*We’ll begin with the U.S. women’s national team, which returns to action four days after the stunning dismissal of coach Tom Sermanni. China is the opponent again tonight at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Coverage begins at 11 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Ticket sales have surpassed 10,000. The Americans are riding an 81-game home unbeaten streak, stretching 9 1/2 years.
Jill Ellis (Robinson High School and William & Mary graduate) will serve as interim coach for this match and perhaps for the May 8 friendly at Canada, as well. The search for Sermanni’s full-time replacement is underway.
Following the match, U.S. players employed by NWSL clubs will return home ahead of this weekend’s season openers. The Washington Spirit will host the Western New York Flash at 4 p.m. Sunday at Maryland SoccerPlex. All NWSL matches are available for live viewing on the league’s YouTube page.
On the men’s side …
*Forward Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League quarterfinal with a visit to Benfica (3 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2, ESPN3.com).
*Tijuana was ousted by Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, failing to protect a 1-0 first-leg victory and falling on the road, 2-0. U.S. left back Edgar Castillo played 90 minutes, while midfielder Joe Corona went 60 and forward Paul Arriola 54. Cruz Azul will face Toluca in the finals April 15 and 23 — the seventh time in nine years two Mexican clubs will play one another for the regional championship.
*Better news for U.S. midfielder Jose Torres, who played 90 minutes as Tigres captured the Copa MX title with a 3-0 victory over second-division Alebrijes de Oaxaca.
*The U.S. team’s FIFA ranking improved one spot to No. 13. World Cup group opponents Germany and Portugal are second and third, respectively, after the Portuguese moved up one position. Ghana is a deceptively low 38th.
*ESPN’s World Cup promotional campaign turns the spotlight on the American Outlaws: