Early on in the global pandemic, it was very clear that soccer would have to change. Nothing less than careful planning and prioritization was required to balance the sprawling network of competing interests in soccer, to ensure the health of the game both on the field and on the balance sheet. And now, having attempted to carry on without doing any of that, it feels like both the club and the international game abroad are nearing a tipping point.

Plenty of players have contracted COVID-19, but Cristiano Ronaldo testing positive after games with Portugal during the international break feels seismic, the highest-profile example of soccer's recklessness. This is especially true given the nature of the break, which mostly saw Europe's international teams playing useless Nations League games and, impossibly, meaningless friendlies.

Surely the games could have been dropped from the calendar without losing much — a statement that goes for countless club competitions and exhibition matches around the globe, as well. Even here, where competitions have been canceled, several MLS teams are wondering how they can fit in Covid-postponed matches before winter. With more postponements likely around the world, something will have to give — and prioritization will come not via careful, reasoned planning as it should have been, but with legal battles galore.

Short takes

• The exodus of NWSL players to England has caused a jersey-buying boom. At Manchester United, Christen Press and Tobin Heath boasted the club's top-selling jerseys for three days after signing. Alex Morgan did the same at Tottenham, until Gareth Bale's return pushed her down the chart. England's clubs, which tend to treat their women's teams like afterthoughts, would do well to take notice of the interest.

• Former USWNT coach Jill Ellis is one of the names rumored to be in the running to replace fired D.C. United coach Ben Olsen. It seems unlikely, given Ellis' reputation for unsophisticated tactics while in charge of the national team, but it's hard to question her results — and after 10 years of sameness under Olsen, maybe something outside-the-box is what D.C. needs.


Premier League: Arsenal at Manchester City, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Ch. 11. The whispers have started that perhaps Pep Guardiola can no longer inspire his team, and that he misses second-in-command Mikel Arteta, now installed as manager at Arsenal. The student-teacher narrative is obvious. That Man City badly needs a good result after a poor start is obvious, too.

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: jmarthaler@gmail.com