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Wednesday is here already and our first UEFA final is upon us. Sevilla and Roma meet for the Europa League title in Budapest (watch on Paramount+) and it promises to be an absorbing contest. There is also Concacaf Champions League final first-leg action featuring Major League Soccer's LAFC as well as the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup. I am Jonathan Johnson bringing you the Golazo Starting XI newsletter ahead of another important week of action.

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📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

🏆 Europa League final: Sevilla vs. Roma, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: New York City FC vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+
🇺🇸 NWSL: Portland Thorns vs. Angel City, 8 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy, 9:30 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+
🏆 Concacaf Champions League final: Leon vs. LAFC, 10 p.m. ➡️ FS1

🇳🇱 Eredivisie: Heerenveen vs. Twente, 12:45 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🌎 U-20 World Cup: Gambia vs. Uruguay, 1 p.m. ➡️ Fox Soccer Plus
🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇧🇷 Copa do Brasil: Flamengo vs. Fluminense, 7 p.m. ➡️ Fanatiz
🇦🇷 Argentina: Arsenal Sarandi vs. Boca Juniors, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

⚽  The Forward Line

Pressure on Mourinho and AS Roma

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Two goals in the space of three minutes late into Fiorentina's clash with Roma this past weekend upped the stakes for Jose Mourinho ahead of this Wednesday's Europa League final in Budapest (3 p.m. ET on Paramount+). With that 2-1 loss, the Giallorossi suddenly find themselves sixth and just one point ahead of Juventus in seventh which is the final continental qualification berth for the Europa Conference League. Beat UEL record holders Sevilla and Roma earn a Champions League spot, but lose and it is potentially a definitive step backward into the UECL which they won this time last year.

Mourinho seems destined to move on from the capital club this summer regardless of what plays out at Puskas Arena this midweek, but the Portuguese tactician's legacy at Stadio Olimpico hinges on whether or not they finish this season with a UCL berth or potentially just scraping another Europa League return depending on what Juventus manage to do on the final day. Final opponents do not come much tougher in the UEL than six-time winners Sevilla who are not yet guaranteed a continental berth via La Liga's places just yet.

CBS Sports has a soccer podcast covering everything you need to know about European game's top competitions and storylines. Make sure to give House of Champions a follow for coverage of the biggest games, stories, transfer news with Fabrizio Romano, and everything else going on in the world's most popular sport.

Win at home to relegation battlers Spezia on the final day and that will secure at least a Europa League return, but the undeniable progress made under Mourinho will not feel as significant if Roma do not complete their climb up the UEFA ladder system. Doing so would also be a big boost for European soccer's governing body given that it would create an example for other clubs to follow in terms of finding ways to improve upon their continental involvement without relying solely on domestic league form. Also, the Giallorossi can ensure that Mourinho maintains his 100% record in UEFA finals which is so far five wins from five played -- excluding UEFA Super Cup outings.

Mourinho's European finals:

  • 2003 UEFA Cup: FC Porto 3, Celtic 2.
  • 2004 UEFA Champions League: FC Porto 3, AS Monaco 0.
  • 2010 UEFA Champions League final: Inter 2, Bayern Munich 0.
  • 2014 UEFA Europa League final: Manchester United 2, Ajax 0.
  • 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League: AS Roma 1, Feyenoord 0.

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

Are we nearing Messi's decision?

The major transfer story of the past few months has been the question of Lionel Messi's future and the 35-year-old is expected to make a decision sooner rather than later. The topic has picked up a bit of speed in the past few days since Messi was spotted back in Barcelona attending a Coldplay concert while Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe was beating the legendary Argentine to the UNFP Player of the Year award in France.

The recently crowned Ligue 1 champions have thrown further fuel on the fire by placing Messi front and center of the promotion of their 2023-24 home jersey which will likely only be worn once by him -- this weekend in the final game of the season against Clermont Foot at Parc des Princes. So, are we about to see the man from Rosario make an emotional return to Barca, land a lucrative final payday in Saudi Arabia, or perhaps take on a new challenge in MLS with Inter Miami?

"Our fans have started to mention Leo's name at every game," said Barca boss and former teammate Xavi of Messi and a possible Camp Nou return very recently. "I like the feeling, but trust me -- Leo's comeback depends upon him and him only. I reckon that it depends 99% on Leo himself. I have no doubts regarding the soccer point of view, but it is up to Leo." 

Messi is not alone in being a big name linked with a Saudi switch of late with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and Juventus' Angel Di Maria just two of the other big names attracting interest. 

Reports that Inter Miami and Barca might even join forces to try desperately to keep Messi out of Saudi clutches suggest that we could be very close to a potential reunion with old foe Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League. Are we into the final sprint already? We have been charting Messi's future decision for some time including his recent unauthorized visit to Saudi Arabia so you can see how the past few months have been building towards this potential moment.

Time for some links:

🔗 Everything you need to know ahead of the Europa League final between Sevilla and Roma.
🔗 Ranking Jose Mourinho's UEFA triumphs ahead of what could be a record sixth title.
🔗 B.J. Callaghan takes over as interim USMNT coach as former interim Anthony Hudson departs.
🔗 Better news in the under-20 World Cup, though, as the U.S. are flying.
🔗 Liverpool have a new sporting chief in Jorg Schmadtke.
🔗 Looking ahead to who Manchester United could target this summer.
🔗 PSG goalkeeper Sergio Rico remains in intensive care after a horse riding accident.
🔗 Counting the cost of the weekend that was in the Premier League and Bundesliga.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: How to maximize Folarin Balogun with the USMNT.
🔗 House of Champions: Europa League final preview and predictions.
🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman provide USWNT World Cup roster predictions.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with Europa League final bets and more.

  • Europa League: Sevilla vs. Roma, Wednesday, 3 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Sevilla (+190) -- So much is riding on this one for both sides with Mourinho and Roma looking to make history while Sevilla's mastery at this level could continue. Neither side is likely to win comfortably and extra time and penalties could well happen. However, Roma or the draw suddenly making Sevilla underdogs in what is effectively their competition is an intriguing scenario.
  • Bundesliga: Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, Thursday, 2:45 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Hamburg (+350) -- It was final-day agony for Hamburg who thought that they were going up automatically only to see Heidenheim beat them at the last possible moment. Can HSV dust themselves off to edge Stuttgart over two legs? They have to if they want to end their top-flight exile and that should be enough to motivate them to pull off an unexpected away win here.