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MLS expansion: Group postpones meeting over STL soccer stadium

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ST. LOUIS (AP) A group seeking to build a new soccer stadium in St. Louis postponed its Tuesday meeting with a state finance board, one day after Missouri’s governor-elect expressed strong opposition to public financing for the project.

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Principles of the group SC STL were to meet with the Missouri Development Finance Board over a request to approve $40 million in state tax credits for the proposed $200 million downtown stadium, the centerpiece of the effort to attract a Major League Soccer expansion team.

The postponement followed a statement released by Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens on Monday in which he called public funding for the stadium “nothing more than welfare for millionaires.”

SC STL chairman Paul Edgerley said the group hopes to meet with Greitens to fully understand his position and outline the project’s benefits.

“While we were disappointed in the statement yesterday by Governor-Elect Greitens, we respect that he and others may differ from our views,” Edgerley said in a statement. “We continue to believe in the substantial economic and other benefits of this project to the State and to the City of St. Louis.”

[ MORE: USMNT’s Julian Green makes permanent move away from Bayern ]

Greitens said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the group’s decision to withdraw, at least for now, the request for state financing is “great news for Missouri taxpayers.”

“As I said yesterday, I’m opposed to taxpayer funding for the soccer stadium, something I view as welfare for millionaires,” Greitens said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with the ownership group to discuss a plan to bring private investment and jobs to Missouri.”

Outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon has expressed support for public funding, as has St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a fellow Democrat. In addition to state tax credits, the stadium is contingent on St. Louis voters approving $80 million in public funding in an April vote. The city would own the stadium and lease it to the MLS team in a 30-year agreement.

Nixon told The Associated Press he believes it is unfair to characterize a process that will involve at least three public votes as “backroom deals,” as Greitens did in his statement on Monday.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

“I don’t consider being a partner in capitalism where it can make a difference – especially on site preparation – to be welfare for anybody,” Nixon said. “I consider it economic development.”

Edgerley cited a study that suggested the stadium project would “produce a net positive economic impact for the state,” creating more than 400 permanent jobs and generating tax revenue that would exceed the state’s investment, while adding an important element to help revitalize downtown.

“We’re hopeful that Gov. Elect Greitens, who campaigned on a pro-business platform, will welcome the opportunity to learn more about the upside of the project for the state and city alike,” Edgerley said.

Plans for the downtown stadium were announced in November. The MLS has expressed interest in St. Louis as a potential expansion site, but only if a stadium is built.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”