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Gulati, other organizers interested in more Copa America mash-ups

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NEW YORK (AP) After staging a successful expanded Copa America in the United States for the tournament’s 100th anniversary, soccer officials intend to discuss whether to establish a new event that would see regular competition between the regions.

And, the U.S. Soccer Federation hopes this year’s tournament could be a springboard to hosting a World Cup for the second time.

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“We hope it influences where the 2026 World Cup will be,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Friday.

With only the final and third-place game remaining, the 16-nation tournament has drawn 1.36 million fans, an average of 45,491. That’s down from the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., but nearly double the average crowd of last year’s Copa America in Chile.

“These are World Cup numbers – World Cup numbers for an event organized in seven months with 16 teams,” Gulati said.

The Copa America, South America’s championship, is played quadrennially a year after the World Cup and includes that federation’s 10 nations and two invited teams. The CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean, is a 12-nation tournament played in odd-numbered years.

This year’s special Copa included 10 South American teams and six from CONCACAF. New CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said a new event could be scheduled for the even-numbered years between World Cups – when the European Championship is played – or the year before World Cups.

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“Those are the two years that make sense,” he told The Associated Press. “Having said that, we still have to talk to FIFA. There’s a few hurdles to jump over: European clubs, all that kind of stuff. So we’ll see.”

Montagliani said CONCACAF would have to scale back the Gold Cup to once every four years to create room on soccer’s crowded calendar.

“We remain open to hearing any proposals and ideas,” new CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said. “It’s very important to remain open-minded, and this has been a success.”

Gulati joked that following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, a new event could include England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Victor and I actually kicked around the idea this morning of 10 teams from CONMEBOL, 10 teams from CONCACAF and the four British teams that are now apparently looking for a place to play. It could be an interesting 24-team tournament to rival the Euro,” he said before turning serious. “The idea of doing a special event that is every four years or every eight years or every 100 years, whatever it might be, that’s something we can look at and talk about. That would be a situation that FIFA would need to put on the calendar for the non-CONMEBOL teams. Without that, it’s almost impossible for us to do it. Obviously, the event has gone well. It’s something that we should look at.”

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This year’s Copa is the most significant soccer event in the U.S. since the 1994 World Cup, when the 52 matches set records with 3.59 million total attendance and a 68,991 average.

“Maybe in some markets lowering price would have led to more people; it would also have meant a huge effect on revenue in markets where you sold out, unless you’ve got variable pricing,” Gulati said.

Attendance and TV viewership, according to Gulati, are evidence “the U.S. is really very much an immigrant community.” Because of federal indictments of COMBEBOL and CONCACAF leaders, the event was not finalized until October.

U.S. games have ranged from 1.5 million to 3.3 million viewers on Fox Sports 1, but some Copa games had a small audience: 138,000 for Haiti-Peru, and 148,000 for Ecuador-Peru, both on Fox Sports 2, were the lows.

[ MORE: Gulati assigns significance of winning third-place game ]

Univision’s ratings for its Spanish-language telecasts have ranged from 5.6 million (Mexico-Jamaica, Mexico-Venezuela and Mexico-Chile) to 1.2 million (Panama-Bolivia). Argentina’s 4-0 semifinal win over the U.S. on Tuesday was seen by 8.1 million viewers in the U.S.: 4.8 million viewers on Univision and 3.3 million on Fox Sports 1. Chile’s rain-interrupted semifinal victory over Colombia on Wednesday averaged 971,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1 and 4 million on Univision.

Still, the audiences were well below World Cup levels. Germany’s win over Argentina in the 2014 final was seen by 26.5 million people on U.S. television: 17.3 million on ABC and 9.2 million on Univision.

Last year’s Copa America averaged 25,223, according to figures in match reports. The 2011 tournament in Argentina drew just under 34,000 and the 2007 edition in Venezuela about 40,000.

NOTES: Dominguez said CONMEBOL had proposed to the European governing body UEFA that the winner of Sunday’s Argentina-Chile final meet the winner of the European Championship on July 10 in a one-game match in South America this year. He said UEFA has not yet replied.

VIDEO: Top 10 players in the world as soccer resumes

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Who are the top 10 soccer players in the world right now as the season is about to resume in multiple leagues?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With the Bundesliga in full flow for a few weeks, Spain’s La Liga will return next week and the Premier League and Serie A will follow the week after.

Given that there are so many superstars scattered across those four leagues, here’s a list of the top 10 players set to be in action over the summer months as we will be treated to a sort of bonus World Cup with multiple leagues spreading out games over multiple days as top four, title and relegation battles take center stage.

From Manchester to Milan and Barcelona to Berlin, there will be so many superstars in full flow in the coming months.

Of course, the Ligue 1 season in France is canceled so we can’t watch Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for at least a few months. If we could, the Paris Saint-Germain duo would be high up on the list of top 10 players in the world right now as the soccer world gets ready to resume in empty stadiums.

Top 10 players in the world who will be in action this summer

10. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

7. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

6. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

5. Bruno Fernandes (Man United)

4. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)

3. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Liverpool, Man United show support for Black Lives Matter

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Liverpool and Man United have joined the growing number of clubs and players across the world offering their support to the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and honoring George Floyd.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN last Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA.

A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested last Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Over the weekend Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi revealed messages of support on their jerseys, while USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram took a knee after he scored in the Bundesliga.

On Monday Liverpool players posted a photo of their entire squad taking a knee around the center circle at Anfield during a training session with the message Black Lives Matter and Unity is Strength, while Man United star Marcus Rashford released a powerful statement on the widespread protests across the USA.

Paris Saint-Germain and France superstar Kylian Mbappe also posted an image on social media with the caption “police with us, not against us.”

Across the soccer world clubs and players are speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and honoring George Floyd.

Report: MLS threaten lockout, players on the clock

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Reports have emerged that MLS may lock out their players as the owners put the MLS Players’ Association (MLSPA) on the clock when it comes to negotiating a plan for the 2020 season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Per a statement released by the MLSPA late Sunday, they say that players have formally submitted a package to the league so that “players can return to competition as soon as they are safely able to do so.”

However, it is believed that package has been countered by the owners and the league want a decision by Tuesday or will sanction a lockout.

The MLS players’ statement detailed that they voted in favor of “economic concessions for the 2020 season, modifications to the recently agreed-upon CBA, including its extension by a year, and their agreement to participate in a summer tournament in Orlando.”

They also accepted salary reductions across the board, reduced bonuses and additional concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA.

Multiple reports, including this one from ESPN’s former USMNT striker Hercules Gomez, states that MLS owners are giving the players until Tuesday to come to an agreement or they will shut the league down.

MLS reportedly say they have already given the players their best offer and they are not budging, with a report from Jeffrey Carlisle of ESPN saying that the league want the players to take a 8.75 percent pay cut, while the players have agreed to 7.5 percent. There is also the ‘force majeure clause’ which would allow either side to back out of a CBA due to a diastrous event such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The top-flight of soccer in North America has been shut down since Mar. 12 and talks have been ongoing for several weeks between MLS and the MLSPA regarding the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the league.

With players making big concessions across the board, the fact that MLS shot that offer down so quickly suggests both sides still have a long way to go around the virtual negotiating table. Time is running out.

Right now, the 2020 MLS season looks like being a mini-tournament in Orlando for six weeks to hold things over and who knows what comes after that. But given the location of many of their teams in states which still have strict lockdown orders, plus fans not being allowed to attend sporting events across the country, the situation appears bleak for MLS for at least the next few months and probably much longer than that.

Man United extend Ighalo loan deal

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Man United have announced they have extended the loan deal for Odion Ighalo.

The initial loan deal for Ighalo, 30, was due to run out on May 31 but Man United came to an agreement with his parent club Shanghai Shenhua to extend the loan until January 31.

In a statement the Red Devils said the loan extension would “enable Ighalo to build on an impressive start to life with the club he supported as a boy.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a huge fan of the Nigerian international striker, who was signed as cover for the injured Marcus Rashford in January and scored four goals in eight games in all competitions.

“They [Shanghai Shenhua] have been great towards us, allowing him to play for his dream club. It’s been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish what he started and win a trophy with us,” Solskjaer told MUTV.

Ighalo has given United more than a Plan B option up top since he arrived. The former Watford striker has held the ball up, brought other attacking players into play and scored a stunner against LASK in the Europa League. He has truly taken his chance at the club he supported as a boy and he deserves this extension.

Now that Rashford is back fit as the suspension allowed him to recover, how often will Ighalo play for Man United? He will likely get plenty of minutes in the FA Cup and Europa League, plus jump off the bench in the majority of Man United’s Premier League games and start a few. Ighalo won’t start every game but he’s proved he can be trusted to deliver goals, hold up the ball and add an extra dimension to United’s attack when they need it late on in matches.

Many people ridiculed Solskjaer and Man United for making his loan move in January but Ighalo has proven the doubters wrong and he’s perfect for a back-up option to Rashford and Anthony Martial in attack.

Extending this loan deal makes sense for everyone.