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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.

Report: Real Madrid close to Courtois, Hazard deals

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According to radio network RMC Sport in France, Real Madrid has an agreement with Chelsea for the transfer of Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The report states that Courtois would cost Los Blancos $41 million, and the transfer is imminent. That would be significantly cheaper than Liverpool’s widely reported bid for Roma goalkeeper Alisson, who is supposedly costing the Reds $81 million, which would be a record for a goalkeeper.

This could likely be attributed to the player’s contracts, with Courtois’s set to run out at the end of the coming season, while Alisson’s contract at Roma is good through the summer of 2021.

Courtois has been at Chelsea since 2011 when he arrived from Belgian club Genk, but spent the first few years out on loan at Atletico Madrid in Spain. He won the Golden Glove at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the award for the top goalkeeper in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the same RMC Sport report states that Real Madrid is close to an agreement for Courtois’s Chelsea teammate and Belgian countryman Eden Hazard. The 27-year-old has spent six years at Stamford Bridge since his move from Lille, and has heavily been speculated to be Real Madrid’s preferred replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Both players are currently on holiday at different vacation destinations inSpain following the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup.

Cazorla returns to field for first time in almost 2 years

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Arsenal fan favorite Santi Cazorla saw his time with the Gunners come to an unceremonious end this summer. He had struggled for almost three full seasons with an ankle injury that continued to baffle doctors.

At one time, it got so bad that doctors told him he was lucky to walk again. Now, Cazorla is doing much more than walking.

The 33-year-old Spaniard, who is training with his old club Villarreal this summer after the expiry of his Arsenal contract, returned to the field for the first time in 636 days when he entered in the 67th minute of Villarreal’s friendly against Segunda B side Hercules.

Beaming with a massive smile, Cazorla received a hearty reception from the home Villarreal fans at the Mini Estadi on his enterance to the match. The match eventually ended in a 1-1 draw.

Cazorla posted on Twitter a week ago to say how happy he was to “feel like a footballer again” while training with Villarreal and said while there’s “much more work ahead” he has “more enthusiasm than ever.”

The Spaniard made 180 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions during his six-year stint in the Premier League, providing fluid creativity at the front of the Gunners’ attack, but the last three seasons were a nightmare. First a knee injury kept him out nearly the entire second half of the 2015/16 season, and then he ruptured his Achilles in October of 2016. It was not a standard recovery, eventually requiring a total of eight operations. A nasty infection required more surgery, forcing doctors to graft tendons from his left arm into his foot.

Gunners fans may not see him at The Emirates again, but they will be happy to know Cazorla has crossed a major hurdle in his attempt to return to the field competitively.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba to Juventus, Rebic to Manchester United

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With the World Cup over, the transfer season is now in full swing. Players have returned from Russia, some having improved their stock mightily. While the World Cup participants will likely receive an extended vacation from clubs to spend time with families and rest their bodies a bit, transfer season never rests.

According to Italian publication Tuttosport, World Cup champion Paul Pogba may have some leverage this summer and could use that to his advantage. The world could see how effective he was in a box-to-box midfield role under French manager Didier Deschamps with slightly more freedom than he saw under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United this past season where many felt he has room to grow.

The report says that Pogba might use the World Cup performances to leverage his way out of Manchester United and back to Juventus where Cristiano Ronaldo has just signed for a mega-transfer. The report states that Pogba is intrigued to join his old club and be a part of Ronaldo’s tenure in Turin. With Ronaldo at 33 years old, he might not have long at Juventus, and Pogba wishes to take advantage.

Tuttosport, which is based in Turin, says that Pogba retains at the least a professional relationship with all his former teammates, and would welcome a move back to Italy. His current Manchester United contract runs out in 2021, meaning he has three full seasons left on his current deal.


Whether Pogba stays or goes, Manchester United will be looking to improve its squad, with a World Cup runner-up in its sights. There have been rumors of a move for both Croatian wingers Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic, but the latter seems to make more sense. Rebic is just 24 years old, and would likely be the cheaper of the two coming from Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt. At the World Cup, the Croatian displayed strength, technical ability, and an innate sense for finding space.

Rebic can play on either wing, playing on the left with his club while deployed on the right with the national team during this summer’s tournament. He would fit in nicely to Manchester United’s squad, which is light on wide attacking players outside of Alexis Sanchez. Rebic would be a perfect foil for Sanchez, preferring to stick to the touchline while Sanchez cuts inside, and enjoying allowing the full-back to overlap.

Reports around England tag Rebic with a $57 million fee, which is just slightly under what Perisic might command from Inter.


In London, there are heavy rumors swirling that Real Madrid will move to make Eden Hazard their replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo. Hazard’s national team manager spoke out on the potential move, following Belgium’s third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.

“I believe now is maybe the right time for him to move,” Martinez told Cadena Ser radio in Spain. “With Belgium he displayed maturity and leadership to add to his outstanding talent, I believe he can play for any side. There is not one team in the world he would not fit in and that means he will be the subject of offers from elsewhere.”

“I am sure Chelsea have received a lot of interest in Eden because he is one of the select group of players whose talent is based on individual play.”

Following the completion of Belgium’s win over England in the third-place match, Hazard was quoted as saying it “might be time for something new.” He has been with Chelsea since moving from Lille in the summer of 2012. At Stamford Bridge, Hazard has blossomed into one of the world’s best one-on-one attackers.


According to Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol, Everton is in “advanced talks” with Bordeaux over Brazilian winger Malcom. The report states that Everton is closing in on a $39 million deal for the 21-year-old and Everton’s team will meat with the French club’s representatives on Thursday to hammer out the final version of the transfer.

The potential signing would be a fabulous move, given that Malcom had been linked with not just Inter Milan but other Premier League club Fulham. Reports say Inter had been looking for a loan with an option to buy, whereas Everton was ready to splash the cash now, which intrigued Bordeaux the most.

Brighton potentially sets transfer record with Bissouma signing

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Brighton & Hove Albion has secured the signing of Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma, the club confirmed on Tuesday.

According to some reports, the transfer could potentially become the club record signing, set back in January with the signing of striker Jurgen Locadia. The Mirror states that the deal, with add-ons, could reach as high as $22.3 million, with Locadia’s record currently sitting at $18 million. However, the BBC is reporting that the Bissouma deal will fall just short of Locadia’s record.

Bissouma, a 21-year-old, already has 13 caps for Mali on the senior international level, with three goals. He made 24 Ligue 1 appearances for Lille last season, scoring two goals and assisting one other, and grabbed another goal in Coupe de France play.

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I spoke to my agent, then I spoke to Bakary Sako who plays at Crystal Palace and Molla Wague, who plays for Watford,” Bissouma told the official club website. “They both said a lot of good things about the Premier League.”

“It’s the dream of every player to come and play in the Premier League. They said it’s different to Ligue 1 – but you see that on the TV. [The players I spoke to] said it’s quite physical, quite difficult but it’s the best league in the world, that says it all. To be a big player you have to prove yourself in the big leagues and that is what pushed me a bit to come here.”

Bissouma becomes Brighton’s sixth signing of the season, with Fulham goalkeeper David Button coming in on Monday. They also snagged RB Leipzig full-back Bernardo and striker Florin Andone from Deportivo la Coruna.