Summer may be referred to as the dog days, but the sporting world will feature a high caliber slate of prime events, headlined by the World Cup. Beyond the action in Russia, many other top class performances are bound to take place across the globe. Below are The Spectrum’s top five sporting events of the summer.
1) Preakness Stakes – May 19
One-third of the race for the Triple Crown is in the books with jockey Mike Smith riding into the record books atop Justify. The thoroughbred slopped to a 2 1/2-length victory at the wettest Derby ever and made history in the process. Justify became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a two-year-old, a mark that stood since 1882 when Apollo accomplished the feat. Justify’s record now stands at 4-0, and the horse will go for a fifth win at the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore. If he wins there, the attention of the sporting world will turn to the Belmont Stakes June 9.
2) Stanley Cup Final – May-June
Both the NBA and the NHL will be concluding their seasons around the same time, but it’s the action on the ice that is worth the attention. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been absolutely scintillating thus far, with compelling matchups in both conferences. Out East, the Lightning have manhandled the Bruins, and the Capitals have exchanged blows with the Penguins. In the West, the Golden Knights and Sharks have traded wins and losses in their five games and set the table for a thrilling finish to their series. The Jets and Predators have done the same. The result will be two captivating Conference Finals and final series for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
3) U.S. Open – June 11-17
The second major of the PGA Tour season will take place at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. The course was modified to present players with more narrow fairways, as USGA officials thought last year’s Open at Erin Hills was too spacious. Bovada currently lists Jordan Spieth as the favorite for the toughest test in golf, with Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy close behind. Reigning champion Brooks Koepka will attempt to retain his title, meanwhile Texan Patrick Reed will gun for the second major of the season. Additionally, Phil Mickelson has played in 27 U.S. Opens, placing second a record six times. If he can win at Shinnecock Hills, he’ll become only the sixth golfer to achieve the Career Slam.
4) FIL World Lacrosse Championship – July 11-21
Lacrosse devotees such as myself are fortunate the sport will not be coming to a screeching halt after the NCAAs Memorial Day weekend. The Federation of International Lacrosse will host its 13th international tournament in Netanya, Israel. No, that’s not a typo: a lacrosse championship will be played in Israel. The field consists of 48 teams, most of which will just be happy to be involved. Highlights of the shocking lacrosse nations include, but certainly are not limited to, Bulgaria, Colombia, Hong Kong, Latvia, the Philippines and Uganda.
The U.S., Canada and the Iroquois Nation are the only three squads threatening for the title. The Iroquois unfortunately were not able to participate in 2010’s tournament in England because the country did not accept their passports. The Nationals took bronze in 2014 in Denver, while the U.S. took silver and Canada gold. Paul Rabil — the Babe Ruth of lacrosse — leads the U.S. while Albany teammates Connor Fields and Tehoka Nanticoke are young studs to watch for Canada and the Iroquois, respectively.
5) MLB All-Star Game – July 17
The 89th Midsummer Classic will take place in Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. It’s the first time the nation’s capital has hosted the league’s finest since 1969 when the Senators, who later became the Rangers, were in town. Max Scherzer of the hometown team ought to start the game for the National League. Scherzer has jumped out to a sparkling 6-1 record and 1.79 ERA. Bryce Harper, in his contract year, has mashed a dozen home runs through 33 games and will also represent the Nationals at their home park. Harper said at last year’s All-Star Game he’d participate in the Home Run Derby as well, though after seeing Aaron Judge’s second half slump last season, he and others may reconsider. Minnesota Twin Joe Mauer should be on the American League roster and could be joined by teammates Max Kepler and José Berríos.
Regional honorable mention
If you live in the Twin Cities area, both the Twins and Minnesota United FC have numerous home contests over the summer. The Twins have gotten off to a rocky start, but have the capability to flip the script. Playing at TCF Bank Stadium, the Loons have been an exciting team thus far, and new acquisition Darwin Quintero Jr. has been a revelation in attack. Make sure you know the lyrics to “Wonderwall” because if MNUFC wins, you’ll be singing.
After 52 years in Mankato, the Vikings training camp is moving to Eagan. If you’re interested in seeing Kirk Cousins in purple as well as the rest of the players who’ll disappoint you in eight months, camp opens July 25.