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Sunil Gulati discusses 2026 World Cup bid, next USMNT coach

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Sunil Gulati may be stepping down as the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation in February, but that doesn’t mean he will not be a major player in the sport for many years to come.

Gulati, 58, has decided to not seek re-election for a fourth four-year term as the leading man for USSF, with all of his focus now switching to the bid for the 2026 World Cup to be held in the United States of America, Mexico and Canada.

As the head of that bid team, Gulati will be a busy man between now and June 12, 2018 when that decision is voted on by FIFA’s associations around the world with Morocco the only other bid in the running to host the expanded tournament.

Speaking to Richard Conway from the BBC, the 11-year leader of USSF discussed a whole host of topics but the majority of the chat was focused on succeeding in bringing the 2026 World Cup to the USA, Mexico and Canada.

“We think we have a fantastic bid. We think we can promise more economic results than anybody else in the world could. Not just for this World Cup but for the last few and the next few. That’s primarily because of the size of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican market combined and partly because of the size of the stadiums and partly because there is no need to build any infrastructure… We are hopeful, we are optimistic but we are not guaranteed anything. Morocco has made it very clear they are going to bid aggressively and we will do the same and we will go out and try to win this election every way we can, that is within the rules.”

Gulati was then asked if FIFA really needs a World Cup in North America. His response, as a professor in economics at Columbia University who has turned the USSF into a hugely profitable organization, will not surprise you.

“Clearly the economics would be very, very positive,” Gulati added. “We’ve got the ability and will make the promise that we will have the biggest World Cup, by a wide margin, in terms of economics. There’s an easy way to show that. The ’94 World Cup, which had fewer games than every subsequent World Cup, is still the largest World Cup not only in terms of average attendance but in terms of total attendance, with fewer games. This is going to be an 80-game, 48-team World Cup. I can’t think of any place better than the U.S., along with our partners in Mexico and Canada, to take on that expanded size and that challenge for FIFA.”

Still, it wasn’t all about the 2026 World Cup.

Conway also revealed that Gulati said the U.S. men’s national team “may not appoint a new head coach until after the Russia World Cup when more candidates may be free.”

Considering he will no longer have a say in that matter, at least the overriding say as USSF president, that’s quite a big statement to make.

Anyway, what lies in store for the next six months for Gulati as he aims to rubber-stamp the join 2026 World Cup bid?

“We will be on the road a lot. We will go out and convince them. The bid is due in March, the formal bid, and there will be an inspection in April. We are not overly concerned about the inspection part of it. We think we will have a great technical bid but it’s the other pieces,” Gulati explained. “It’s the 211 members who vote, four will be excluded with the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Morocco, convincing those other 207. What I will be doing between now and June 12 is making sure that 104 of them are going to vote for the U.S. We’d like a few more, just to be sure, but it will be going out to talk to people, showing them the presentation and showing them what we can do, showing them the economics and the power of a World Cup in the United States.”

Economics is never too far from the conversation.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.