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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.

Five Thirty Eight unveils Top 426 soccer clubs in the world

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Perspective achieved?

Advanced statistical site Five Thirty Eight has put together a weekly ranking of the top and bottom club teams in the world, and its algorithm gives us a theoretical answer into where Major League Soccer fits into the club soccer landscape.

[ MORE: Julian Green back on transfer market ]

At its very base level, the rankings will give reason to check back all season. Can Manchester United break into the Top Three? Will an MLS side leap into the Top 100? Can the worst American club avoid the bottom slot?

Here’s the list of clubs, and Five Thirty Eight has also gone through the trouble of giving its statistical analysis of who’s best set-up to win leagues and even games.

A note on the methodology:

We’re using recent matches played between teams from different leagues, supplemented with league market values (from Transfermarkt), to assign a strength rating to every league that we’re forecasting. Our new league ratings also give us the ability to a calculate a global Soccer Power Index (SPI) rating for each team — a number from 0 to 100 that represents the overall strength of each team.

The Premier League and La Liga combine for six of the Top Ten teams in the world, with Real Madrid No. 1 and Man City, Manchester United, and Chelsea running Nos. 7, 8, and 9.

Brighton and Hove Albion is the lowest ranked Premier League club, 188th in the world. The only PL sides outside the Top 125 are the three promoted clubs. Swansea is 113th, the lowest (or highest) ranked PL side aside from the new promotions.

Brighton is 17 spots below MLS’ top representative: Toronto FC. The same web site ranked MLS as the 28th best league in the world earlier this month, between Denmark and Croatia.

New York City FC shows up next, at 259, then rivals New York Red Bulls at 267. The bulk of MLS clubs fit between 320 and 422, where Minnesota United brings up the rear. The study ranks 426 teams, with three Scottish clubs running 424-426.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

As for some other odds, Five Thirty Eight gives Manchester United the best odds to win the league at 31 percent, with Man City, Chelsea, and Spurs joining them with the best odds to place in the Top Four.

The average simulated season has United besting rivals City by two points, with 80. Tottenham (72) tops Arsenal (68) for fourth by four points, while No. 6 Liverpool finishes 10 points clear of Merseyside rivals Everton (57 points).

It’s no surprise that the three promoted clubs — Huddersfield Town, Newcastle, and Brighton — are the top bets to be relegated, with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Swansea City the next best bets to find life in the Championship.

Other notes:

— Manchester United is the fourth-best defensive team in the Premier League, behind only Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Juventus.

— Spurs are also in the Top Ten amongst defensive teams, a 8.

— Man City is the best offensive team in the PL, seventh in the world.

— Watford is this week’s highest PL riser, up 22 spots.

— MLS side Chicago Fire suffered the fourth biggest drop in the world this week (40 spots).

Five Thirty Eight is one of the best predictive web sites in the world, and one of the only ones who gave more than an outside shot (though still ranking it a long shot) of the 2016 United States presidential election turning out for the winner of the electoral college. So this is certainly food for thought.

Former Dinamo Zagreb boss injured after shooting

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Controversial former Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamic was shot and injured in Bosnia on Monday, police and media reported.

Croatia’s state TV said Mamic was shot in his leg and taken to a local hospital on Monday. It said the injury was not life-threatening.

Police were searching for two possible assailants.

[ MORE: Five PL new boys to watch ]

Bosnian media said Mamic was attending a memorial for his father at a graveyard near the town of Tomislavgrad when two people fired at him from a nearby forest. Another report said it was a drive-by shooting.

Croatia’s TV said Mamic voluntarily left the hospital in Bosnia after doctors managed to stop the bleeding, and he went to the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

Bosnian police declined to confirm the identity of the victim by name, but said a man with the initials ZM and born in 1959 in the Croatian city of Bjelovar, just like Mamic, was shot and injured.

Mamic, known for his fiery temper, has been on a high-profile embezzlement and tax fraud trial in Croatia.

Prosecutors accuse Mamic, his brother, and two others of embezzling 15 million euros of the club’s money since 2008 and not paying 1.6 million euros in taxes.

Mamic, who remains Dinamo’s adviser, is still considered the most powerful man in Croatian football despite the charges.

Dinamo issued a statement, calling the attack a “murder attempt.”

It said the attempted “liquidation” of Mamic was not a surprise amid a “lynching campaign” against him by the Croatian media.

He was recently knocked off his yacht into the sea by an attacker believed to be a fan of rival Hajduk Split.

AP Writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm