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Joining WC bid with Mexico, Canada expected to gain “support” for U.S.

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NEW YORK (AP) A final on or around the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Modern stadiums across the United States and perhaps in Mexico and Canada, too.

A North American World Cup in 2026 with 48 nations would be far larger and played in almost all different venues than the 24-team event the U.S. hosted in 1994.

Soccer officials planned to announce details of the joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada at a news conference Monday atop the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. The split of games was likely to be discussed.

“Don’t think for a moment that the political climate in the United States didn’t impact this,” former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox analyst, said Sunday. “A joint World Cup that includes Mexico probably garners additional support and sends a message.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has faced criticism over his plans – since stopped by courts – to bar new visas for people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said last month than “any team, including the supporters and officials … who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”

A majority of games likely will be played in the United States.

Infantino and the six confederation presidents have recommended the North and Central American and Caribbean region get six berths, any host included. But the proposal said the FIFA Council would decide on a structure in the event of co-hosts.

“You sit there and just shake your head: Where is this thing going to go and why?” said former U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, currently an ESPN analyst. “Who knows, maybe they’ll move it to 68 teams by that time? It’s so hard to tell what FIFA’s thinking or what they’re doing or what’s the process after the last bidding fiasco. I guess you just have to trust the people closest to it, that they know what they’re doing.”

FIFA’s Congress of all members decided on World Cup hosts through the 1982 tournament, but the power was then given to its ruling executive committee of about two dozen members. After the tainted vote in December 2010 that awarded the 2018 event to Russia and 2022 to Qatar, the decision was returned to the Congress, now 211 members.

FIFA announced last May that the 2026 vote will take place in May 2020 and said in October that the previous two World Cup hosts – Europe and Asia – will not be eligible to bid.

Africa could mount a bid, especially if it allies with another confederation and both vote as blocs. Europe has 55 members, Africa 54, Asia 46, CONCACAF 35, Oceania 11 and South America 10.

Lalas called a joint bid a “calculated and a strategic play.”

“I was hoping for a U.S.-hosted World Cup, remembering 1994 and how that changed U.S. soccer forever, and I wanted a 2026 version of the United States to also alone reap the benefits of what a men’s World Cup can do,” he said. “However, I would rather have a joint World Cup than no World Cup at all.”

Racing to construct stadiums in time dominated the run-ups to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 tournament in Brazil, and the pace of building again is of concern as the 2018 World Cup in Russia approaches.

The U.S. portion of the bid will rely on the gleaming stadiums opened by the NFL in the past two decades.

Among the possible venues are MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (82,500 capacity, opened in 2010); AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (80,000, 2009); Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California (68,500, 2014); Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (66,000, 2002); and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (69,500 in 2003).

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000) is set to open this year and an 80,000-seat stadium for the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, California, in 2019. The Washington Redskins also hope for a new home.

Chicago’s Soldier Field, the only one of the 1994 venues likely to be used, reopened in 2003 after a gut renovation. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, also has been modernized and a soccer-style roof over the seats was added.

Mexico would appear to have few edifice concerns. Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, built for the 1966 World Cup, has an 87,000 capacity after a renovation that was completed last year, and there are relatively new venues in Monterrey (BBVA Bancomer, 52,000, 2015) and Guadalajara (Estadio Chivas, 45,000, 2010).

Canada’s largest arena is Commonwealth Stadium (56,000) in Edmonton, Alberta, which opened in 1978 and was renovated ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

BC Place in Vancouver British, Columbia (54,500) underwent major renovations from 2009-11 and also was used for the women’s tournament. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (56,000), built for the 1976 Games, and Toronto’s Rogers Centre (53,000) are less ideal for soccer in their current states.

A joint effort could lessen costs in a process through which legal documents and promotion are exorbitant. The failed U.S. bid to host in 2018 or 2022 cost $9 million, of which about half was funded by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Major League Soccer and its owners gave about half the remaining contributions.

Firsts for Sane, Suele as Germany beats Russia in friendly (video)

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LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) Leroy Sane and Niklas Suele struck their first international goals to guide Germany to a 3-0 win over Russia in a friendly on Thursday.

The 2014 world champions, who surrendered their crown following a first-round exit in Russia in June, went 1-0 up thanks to an eighth-minute goal from Sane.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]

Suele added a second goal 17 minutes later before Serge Gnabry, who had set up Sane for the opener, made sure of victory five minutes before halftime.

The visitors improved after the break, with Aleksei Ionov going close as the intensity of the game dropped.

The 32-year-old Brazilian-born Ariclenes da Silva Ferreira, known as Ari, made his Russia debut but failed to make much of an impact and was substituted early in the second half.

Germany, which lost 2-1 in France and 3-0 in the Netherlands in its previous UEFA Nations League games, continues its campaign against the Dutch in Gelsenkirchen on Monday.

The Germans are bottom of League A, Group 1 with one point from three games and will be relegated on Friday if the Dutch beat world champion France in Rotterdam.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

UEFA Nations League wrap: Batshuayi stays hot, Croatia keeps England alive

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Belgium and Croatia picked up big wins in UEFA Nations League play on Thursday, the most notable events from the day’s action

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]


Croatia 3-2 Spain

England is alive thanks to a wild second half between two World Cup powers, with Spain twice equalizing before falling victim to a goal deep in stoppage time. That goal was the second from — excellent name alert — Tin Jedvaj.

If Croatia beats England on Sunday, Croatia moves onto the semifinals. If England wins, the Three Lions move on. A scoreless draw pushes Spain onto the finals and relegates Croatia, while a scoring draw moves Croatia above England and relegates the Three Lions.

Belgium 2-0 Iceland

Why he didn’t work for Chelsea, we don’t know, but Michy Batshuayi has scored everywhere else. That includes his national team, as the Red Devils now have firm control over Group A2 with a 2-0 defeat of Iceland. A draw against Switzerland in the group finale will be enough for Belgium to reach the semifinals.

Elsewhere
Austria 0-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
San Marino 0-1 Moldova
Luxembourg 0-2 Belarus
Andorra 1-1 Georgia
Kazakhstan 1-1 Latvia
Hungary 2-0 Estonia
Greece 1-0 Finland

Calls for new head coach grow, as USMNT lack direction

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LONDON — It is clear that the U.S. national team has been in quite a strange place for the last 13 months. And not good, strange.

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Since Dave Sarachan took charge on an interim basis last October after the huge blow of not making the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. have played friendly and friendly and used over 50 players to try and find out whatever they can about the next crop of talent.

But what is the end game? What direction are the U.S. heading in?

Against a reserve England side at Wembley on Thursday, Sarachan’s youngster started slowly and never fully recovered despite Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood going close to scoring in each half. They were outclassed throughout the 3-0 defeat and their play lacked a cutting edge. Subconsciously they must feel like they’re stuck in a holding pattern until the next permanent head coach arrives.

The fans, players and everyone who watches the team want the next step now. They want to move on from the wreckage of World Cup qualification failure.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned | Player ratings ] 

Sarachan has done all he can to push these players on and give them chances, but with so many players coming in and out the disjointed nature of the USMNT’s recent displays are to be expected.

But the reports of Gregg Berhalter set to take charge rumbling on for at least another few weeks, a lack of direction appears to be hurting this team badly.

“Dave is doing what he can and obviously he wants to win these games too, just like we do,” Pulisic said. “It is going to help a lot once we get a permanent head coach, moving forward with a guy who has a real plan and a style we want to play. He is going to help us a lot.”

Pulisic is only saying what everyone is thinking.

Brad Guzan, who was the most experienced U.S. player on the pitch on Thursday with 60 caps, admitted that everyone connected with the USMNT wants this situation sorted out as quickly as possible.

“Everyone is eager to see who that is, not just the players, fans, Dave [Sarachan], everybody involved with U.S. Soccer,” Guzan said. “As a national team, of course you want that direction and whatnot but ultimately when you step across the white line to a certain extent tactics go out of the window and you have to be able to play with a bit of desire and fight. We probably showed them too much respect in the first half.”

Sarachan, to his credit, has been exceptional in his handling of this situation.

He has handed chances to young players against France, Colombia, Brazil and now England, and the way he has encouraged them to step up to the international level must be remembered a few years down the line when the likes of Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Tim Weah are in their prime.

“These fixtures are great fixtures for our young guys. There is a lot of lessons learned when you play teams like England and the form they’re in and and the way they play and the quality they have in a tough environment. It showed,” Sarachan said. “In my mind in the first half we were a little timid and allowed a little too much space, their spacing and movement was very challenging for our group. As much as we talked about it, watched and scouted England, it is still on the players to sort through that.”

Right now, the players need more support from someone they know is going to be around beyond next week. That lack of uncertainty is hurting the development of this team.

13 months on from being hired as an interim head coach, Sarachan is still in charge. This situation should have never been allowed to get to this stage. Of course, the U.S. Soccer Presidential election in February and a change of leadership impacted this situation, but USMNT General Manager Earnie Stewart, who started his new gig in August, should not have waited this long to bring in someone on a permanent basis.

The damage this ‘lost year’ will do on the USMNT long-term remains to be seen but it is clear everyone is pushing for one thing. A permanent head coach. Now.

National Women’s Soccer League recognizes players union

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CHICAGO (AP) The National Women’s Soccer League has formally recognized the NWSL Players Association as the exclusive bargaining representative for the league’s players.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]

The NWSLPA represents current and future players who have signed standard player agreements with the NWSL. U.S. national team players who are allocated throughout the league are represented by the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association.

“We’ve now achieved official status as a labor union, but we intend to approach our relationship with the league in a very different way than what comes to mind with traditional labor relations,” said union President Yael Averbuch, who plays for the Seattle Reign. “The NWSLPA is glad to continue a collaborative relationship with the league, with the health and sustainability of the league central to the ongoing relationship.”

The NWSL just wrapped up its sixth season.