United States head coach Vlatko Andonovski has stepped down from his position in the wake of the team’s last-16 exit at the World Cup.

The two-time defending champions’ hopes of a further triumph in Australia and New Zealand were ended by a penalty shootout defeat to Sweden.

Assistant coach Twila Kilgore has been named as the team’s interim head coach.

In a statement on the US Soccer website, Andonovski, who succeeded Jill Ellis in 2019, said: “It’s been the honour of my life to coach the talented, hard-working players of the USWNT for the past four years.

“I’m very optimistic for the future of this programme, especially considering all the young players that got opportunities over the past few years who will no doubt be leaders and impact players moving forward.

“While we are all disappointed by the outcome at this year’s World Cup, I am immensely proud of the progress this team has made, the support they’ve shown for each other and the inspiration they’ve provided for players around the world.

“I will be forever thankful to the US Soccer Federation for giving me the chance to coach this remarkable team.”

US Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said: “All of us at US Soccer thank Vlatko for his dedication to our women’s national team over the past four years.

“Vlatko worked tirelessly for this team and has been a strong and positive leader for our women’s program.

“We’re grateful for everything he has contributed to US Soccer and know he has a bright future in the sport.”

Andonovski led the USA to the bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics, but defeat to Sweden condemned the four-time world champions to their worst ever finish at a World Cup.

They won just one of their four games at the tournament, eventually going out 5-4 on penalties after a goalless draw with Sweden.

Bradley Wright-Phillips believes football in North America can become “unstoppable” on the back of Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami and the 2026 World Cup.

It is a decade since the former Manchester City and Southampton striker swapped English football for Major League Soccer to join New York Red Bulls.

Wright-Phillips last year retired in sixth on the MLS all-time goals list having enjoyed a ringside seat to the sport’s growth in North America and says the best is yet to come.

Having signed an eye-catching broadcasting deal with Apple in 2022, further developments will be fuelled by Messi’s move to Miami and the World Cup being hosted in the USA, Canada and Mexico in three years’ time.

“My first reaction to Messi coming out was I just couldn’t believe it,” Wright-Phillips told the PA news agency.

“Honestly, even now until I see him run out on an MLS pitch, I can’t really fathom what it’s going to be. It’s hard to even picture that. Even now it doesn’t seem real to me. It’s Messi!

“Unbelievable time. I feel like I retired at the perfect time, just to be involved in what’s going on.

“Messi obviously, Apple taking over and then you’ve got the World Cup coming in ‘26. What more can you ask for?”

Put to Wright-Phillips that the sport in North America seems to be going from strength to strength, he said: “Yeah, it does. The potential and the ceiling is higher than ever.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by New York Red Bulls (@newyorkredbulls)

 

“If it’s done right, it can be unstoppable – best league and country in the world for football, right? Wouldn’t you say so?”

MLS is certainly on an exciting trajectory and Messi’s arrival will spark unparalleled interest in the competition.

“The league is not only getting the best player in the world,” says Wright-Phillips, who played for LAFC and Columbus Crew as well as the Red Bulls.

“If you just think about the average fan that doesn’t watch MLS, but now because Messi’s here they’re going to watch MLS.

“They now get see a Carles Gil, a Hany Mukhtar, young players like Noel Buck – these are players that we know are good.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Bradley Wright Phillips (@bdubyas_view)

 

“But now you’re watching because you want to see Messi and the average fan gets to see that player or they get to see the atmosphere in St Louis or Austin.

“That’s what’s exciting about it. It’s not just that we’re going to see Messi play, it’s what Messi exposes globally.”

As well as Messi’s macro impact, Miami will be desperate for the Argentina star to improve fortunes at DRV PNK Stadium.

The David Beckham co-owned team languish bottom of the Eastern Conference thanks to a difficult campaign that led to Phil Neville’s recent sacking.

Ex-Barcelona boss Tata Martino has come in, while Messi’s former Nou Camp team-mates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are expected to join him in Florida.

“That tells me that they don’t just want Messi to come here and lose games,” Wright-Phillips added.

“The Inter Miami team isn’t doing very well this season, they’ve suffered a lot of injuries, they’ve had a change in the manager.

“There’s a lot of things they have to do but if you bring a Busquets, a Jordi Alba, you’re giving yourself, you’re giving Messi a chance to succeed.”

Heimir Hallgrimsson’s wait to register his first win as Jamaica’s Head coach has been prolonged, as his Reggae Boyz squandered an opportunity from the penalty spot, as well as a lengthy lead, and were held to a 1-1 stalemate by United States in their Concacaf Gold Cup Group A opening fixture on Saturday.

Defender Damion Lowe gave the Reggae Boyz a 13th minute lead, which was later cancelled out by substitute Brandon Vazquez in the 88th minute to rescue a point for United States in a contest that lived up to its billing in entertainment value for the massive crowd at the Soldier Field in Chicago.

Though they will be pleased with the point, the Jamaicans will also feel hard done given the fact that Leon Bailey should have converted from the 12-yard spot. But take nothing away from United States goalkeeper Matt Turner, whose save on his birthday proved the difference, though Reggae Boyz captain Andre Blake was also at his best between the sticks to spare their blushes.

Both teams started positively and signalled intentions with a few direct passes from the back into the attacking third to keep their respective defensive units on their toes.

Jamaica found a break in the eighth minute with Bailey finding debutant Demarai Gray out wide, the Everton winger showed glimpses of his nippy footwork and later played a dangerous pass inside that was cleared by the United States defence. 

The host responded almost immediately and caught Jamaica's defenders flat-footed with Jordan Morris finding loads of space in the final third to get a shot off from close range that was kept out by Blake who got down well to his left.

Still, United States struggled to deal with the pressure posed by the new look Reggae Boyz as again set pieces proved their undoing when the Jamaicans eventually broke the deadlock.

After Bailey was fouled by Jordan Morris, Gray delivered a perfectly weighted free kick which was expertly met by Lowe with a diving header that gave Turner in goal for United States, no chance at a save.

Jamaica should have doubled the lead from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark when Amari’i Bell’s long throw inside the danger area was headed on by Michail Antonio to Kevon Lambert, who was taken out by Aidan Morris’s high boot.

Mexican referee Cesar Ramos quickly pointed to the spot and Bailey confidently stood over the ball, but the Aston Villa winger badly fluffed his lines, sending his penalty at a perfect height for Turner to save. He had a grand opportunity to make amends but steered the rebound wide as well.

That missed opportunity gave United States hope and they gradually found their rhythm, though they were assisted by some sloppy Reggae Boyz defending at times. One such occasion was in the latter stages of the first half, when Jordan Morris easily waltzed his way through on goal and it took some brilliance from Blake to deny him.

With momentum in their favour, United States came out lively on the resumption as Head coach BJ Callaghan made the adjustments with the introduction of Vazquez, Cristian Roldan and Djordje Mihailovic, who injected some tempo into their attacking thrust, as they probed for the equalizer.

A gorgeous interplay by United States in the 70th minute paved the way for Roldan to get a shot off from close range, but Blake again came up big to keep the Reggae Boyz in front.

As the game drew closer to its climax, the Jamaicans withdrew into a defensive posture, desperately trying to preserve their lead which would have not only handed Hallgrimsson his first win eight games, but also condemned United States to their first Gold Cup opening loss.

The victory would have also been Jamaica’s second against United States at this tournament following their semi-finals triumph in 2015.

However, all that went out the window when Vazquez pounced on a poor clearance from a Jesus Ferreira cross to put the ball away from close range.

This stalemate represents an opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago or St Kitts and Nevis to assume early pole position in the group, provided they separate themselves in Sunday’s fixture.

Teams: Jamaica -Andre Blake, Dexter Lembikisa, Damion Lowe, Adrian Mariappa, Amari’i Bell (Kemar Lawrence 65th), Bobby Reid, Joel Latibeaudiere, Kevon Lambert, Demarai Gray (Daniel Johnson 90th), Leon Bailey (Shamar Nicholson 90th), Michail Antonio (Corey Burke 75th)

Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Jahmali Waite, Dishon Bernard, Javain Brown, Kaheem Parris, Jonathan Russell, Dujuan Richards

Booked: Lowe (3rd), Lawrence (83rd), Blake (85th)

United States: Matthew Turner, Deandre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, Aaron Long (Jalen Neal 46th), John Tolkin (Brandon Vázquez 82nd), Alejandro Zendejas (Djordje Mihailovic 66th), Aidan Morris, James Sands, Jordan Morris (Cade Cowell 55th), Jesús Ferreira, Alan Soñora (Cristian Roldan 66th)

Subs not Used: Sean Johnson, Gabriel Slonina, Bryan Reynolds, Miles Robinson, Dejuan Jones, Gianluca Busio

Booked: None

Referee: Cesar Ramos (Mex)

Assistant referees: Alberto Morin (Mex); Marco Bisguerra (Mex)

Fourth Official: Fernando Guerrero (Mex)

Var: Erick Miranda (Mex)

Avar1: Jorge Perez (Mex)

Demarai Gray has had much success at the club level, coming through the youth system at Birmingham City, winning the Premier League with Leicester City, had a brief stint with German club Bayer Leverkusen and is now at home with Everton.

But Gray has always really enjoyed redefining the expectations of himself by pushing to the next level, which is why his move to represent Jamaica could not have come at a better time, as he believes there is much for him to achieve on the international stage.

The 26-year-old represented England at the under-21 level where he earned 26 caps between 2016 and 2018 and was a member of the senior team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia but did not feature in any game.

It is the lack of opportunities with the England senior team, that influenced Gray's decision to obtain a Jamaican passport through his maternal grandparents, and he has set himself a long-term goal of helping the Reggae Boyz reach a major tournament.

"Obviously the country has been trying to get a hold of me for a long time, so when you feel wanted and valued, it is always great for my confidence based on where I am at in my career and the things I want to achieve and stuff. Now is the right time to hit those targets and I'm getting to the peak of my career so I'm ready, I'm at a good point and I want to create memories and history with the country," Gray declared.

"We (the players) respect the support of the fans, me personally, I love the vibe and the culture and hopefully with the fans, we can come together as one big nation and create good things. Obviously, now it's time for the Gold Cup but in the long run, I think we will keep improving, keeping getting stronger as a team and with the support of the fans we can do special stuff," he added.

The winger's first assignment with the Reggae Boyz will be a baptism of fire of sorts, as Heimir Hallgrimsson's side are set to open their Concacaf Gold Cup campaign with Group A against reigning seven-time champion United States at Soldier Field in Chicago later this evening at 9:06pm Jamaica time. Trinidad and Tobago and first-timer St Kitts and Nevis are also a part of the group.

Having endured the lengthy process that comes with switching allegiance, Gray is intent on making it count by producing a string of his usual quality and eye-catching performances.

"It's good to finally be her I kind of feel like it's been a long time coming, it was not a simple process so to get it over the line in time for this tournament was important and good for me. 

I'm just grateful and obviously proud to represent Jamaica and hopefully I can put in some good performances, score some goals and create some history for Jamaica," Gray reasoned.

"I am feeling good after a fairly short break, I'm refreshed, obviously the conditions are tough here but over the next few days, hopefully, I will adapt to it and hopefully I'll get off to a good start," he said. 

That Gray found it so easy to settle in with the Reggae Boyz, comes from the fact that he has not only rubbed shoulders with the other English-based players before, but because they all have the same ambition and goal --to make Jamaica proud.

"I am excited to be around the boys I know it’s a strong team everyone is together, and the vibes is good and stuff so it's good so far. I played with A'mari [Bell] at the youth level and Bailey in Germany where he helped me settle in there as well and he was on me about joining the (Reggae Boyz) team and Wes Morgan as well when he was at Leicester told me about stuff here and the ambitions," Gray shared.

"Then I met the manager and he expanded on it, so collectively a lot of people influenced my decision but personally I've been looking forward to doing this, so it's good to finally settle in. Where I am at now in my career, there are things I want to achieve and I feel like I can do that here in Jamaica and like I said, the whole team is positive and I feel like it's a good start being here at the Gold Cup, it's an achievement," he noted.

Given his blossoming form, his confidence on the ball and his willingness to take on his man, the soft-spoken player will certainly complement the likes of Bailey, Michail Antonio, Shamar Nicholson and others in what is without a doubt, a quality team on paper.

"Like a lot of the boys are saying, it's probably the strongest squad they have been involved in, so I am happy to influence and play my part to help the team achieve things in the tournament and obviously in the future as well, reach the next World Cup and things like that.

"So, I think it's exciting times for Jamaica, not only now, because the next few years, it's only going to get stronger. So we can look long term, but for now, we are just focused on this tournament and making sure that we get a good start," Gray ended.

 

Despite a failed bid at an historic FIFA Women’s Under-20 World Cup qualification, Hugh Bradford is optimistic about staying on with the national programme, as he believes he has more to offer to Jamaica’s football development.

However, at the same time, the American-based coach is also hopeful that things will be done differently to better nurture, and, by extension, prepare the country’s young talents to perform in a competitive environment.

Bradford’s comments came, as he continues to assess the young Reggae Girlz performances in consecutive 0-4 losses to regional powerhouses Canada and United States, at the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship in Dominican Republic.

The Girlz are scheduled to close out their Group A campaign against Panama at Felix Sanchez Stadium in Santo Domingo on Tuesday at 2:00 pm.

“I hope to continue with the programme, but that will be up to the Jamaica Football Federation to decide. I also hope to see our country put things in place for our youngest players that will help to get them ready for this stage, both in Jamaica and abroad,” Bradford said.

“There is no doubt that we have a lot of talent. However, as a country, for us to play against the best, we have to constantly make changes to how we treat our football development to keep up with the world, but more so in Concacaf,” he added.

While disappointed that his young Reggae Girlz failed to keep the United States at bay on Sunday, Bradford lauded his team for putting in a much-improved performance, from a defensive perspective in particular, when compared to their opening defeat against Canada.

As such, the tactician is eyeing a similar of even better all-round execution against fellow strugglers Panama, as both teams, who are without a point or a goal, seek to salvage some pride from their failed campaigns.

“I am hoping the team will play another good game as they did against USA, we didn’t get on the scoresheet as we would have liked, but again, it all comes down to focus and how we prepare ourselves to take on the best,” the tactician noted.

 “As a team you have to be at your best for 90+ minutes, so their fitness level matters and that is an all-year thing. But I think the ladies should be able to put in a better showing against Panama and so we look forward to what should be another good game,” said Bradford.

Both United States, the reigning seven-time champions, and Canada, on six points each, will lock horns in the Group A top-of-the-table clash, at 5:00 pm.

The winner will take on Group B runners-up Costa Rica, while the loser will have to contend with Mexico in Friday’s semi-finals.

The two finalists and third-place team will qualify for next year’s Under-20 World Cup.

Jamaica’s wait to qualify for a FIFA Women’s Under-20 World Cup has been prolonged, as the young Reggae Girlz suffered a second-consecutive 0-4 defeat, this time at the hands of United States, at the Concacaf Under-20 Championships in Dominican Republic on Sunday.

A hat-trick from Madeline Dahlien (10th, 47th and 79th) and one from Tessa Dellarose (49th) saw the reigning seven-time champions to victory which secured them a semi-final berth along with Canada, who earlier registered a 5-0 win over Panama.

Both United States and Canada, are on six points each and will decide Group A winners in a top-of-the-table clash on Tuesday, while the Jamaicans and Panamanians are to meet in a contest of academic interest on the same day.

While it was a much-improved showing from the young Reggae Girlz in part, when compared to their 0-4 opening loss to Canada, they simply lacked the pedigree of their United States counterparts.

The Hugh Bradford-coached Girlz showed more heart defensively and did manage to show some semblance of individual flair when in possession, but again offered very little on the attacking front.

It took only 10 minutes for US to break the deadlock when Dahlien breached the backline and fired past Liya Brooks.

They continued to apply consistent pressure and found a few more openings but faulty shooting proved their undoing as they failed to hit the target.

That coupled with the fact that the young Reggae Girlz were more organized at the back, resulted in the score remaining 1-0 at the break.

However, the Girlz first half accomplishments quickly went out like a candle in the wind, as the US attackers went straight to work on the resumption. A weighted cross from Onyeka Gamero was expertly met by Dahlien beating Brooks to her left, two minutes in.

And before the Girlz could regroup, they found themselves further behind when Dellarose’s delightful left-footed strike from about 20-yards out, gave Brooks no chance at a save.

Brooks was better positioned to deny substitute Jill Flammia’s effort from just outside the 18-yard box in the 54th minute, as she got down well to her right to parry onto the upright.

But Dahlien eventually secured her third and a fourth for the US with another easy finish beyond Brooks.

US, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico are set to contest the semi-finals.

The two finalists and third-place team will qualify for next year’s Under-20 World Cup.

Despite facing an uphill task, Jamaica’s Head coach Hugh Bradford is optimistic that his young Reggae Girlz will produce an improved performance against reigning seven-time champions United States in their second Group A contest at the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship in Dominican Republic on Sunday.

The encounter to take place at the Felix Sanchez Stadium in Santo Domingo, is scheduled for 5:00 pm Jamaica time, after the Canada versus Panama curtain-raiser at 2:00 pm.

After going down 0-4 to Canada in Friday’s opener, the young Reggae Girlz are now caught in a must-win situation in order to keep hopes of securing an historic FIFA Women’s Under-20 World Cup berth alive and Bradford is backing his charges to put their best foot forward on this occasion.

United States, who hammered Panama 6-0 in their opening contest, currently head the standings on three points, same as Canada, but with a better goal difference.

“Yes, it is a difficult task but we are going to try and play our game and not worry about what the opponents will do. I know we have a lot of potential in our team and so I expect the players to go out and give off their best,” Bradford said.

Reflecting on the team’s performance against Canada, the US-based coach pointed out that the players failed to execute as instructed and, as such, were outclassed in all departments and beaten by goals from Anabelle Chukwu (39th and 45th), Olivia Smith (56th) and substitute Renee Watson (90+4).

“I thought we could have been better, but we weren’t entirely bad. We used a lot of energy on the defensive side, didn’t press the ball enough and so we were unable to get anything out of the game,” Bradford reasoned.

“But we have to just leave that game behind us and focus on the next game. We know our performance needed to be better as a team and like I said, I expect the ladies to show some improvements here. Everybody is fine, we had our team meeting and discussed what changes needs to take place as we look ahead,” he added.

Should the Girlz pull off an unlikely upset, it would put them in a good position to secure on of two spots from the group to the knockout stage, as they are set to close against Panama on May 30, while the United States and Canada will have each other to contend with.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica and Mexico, have all but secured the two positions from Group B, with two wins each.

The two finalists and third-place team will represent the confederation at next year’s Under-20 World Cup.

Joel Embiid's 2023 MVP win shows the influence the 1992 United States men's team had on growing basketball globally, believes former coach Justin Harden.

The Philadelphia 76ers man claimed the league's top individual honour after back-to-back finalist finishes behind Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Embiid, who hails from Cameroon, averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists over 66 games, becoming the third straight international player to win the award following Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokic.

Harden, who coached Embiid during his senior year at The Rock School in Florida, feels his success underlines how the United States team that conquered the 1992 Olympic Games helped grow the sport globally.

Commonly referred to as the 'Dream Team', the squad was the first to feature professional NBA players, with a team including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird cruising to gold medal success in Barcelona.

"When you think about who's in the top ten players [in the NBA], a good host of them are international players," Harden told Stats Perform.

"From Nikola Jokic to Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to Luka Doncic, [and] then you've got a guy who is undoubtedly going to be the number one pick [in Victor] Wembanyama.

"I can imagine he's going to be great too. I think it just is a testament to the Dream Team and their influence on what they did for international basketball playing in Barcelona.

"There's great coaching all throughout the world. The United States is not necessarily the epicentre or the only option for great basketball to be played.

"It's awesome to see that these guys are going to be MVP. Luka could be the next MVP, and then you have four in a row that are international guys.

"I think it's really neat to see that our game has become such a global sport, because when Joel was here, we had 13 guys on our team, and seven of them were international players, five of them from the continent of Africa.

"We've always cherished what international players can bring to our programme."

Having known Embiid from such a young age, Harden is proud of both the player and the man Embiid has become, saying: "I'm super excited for him. I mean, this is like a breakthrough moment. 

"He's had a couple of runner-up finishes, and so it's good to see him be able to break through and have another great season, I think his third in a row.

"I think this was the best one because he withstood from being injured. I think the last two seasons were hampered by his injuries and so out of his control, but his play was certainly great.

"I'm super excited for him. He's a good guy. I knew him when he was a boy, a young boy becoming a man.

"Now he's a grown man. He's got a family. As much as I'm excited to see him win MVP, I'm also equally excited to see him as a father and as a husband."

Christian Pulisic believes the United States can take confidence from setting a record for away goals as they thumped Grenada.

In winning 7-1 on Friday in the CONCACAF Nations League, it was the first time they had scored seven goals in a match taking place outside the US.

It was USA's first competitive match since the World Cup, with Ricardo Pepi and Weston McKennie each scoring twice.

Chelsea star Pulisic also got on the scoresheet, and had a hand in four other goals too.

"We came out really strong with a lot of energy and just kind of put with them right away," Pulisic said.

"So I think they were kind of surprised by that. Took our goals well and just a great all-around performance. Definitely gives us confidence."

The game was also the first time USA played a competitive match without using a single MLS player since the league began in 1996. 

Interim coach Anthony Hudson was impressed by what he saw from his team, but urged them to finish the job as they bid to reach the Nations League final four.

USA are top of their group ahead of hosting El Salvador on Monday at Exploria Stadium in Florida.

Hudson said: "With a [good] performance and a result like this, you don't want to get carried away.

"The importance for us is just to make sure that we do all the right things between now and the next game and we finish the job off. 

"But the actual performance, I thought it was the result of just a really, really good week."

Folarin Balogun would be a "great addition" to the United States team, but Arsenal's Matt Turner only wants the striker to make the switch if it "comes from the heart".

Arsenal forward Balogun has excelled on loan with Reims this season, scoring 17 goals in 27 Ligue 1 appearances – behind only Jonathan David and Kylian Mbappe (both 19).

The 21-year-old's excellent form has prompted talk of a tussle for his international allegiance, with the New York-born star eligible to represent England, the United States and Nigeria.

Balogun has been a mainstay in the England Under-21 set-up, but he withdrew from the squad for this month's internationals due to injury.

That development has led to fresh hope Balogun will pledge himself to the USMNT, and Turner confirmed he had spoken to his Gunners team-mate on the matter.

"I spoke to Flo. We obviously had most of our preseason together, and I knew going into it he had some roots in the USA," the goalkeeper said on Wednesday.

"So, he and I developed a relationship pretty quickly. That's pretty much the extent of it. We check in on each other here and there.

"He'd be a great addition to our national team. I think he's done really well, obviously, for his club on loan, and we'll see.

"The decision has to come from the heart, because it's not necessarily an easy task to come and play in these CONCACAF games. It's a tough region at times.

"So, for us, we'd be really grateful to have him, but his heart needs to be in it."

Earlier in the week, Balogun told Sky Sports he was yet to decide on his future but has aspirations of playing at the highest level.

"My international future is not decided yet in terms of who I'll play for," he said. "But of course I want to play international football at the highest level, in the World Cups, and I want to compete at the highest level.

"I want to put myself in positions where I'm performing in front of millions of people."

Shohei Ohtani was described as a "unicorn to the sport" by United States manager Mark DeRosa after he led Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic final.

Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout to seal a 3-2 victory in a thrilling conclusion in Miami on Tuesday.

Named the tournament's MVP, Ohtani ticked off a list of achievements during the game that had only ever previously been matched in an MLB or WBC game by the legendary Babe Ruth in October 1921.

The 28-year-old started in the batting lineup, drew a walk, got a hit, came on to pitch in relief, struck out a batter and was the finishing pitcher.

"What he's doing in the game is what probably 90 per cent of the guys in that clubhouse did in Little League or in youth tournaments, and he's able to pull it off on the biggest stages," DeRosa said. 

"He is a unicorn to the sport. I think other guys will try it, but I don't think they're going to do it to his level.

"What blows me away on this stage is the fact that no moment is too big for him. He did not seem rattled by walking Jeff McNeil on a close pitch, not rattled that three MVPs were coming up to bat."

Ohtani himself was happy to accomplish one of his career goals by winning the tournament, and believed the victory over the USA was also proof that Japan can get the better of anyone.

"In my baseball life, [winning the World Baseball Classic was] one of the things that I wanted to achieve," Ohtani said. "Today I was able to achieve one of the goals.

"Of course, I happened to get the MVP, but this really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world."

Japan superstar Shohei Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout to end a 3-2 victory over the United States in a thrilling conclusion to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Tuesday.

The two pre-tournament favourites ended up meeting in the final, and almost like the script of a sports movie, fans were gifted the most anticipated matchup in baseball for the last out of the game.

It was the United States striking first, with Trea Turner continuing his remarkable tournament with a solo home run in the second inning. With it, he broke the US record for most home runs in a single WBC (five) and the most RBIs (11).

But their lead was short-lived, as 23-year-old Japan slugger Munetaka Murakami crushed a 432-foot bomb to tie the game with the first pitch in the bottom of the second frame.

With the final being played in Miami, the visiting team jumped ahead 2-1 later in the second through a Lars Nootbar RBI ground-out with bases loaded.

That score would hold until a solo home run from Kazuma Okamoto in the fourth inning to put Japan up 3-1, and while the United States finished with nearly double the amount of hits (nine against five), they failed to string them together and score.

The game was injected with life in the eighth inning as Kyle Schwarber put together a 10-pitch at-bat against Texas Rangers star Yu Darvish – including five foul balls in a row – before blasting a 436-foot homer to cut the lead to one.

All-Star Devin Williams pitched a clean eighth inning for the United States to reach the ninth with the scores still at 3-2, when Ohtani was sent out to close the show.

After a Jeff McNeil walk to open the inning, Ohtani got Mookie Betts to ground into a double-play, putting Japan one out away from securing their third WBC title.

The only thing standing in his way was Trout, and with the entire stadium on their feet – with a full count – Ohtani struck out the three-time AL MVP to collect the save.

Japan are the only team with more than one WBC crown, denying the United States a chance to tie them with two each, while the Dominican Republic also has one.

MLB Opening Day is still over a week away but several of baseball's biggest names will be in action on Tuesday – and Shohei Ohtani cannot wait.

The final of the World Baseball Classic will pit Ohtani's Japan against the might of defending champions the United States.

With Ohtani planning to hit and pitch in relief as he ramps up his preparations for the new season, all eyes will be on his potential matchup with Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout, the Team USA captain.

"It's not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars, household names," Ohtani said.

"I'm just excited to face that lineup. It's a great thing for Japanese baseball."

Ohtani was speaking after Japan's dramatic 6-5 comeback win over Mexico that booked their spot in the final.

In an apparent nod to the Angels' eight-year absence from the MLB playoffs – spanning his entire career – Ohtani said: "It's been a while since I've played in a win-or-lose game, in a playoff atmosphere."

Munetaka Murakami, a Japanese Triple Crown winner last year, clinched Japan's victory with a walk-off double at the bottom of the ninth.

"It was the best, epic," said Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, while Mexico manager Benji Gil graciously added: "Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight."

That is still not enough for Ohtani, though, as the two-way superstar said: "Obviously, it's a big accomplishment to get to the championship series.

"But there's a big difference from being in first and second, so I'm going to do all I can to get that first place."

St. Lucian and Texas senior Julien Alfred produced another amazing performance to advance to the final of the Women’s 60m at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Friday.

The 21-year-old defending champion ran a new personal best and championship record 6.96, the joint-fourth fastest time ever, to win heat one and advance to Saturday’s final as the fastest qualifier.

The Commonwealth Games 100m silver-medallist entered the championships as a massive favorite to retain her title as she is unbeaten in the event this season with winning times of 7.05, 7.02, 7.05, 7.00, 7.03 and 6.97.

Alfred, now the joint-fastest Caribbean woman of all time in the event alongside Jamaican legend Merlene Ottey, will be joined in the final by Jamaican Clemson senior Kiara Grant who wan 7.14 for third in the first heat.

Later, Alfred also ran 22.38 to advance to the final of the 200m. LSU's Favor Ofili was the fastest qualifier with a spectacular 22.11, the third fastest time ever behind Merlene Ottey's 21.87 and Abby Steiner's 22.09.

Elsewhere, Jamaican Arkansas sophomore Joanne Reid ran 51.98 to advance to the final of the Women’s 400m.

Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago were beaten by Canada and the USA, respectively, at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship at Estadio Pensativo in Guatemala on Monday.  

The early game saw one-time runners up Canada secure a comfortable 2-0 win over the Bajans.

Liam Mackenzie opener the scoring for the Canadians in the 21st minute before Alessandro Biello doubled their lead seven minutes later.

Later at the same venue, Trinidad & Tobago were beaten 1-3 three-time champions, the United States.

The game was effectively over before the 30 minute-mark as Micah Burton in the 11th minute, Paulo Rudisill in the 14th minute and Taha Habroune in the 24th minute gave the Americans a 3-0 lead heading into the half-time interval.

The Trinidadians got a consolation goal through Derrel Garcia in the 78th minute.

All four teams will be back in action on Wednesday as Trinidad & Tobago will face Barbados before the Americans and the Canadians do battle.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.