English Premier League

Soccer Set for International Break Ahead of 2022 World Cup

Clubs across the world have paused games for two weeks while national teams meet for friendlies ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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After a sudden pause of games following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Premier League returned briefly this past weekend with a series of exciting games. Now, fans will have to wait a little longer as the league undergoes another pause due to an international break that began Monday and will run through Sept. 27.

The main action gets underway on Wednesday with six games.

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While many of these teams in this slate of games won’t be competing in Qatar, there are plenty of games between World Cup opponents including South Korea-Costa Rica, United States-Japan and Iran-Uruguay.

Here’s a look at the current international break and where to catch your favorite stars:

What is the international break? 

International breaks are a designated period that allows players to leave their club temporarily to represent their national teams in competitions such as FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, UEFA European Championships, the Africa Cup of Nations and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

This season’s schedule is particularly unusual due to the fact that the World Cup begins in November, rather than the traditional summer start date. 

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This week is the last international break before games officially get underway in Qatar. 

When is the 2022 World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup opens on Sunday, Nov. 20, with Ecuador taking on host-country Qatar. That kicks off nearly a month of competition, capped off by the World Cup Final on Dec. 18. 

The schedule for each round is below:

  • Group matches: Nov. 20 to Dec. 2
  • Round of 16: Dec. 3 to Dec. 6
  • Quarterfinals: Dec. 9 and Dec. 10
  • Semifinals: Dec. 13 and Dec. 14
  • 3rd Place: Dec. 17
  • Final: Dec. 18

There are six rest days scheduled for Dec. 7, Dec. 8, Dec. 11, Dec. 12, Dec. 15 and Dec. 16.

The full schedule is available here.

Do these friendly matches matter for the World Cup?

In short, no. 

The groups are set for the World Cup and these games have no bearing on the World Cup standings. However, it is an opportunity for national teams -- that rarely play together as a unit -- to get in some much-needed reps with the World Cup two months away. 

Which Premier League players are competing with their national team this week?

Dozens of players across the Premier League will trade in their club kits for country colors this weekend. 

For the United States, Matt Turner (Arsenal), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace) and the young Leeds United duo of Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams will all be on site as the U.S. takes on Japan and Saudi Arabia, both teams that will be competing in Qatar. 

Some of the biggest names around the league will also compete this week. 

At the top of the Premier League table is Arsenal, who have come on strong through the first month of league play despite missing out on a top-4 finish last season. Ten Arsenal players will be participating in the international break, such as Bukayo Saka (England), William Saliba (France) and USMNT’s Turner. 

Right behind the Gunners in the EPL table is a tie between Manchester City and Tottenham. 

City has 16 players representing their national teams, including wonder kid Erling Haaland with Norway and Kevin De Bruyne with Belgium. Meanwhile, Tottenham has 14 players called up to the national team, headlined by Harry Kane and Eric Dier (England), Richarlison (Brazil) and Son Heung-min (South Korea). 

A full list of Premier League players competing in friendlies this weekend is available here.

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