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Joining WC bid with Mexico, Canada expected to gain “support” for U.S.

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NEW YORK (AP) A final on or around the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Modern stadiums across the United States and perhaps in Mexico and Canada, too.

A North American World Cup in 2026 with 48 nations would be far larger and played in almost all different venues than the 24-team event the U.S. hosted in 1994.

Soccer officials planned to announce details of the joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada at a news conference Monday atop the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. The split of games was likely to be discussed.

“Don’t think for a moment that the political climate in the United States didn’t impact this,” former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox analyst, said Sunday. “A joint World Cup that includes Mexico probably garners additional support and sends a message.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has faced criticism over his plans – since stopped by courts – to bar new visas for people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said last month than “any team, including the supporters and officials … who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”

A majority of games likely will be played in the United States.

Infantino and the six confederation presidents have recommended the North and Central American and Caribbean region get six berths, any host included. But the proposal said the FIFA Council would decide on a structure in the event of co-hosts.

“You sit there and just shake your head: Where is this thing going to go and why?” said former U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, currently an ESPN analyst. “Who knows, maybe they’ll move it to 68 teams by that time? It’s so hard to tell what FIFA’s thinking or what they’re doing or what’s the process after the last bidding fiasco. I guess you just have to trust the people closest to it, that they know what they’re doing.”

FIFA’s Congress of all members decided on World Cup hosts through the 1982 tournament, but the power was then given to its ruling executive committee of about two dozen members. After the tainted vote in December 2010 that awarded the 2018 event to Russia and 2022 to Qatar, the decision was returned to the Congress, now 211 members.

FIFA announced last May that the 2026 vote will take place in May 2020 and said in October that the previous two World Cup hosts – Europe and Asia – will not be eligible to bid.

Africa could mount a bid, especially if it allies with another confederation and both vote as blocs. Europe has 55 members, Africa 54, Asia 46, CONCACAF 35, Oceania 11 and South America 10.

Lalas called a joint bid a “calculated and a strategic play.”

“I was hoping for a U.S.-hosted World Cup, remembering 1994 and how that changed U.S. soccer forever, and I wanted a 2026 version of the United States to also alone reap the benefits of what a men’s World Cup can do,” he said. “However, I would rather have a joint World Cup than no World Cup at all.”

Racing to construct stadiums in time dominated the run-ups to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 tournament in Brazil, and the pace of building again is of concern as the 2018 World Cup in Russia approaches.

The U.S. portion of the bid will rely on the gleaming stadiums opened by the NFL in the past two decades.

Among the possible venues are MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (82,500 capacity, opened in 2010); AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (80,000, 2009); Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California (68,500, 2014); Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (66,000, 2002); and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (69,500 in 2003).

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000) is set to open this year and an 80,000-seat stadium for the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, California, in 2019. The Washington Redskins also hope for a new home.

Chicago’s Soldier Field, the only one of the 1994 venues likely to be used, reopened in 2003 after a gut renovation. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, also has been modernized and a soccer-style roof over the seats was added.

Mexico would appear to have few edifice concerns. Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, built for the 1966 World Cup, has an 87,000 capacity after a renovation that was completed last year, and there are relatively new venues in Monterrey (BBVA Bancomer, 52,000, 2015) and Guadalajara (Estadio Chivas, 45,000, 2010).

Canada’s largest arena is Commonwealth Stadium (56,000) in Edmonton, Alberta, which opened in 1978 and was renovated ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

BC Place in Vancouver British, Columbia (54,500) underwent major renovations from 2009-11 and also was used for the women’s tournament. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (56,000), built for the 1976 Games, and Toronto’s Rogers Centre (53,000) are less ideal for soccer in their current states.

A joint effort could lessen costs in a process through which legal documents and promotion are exorbitant. The failed U.S. bid to host in 2018 or 2022 cost $9 million, of which about half was funded by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Major League Soccer and its owners gave about half the remaining contributions.

Witness: Men accused of bribes negotiated sale to Qataris

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NEW YORK (AP) A sports marketing company whose owners have been charged with bribing top soccer officials tried to negotiate a sale to an entity associated with Paris Saint-Germain team president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a witness testified Tuesday in federal court.

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Santiago Pena, a former executive of the Argentina-based Full Play Group, testified that he spent a lengthy period of time on secret negotiations called the “New York project,” given the name because the deal for 51 percent of Full Play was valued at $212 million – 212 is a New York City telephone area code.

Pena said the talks with Al-Khelaifi and the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Sports Investments ended on May 27, 2015, when U.S. prosecutors unsealed indictments against Full Play’s controlling principals, the father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. They were charged for payments to soccer officials in the Americas allegedly made for broadcast and marketing contracts.

Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports would have had the right to buy an additional 19 percent at a later date, Pena said.

Al-Khelaifi is a criminal suspect in Switzerland for bribery linked to Qatar-owned BeIN Sports’ broadcast agreements with FIFA for 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa. He met on Oct. 25 with Swiss prosecutors in Bern.

Pena said that only he, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis and Full Play accountant Sergio Rabinovich were aware of the negotiations. Pena testified that after the indictments were made public, he deleted emails discussing the potential sale.

“I did it in order to protect the company,” he said.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis have not been extradited to the U.S., and Pena said they remain in Argentina. Pena reached an agreement this year with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for not being charged.

“I always considered myself a completely small fish in this issue,” he said.

Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay’s soccer federation; Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation; and Manuel Burga, the ex-head of Peru’s soccer federation, are on trial in federal court in Brooklyn for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Pena, who worked for Full Play from 2009-15, testified about a ledger he kept of payments that the Jinkises directed be made to top soccer officials. He said he knew only of what they told him were amounts owed to soccer officials. Pena said Napout was to be paid in cash, not by wire transfer, so he had no knowledge if any money was received.

“I simply wrote down the commitments based on other negotiations,” Pena said.

Pena completed testimony Tuesday and was followed by the stand by James Haggerty of Bank of America, who explained wire-transfer records, and Daniel Huntley of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, who detailed Napout’s reservation records.

UCL Wrap: Tottenham, Man City clinch groups

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The UEFA Champions League returned to action Tuesday with a bang, with goals flying in across Europe.

Two Premier League clubs secured key victories, with Tottenham winning 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City knocking off Feyenoord, 1-0. Liverpool, after taking a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes, settled for a draw on the road after allowing three second-half goals.

The wins for Tottenham and Man City clinched them their groups and turned around some bad feelings around Spurs after the North London derby defeat last Saturday.

[MORE: Champions League score picks: Week 5]

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Tottenham

After sub-par performances over the weekend, Harry Kane and especially Dele Alli looked like the stars they’ve been all season, leading Spurs on a 2-1 comeback victory over host Borussia Dortmund. Alli played provider for both goals in the second half, with Kane scoring the first and Son Heung-min scoring the second. It was a confident performance from Mauricio Pochettino‘s side. With the loss, Borussia Dortmund are eliminated from the Champions League knockout round, but could still drop into the UEFA Europa League.

Sevilla 3-3 Liverpool

A second-half surge from Sevilla helped the Spanish side come back from a three-goal deficit to draw Liverpool, 3-3. But it was Liverpool which was in control early, as Roberto Firmino scored a brace, including a cheeky no-look tap-in in the 30th minute, sandwiching a Sadio Mane strike. With the draw, Sevilla now just needs another point and a Spartak Moscow loss or draw to advance to the next round, while Liverpool missed out on clinching Group E.

Manchester City 1-0 Feyenoord

A late Raheem Sterling goal made it five wins out of five for Manchester City, which clinched Group F in a 1-0 win over Feyenoord. It was looking as if both teams would end up with a point each but Sterling scored his fourth goal in as many Champions League games, looping the ball over Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones for the goal in the 88th minute.

 

APOEL 0-6 Real Madrid

It was a vintage Real Madrid performance as a Cristiano Ronaldo brace led Real Madrid to a 6-0 rout. Luka Modric, and Nacho both scored while Karim Benzema had a brace as well. The win clinches a place in the last 16 for Real Madrid.

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Maribor

A late goal for Jasmin Mesanovic saved a point for Maribor and stunned host Spartak Moscow, which now must beat Liverpool in the final matchday to make it into the Champions League knockout round. The draw wasn’t enough for Maribor, but they’ll take the confidence boost after Mesanovic’s stoppage time goal canceled out Ze Luis’ 82nd minute finish.

Tuesday’s UCL Scores

Group E

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Maribor

Sevilla 3-3 Liverpool

Group F

Manchester City 1-0 Feyenoord

Napoli 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G

Besiktas 1-1 FC Porto

Monaco 1-4 RB Leipzig

Group H

APOEL 0-6 Real Madrid

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Tottenham

Griezmann: “No regrets” rejecting Man United move in summer

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After flirting with the idea of moving to Manchester last summer, Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann is in one of the worst goal-scoring droughts in his career.

It’s been seven games since he last scored and with just three goals total, it’s been an underwhelming season so far for the Frenchman. But Griezmann doesn’t regret turning down the chance to join Manchester United last summer.

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“I don’t regret staying at Atleti,” Griezmann told French TV program Telefoot. “It was my decision and I’m happy with what I chose to do – even if I have gone seven games without scoring”.

Griezmann was booed off the pitch in Atleti’s scoreless draw with city rivals Real Madrid, as both clubs dropped to 10 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona in the standings. There have been rumors swirling that Griezmann could even leave Atletico in January, with Diego Costa set to join the club.

On his game, with good service from midfield, Griezmann is one of the best attackers on the planet. But with Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and more, Manchester United already has the firepower to compete with the top of the Premier League

LIVE, UCL: Liverpool, Man City in action; Dortmund-Tottenham

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Three Premier League teams are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday with Liverpool knowing a win at Sevilla will see them qualify for the knockout stage for the first time since 2009.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s side head to Spain in good form after three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are in a very healthy position in Group E.

Tottenham Hotspur head to Borussia Dortmund with Spurs’ place in the last 16 already secured and Dortmund (Christian Pulisic is out of the squad with an injury) needing a win to keep their faint hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive with Real Madrid heading to APOEL Nicosia in Group H.

Manchester City have also secured their spot in the last 16 and host Feyenoord in Group F. The Dutch side have lost all four of their UCL games so far this season but have taken a huge number of traveling fans to Manchester and they can still qualify for the Europa League via finishing in third spot ahead of Shaktar Donetsk.

Elsewhere Monaco host RB Leipzig in a pivotal clash in Group G.

Click on the link above to follow commentary on all the action, while below is the full schedule as we will have reaction and analysis on all the UCL action on Tuesday.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s UCL schedule

Group E
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Maribor – FT
Sevilla vs. Liverpool

Group F
Manchester City vs. Feyenoord
Napoli vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G
Monaco vs. RB Leipzig
Besiktas 1-1 FC Porto – FT

Group H
Borussia Dortmund vs. Tottenham Hotspur
APOEL vs. Real Madrid