Friday is here and you made it -- well done! We are looking forward to a big weekend of soccer action with English silverware up for grabs in the EFL Cup. Major League Soccer is back with a bang and there is also CONCACAF W Gold Cup action to look forward to with the USWNT. I am Jonathan Johnson and I am here to get you ready for it all. 

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Friday, Feb. 23
🇪🇺 UEFA Women's Nations League: Spain vs. Netherlands, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🏆 W Gold Cup: Dominican Republic vs. Mexico, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🏆 W Gold Cup: Argentina vs. USWNT, 10:15 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

Saturday, Feb. 24
🇪🇸 La Liga: Barcelona vs. Getafe, 10:15 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Arsenal vs. Newcastle, 3 p.m. ➡️ Peacock
🏆 W Gold Cup: Colombia vs. Brazil, 10:15 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

Sunday, Feb. 25
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EFL Cup: Chelsea vs. Liverpool, 10 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Milan vs. Atalanta, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🏆 W Gold Cup: Paraguay vs. Canada, 5 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

⚽ The Forward Line

🏆 All eyes on the USWNT


Via Sandra Herrera

The United States women's national team are in control of Group A in the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup group and aim to punch their ticket to the knockout stage on Friday night. They're coming off a 5-0 win against Dominican Republic on Tuesday and will now face group rivals Argentina on Friday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif at 10:15 p.m. ET. The Argentinians are in desperate need of goals after settling for a scoreless draw against Mexico and currently sit in second place. It will be the fifth all-time meeting between the two teams and the first during an official tournament. The USWNT have won each meeting with the most recent a 6-0 victory during the 2021 SheBelieves Cup. Fans can watch all the Gold Cup action on Paramount+. The Stars and Stripes got off to a quick start against the Dominican Republic, connecting on goal early off a corner kick that was ultimately disallowed due to an offside call. Still, the team got on the scoreboard in the opening 10 minutes with a goal by Oliva Moultrie and never looked back. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will aim for a similar start here. 

Keep an eye on

  • Jaedyn Shaw: The dynamic 19-year-old attacker was featured off the bench in the opener. She could get a start for minute management and her pristine final passes are an asset.
  • Naomi Girma: The center back didn't feature against the Dominican Republic, which means she could get a start against Argentina. Her long-range vision can help stifle any attacks before they start.

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

🇺🇸 MLS is back, baby!

Getty Images

Major League Soccer returned on Wednesday with Lionel Messi's Inter Miami opening their new season with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake. The Argentina international was involved in both goals as he teed up Robert Taylor for the opener and had a hand in Diego Gomez's late second goal. It was a chance to see Messi and Luis Suarez reunited, but also a chance to see this retooled Herons side and how they could look in a campaign that many expect them to be dominant in despite their ageing roster. Chuck Booth already has an interesting and wacky observation having watched the opener and it could be a indication that his MVP favorite Messi is going to be defended resolutely from set pieces.

  • Booth on Messi set pieces: "When free kicks are defended, there is a lot of pressure on goalkeepers to set their walls and even more so when the person taking that free kick is none other than Lionel Messi. Against Real Salt Lake to open the MLS season, Zack MacMath did something that hasn't been used to defend Messi yet in Major League Soccer. The goalkeeper placed defenders on both posts when setting his defense with his defenders packing into the box. Sacrificing a traditional wall in front of Messi taking the kick, MacMath positioned Justen Glad and Cristian Arango on each post in order to have extra help and it came in handy. When Messi's kick came in, it was destined for the back of the net until Glad headed it to safety stopping the dangerous chance. Messi has made his reputation well known for years, and his first Inter Miami goal came from a free kick against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup last season. Now teams are beginning to catch on. With a full offseason to prepare for facing Messi, teams will likely begin to implement new things just like this set play defense to slow down Inter Miami. But Messi will always reinvent his own game setting up an epic chess match. Even Messi's corners are taking on a new flair with him attempting olympico's among varied deliveries to keep the defense on edge. How defenses keep up with the Argentine wizard will be fascinating to watch."
  • Booth on Messi's MVP hopes: "There are plenty of players who may end up deserving this award at the end of the season. League stalwarts like Hany Mukhtar, Carles Gil, and Luciano Acosta come to mind but this award is Lionel Messi's to lose. Almost winning MVP last season despite only playing in the league for half of a season, it doesn't feel like there is anything but an injury that can deny Messi from winning the award in his first full season in Major League Soccer. Already with an assist under his belt in an opening-day victory over Real Salt Lake, Messi will end up with at least a goal contribution per game played which will be plenty to justify taking MVP honors."

🔗  Top Stories

🇪🇺 UEL and UECL round of 16 draws: Liverpool vs. Sparta Praha, Milan vs. Slavia Praha, Roma vs. Brighton, Ajax vs. Aston Villa and more ties.

🇩🇪 Xabi Alonso's future: Why staying with Bayer Leverkusen should not be ruled out despite Bayern Munich and Liverpool links.

💭 Pep Guardiola's World Cup dream: Manchester City's manager wants an international job in the future, but which one suits him best?

⚖️ Dani Alves trial: Ex-Brazil and Barcelona star is found guilty and gets four and a half years in jail for sexual assault.

🤕 Fortaleza bus attack: Six players in hospital after opposing fans attack bus with rocks and explosives after draw.

🐐 Inter Miami's MLS opener: Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez provide assists as Herons get off to a winning start vs. Real Salt Lake.

🔙 Toni Kroos unretires: The Germany international is back ahead of UEFA Euro 2024 which strengthens Julian Nagelsmann's host nation.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bet

  • EFL Cup final: Chelsea vs. Liverpool, Sunday, 10 a.m.
    💰THE PICK: Liverpool win and both to score (+280) 
    -- With so much going on this weekend it is easy to lose sight of the EFL Cup final with English soccer's first major domestic silverware of the season up for grabs. Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp face off with the Blues needing the first trophy of the Argentinian's stint with the club and the Reds keen to help the German sign off on a high with as much success as possible. This one looks set to be fairly tight with Chelsea working their way back up the table which Liverpool currently lead. However, perhaps most interestingly here is that the Londoners cannot afford to waste a golden chance of securing European soccer next season with a long way to go in the FA Cup still and a major margin to make up in order to reach the continental berths via the league. Can Pochettino's men pull this one out of the bag and surprise Klopp's side at Wembley?

📺 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 evening): The leading women's soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. Just because the NWSL season is over doesn't mean that our coverage of the women's game is going anywhere. Our analysts will be breaking down the USWNT. NWSL offseason and European domestic season all winter long.

👟 Kickin' It (Tuesday, 7 p.m.): CBS Sports Golazo Network's new unfiltered interview show returns Tuesday 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. 

⚽ Call it What You Want (Monday night): A weekly podcast where Jimmy Conrad, Jesse Marsch and Charlie Davies cover all things USMNT and the state of the beautiful game in the United States.

🥅 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+.