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Euro 2016 seen by 2 billion on TV; 600M tune in for final

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GENEVA (AP) Boosted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s title run and Iceland’s feel-good story, the 2016 European Championship attracted 2 billion people to watch live on television.

[ MORE: Suarez signs new contract with Barcelona; includes huge release clause ]

The total live audience for the expanded 24-team, 51-match tournament grew to almost 5 billion viewers, according to UEFA research published Thursday.

[ MORE: Euro clubs call on FIFA not to expand World Cup past 32 teams ]

The research says 600 million viewers watched some of Portugal’s 1-0 extra-time win over host France in the final.

The final attracted 284.4 million as an “average in-home global audience” – the industry-standard audit tracking viewers minute-by-minute.

The 20 extra matches created by having eight more teams added 1.1 billion viewers to the overall TV audience.

The 2 billion individual viewers was an increase of 100 million on the Euro 2012 figures, UEFA said.

Bigger audiences in Brazil and China helped raise the totals.

“The newly created (1300 GMT) match slot had the biggest impact on Asian audiences,” UEFA said, which scheduled the earliest Euro 2012 kickoffs at 1600 GMT.

Among matches kicking off in a prime 9 p.m. slot in China, the peak audience there was 17.6 million for France’s 2-1 win over Ireland in the round of 16.

Euro 2016 TV rights earned UEFA 1.05 billion euros ($1.1 billion) from 130 broadcast partners.

Ronaldo’s quest for a first national-team title helped draw viewers to the final, who mostly stayed despite his exit from injury midway through the first half.

The 284 million figure made it the second most-watched game in European Championship history. The average audience of the most-viewed match was 299 million when Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final.

In comparison, the 2014 World Cup final drew a 570.1 million average for Germany’s 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro.

Average audiences in Brazil for the Euro 2016 final topped 25.7 million, watching on three channels: TV Globo, Bandierantes and Sport TV.

Globo averaged more than 13 million viewers for each live match it broadcast, for a 13.2 percent increase on Euro 2012, UEFA’s research said.

In China, the final’s average audience was 8 million in China, and United States broadcaster ESPN averaged 5.3 million.

Still, no nation could match Iceland’s support for its team, which was a surprise quarterfinalist in its major tournament debut.

On the island of 330,000 people, while thousands had traveled to France to watch the team, 99.8 percent of all TV viewers during Iceland’s 2-1 win over Austria were tuned in to the team sealing its place in the knockout rounds.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.