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USA the big winners in 2026 World Cup bid

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Yes, it was a historic moment when the U.S., Mexico and Canada came together to announce for the first-time in history they wanted a FIFA World Cup to be hosted by three nations, but perhaps the biggest takeaway from the announcement in New York City on Monday was that the U.S. would host 60 of the 80 games at a potential 2026 World Cup hosted in North America.

60 of the 80.

[ MORE: US, Mexico, Canada launch bid

That’s 75 percent of the entire tournament in the U.S. plus the entire tournament from the quarterfinal stage onwards (so, the World Cup final would also be played in the USA) would be hosted Stateside.

Unsurprisingly the reaction to these details has seen mixed responses in Canada and Mexico, two nations which, like the U.S., is capable of hosting a World Cup on its own.

[ MORE: Host cities for World Cup?

With Mexico and Canada each getting just 10 games, and many of those likely to be group games, would a fairer split have been 40 games in the USA and 20 each in Mexico and Canada? The president of Mexico’s soccer federation, Decio de Maria, says those numbers aren’t set in stone but if Mexico and Canada only get 10 games each in the 2026 World Cup, is there much point of them being part of this joint bid?

There has been talk that due to concerns from FIFA over travel bans in the U.S. and recent policies brought in by President Trump, the U.S. bidding alone would’ve been met with concern. Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, mentioned Trump in his announcement and the fact that he encouraged the bid with Mexico. There is plenty of politics to all of this too.

Of course, the CONCACAF region as a whole would benefit from this tournament and with U.S, Mexico and Canada all seeking automatic qualification as hosts, the potential for more CONCACAF teams to qualify for the tournament is positive. The plan is for six CONCACAF teams to gain automatic qualification to a 48-team World Cup in 2026, and how the expanded World Cup will work will be ratified at the next FIFA congress in Bahrain on May 11. Does that mean six CONCACAF teams, plus the three hosts, would all qualify?

[ MORE: North American nations want fast decision ]  

Those are the kind of kinks which will be worked out in the coming months and only when this joint bid is successful will we get a better idea of how it will be structured for qualifying purposes.

What are the chances of the three nations winning this bid? Gulati, who is leading the bid, fancies his chances of the winning. Given the fact that new FIFA president Gianni Infantino owes Gulati a great debt for helping him be appointed the new president of FIFA, that confidence is well placed.

And with no other candidates put forward so far to host the monster tournament — there’s talk of a potential bid from South America with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador interested, plus the CAF federation (Africa) is able to bid for the tournament — it is being reported that the North American bid is putting pressure on FIFA to bring the bidding process forward two years early and wants a decision to be made as early as 2018 at the FIFA congress in Moscow.

Whatever happens in that process, let’s analyze how we have come to see three nations standing together as hosts.

The U.S. knew it would’ve been the clear favorite to host the tournament among Canada and Mexico if all three nations had made separate bids. Yes, Mexico (who’ve already hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cup) could’ve easily bid for the tournament and has many stadiums which could host games and the infrastructure, while Canada would need a few more stadiums built to get up to FIFA standards but not much else would be needed.

With all of that in mind, the U.S. had the chips staked in its favor and left Gulati and U.S. Soccer’s directors in a very powerful bargaining position. Yes, the U.S. could’ve gone alone to host this but with a token gesture of allowing Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each they’re looking like good neighbors and also spreading the wealth which comes with hosting a World Cup.

Yet it still feels like the U.S. could’ve done more to make this a truly continental World Cup. Perhaps a semifinal played in each of Canada and Mexico, then the final played in the U.S. or maybe even the final played at the Azteca which is a true soccer cathedral. It seems a little insulting that a huge soccer nation like Mexico, one that has already hosted its own World Cup twice, gets a few group games and then a handful of knockout games out of the deal.

Read the newspapers in Mexico today. Reaction to this announcement has not been kind but of course there is still room for some bargaining and with this World Cup over nine years away things could change and Mexico may be handed some more games.

Here’s the key though.

During the announcement Gulati spoke many times about this being the best economical tournament in history. That’s probably true as a few stadium upgrades would be needed but you could host a World Cup in the USA next week if you needed to. The sponsorship, income from fans and other spin-offs would all be straight cash for FIFA.

There lies the reason why the U.S. is the main host for this tournament. Commercially it has the biggest stadiums in the biggest cities and it is able to generate huge incomes. Just look at the crowds at any of the International Champions Cup games or the Copa Americe Centenario in the U.S. last summer. The vast majority for the big games were sold out with crowds of over 45,000 for most matches and some high profile affairs saw over 100,000 fans turn up.

Also, don’t forget that the 1994 World Cup in the USA still holds the record for the best attended World Cup in history.

That is the real reason why the U.S. has taken the largest slice of the pie pretty much the whole pie and FIFA will gladly gobble it up with a dollop of ice cream from both Mexico and Canada to wash it down.

With only here is no way that this bid will lose.

VIDEO: Accam’s slick backheel puts Chicago ahead

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For the last two years, David Accam has been, in my estimation, the best player in MLS that no one talked about.

[ MORE: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win NY derby 2-0 ]

Understandably so, of course, given the 26-year-old Ghanaian international and the Chicago Fire been rooted to the bottom of the league table for two years running. All of that has changed in 2017, though, as Accam finally has a forward (Nemanja Nikolic) who can not only put chances away, but create space and chances for his teammates, and a solid midfield base which allows him to cherry-pick counter-attacks just that little bit more.

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Entering Saturday’s game against Orlando City SC, Chicago sat second in the Eastern Conference, just four points back of Toronto FC, and Accam’s 9 goals and 5 assists (in 15 games) were a huge part of the why and the how. It didn’t take Accam long — two minutes, in fact, to put Chicago ahead of Orlando with a ridiculous backheel finish to Matt Polster’s cross.

 

Bravo fit again, but will he start Chile’s Confed Cup group finale?

Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) Claudio Bravo is fit again and could start in goal against Australia at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Saturday.

Bravo – who is Chile’s joint most-capped player with Alexis Sanchez – hasn’t played since April 27, when he injured his calf for Manchester City in a derby game with Manchester United.

“Claudio is fit, he’s managed to train the last couple of days just like his other teammates,” Pizzi said. “He’s ready and available to play.”

Pizzi brushed off concerns about a lack of match fitness, saying that “quite obviously we take into account that factor” but players like Bravo are “are of such good quality that it isn’t that important they haven’t played in the last couple of months.”

Stand-in Johnny Herrera played in Chile’s 2-0 group stage win over Cameroon and Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Germany.

Gary Medel was substituted with a minor injury while playing in defense for Chile against Germany. Teammate Francisco Silva said Saturday that Medel had complained of “a very small muscle contraction issue” but was now fit.

Pizzi said he will aim to tire out Australia with Chile’s trademark all-action style, even though his team struggled for energy in the latter stages against Germany.

“This energy drop we had in the second half didn’t damage us too much because the opposing team couldn’t maintain a high pace because of the demands we’d imposed on them,” Pizzi said of the Germany game.

“We’re going to try to get (the Australians) tired as well and use this to beat our opponent, and we hope this is going to translate into goals.”

USMNT’s Wood extends Hamburg contract through 2021

Photo credit: Hamburg / Twitter: @HSV
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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) American forward Bobby Wood extended his contract with Bundesliga side Hamburger SV on Saturday to 2021.

Wood, who joined Hamburg from second-tier Union Berlin, scored five goals and set up two more in 28 Bundesliga games. He had 17 goals in 31 second-division games for Union the season before.

“Not only his goals count for us, but his readiness to run and challenge,” Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said. “Bobby is a key player for our offense and a real team player.”

Wood has eight goals in 32 appearances for the United States.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

Photo credit: NYCFC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)