Looking Ahead to Summer 2019 in Sports

As the semester winds down and your favorite Swarthmore athletic teams close out their seasons, a fearful question begins to reside inside you: “How will I fulfill my need for sports-viewing while being away from campus for the summer?!” Unfortunately, it is the case that Swarthmore teams do not compete past the end of the spring semester, save for baseball last year, who went all the way past graduation as they competed in the Division III World Series. However, Swarthmore sports fans are in luck: Summer 2019 will be another great couple months in professional sports, with major events occurring across multiple leagues.

For the few club soccer fans that exist on campus, there are two enticing finals that will be played after the semester ends. The first is England’s FA Cup, which is essentially a massive, nine-month tournament that pits 124 teams across all the four top divisions of English soccer against one another. The FA Cup will have its final on May 18, just a few days after finals wrap up. This year, Manchester City will play Watford at Wembley Stadium in London. Although the first-place Manchester City are highly favored, the FA Cup is notorious for its upsets. Watford, who currently sit tenth in the Premier League, would pull off one of the most famous upsets in the history of the 138-year-old tournament if they managed to defeat City.

A much more exciting event for soccer fans is the UEFA Champions League Final, which will occur on June 1 in Madrid. The UCL is the pinnacle of professional soccer: the best teams across all Europe compete with one another year-round. Eight groups of four teams qualify for the tournament, and the top two teams from each group advance to a knockout round after six group stage games. This year, there have been some amazing matches across the board, like Ajax from the Netherlands defeating three-time champions Real Madrid and Italian titans Juventus en route to the semi-finals or London’s Tottenham Hotspur beating Manchester City in what some call the greatest UCL game of all time. As of now, four teams remain. Tottenham will play Ajax and Barcelona will play Liverpool. After two games, the team with the better record or goal differential will advance to the final. Given the amount of upsets that have occurred so far, it won’t be shocking to anyone if Tottenham or Ajax, two massive underdogs, manage to upset Barcelona or Liverpool in the final.

When it comes to strictly American and Canadian sports, three leagues are active during the summer months. Major League baseball continues all throughout the summer, but the postseason won’t start until October. The NBA playoffs, however, are currently underway, with matchups between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers on almost every night. The final, a best-of-seven series, will begin in early June.

Around that same time, the NHL Stanley Cup Final will also be wrapping up. Eight teams also remain in the NHL playoffs: Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders, and Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks. This year’s playoffs has seen its share of upsets: the two conference winners, Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames, both lost in the first round, with the former getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Defending champion Washington Capitals lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the highly-favored Nashville Predators fell to to the Dallas Stars. Even if hockey may not be your thing, playoff hockey is as exciting as it gets and there will be ample opportunity to witness it come summertime.

Many individual-based sports have their major finals based in the summer as well. Three of golf’s “majors” will occur during the summer. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods as he tries to win back-to-back majors at the PGA Championships from May 16 to May 19. The U.S. Open, which will take place about a month later, from June 13 to June 16, and the British Open will be from July 18 to July 21. Additionally, three of tennis’ majors will occur in the summer as well. The French Open will occur from May 26 to June 9, Wimbledon will be July 1 to July 14, and the US Open will be August 26–September 9. Finally, in regard to cycling, the famous Tour de France will take place from July 6 to July 28.

Of course, you may say that the aforementioned sports championships happen every year, so while Summer 2019 may be an exciting time for sports fans around the world, there is nothing that distinguishes it from any other summer. If that were the case, you would be right. However, one of the best sporting events around  – one that only occurs every four years – will also be taking place this summer. From June 7 to to July 7, the best of soccer will be on display during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and this time, American fans will have a team to root for. Unlike the men’s national team, the women’s national team not only qualified for the World Cup, but are returning as defending champions of the trophy. In 2015, the USA team swept through the competition, winning their group and not conceding a goal in the knockout stage until the final against the Japan, in which they won 5-2. In 2019, the FIFA No. 1 ranked US women are again considered a favorite in the tournament, but defending their title won’t be easy.

Germany once again return as strong contenders for best team in the world and will be back with a vengeance after losing to the U.S. in the semi-finals of the 2015 tournament. France, the World Cup hosts, also poses a dangerous threat to the US’s hopes at repeating as champions. Japan, last tournament’s runner-ups and the 2011 champions, is always a formidable opponent, as are England and Brazil. Luckily for the U.S. women, they won’t have to worry about any of these teams until the knockout rounds, as their group consists of Thailand, Chile, and Sweden. American soccer fans will hope to see the U.S. women defending their title in the final, which will be played on July 7 in Lyon.

With finals looming and work building up, at least there is a light at the end of this academic tunnel. From May to August, the weeks will be packed with major sporting events happening around the world. Whenever there isn’t a championship being played, there will always be a baseball game to catch or some obscure sport on ESPN2 being broadcasted. Either way, Summer 2019 will be a great one for sports fans all across Swarthmore’s campus: be sure to tune in when you can.

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