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Soccer stars prevail against team of 30 8-year-olds

Soccer stars Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane needed a late goal to edge a team of 30 8-year-olds as part of the LA Galaxy’s “Ridiculous Soccer Challenge.” >> Read more trending stories  Sky Sports reported that the 8-year-olds lined up in a 1-10-10-9 formation, packing the defense to crowd the two 36-year-old Galaxy players.  Keane scored twice, as the two men used their height advantage and a long-ball approach to attack the goal. Keane used some fancy footwork to deprive the youngsters of an upset draw. <iframe width="390" height="219" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BI3ORyqT5Ec" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Washington Spirit reschedule anthem to prevent Megan Rapinoe from protesting

Megan Rapinoe did not get a chance to kneel during the national anthem before Wednesday night’s match between the Seattle Reign and the Washington Spirit.

Instead, Spirit officials altered their pregame ceremonies and played the anthem while both National Women’s Soccer League teams were in their locker rooms, The Associated Press reported. That prevented the Seattle midfielder from kneeling for a second consecutive match.

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“We decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent,” the Spirit said in a statement.

"We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step,” the Spirit said, “but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise."

Rapinoe knelt during the anthem before Sunday’s match in Chicago, showing solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who has refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression.

"To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves," the Spirit said in the statement.

After the match, Rapinoe said she was saddened by the Spirit's move.

"It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say I tried to hijack this event,” Rapinoe told the Washington Post.

The Spirit said team owner Bill Lynch is a veteran who has lost friends in overseas conflicts, as had his close friends.

Hope Solo says she won't finish season with NWSL's Seattle Reign

Goalkeeper Hope Solo, saying Tuesday that she was “not there yet” mentally, decided to end her season with the Seattle Reign of the National Women's Soccer League.

Solo, 35, who was suspended for six months by U.S. Soccer and had her contract terminated last week, announced her decision in a statement. She won't be eligible for selection to the national team again until February. Solo did not say whether she would be returning next season.

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“Coming to terms with the fact I was fired from the U.S. women's national team after 17 years of service has been devastating. After careful consideration, I have decided to end my season with the Seattle Reign, an organization I love playing for," Solo said Tuesday. “Mentally, I am not there yet.”

Solo was suspended on Aug, 24 after calling members of Sweden’s squad “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive style of play during the Olympic quarterfinals. Sweden had pulled off a shocking upset of the U.S. women’s team, winning 4-3 in penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw. The U.S. women had won gold in every Olympics since 1996, except in 2000, when it won silver.

Before last Saturday’s match against Portland, the Reign announced that Solo had been granted an indefinite leave for personal reasons. Haley Kopmeyer took over for Solo in goal and the Reign won 3-1.

Lionel Messi calls it quits after Copa America loss

<iframe src="//storify.com/Crawf33/messi/embed" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/Crawf33/messi.js"></script>[View the story "Messi calls it quits after Copa loss" on Storify]

Sydney Leroux announces pregnancy, adds to USWNT Olympic uncertainties

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It looks like plans are changing for another key piece of the 2016 US Women's Olympic soccer team. Forward Sydney Leroux announced on Instagram that she's pregnant and will likely be missing the US' Olympic stint in Rio de Janiero.

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Leroux, a member of FC Kansas City, is married to Sporting Kansas City's Dom Dwyer who made a similar announcement on his Instagram.

Leroux's absence will mean the US' World Cup and gold medal-winning offense will need to adjust if they want to make another deep run.

The team is already without forward Abby Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in women's soccer. Wambach retired after the team's World Cup performance in 2015.

Midfielders Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx and defender Lori Chalupny have also retired prior to the Olympics.

Forward Amy Rodriguez is likely a no-go for the games. She announced her second pregnancy in late December and remains questionable for the 2016 games.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe is a question mark for team. She tore her ACL in December but is working to return to the Olympics, which start Aug. 5.

As NBC Sports points out, if Rapinoe and Rodriguez are unavailable, Alex Morgan will be the only returning forward from the 2012 Olympic team.

Leroux started two games for the U.S. during their World Cup run in 2015. She had one goal in four games played in the 2012 Olympics.

Man names daughter after soccer team, wife finds out two years later

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Many crazed sports fans express their loyalty for teams in interesting ways. 

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But one Australian man named his daughter after his favorite soccer team – and he didn't tell his wife until the child was two years old.

Clare Smith wrote in to a magazine saying, "We chose our daughter's name, Lanesra, because it was unique and romantic. It wasn't (until) she was two that my husband told me it was actually his favorite soccer team, Arsenal, spelled backwards."

Social media users responded to the father's creative name online. 

It's unclear if there will be an uptick of soccer-related names in the coming year.

Don't use your head: U.S. Soccer bans headers for kids

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If you played sports growing up, you probably had a coach tell you to use your head. But that could become a thing of the past, at least in soccer.

As part of a new safety campaign designed to prevent concussions, U.S. Soccer announced it is "eliminating heading for children 10 and under, and limiting the amount of heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13."

The change comes after a lawsuit filed last year against some of the largest youth soccer organizations in the country, including U.S. Soccer and American Youth Soccer Organization, demanding they take action to reduce head injuries in the sport.

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Although soccer is often mocked in the U.S. for being soft, especially when fans see players flopping, it’s actually the second most dangerous sport for high schoolers.

In the 2005-2006 school year, a study found that 40 percent of concussions suffered by high school athletes were from football, which isn't surprising. But 21 percent came from girls' soccer and 15 percent from boys' soccer.

And female soccer players are actually much more likely to suffer a head injury. Another study determined there were 4.5 concussions for every 10,000 girls who took the pitch compared to 2.8 concussions in boys with the same exposure.

Even though the study highlights the dangers that soccer can pose, it actually refutes the idea that heading the ball is the most dangerous part of the game. An author of the study said it’s not the heading itself that causes concussions, but usually contact with other players.

Professor Sarah K. Fields told CNN, "If we can enforce the rules and minimize player-to-player contact, that could get rid of 60 percent of concussions, plus that would reduce other injuries." 

In addition to the updated concussion rules, U.S. Soccer also announced it would improve protocols for athletes returning to play after suffering concussions.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

Referee pulls out gun during Brazilian soccer match

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A soccer referee is facing punishment after he pulled out a gun on the field in reaction to an argument during the game.

Gabriel Murta was kicked and slapped by players during a regional league match. At the same time, the manager of one of the teams demanded a red card, The Mirror reported.

That’s when Murta went to the locker rooms, and returned to the field with a gun, The Mirror reported.

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Murta is reportedly a policeman when he's not a referee.

A spectator recorded the confrontation as a linesman restrained Murta.

The group that oversees referees said Murta felt threatened and retrieved the gun to defend himself, The Mirror reported.

Murta was to undergo a psychological assessment and could be suspended or banned from refereeing.

Photos: U.S. women win World Cup

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