Breaking News: It's a HUGE Football Weekend (not that football, the other kind)

Breaking News: It's a HUGE Football Weekend (not that football, the other kind)

United States' soccer players run during a training session ahead of their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match with Costa Rica, in San Jose, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The U.S. will face Costa Rica on Friday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

With my friend Davey taking care of today's Union coverage, I'll troll the soccer haters even more before the weekend arrives with a quick preview of a HUGE five-day stretch for your United States men's national team.

Many seemed to appreciate our quick preview of the last USA-Mexico games, and the Stars and Stripes have two big games coming up, starting tonight. Don't worry, neither one conflicts with the other kind of football. So you have no excuses.

The Americans are in the driver's seat for a berth in World Cup 2014 heading into tonight's game in Costa Rica and Tuesday's matchup with archrival Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. sits in first place in the six-team group of teams from North/Central America and the Caribbean. Teams play the other five teams home and away over 10 matches, with the top three teams earning automatic bids to Brazil 2014. The fourth-place team must play a two-game playoff against New Zealand for the other spot.

The U.S. could clinch a bid tonight, but only if three results go their way.  More of the news about tonight's match has centered around the Costa Rican "gamesmanship" going on this week, after the "Ticos" were angered by having to get their feet a little wet during a game in Colorado in March, which was played in the snow and won by the U.S.

It was the lead on Keith Olbermann's new ESPN2 show last night, and he provides a good recap of all that's gone on this weekend.

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Tonight's game (10 p.m.) is available on BeIN Sport, a channel you might get but not even know it. Click here to find it on your TV, or if you want the true experience, head to Fado and watch with the American Outlaws Philadelphia chapter.

The big story tonight is where the game will be played. In the past, Costa Rica hosted all international games -- especially against the Americans -- at Estadio Saprisaa, an aging, intimidating, Vet Stadium-style-astroturfed venue where the United States never won a game.

In recent years, they've hosted most games at the shiny new Estadio Nacional, which has natural grass and a running track that keeps fans far away from the field -- well out of urine-throwing range. Once it was apparent that tonight's game would be important for Costa Rica's World Cup hopes, they even talked about moving back to Saprissa for old time's sake. But it apparently would've cost too much to get the run-down stadium up to FIFA standards.

Landon Donovan is back in the squad after a semi-self-imposed/semi-punishment hiatus away from the team. The Americans are at full-strength, and a draw or win would all but lock up a spot in the World Cup. Even more importantly, if the U.S. could lock up a bid in the next five days, they could use the final two qualifiers (home to Jamaica and at Panama) to find chemistry instead of needing results.

Once tonight's match is over, attention turns to Tuesday's showdown with a DESPERATE Mexico squad in Ohio. Unlike the Americans, the Mexicans' spot in the World Cup is very much in question.

But USA-Mexico deserves its own post. So check back Tuesday for more. And save some room in your football weekend for the other kind of football.

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

Twenty-five of the Union’s 34 games in 2017 will be featured on CSN and TCN, as Jim Curtin’s club vies for a second straight playoff berth.

Twenty matches will air on TCN, while five can be seen on CSN. The nine others will be appear across 6ABC, ESPN and FOX Sports 1.

The Union’s season opener on March 5 at the Vancouver Whitecaps will broadcast on TCN and the team’s home opener on March 11 against Toronto FC will air on CSN. The next three games — March 18 at Orlando City SC, April 1 at D.C. United and April 8 vs. the Portland Timbers — will be shown on TCN.

The Union are coming off an 11-14-9 season and their second-ever trip to the MLS playoffs in which they suffered a first-round exit to Toronto FC.

For the Union’s full 2017 schedule, click here.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).