Let’s play “Choose the site for U.S. World Cup qualifiers”

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Five lucky communities will soon be named to host the United States’ final round World Cup qualifiers.

Well, four seriously lucky Louies, plus one that may or may not be quite as fortunate; by the time Jurgen Klinsmann’s men face Jamaica on Oct. 11 (the fifth and final home match), they may already be safely through to Brazil 2014.

If the choosing were mine, here are the five venues where Klinsi and Co. would be heading over the next nine months. (Disclaimer: I know everyone outside of these five places will hate me; the good soccer folks of Seattle and Portland will lead the pitchfork-and-lantern way.)

Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City: Great stadium, great fans who know how to get their “patriotism” on, and there already a history of success there (albeit not a long one.) Jurgen Klinsmann and his players were falling over each other to talk up that place last fall in the semi-final round win, so it’s hard to see how this one won’t be picked.

Red Bull Arena outside New York: Establishing that home field advantage here is more problematic, but it’s New York!  You know, the Big Apple, an iconic symbol of our country and a media center. Plus, if we’re only talking about MLS stadium (I know U.S. Soccer isn’t, but I am), it seats about 5,000 more than most of the league’s grounds. Games against Panama or Honduras in June would be the best chances.

Crew Stadium in Columbus (pictured): Of course Crew Stadium has to be in the mix. Who cares if the place doesn’t have the pretty things and fancy high-tech edges of other, newer grounds. This one has history, and important history, at that. It’s where Mexican ambition has gone to die. How cool is that!  Mexico vs. the United States on Sept. 10? Can we please book it?

PPL Park outside Philadelphia: Let’s show CONCACAF that not all the verbal nastiness is confined to small Central American nations. The brotherly fans in Philly can presumably accomplish that, right?  By the way, why aren’t we thinking of making Costa Rica play there in March? I know it’s not as close to Mexico as the other possibilities already mentioned, but aren’t we just talking about an extra two hours in the air here?

Rio Tinto Stadium outside Salt Lake City, Utah: Two qualifier appearances, two wins, glowing reviews from U.S. players, coaches and staff. There’s a lot to like, including the beautiful stadium. Unless you put one game in Southern California at the Home Depot Center, this will probably be the Western-most venue.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.