FIFA struggles to move on from the most tainted chapter in its history, even as it attempts to award another World Cup.
With less than three months to go until the host of the 2026 World Cup is decided, FIFA is still assessing allegations of skullduggery around the voting more than seven years ago for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
Can the expedited contest between North America and Morocco really be bulletproof, free of scandal, as soccer’s governing body promises?
There’s intrigue around a process that could see FIFA disqualify a bid before the June vote if it can’t meet the requirements for the first World Cup after the leap from 32 to 48 competing teams.
Morocco’s stadiums require significant upgrades to get close to matching the infrastructure boasted by the North Americans, whose bid includes 16 NFL venues awash in the luxury seating required by FIFA.
But if Morocco is not struck off by a FIFA task force lacking true independence, the vote could be closer than anticipated in part due to new procedures intended to signal a break from the secrecy of the past.
Not only is the decision open to every soccer nation, rather than just the ruling executive that had chosen the World Cup sites from 1986-2022, but each vote is set to be published. That exposes officials to potential intimidation.
The voting regulations will be finalized by the FIFA Council on Friday, just as the bid books are submitted.
Bid bureaucrats will hand over the host city contracts, financial estimates and stadium proposals – rather than star footballers- reflecting a campaign shorn of the razzmatazz witnessed in the buildup to the 2010 votes won by Russia and Qatar.
The United States-led bid, which includes Canada and Mexico as minority partners, hoped to be awarded the hosting rights to one of the biggest events in sports without facing a challenge.
The FIFA Council had other ideas at a meeting last May, giving Morocco a chance to prevent a coronation.
But while the Americans opened their official campaign in April, the Moroccans did not launch theirs in public until January.
Morocco’s bid has been cloaked in secrecy: the international communications team declined to send The Associated Press a copy of the media pack being distributed domestically.
It contained no specific details on the construction requirements and mis-states that 17 people were wounded, rather than killed, in a 2011 Marrakesh bombing in a section seeking to offer assurances on safety.
While the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994 before failing to land 2022, Morocco has been unsuccessful four times.
Moroccan officials express irritation when pressed on bribery allegations surrounding its 2010 World Cup campaign that form part of ongoing criminal proceedings in the United States.
Morocco will be hoping the American investigations into FIFA deter voters from taking the World Cup to a country so determined to expose wrongdoing within soccer. Inflammatory comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that have offended parts of the world could also work in Morocco’s favor.
FIFA has faced criticism from the home city of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Chicago refused to sign up to the bid because it believed the tax and legal provisions required pose a risk to the city and shareholders.
The bids offer distinctive proposals. Is FIFA in the mood for another gamble?
Morocco poses more logistical challenges and risks for FIFA, which will be coming off a complex tournament in Qatar in 2022.
There’s significant building work required to upgrade stadiums. The largest venue, in Casablanca, has a capacity of 67,000, whereas FIFA will want a venue with at least 80,000 seats for the opening game and final. Only five other stadiums have a capacity in excess of 40,000.
North America is the easy option. The U.S. would host 60 games in venues requiring only minor construction work, such as hospitality and media facilities, and is touting three stadiums with more than 87,000 seats.
Canada and Mexico, which has the 87,523-capacity Azteca Stadium, will settle for 10 matches each up to the round of 16.
North America will be hoping voters are dazzled by its financial proposition. It’s certainly more favorable for FIFA, which is trying to return to profitability after being hit by the cost of corruption scandals, and the governing body could secure more funds to redistribute to member nations.
FIFA would earn $300 million more from the North American broadcasters if the 2026 World Cup is played in the region under the terms of contracts negotiated to stave off legal action for shifting the dates of the 2022 tournament in Qatar to November, where it overlaps the NFL and college football seasons.
As chief commercial officer at FIFA, Philippe Le Floc’h is responsible for replenishing coffers. That largely requires squeezing cash out of corporate sponsors and maximizing television revenue.
With 48 teams and 80 games to accommodate for the first time, Le Floc’h pointed out “the size and the magnitude” of North America’s proposition helps.
“It would have some commercial attraction,” Le Floc’h said. “It has got infrastructure. They have got massive stadiums because they are used for American Football. So on the pure hospitality point, potentially, we might have more revenues.”
Remaining publicly impartial, Le Floc’h highlighted how Morocco is in “the perfect time zone for Europe and Asia” television audiences.
“There are other ways to generate revenues,” he said, “and the time zone in Morocco could help us.”
In 2010, the now-discredited FIFA executive committee all but ignored the FIFA-produced technical reports that identified Russia and Qatar as the highest-risk bids among nine candidates.
Now a restyled five-man task force, dominated by European officials, will make inspection visits, then grade and score the bids.
Those marks could play a key role in the contest.
Since the panel includes FIFA’s deputy general secretaries – Zvonimir Boban of Croatia and Marco Villiger of Switzerland – it could prove highly contentious if a bid is disqualified. FIFA’s Council must approve the verdict of the task force before the Congress votes.
SCORING THE BIDS
Infrastructure, of which half relates to stadiums, accounts for 70 percent of the panel’s mark. The remaining 30 percent is based on projected costs and revenues.
“The scores have a bearing on whether or not a bid qualifies for the next stage of the bidding process, with bids shortlisted by the FIFA Council,” according to FIFA.
In a scoring system of 0 to 5 – where 0 means is “no requirements met/very weak” and 5 is “requirements exceeded/excellent” – a bid must average a total of 2, or “minimum requirements met/sufficient,” to be approved ahead of the vote.
In addition, bids must score at least 2 for the individual aspects of stadiums, teams and referee facilities, plus accommodation and transport links.
Failure to score 2 from the task force means a bid “has been evaluated as `high risk’ and represents a material failure,” a FIFA bid regulations document states, whereupon “FIFA shall terminate this Bidding Registration.”
Up to 207 of the 211 member federations will vote on June 13 in Moscow, with the four bidding members excluded.
In aiming for transparency, FIFA’s pledge to publish the choice of each member could affect the voting. The secret ballot in presidential elections allows members to vote freely and defy orders from regional or continental leaders.
Sepp Blatter was president when FIFA last voted on men’s World Cup hosts. While championing Morocco, Blatter questions whether it can count on all 53 votes from Africa.
“Africa is not always united,” Blatter said. But he believes the Americans are “afraid … and give the impression that they are not any longer very sure that they will win.”
Chelsea’s spending spree saw them sign eight new players to swell Graham Potter’s first-team squad to 30 players, including Enzo Fernandez, who arrived in west London as the most expensive signing in British football history ($129 million) on Tuesday. The Argentine midfield wasted no time and looked a cut above everyone else on the field as he made his Premier League debut with precious little time to train with his new club.
The result sends Fulham (32 points) up to 6th in the PL table, now one point ahead of Brighton, though the Seagulls have played three fewer games now. Chelsea (30 points), meanwhile, climb past fellow strugglers Liverpool, into 9th.
Chelsea went inches from opening the scoring in the 45th minute, when Kai Havertz lifted the ball over the out-rushing Bernd Leno. As a pair of Fulham defenders made late recovery runs into the box, the ball struck the front of the near post and and bounced back into play to be cleared away.
Aleksandar Mitrovic was next to nearly break the deadlock in the 71st minute, when he went for goal just one or two steps inside the halfway line. Perhaps the ball was headed for the crossbar or just over, but it was close enough that Kepa Arrizabalaga had to quickly backpedal and palm the ball away from his goal line.
Not even a minute later, Fernandez nearly marked his Chelsea debut with a sensational goal from nearly 30 yards out. The ball fell to Fernandez and the 22-year-old World Cup winner uncorked a shot that narrowly tailed away away from the far post.
Enzo Fernandez almost scored a worldie to mark his Chelsea debut!
The oh-so-nearly-goals theme continued as the second half wore on, and it was Tim Ream who saved the day for the Cottagers in the 79th minute. Noni Madueke also made his Chelsea debut as he replaced another January signing, Mykhailo Mudryk, at halftime. Madueke’s first real involvement came as he rounded Leno outside the penalty area and scooted past with an eye toward goal, only for Ream be in the right place at the right time to boot the ball clear as the last line of defense.
How to watch Chelsea vs Fulham live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 3pm ET, Friday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & star players
Watch out for Chelsea, because the crew is getting healthier. To be fair, it’s difficult to have more injuries than Chelsea has had this year, but we digress. Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Raheem Sterling, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all ready to go, though Graham Potter said none of them are ready for 90 minutes. Wesley Fofana is close to a return, but should miss out, while Joao Felix could make his return. So, yeah, we could see Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Raheem Sterling on the pitch at the same time. Zoom, zoom, Fulham.
Marco Silva’s Cottagers have cooled off, at least in terms of results, since beating Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Jan. 12, the game in which Felix earned his red card. 1-0 losses to Newcastle and Spurs, forgivable, were followed up with a FA Cup draw with Sunderland. If Fulham can get through this, there’s a more forgiving run of fixtures ahead with a Sunderland replay, Forest, Brighton, Wolves, and Brentford. But is anything forgiving any more in the Premier League? Aleksandar Mitrovic, as usual, looms as a key piece of Fulham’s hopes.
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: N’Golo Kante (hamstring), Christian Pulisic (knee), Wesley Fofana (knee), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Armando Broja (knee), Denis Zakaria (thigh)
Brighton will continue their chase for European qualification, while Bournemouth try to climb out of the relegation zone, when the two sides meet at Amex Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium).
Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi have, between them, guided Brighton (31 points) all the way up to 6th place in the Premier League table. The gap to 5th-place Tottenham is five points; the gap to Manchester United in 4th in eight. Bournemouth, meanwhile, are in the bottom-three for the first time this season after picking up just one point from their last five PL games.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brighton vs Bournemouth.
Brentford will try to extend their unbeaten run, which began all the way back in October, when they host bottom-of-the-table Southampton at Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium).
The Bees’ (30 points) eight-game unbeaten run (4W-4D-0L) has taken them up to 8th in the Premier League table, now closer to the top-four (nine points) than the relegation zone (13 points) in their second-ever season in the PL. Saints (15 points), meanwhile, are living dangerously at the bottom, though the gap between themselves and safety in 17th place is just two points.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brentford vs Southampton.
Last time out, Brentford settled for a frustrating 0-0 draw with Leeds, but before that they rattled off successive wins over West Ham, Liverpool and Bournemouth with just one goal conceded in three games. Ivan Toney is 3rd in the Premier League with 13 goals, trailing only Harry Kane (16) and Erling Haaland (an absurd 25). After initially struggling to replace the creativity of Christian Eriksen (4 assists in 11 appearances last season), Thomas Frank’s side is firing once again thanks to Mathias Jensen (4 in 20), Toney (3) and Josh Dasilva (2) picking up the slack.
After losing 3-1 to Newcastle over two legs in the League Cup semifinals, Southampton return their attention to the ongoing relegation battle. Having won just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures (1W-1D-7L), Saints made four first-team signings to strengthen the midfield and attack. They brought in some experience (30-year-old midfielder Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb and 28-year-old forward Paul Onuachu from Genk) along with some youth and potential (a pair of 20-year-olds, midfielder Carlos Alcaraz from Racing Club and winger Kamadeen Selumana from Rennes).
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Chelsea and Liverpool push them all the way? How will Manchester United’s new-look side fare? What about Tottenham and Arsenal? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
9am: Nottingham Forest v Leeds – USA Network – WATCH LIVE
11:30am: Spurs v Man City – NBC – WATCH LIVEPhoto by Visionhaus/Getty Images
Saturday 11 February
7:30am: West Ham v Chelsea
Arsenal v Brentford
Crystal Palace v Brighton
Fulham v Nottingham Forest
Leicester v Spurs
Southampton v Wolves
12:30pm: AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle
Sunday 12 February
9am: Leeds v Man Utd
11:30am: Man City v Aston Villa
Monday 13 February
3pm: Liverpool v Everton
Wednesday 15 February
2:30pm: Arsenal vs Manchester City (rearranged)
Saturday 18 February
7:30am: Aston Villa v Arsenal
Brentford v Crystal Palace
Brighton v Fulham
Chelsea v Southampton
Everton v Leeds
Nottingham Forest v Man City
Wolves v AFC Bournemouth
12:30pm: Newcastle v Liverpool
Sunday 19 February
9am: Man Utd v Leicester
11:30am: Spurs v West Ham
Friday 24 February
3pm: Fulham v Wolves
Saturday 25 February
7:30am: Newcastle v Brighton
Everton v Aston Villa
Leeds v Southampton
Leicester v Arsenal
West Ham v Nottingham Forest
12:30pm: AFC Bournemouth v Man City *subject to EFL Cup Final
2:45pm: Crystal Palace v Liverpool ^If Liverpool are not in EFL fifth round and if AFC Bournemouth or Man City progress to EFL Cup final, this match will move to 17:30 and remain on Sky Sports
Sunday 26 February
8:30am: Man Utd v Brentford* Due to UEFA Europa League playoff round
8:30am: Spurs v Chelsea
Saturday 4 March
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Brentford v Fulham
Brighton v West Ham
Chelsea v Leeds
Liverpool v Man Utd
Man City v Newcastle
Nottingham Forest v Everton
Southampton v Leicester
Wolves v Spurs
Saturday 11 March
AFC Bournemouth v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Man City
Everton v Brentford
Fulham v Arsenal
Leeds v Brighton
Leicester v Chelsea
Man Utd v Southampton
Newcastle v Wolves
Spurs v Nottingham Forest
West Ham v Aston Villa
Saturday 18 March
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Aston Villa v AFC Bournemouth
Brentford v Leicester
Brighton v Man Utd
Chelsea v Everton
Liverpool v Fulham
Man City v West Ham
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle
Southampton v Spurs
Wolves v Leeds
Saturday 1 April
AFC Bournemouth v Fulham
Arsenal v Leeds
Brighton v Brentford
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Leicester
Everton v Spurs
Man City v Liverpool
Newcastle v Man Utd
Nottingham Forest v Wolves
West Ham v Southampton
Saturday 8 April
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leeds v Crystal Palace
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Liverpool v Arsenal
Man Utd v Everton
Southampton v Man City
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
Saturday 15 April
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Leeds v Liverpool
Man City v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
West Ham v Arsenal
Wolves v Brentford
Saturday 22 April
AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
Arsenal v Southampton
Brentford v Aston Villa
Brighton v Man City
Crystal Palace v Everton
Fulham v Leeds
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Man Utd v Chelsea
Newcastle v Spurs
Tuesday 25 April
19:45 Everton v Newcastle
19:45 Leeds v Leicester
19:45 Nottingham Forest v Brighton
19:45 Spurs v Man Utd
19:45 West Ham v Liverpool
19:45 Wolves v Crystal Palace
20:00 Aston Villa v Fulham
Wednesday 26 April
19:45 Chelsea v Brentford
19:45 Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
20:00 Man City v Arsenal
Saturday 29 April
AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
Arsenal v Chelsea
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Fulham v Man City
Leicester v Everton
Liverpool v Spurs
Man Utd v Aston Villa
Newcastle v Southampton
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Brighton v Everton
Fulham v Leicester
Liverpool v Brentford
Man City v Leeds
Newcastle v Arsenal
Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Spurs v Crystal Palace
West Ham v Man Utd
Wolves v Aston Villa
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool