How does the marquee soccer team in the world rebuild itself in place? That's the problem that Real Madrid faces now, armed only with all the money in the world. The team's situation is an example of how things are different for the clubs at the very top of the soccer pyramid.

It's difficult to find a season in Real's history when the club didn't win something, somewhere. But last season the team's only trophy came in the utterly unimportant Club World Cup. Real was out of the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010, finished 17 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and failed in the Copa del Rey semifinals. Two managers were fired, replaced with Zinedine Zidane, who had himself left the previous season.

But the very rich, they are different from other clubs. A smaller team might have dialed back its summer plans, or had to wait out some of its overly large contracts. Madrid, meanwhile, has spent $334 million already on new players, with the potential of more to come.

It's easier to face problems with that sort of financial backing. But the challenge — overcoming the other best teams in the world, both in Spain and in Europe — is commensurately harder as well.

Short takes

• News this week of U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis stepping down after winning back-to-back World Cups should, in most places, precipitate only discussion of where the many statues of her should go. But she also departs with her reputation for mystifying tactical decisions. In some circles she seems likely to also be remembered for failing to prevent the U.S. from winning those titles.

• An MLS update this week revealed that St. Louis, Sacramento and possibly Charlotte are likely the next franchises for the ever-growing league. With 24 teams and three more (Miami, Nashville and Austin) soon to be added, the league will no doubt grow beyond 30 teams if it can find enough deep-pocketed owners with city-approved stadium plans. If it figures out how to grow and keep its teams in a single league, it'll become the first league in the world to do so.


German Super Cup: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 9. The story of Bayern vs. Dortmund so often is one of how Dortmund came up just short. Last season, BVB led by nine points halfway through the year but finished two points behind Bayern yet again. This exhibition, as much as anything, is a referendum on whether Dortmund has what it takes to finally knock off Bayern this season.

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