[THIS WEEK IN SOCCER: Jan. 20-26]It's only 47 days until the start of the 2014 MLS season, and teams will begin training this weekend. The NASL and USL PRO both have combines, while the first friendly game involving World Cup finalists will be played Wednesday. The week kicks off Monday with a big announcement on the FIFA front.
MONDAY, January 20
The 2015 race for FIFA president opens as Frenchman Jerome Champagne will announce his candidacy in central London. Champagne, who got his start in soccer writing as a free-lancer for the foreign section of the magazine France Football, served as current FIFA president Sepp Blatter's campaign manager in 2002. Champagne, who is very well connected around the world, did so well in 2002 that he helped Blatter get more votes in Africa than Blatter's rival, African confederation president Issa Hayatou.
WEDNESDAY, January 22
Chile-Costa Rica will be the first match of the year involving World Cup finalists. Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls) and Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew) will travel with with the Ticos to Coquimbo for the game.
THURSDAY, Jan. 23
PDL all-conference picks Dwayne Reid (Ocean City) and Max Gunderson (Austin) will be among the 102 players showcasing their talents at the four-day 2014 USL PRO Combine at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Eight of the nine scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday will be streamed live via USL PRO’s YouTube channel.
FRIDAY, January 24
-- MLS champion Sporting Kansas City heads to Tucson, Ariz., to begin MLS preseason training. Sporting KC begins play four days later against local PDL club FC Tucson. Training hubs have been set up for clubs in both Tucson and Bradenton, Fla. (Preseason schedule)
-- The 2014 NASL Player Combine opens at UC Irvine. Former U.S. national team staff coach Ralph Perez and former U.S. national team midfielder Brian Quinn will be among the coaches working with players looking to catch on with clubs in the 10-team NASL.
SATURDAY, January 25
South Korea-Costa Rica at the Los Angeles Coliseum kicks off the Taeguk Warriors' three-game U.S. tour that also includes matches against Mexico and the USA. The Koreans, who are without their European-based players, will be arriving from their training camp in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.
SUNDAY, January 26
The English FA Cup fourth round ends with Chelsea-Stoke City, the lone game involving Premier League clubs. Fans wishing to tune in should remember that the FA Cup is carried by the Fox Sports, not NBC Sports.