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Happy November! I'm Pardeep Cattry, and here's a quick midweek check-in on some of the soccer world's biggest stories.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Wednesday, Nov. 1
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EFL Cup: Manchester United vs. Newcastle, 4:15 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇺🇸 MLS: Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ Fox Sports 1

Thursday, Nov. 2
🇳🇱 Eredivisie: Ajax vs. Volendam, 3 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+

⚽  The Forward Line

🏆 The World Cup heads to Saudi Arabia

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It's not necessarily official yet, but it might as well be -- Saudi Arabia is set to host the 2034 World Cup. The all-but-certain decision came yesterday after Australia, the only other country to tease a desire to host the event, decided not to submit a declaration of interest on the deadline. FIFA says it will still go through all the formalities before locking in a host, but president Gianni Infantino basically confirmed the news in an Instagram post.

The writing was on the wall for the last several weeks. FIFA's decision to host the 2030 World Cup in three continents essentially cleared the way for Saudi Arabia to win rights to the 2034 edition, and swift condemnation has followed from human rights groups and others. Fresh off a controversial World Cup in Qatar, FIFA will once again host its biggest event in a country with a reputation for human rights violations that includes poor labor conditions, restricted freedoms for women and the LGBTQ+ community, and the execution of dissidents.

Amnesty International's head of economic and social justice Steve Cockburn advocated for the halting of the bidding process until FIFA ensures human rights are protected in Saudi Arabia.

  • Cockburn: "FIFA must now make clear how it expects hosts to comply with its human rights policies. It must also be prepared to halt the bidding process if serious human rights risks are not credibly addressed. The best chance for FIFA to obtain binding guarantees to protect workers' rights, ensure freedom of expression and prevent discrimination linked to the World Cup is during the host selection process - not after the hosts have been confirmed and tournament preparation has begun. Human rights commitments must be agreed with potential hosts before final decisions on holding the tournaments are made."

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

📈 Women's soccer trending upwards

From the Women's World Cup to the club game, continuing growth has been the story in women's soccer. That's particularly true in England, where the women's game has hit a new level since the Lionesses won the Euros last year and were finalists at this year's World Cup.

Beth Mead, a member of the Euro-winning squad, has had a front row seat to that progress. She began her career at Sunderland in 2011 before making the move to Arsenal in 2017, and though the team can now sell out the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, she told Morning Footy how that was not always the case.

  • Mead: "When I first started out in this league, I think it was 60 to 100 people [who] came and watched us. To walk out at a stadium such as the Emirates and we sold out the game … it's been pretty incredible and i think for us now, getting the attendances is starting to become the norm. Obviously, since the success of the Euros, the game has jumped to a new level and the interest in the game's been incredible."

The exponential growth in a fairly short period of time speaks volumes about the potential of the women's game and women's sports as a whole, especially ahead of a notable few weeks on the pitch. Arsenal host Manchester City in WSL action this weekend and could draw another sizable crowd for the top-tier matchup, while over in the U.S., high attendance figures are expected for the NWSL playoffs after a record-breaking regular season. The Portland Thorns will welcome NJ/NY Gotham FC in the semifinals, while the San Diego Wave will host the OL Reign.

🔗  Top Stories

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EFL Cup preview: The sack watch is on at Old Trafford, where Erik ten Hag arguably provides more questions than answers for Manchester United ahead of their cup tie. Arsenal, meanwhile, head into their fixture with an in-form Declan Rice while Chelsea remain a mess.

🇪🇸 Se queda: Vinicius Junior signed a new deal with Real Madrid that keeps him around until 2027 and includes a €1 billion release clause.

🏆 Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d'Or on Monday and became the first active MLS player to collect the award, while Aitana Bonmati won her first after her outstanding play with Spain at the Women's World Cup.

🇺🇸 NWSL playoffs: Ahead of Sunday's semis, here's a ranking of the remaining teams and the potential championship matchups, as well as the case for Angel City's Becki Tweed to win coach of the year honors. The Reign's Veronica Latsko also stopped by Attacking Third to talk her team's chances.

🗞️ MLS roundup: Sporting KC's Daniel Salloi chats his team's big playoff win with Morning Footy, while the crew discussed FC Dallas' scoring prospects without Jesus Ferriera. Inter Miami might not be in the playoffs, but the team is still making headlines -- their China tour is off, and it's never too early to talk about Messi's 2024 MVP prospects.

🌍 International break wrap-up: Mia Fishel shined for the USWNT but the rushed timeline ahead of the Olympics still complicates things, while one of England, the Netherlands, and Germany risks missing out on next summer's competition.

🇩🇪 Germany update: Bayer Leverkusen continues to bolster their title credentials, while Union Berlin are in the midst of an 11 game losing streak.

📺 Kickin' It: USMNT legend Landon Donovan is the guest on this week's episode of Kickin' It, and he talks his controversial 2018 World Cup ad supporting Mexico and his relationship with Clint Dempsey.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

  • EFL Cup: Manchester United vs. Newcastle, Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Both teams will not score (+115)
    -- With United's inconsistent form and Newcastle's fairly strong start to the season, these two might be more evenly matched than originally anticipated. The result will probably be a tight one, and there's a serious chance at least one of these teams does not get on the scoresheet.
  • MLS Cup playoffs: Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • 💰 THE PICK: Columbus to win 2-1 (+700) -- Atlanta are without Thiago Almada through a red card suspension, so expect the higher-seeded Columbus to take advantage and open up their playoff campaign with a win.

📺 What's on CBS Sports Golazo Network

☀️ Morning Footy (Weekdays 8-10 a.m.): Hosts Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and Alexis Guerreros help fans get their day started on the network's flagship morning show with highlights, interviews and the biggest soccer storylines. Morning Footy is also available in podcast form, so you'll never have to miss an episode.

📦 Box 2 Box (Weekday afternoons): The news-driven show quickly recaps all the latest headlines from around the world with panelists previewing the top matchups of the day. Catch Box 2 Box on CBS Sports Golazo Network on the CBS Sports app, PlutoTV and Paramount+. 

3️⃣ Attacking Third (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8 p.m.): The leading women's soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. Watch Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 8 p.m. this week as our analysts break down the best highlights and analysis and share insider information for all things women's soccer.

👟 Kickin' It (Wednesday, 7 p.m.): CBS Sports Golazo Network's new unfiltered interview show returns Wednesday Hosted by Kate Abdo, Clint Dempsey, Mo Edu and Charlie Davies, the group chat candidly with the biggest names from the Beautiful Game and share their stories from on and off the pitch. Jozy Altidore stops by this Wednesdasy.

🥅 Scoreline (Daily): Scoreline is the newest place for fans to catch up on all the biggest news and results impacting global football, match highlights from the top soccer competitions and all the can't-miss goals from the day's action, starting Thursday and airing seven days a week.

📺 How to watch: CBS Sports Golazo Network is a free 24/7 channel exclusively dedicated to offering unparalleled coverage of all the top soccer competitions worldwide. You can stream for free on the CBS Sports appPluto TV and Paramount+.