but that’s not the best part of his game. Meanwhile, the setup doesn’t maximize Gakpo’s attacking attributes; the Dutchman had fewer touches than any Liverpool starter, and his only two touches inside the Bournemouth penalty area came on the same sequence early in the second half.

Klopp is likely going to get an extended look at new signing Wataru Endo in the coming weeks after Mac Allister was shown a contentious red card on his home debut for a challenge that, while not malicious, was high and a fraction late. Even if there’s a reprieve upon appeal – Klopp suggested the club will make an effort to have the Argentine’s ban overturned – introducing Endo and shifting the World Cup winner further forward could ultimately be in Liverpool’s best interest. Could Klopp reinvent the wheel and tailor a system to a team without a prototypical holding midfielder? Sure. The German tactician is certainly innovative enough. Should he, though? Probably not.

Endo, who looked tidy after coming off the bench in the second half following Mac Allister’s dismissal, would provide more balance to the Reds’ midfield, especially against better opposition, and in turn allow Gakpo to move into the front three – either from the start or off the bench – where he’s clearly far more comfortable playing. If the electrifying Luis Diaz can stay fit, then he must start opposite Mohamed Salah, leaving just the central attacking role up for grabs between Diogo Jota, Gakpo, and Darwin Nunez. A good conundrum for Klopp to have, but a conundrum nonetheless.

Quick free-kicks

Reality check for Newcastle

Newcastle’s return to the upper echelons of English football has been rapid since the club hired Eddie Howe and started flexing its Saudi-backed financial muscle. But Saturday’s defeat to standard-bearers Manchester City, the ultimate measuring stick in world football, was a reminder that there’s still plenty of room for growth if the Magpies are going to become an elite side. City, despite contesting the UEFA Super Cup final on Wednesday in the baking Greek heat and returning to England the following day, looked comfortable for the bulk of their 1-0 win. They held Newcastle to just a single shot on target – and even that was a 69th-minute effort from well outside the box that Ederson handled with ease. There’s no shame in losing an away match against the reigning treble winners, but, considering the circumstances, you’d have expected a little more from Howe’s team. On limited rest, missing De Bruyne and John Stones, and with a subpar outing from Erling Haaland, City were still in complete control.

Stars in the making for Spurs

Chloe Knott – Danehouse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Tottenham may have struck gold with Pape Matar Sarr. The Senegalese midfielder, signed in 2021 from Metz, took center stage in Saturday’s win over Manchester United, scoring his first goal for the club in just his third league start. The 20-year-old has all the tools of a dominant all-around midfielder. He’s neat on the ball, picks the right passes, has outstanding athleticism to cover lots of ground and contribute defensively, and attacks the penalty area with precision and pizzazz, as evidenced by his opportunistic goal that put Spurs on course for their victory Saturday. Paired with Yves Bissouma, Sarr looks like an ideal player for Ange Postecoglou’s high-octane style of play. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Rodrigo Bentancur returns to the fold. Young Italian left-back Destiny Udogie stood out, too. Spurs have cycled through so many calamitous full-backs in recent years, but the energetic 20-year-old looks like the real deal.

Fernandes needs to be careful

With referees instructed to be more aggressive in their efforts to root out dissent this season, players will need to recalibrate very quickly after years of remonstrating with officials without consequence. The learning curve has been steep in the opening weeks of the season. Fernandes, more than most, will need to exercise restraint to avoid racking up yellow cards. The Portuguese midfielder is one of the most vocal players in the league when it comes to arguing even the most innocuous calls. It was no surprise, then, when he picked up a caution Saturday for protesting a yellow card that was shown to teammate Antony for a tackle from behind. Even without the captain’s armband, Fernandes always seemed to be first on the scene when a contentious decision was made. With it, he’ll have more power to discuss on-pitch matters with referees. That seems like a bad recipe.

Trouble ahead for Fulham

Opening the season with a road win only masked the problems for Fulham. The team that won at Everton last week showed its true colors Saturday, treating Craven Cottage to a dreadful display en route to a lopsided defeat against Brentford. It was the definition of a disheartening loss, as the Bees scored twice after Tim Ream was sent off. But things may only get worse for the Cottagers. Where the goals come from now that Aleksandar Mitrovic finally got his desired move to Saudi Arabia is the biggest issue facing Marco Silva – who might be starting to regret his decision to reject his own big-money move to the Middle East nation. If Fulham don’t move fast before the window closes, there’s no way this team can come close to replicating last season’s impressive 10th-place finish.

Stat of the day

Brighton & Hove Albion, despite losing Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo this summer, keep hitting new heights under Roberto De Zerbi. Their perfect start to the season continued with a breathtaking 4-1 obliteration of Wolves on Saturday. Is there a better team to watch in England right now?

Tweet of the day

It’s a brave new world for Tottenham.

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Premier League

Breaking down thrilling EPL title race with 10 games left

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One of the most intoxicating title races in Premier League history is, mercifully, ready to resume.

The quirks of the calendar – an FA Cup weekend succeeded by an agonizing international window – means the titanic tussle between Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City will have been on hiatus for a full three weeks before it gets back underway on Sunday.

But there are no more impending interruptions. With 10 matches remaining for each title contender, we’re barreling toward a resolution to the type of three-way battle that’s exceedingly rare in England’s top flight. There’s never been a season in the Premier League era where three teams went into the final day with a chance to hoist the trophy. This could be it. The last time it happened was the 1971-72 campaign, when Derby County won an incredible four-team fight, narrowly beating Leeds United and, ominously, Liverpool and Man City to the crown. We’re overdue for that kind of drama.

That three sides have converged this way at all is, frankly, remarkable.

These are the three best teams in the country by an enormous margin. They’re the only ones with an expected goal difference per game of plus-1.0 or greater this season. The next best mark, surprisingly, belongs to Mauricio Pochettino’s erratic Chelsea team at plus-0.36. So, yeah, it’s not close.

The three of them are also on a tear and show no signs of slowing down. Arsenal have won all eight of their league games in 2024, scoring 33 goals in the process; Liverpool have collected 22 of a possible 27 points in that time; reigning champions Manchester City have racked up 23 of 27 points. They’ve combined for just one loss since the calendar flipped – Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat against Arsenal in early February.

The only sides that look capable of halting their progress are each other, which makes this weekend’s clash between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad all the more significant.

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Each contender has a compelling reason for believing it’s “their” year.


Mikel Arteta’s men look far more assured and mature than last season when they set the pace for nearly the entire campaign, only to crumble down the stretch and relinquish their once sizeable advantage to Manchester City. Do-it-all superstar Declan Rice has been a transformative figure in midfield, while Kai Havertz, after an inauspicious start, is becoming an increasingly vital and consistent scoring threat. At least from the outside, there appears to be more self-belief within the Arsenal camp. Having learned from their experience in 2022-23, Arsenal won’t cede top spot so easily this time. It’ll need to be ripped from them.

Some may be inclined to dismiss their recent run because of their opponents. Yes, the Gunners have played some weak teams – Sheffield United! Burnley! Nottingham Forest! – but, for the most part, they aren’t just beating them; they’re blowing them away with a ruthlessness usually associated with title winners. For those still unconvinced, Sunday’s visit to the Etihad, where they were tossed aside like a rag doll in last season’s 4-1 loss, will be the ultimate litmus test to see if this team is ready to end the club’s 20-year title drought.


Jurgen Klopp’s persistent squad, already with the League Cup in tow, aims to send off their departing bench boss in style. Liverpool have been the most entertaining team of the trio this season. They create more chances than Arsenal and City and concede more opportunities. Darwin Nunez, the ultimate agent of chaos on a football pitch, is the perfect fit for a team with a habit of scoring late goals and delivering dramatic moments. Their title charge is built on more than just vibes, though.

Liverpool overwhelmed none other than City in their last league game before the international break but came away from the pulsating affair at Anfield with a 1-1 draw. City, usually self-confident and domineering in possession, simply held on against what Pep Guardiola dubbed a “tsunami” of pressure. There was obviously some added incentive at play, but Liverpool are built to go full speed regardless of the opposition. It’s in their nature under Klopp.

Manchester City

Despite not being at its vintage best this term, Guardiola’s accomplished crew remains the favorite in the eyes of many who, for good reason, simply refuse to pick against them. We’ve been conditioned to feel like City will inevitably be the last team standing because, well, they usually are. Five titles in the previous six seasons will have that effect on the collective psyche. However, Erling Haaland isn’t replicating his ferocious scoring pace from last season, and Kevin De Bruyne has been limited to six league starts. Also, outside of some electrifying Jeremy Doku performances, the summer signings haven’t exactly set the world alight. And yet, here they are, just one point off the top, showing the quiet confidence and tranquility that can only be obtained through winning experiences.

With Phil Foden leading the way and authoring arguably the best season of anyone in the league, City could become the first team in English history to win four consecutive top-flight titles.

Strength of schedule

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On paper, Arsenal have the most difficult fixture list.

Their remaining opponents average 41.8 points this season, roughly corresponding to ninth place in the table. Put another way, it would be the equivalent of playing Wolves (41 points) or Brighton (42) each week. It doesn’t help that many of Arsenal’s toughest matches are away from home. Coincidentally, they have upcoming trips to Brighton and Wolves, along with north London rivals Tottenham and Manchester United, following this weekend’s potentially decisive tilt at the Etihad. It’s tough.

Manchester City’s task is slightly more forgiving, as their remaining opponents average 40.7 points or 10th place.

Liverpool appear to have the most favorable schedule of the trophy chasers, with their opponents averaging 38.4 points, a tally representing the haul of a team in the bottom half of the table. While that’s better than the alternative, it’s not quite so simple for the Reds. On the back of a potentially draining Europa League quarterfinal second leg against Atalanta in mid-April – more on that soon – Klopp’s men have three away games in seven days against Fulham, Everton, and West Ham. In addition to battling their local nemesis, who could still be scrapping for survival at that point, Liverpool will also face a rambunctious Goodison crowd that would love nothing more than to play a critical role in stopping their hated rivals from winning another league crown.

Aston Villa and Spurs, meanwhile, stand out as common foes for all three title hopefuls. Sitting fourth and fifth, respectively, and engaged in their own fight to secure a Champions League place, they could play the role of kingmakers this spring.

European commitments

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Balancing the mental and physical demands of domestic play with continental competition is a huge piece of this puzzle for all three teams. Midweek success can further galvanize a group, but taxing failures can cripple a team’s momentum at home.

Much like the domestic schedule, Liverpool seem to have an edge here. Arsenal and Manchester City will face European behemoths Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in a pair of mouthwatering Champions League quarterfinal ties beginning next month. However, Liverpool have a comparatively charitable Europa League encounter with Atalanta.

If they both advance, Arsenal and City will meet in the Champions League semifinals, an outcome that will surely be celebrated wildly on Merseyside.

How those games intermingle with the league schedule also matters. Liverpool play Crystal Palace and Fulham following their two matchups with the Italian outfit. After locking horns with Bayern, Arsenal have to contend with Aston Villa and Wolves. Manchester City, still active on three fronts as they seek a second consecutive treble, host lowly Luton after the first leg of their Real Madrid rematch and take on Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals following the second leg.

Injury concerns

Simon Stacpoole/Offside / Offside / Getty

Liverpool have been plagued by injuries all season. Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, and Andy Robertson, among others, have missed varying amounts of time, though the bulk of that group is getting back to full fitness. Alisson Becker remains sidelined and might not return until mid-April. Defensive stalwart Virgil van Dijk is the only Liverpool player to garner over 2,000 league minutes this season, indicating how disruptive injuries have been for Klopp’s team. And yet, they persevere.

Five Manchester City players have cleared the 2,000-minute mark thus far, and a couple more are on the cusp. But the club was without De Bruyne for the entire first half of the season, while trips to the treatment room ravaged Jack Grealish’s year. City also got hit the hardest by the recent international break, with John Stones and Kyle Walker hurt on England duty and racing against time to recover for Sunday’s match versus Arsenal. Swiss defender Manuel Akanji is in the same boat, and Ederson’s return date from a thigh injury remains uncertain. Never shy about tweaking his lineup, Guardiola could be forced to tinker yet again.

Arsenal have been largely unscathed, with six players eclipsing 2,000 league minutes. William Saliba, whose absence last season played an outsize role in Arsenal’s capitulation, has been on the pitch for every second of league play in 2023-24. Gabriel Jesus has battled ailments all year, and Jurrien Timber suffered an ACL injury just 49 minutes into his Premier League debut in the season opener. But the Gunners will be hoping their relative good fortune on the injury front extends right through May, especially as it relates to Bukayo Saka, who pulled out of the England squad to nurse a minor muscular issue.


Justin Setterfield / Getty Images Sport / Getty

First, a disclaimer: Luck will play a pivotal role in determining which team is crowned on May 19. Injuries will continue to be a factor. There will almost certainly be contentious refereeing and VAR decisions that favor and oppose the title challengers. There will also be finishing variance, with players missing seemingly easy chances and converting more difficult opportunities.

Impossible to predict? No matter. We’re not going to let that stop us.

Considering their advantageous schedule, at home and in Europe, along with their improving squad health at just the right time and the inescapable feeling that this is a team of destiny determined to send their beloved manager out on a high, we’re going with Liverpool, who’ll collect 88 points to pip their rivals and again interrupt Manchester City’s run of domestic dominance.

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Premier League

Euro 2024 playoffs: Miraculous Ukraine comeback, big result for Wales

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Wales, Greece, and Poland registered statement wins Thursday, joining three other teams in next Tuesday’s playoff finals for the three remaining places at Euro 2024.

Ukraine staged an incredible late comeback against Bosnia and Herzegovina in its semifinal to keep its Euro dream alive.

The highest-placed team in FIFA’s rankings that’s no longer in contention to reach the tournament in Germany is 60th-placed Finland.

Here’s how the playoff semifinals across Path A, B, and C played out.

Path A

Mateusz Slodkowski / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Poland 5-1 Estonia

Estonia barely stood a chance. Down to 10 men as early as the 27th minute, the northern Europeans could only muster a consolation goal in a 5-1 loss to Poland. The Polish achieved the rout without Robert Lewandowski getting on the scoresheet and remain unbeaten in 21 Euro qualifiers at home, a magnificent run dating back to September 2006. Poland is trying to make up for a poor qualifying campaign in which it finished third in Group E, four points behind the Czech Republic and Albania. The country hasn’t missed the Euros since 2004.

Wales 4-1 Finland

The Red Wall might descend on Germany this summer. Wales’ raucous supporters have legitimate hopes of traveling to another major tournament after the Dragons scorched Finland without the retired Gareth Bale and with Aaron Ramsey, 33, on the bench after more injury problems. Teemu Pukki gave the visiting team some hope just before halftime following well-taken finishes from David Brooks and Neco Williams. But Wales needed just 73 seconds of the second period to restore its two-goal cushion via Brennan Johnson’s tap-in. Daniel James took advantage of a defensive error before rounding the goalkeeper in the 86th minute to give the host a resounding victory.

Playoff final: Wales vs. Poland, Tuesday 3:45 p.m. ET

Path B

David Balogh – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

Israel 1-4 Iceland

Iceland’s Albert Gudmundsson stole the show with an emphatic hat-trick against Israel on Thursday. His stunning free-kick into the top right corner canceled out Eran Zahavi’s opening goal for Israel, and he created a nice cushion for his country with a pair of markers in the final 10 minutes. Just before that, Zahavi blew an incredible opportunity to equalize the match at 2-2, missing a penalty awarded for handball against Iceland’s Gudmundur Thorarinsson. A red card to Israel’s Haim Revivo didn’t help the trailing side. Iceland is now a game away from making only its second-ever appearance at the Euros following its quarterfinal run in 2016.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-2 Ukraine

Ukraine scored twice with just minutes remaining in regulation to snatch what seemed to be a sure victory from Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday. Bosnia controlled play for most of the match and took the lead in the 56th minute when Mykola Matviyenko turned in Amar Dedic’s shot into his own net. But a colossal defensive lapse cost the Bosnians a chance to make it a record four countries from the former Yugoslavia at Euro 2024. Roman Yaremchuk came off the bench to equalize in the 85th minute and teed up Artem Dovbyk’s sensational winning header three minutes later to turn the playoff semifinal on its head. Ukraine now faces Iceland with a third consecutive Euro appearance at stake.

Playoff final: Ukraine vs. Iceland, Tuesday 3:45 p.m. ET

Path C


Georgia 2-0 Luxembourg

Two clever finishes from Budu Zivzivadze in Tbilisi assured Georgia of a place in Path C’s final – and all without the help of suspended talisman Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. But it wasn’t that simple for the host. Luxembourg thought it equalized during the second half, only for the goal to be eventually snatched away due to Maxime Chanot’s apparent foul 45 seconds earlier. Luxembourg’s Chanot was controversially sent off for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and Zivzivadze effectively ended the match six minutes later with his second strike. Kvaratskhelia is available for the final.

Greece 5-0 Kazakhstan

Anastasios Bakasetas lashed home a penalty, Dimitrios Pelkas headed into the net’s roof, Fotis Ioannidis tapped in from close range, and Dimitrios Kourbelis added another header. And that was all before halftime. Kazakhstan’s impressive 2022-23 Nations League campaign and notable Euro 2024 qualifying wins over Denmark, Northern Ireland (twice), and Finland suddenly seemed ages ago, as Greece recorded its biggest halftime lead since October 1978 (5-0 against Finland). Aleksandr Marochkin’s embarrassing own goal in the 85th minute made Kazakhstan’s day even worse.

Playoff final: Georgia vs. Greece, Tuesday 1:00 p.m. ET

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Premier League

Look: Nike unveils beautiful kit selection for Euro 2024, Copa America

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Nike released a stunning batch of threads ahead of Euro 2024 and Copa America on Monday.

Days after Adidas launched its lineup for the summer’s top two tournaments, Nike followed suit with an array of colorful designs.

The U.S. manufacturer also announced redesigns for Canada and Poland, even though they’ve yet to qualify for their respective tournaments. The Canucks face Trinidad and Tobago in a one-off Copa America qualifier on Saturday, while Poland must navigate a four-team playoff to reach Euro 2024.

(All images courtesy of Nike)

Euro 2024



The square-shaped design that gives Croatia its unique look gets a slight upgrade. The home shirt features larger squares than ever before.


Croatia’s away shirt plays on the national flag, with the traditional checkered pattern now on a slant.



Influenced by England’s 1966 training gear, the home shirt has a classic feel with a rich blue collar and gorgeous trim along the cuffs.


England embraces a deep purple hue for its away selection. The crest stands out with a contrasting off-white tint that makes the three lions pop.



France’s home shirt may have the biggest crest of all of Nike’s offerings. The oversized rooster defines this shirt as much as the royal blue that’s made France’s kits a crowd-pleaser.


The pinstripes mirror the colors of France’s national flag and span the width of the shirt in a simple, yet elegant design.



Nike could’ve offered anything orange here, and it would’ve been perfect. But the Netherlands has something bolder and better to wear. The zig-zag pattern adds edge.


The orange collar and cuffs pop alongside the three shades of blue Nike has chosen to create the abstract design on this work of art.



Poland dedicates premium real estate on the country’s home shirt to its imposing crest.


Poland’s away shirt is a daring choice. The graphic treatment adds texture, giving it a rugged feel while separating from the red tones of years past.



With possibly the best home shirt in Nike’s collection, Portugal leans heavily into its traditional red-and-green motif with a polo collar and thick cuffs. The logo sits prominently as well. A smash hit.


Here’s another winner. Portugal’s away strip has a stunning textile imprint that gives off a cool summer vibe.



This is a menacing look. Turkey will look like a whirring red army with these imposing shirts.


The classic red band returns to Turkey’s away uniform. Like the others, it features an oversized crest in the middle of the shirt.

Copa America



Nike goes big with Brazil’s crest and adds an intricate design to the same yellow hue the Selecao have used for decades.


Brazil’s secondary strip feels like the beach. A horizontal wavy pattern covering the entire shirt mimics the country’s picturesque coastline.



The only blemish in Nike’s lineup. Why is there a circle around the swoosh? And why are the shoulders so much darker than the body? None of it makes sense.


The 13 pinstripes are supposed to represent the 10 provinces and three territories that make up Canada. Unfortunately, the rest of the shirt looks incomplete.

United States


The United States men’s national team gets a classic home shirt with patriotic detailing along the color and sleeves.


The gradient works perfectly with the red shorts the U.S. will wear at the Copa America.

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