This time next year, we'll be in the middle of World Cup 2018 in Russia. And if you're looking forward to that, it's worth taking a look at a couple of big international tournaments going on right now that provide previews of different sorts. Both are down to the last games of the group stage.
• The Confederations Cup features the champions of all six continents, plus reigning champ Germany and host Russia; this Sat., June 24, offers two pairs of group finales, with the top two in each group going on to the semifinals. All games shown live on Fox Sports 1 and 2:
Sat., 10am: Mexico-Russia, New Zealand-Portugal. Root for our south-of-the-border rivals, one of the more entertaining teams in the tourney.
Sun., 10am: Cameroon-Germany, Chile-Australia. Veteran Chile and a young, experimental German team are heavy favorites.
Semifinals are Wed.-Thu., June 28-29, 1pm, with the final 1pm next Sun., July 2.
• Meanwhile, the European U-21 Championship in Poland features a lot of guys who are already stars at clubs around Europe, and who hope to be on the full national teams by this time next year. With three groups, only the winners and the top second-place team advance to the semifinals. Group finales are at 1:45pm on ESPN Deportes:
Thu., June 22: England-Poland, Slovakia-Sweden. Group leaders England trying to match their recent U-17 WC title.
Fri., June 23: Macedonia-Portugal, Serbia-Spain. Spain has already clinched the group; Portugal could still advance.
Sat., June 24: Czech Rep.-Denmark, Italy-Germany. Germans in the driver's seat; Italy sent reeling by Czech upset.
Semifinals are Tue., June 27, 11am and 2pm, with the title game at 1:45pm Fri., June 30.
The Austin Soccer Foundation's 2017 Awards Banquet is Thu., June 29, at the South Congress Hotel. The ASF (formerly the Aztex Soccer Foundation) is a nonprofit benefiting disadvantaged youth, providing scholarships, and helping set up youth programs in the area. They'll award their Lifetime Achievement and Scholarship Award Winners, and High School Players of the Year. Meet other soccer fans, and learn about volunteer opportunities. More info and $100 tickets at www.austinsoccerfoundation.org.