FILE - In this Sep. 20, 2006 file photo, Hondura's former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas gives a news conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Honduran government announced Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 that the U.S. has requested extradition of Callejas on charges of taking bribes for television contracts through his position as head of the Honduran Soccer Federation. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, File)
AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, File)

Ex-president of Honduras admits to bribery in FIFA scandal

1 Comment

NEW YORK (AP) A former president of Honduras pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on Monday and admitted to taking bribes in the wide-ranging FIFA soccer scandal over lucrative broadcast rights.

Rafael Callejas, a member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee, entered the plea to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in federal court in Brooklyn. Each charge includes a maximum of 20 years in prison; he also agreed to forfeit $650,000.

He told the judge that he had accepted bribes and distributed some of the money to others. He said he knew it was wrong.

[ USMNT: Why a Tuesday win would make everything pretty alright ]

Callejas, who was president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, will be sentenced Aug. 5.

Initial arrests in the case last May resulted in charges against 14 people, including seven top FIFA officials arrested at a Swiss hotel.

His surrender came after 16 additional defendants, most from Central and South America, were charged in the fall in a second wave of the prosecution that focused on a generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history.

In that crackdown, five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were arrested at the same Zurich hotel where the similar raid on FIFA officials occurred a half-year earlier.

[ MORE: Herzog confident U.S. will qualify for Olympics on Tuesday ]

Those arrests came just before FIFA’s executive committee met to approve reform and transparency measures that gained support after the scandal was revealed.

In all, about 20 soccer officials have been indicted on charges related to the U.S. investigation of corruption in the sport.

An indictment returned in Brooklyn in November charged Callejas for his alleged role in a bribery scheme involving lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and soccer’s other biggest events.

In a lengthy indictment, prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments made over the past quarter-century involved the use of U.S. banks and meetings in the United States.

The Justice Department has said that numerous guilty pleas in the case have resulted in agreements to forfeit over $190 million, and another $100 million has been restrained in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. has sought to restrain assets in 13 countries.

Litmus test time in all three groups of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 03:  Michael Bradley #4 of the United States chases a ball during the first half of an international friendly match against Guatemala at Nissan Stadium  on July 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The masks come off after “middle pair” of group matches in the third round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

That’s when possible pretenders who slid through the first two matches may meet the toughest foe of the group, or powers who got a tough road match out of the way might get a home-and-home with group minnows.

[ USMNT: Scouting Guatemala ahead of the qualifiers ]

As it stands now, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago would be new Hex teams for this year’s qualifying, while Honduras and Jamaica would fall out of the mix. It’s litmus test time for the Canucks and the Soca Warriors.

Group A

After easing past El Salvador, Mexico got a hassle from Honduras before picking up a pair of second half goals to win on the road. They now get a tricky match-up with Canada.

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 11: Nikolas Ledgerwood #2 of Canada heads the ball against Marco Fabian #10 of Mexico at CenturyLink Field on July 11, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Mexico doesn’t always fare well when heading far North, and BC Place in Vancouver is a tricky outing against a well-coached Canada. No one’s expecting the Reds to win in Mexico next week, but keeping within two points of Mexico is not out of the question.

It’s do-or-die for Honduras, who gets El Salvador for a pair of matches. The Hondurans finished 30th and 31st at the last two World Cups, and have never made it to three-straight tourneys. That could be impossible after this week. On the flip side, El Salvador hasn’t been to a World Cup in eight cycles and could make it nine.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. Mexico — 6 / +5
2. Canada — 4 / +1
3. El Salvador — 1 / -3
4. Honduras — 0 / -3

Group B

Costa Rica Jamaica in their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B match at StubHub Center on July 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images

Looks like there isn’t a walkover in the group, as Haiti dropped a pair of 1-0 decisions to Costa Rica and Jamaica and now faces Panama for two-straight matches.

This week’s matches carry all sorts of unpredictability, as Jamaica and Haiti home wins on Friday would overturn the group apple cart and put pressure on the opposition for Leg No. 2.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. Costa Rica — 6 / +2
2. Panama — 3 / +1
3. Jamaica — 3 / -1
4. Haiti — 0 / -2

[ MORE: See the USMNT training camp roster ]

Group C

In the United States’ case, it’s somewhere in the middle. Beating up St. Vincent and The Grenadines at home was expected, and picking up a draw at Trinidad and Tobago isn’t a problem.

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 03: Mix Diskerud #10 of the United States chases Jairo Arreloa #7 of Guatemala during the first half of an international friendly soccer match at Nissan Stadium on July 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Guatemala is somewhere in the middle, not the easiest win on the road, and an expected three points on home soil.

[ USMNT: Dortmund’s Pulisic could join up for second match ]

Losing points at all will likely have the Yanks behind T&T when this international break is through, as the Soca Warriors should have little problem taking six points from St. Vincent and The Grenadines.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. USMNT — 4 / +5
2. T&T — 4 / +1
3. Guatemala — 3 / +3
4. St. Vincent and The Grenadines — 0 / -9

Honduran midfielder Arnold Peralta shot to death in mall parking lot

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 29:  Arnold Peralta of Honduras celebrates after the final whistle during the Men's Football first round Group D match between Spain and Honduras on Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games  at St James' Park on July 29, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Arnold Peralta, Honduran international and former Rangers midfielder, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Honduras today, according to multiple reports.

The incident was a drive-by shooting, according to the reports, as a gunman drove by on a motorcycle and shot Peralta at the Uniplaza mall in his hometown of La Ceiba. His death was confirmed by his father, and police were reportedly searching for one or two suspects, having ruled out robbery as a motive because his belongings were not taken.

Peralta played 31 matches for Rangers between 2013 and 2015 before being released this past January. He signed with Club Deportivo Olimpia in Honduras, where he’s made 23 appearances and guided the team to the league semifinals where they were eliminated last week.

The 28-year-old was has 24 caps for the Honduran national team, and was in the squad for the friendly match with Cuba scheduled for next week. Peralta was in the Honduran squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but did not make an appearance.

CONCACAF: Canada looks to go top Group A; Honduras, Mexico tangle

Canada's Cyle Larin (21) celebrates after teammate Will Johnson scored goal against Honduras  during the first half of a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Tuesday finds the United States facing its stiffest test of the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, just one of several entertaining fixtures on the docket.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Consider that our neighbors to the North could very well be leading Group A at the end of the evening. Canada will look to build on its 1-0 win over Honduras with a trip to El Salvador, which lost big at Mexico.

High-flying Cyle Larin and his Canadians will face a challenge from El Salvador, which picked up a 0-0 draw against them in Gold Cup this summer.

Speaking of El Tri, they have a chance to put Honduras to the sword after just two matches of the fourth round. Los Catrachos will be desperate to restore order after going down to a Cyle Larin goal, and there’s nothing more certain than Honduras getting all sorts of home-field advantage. Mexico hasn’t won at Honduras since 1993, going 5L-1D.

[ MORE: T&T coach not missing DempseyCONMEBOL preview ]

Panama and Costa Rica duel for Group B supremacy in Panama City, with both sides coming off wins, while Jamaica has to hope Haiti isn’t as improved as it looked in a slim road loss to Costa Rica.

The final match sees Guatemala completing Group C’s slate against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with both sides 0-1.

WATCH LIVE: Mexico begins gold medal defense

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Gold medallists Mexico celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Men's Football Final between Brazil and Mexico on Day 15 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

CONCACAF Olympic qualifying continues in Los Angeles tonight, with reigning champions Mexico kicking off their title defense.

Mexico took home the Olympic gold medal in 2012 after defeating Brazil 2-1 in the final in London, but before El Tri can go for another gold, they must first get through CONCACAF qualifying.

The first match of the night features Honduras taking on Haiti, as Honduras will look to qualify for Rio after reaching the Olympic quarterfinals in 2012.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Olympic coverage | USMNT ]

Following that match, Mexico faces Costa Rica in a battle of CONCACAF heavyweights. While Mexico is the defending gold medalist, Costa Rica has not qualified for the Olympics since reaching the quarters in 2004.

Match 3 — Honduras vs. Haiti

When: 9 p.m. ET
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, California
Live Stream: NBC Universo

Match 4 — Mexico vs. Costa Rica

When: 11:30 p.m. ET
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, California
Live Stream: NBC Universo