By CALEB SONNELAND
When the French Football Association announced its men's and women's Ballon d'Or finalists for 2011, the usual suspects were all accounted for — with one American in the mix.
The La Liga trio of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo are set to contend for the men's award, while Marta, Homare Sawa and Abby Wambach will vie for the women's prize.
Messi, who will be going for his third straight award, already has 27 goals and 11 assists so far in all competitions for Barcelona, while his teammate Xavi has five goals and five assists in the same period. Ronaldo, who won the award in 2008 and was a runner-up in 2007 and 2009, has notched 21 goals and eight assists this season.
The women's finalists all shone through at this summer's World Cup with Sawa's Japan hoisting the trophy at the end of the competition while Wambach and the United States took the 2nd place spot. Brazil's Marta is considered by many to be the best female player in the world, and was the inaugural winner of the award in 2010.
The three coaches nominated for the Ballon d'Or were Barcelona's Pep Guardiola, Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho.
The nominees for the FIFA Puskás award for the "most beautiful goal of the year" were announced as well. The candidates are Messi's chip and finish against Arsenal in the Champions League, Neymar's spectacular solo effort against Flamengo and Wayne Rooney's overhead kick in the Manchester derby.
The awards will be presented in Zurich on Jan. 9.
Here are some other stories to keep your Monday rolling along:
SOCRATES DIES AT 57
Just a seven days after the soccer world lost Gary Speed, it now must accept the death of Brazilian star Socrates, who died in the early hours of Sunday morning after succumbing to septic shock.
Socrates made 60 appearances for the Brazilian national team, netting 22 times along the way and captaining the 1982 Brazilian World Cup team.
Like the aftermath of Speed's death, tributes have begun to pour in for the Brazilian playmaker, whose health had been in decline for some time as his final trip to intensive care was his third in four months.
The midfielder enjoyed his best soccer at Corinthians, where he scored a hefty 172 goals in 297 appearances, but also suited up for the likes of Botafogo, Fiorentina and Flamengo, among others.
Socrates leaves behind his wife and six sons.
MANCHESTER DERBY HEADLINES FA CUP DRAW
Two of the most high-powered teams in England clashing in the third round of the FA Cup as Manchester United will travel to cross-town rivals Manchester City to play for a spot in the next phase of the competition.
City, having thrashed the defending Premier League champions for a 6-1 win in October, will be looking to emulate its fantastic form this season. The club's only two losses to its name both came in the UEFA Champions League.
United did beat City in the Community Shield all the way back on August 7th, but this fixture will prove to be a different animal.
Elsewhere in the FA Cup draw, Blackburn and Newcastle will play out the only other all-EPL draw at St. James' Park, Arsenal will play host to Leeds and Andre Villa-Boas will make his FA Cup debut at home to Portsmouth.
Here's the draw in full.
SPURS CAN WIN THE TITLE – PARKER
It was somewhat unthinkable to imagine Tottenham winning the Premier League back in August, butl, given its current form and impressive play, it has people talking.
Spurs midfielder Scott Parker believes that his side, which he joined over the summer, is capable of rising to the top and winning the league.
With a game in hand, Tottenham sits seven points off leaders Manchester City, but City has a tough slate of games on hand and Spurs has only dropped two points in its last 11 games.
What do you think of the Ballon d'Or candidates? Who do you think was snubbed from the various list of finalists? What do you remember most from Socrates' career? Excited about the FA Cup matchups? Do you buy into Tottenham as a Premier League contender?
Share your thoughts below.