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European leagues oppose FIFA plan for 48-team 2022 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Top European leagues are set to oppose FIFA plans for adding more teams and playing days at the 2022 World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to study a 48-team tournament plan that would add 16 teams, 16 extra games and at least four days to the scheduled 28-day event kicking off in November 2022 in Qatar.

That schedule would likely take another round of weekend fixtures from the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and others which already must shut down in mid-season.

“We are not prepared to make any changes on the calendar for expanding the 2022 World Cup.” Lars-Christer Olsson, CEO of the 32-member European Leagues group, said on Monday.

“We have already been flexible to allow the World Cup to be played in the (Qatari) winter and have agreed the dates,” Olsson said, adding “we are not prepared for the duration of the World Cup to be any longer.”

Infantino’s support last week for a 48-team World Cup ahead of the agreed expansion for the 2026 edition comes more than seven years after Qatar won hosting rights from FIFA’s then-executive committee.

Qatar bid to stage a 32-team, 64-game tournament in June-July 2022 despite the searing desert heat, with a pledge to develop stadium cooling technology.

In 2013, FIFA started consulting soccer officials worldwide in an 18-month process that reached an expected conclusion – to push back the schedule and play in cooler months, with a Nov. 21-Dec. 18 schedule.

That shorter, 28-day program – instead of the typical 32-day tournament – was a concession to Europe where most World Cup players are employed, and leagues wanted the shortest possible forced shutdown.

FIFA’s calendar for national-team games, which mandates when clubs must release players, has a Monday, Nov. 14, 2022 call-up date for World Cup teams.

An extra four days on the 2022 World Cup program would likely mean moving up the World Cup program, and taking the Nov. 12-13 fixture dates away from European leagues.

“FIFA seems to be on an expansion drive,” said Olsson, who this year joined UEFA’s executive committee to represent the leagues. “It’s time people thought about the players – they need time to rest. It cannot just be money deciding how football should be organized.”

European clubs were the most vocal opponents of a November-December tournament before FIFA agreed on the switch to winter three years ago.

Soon after the accord, FIFA and the European Club Association representing more than 200 members signed a new working deal which guaranteed clubs worldwide a $209 million share of World Cup revenues from each of the 2018 tournament in Russia and the 2022 edition in Qatar.

The money is distributed on a daily rate for players involved in the tournament to each club which employed him during the two previous years.

The ECA declined to comment last week when the 2022 World Cup expansion idea was announced on Thursday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a meeting of South American soccer body CONMEBOL which was attended by Infantino.

FIFA does not pay a share of World Cup revenues to the European Leagues group.

The 2022 expansion plan could require Qatar to share hosting duties with some regional neighbors.

The gas-rich emirate is completing eight stadiums for a 64-game tournament, though FIFA’s ideal design for a 48-team, 80-game tournament calls for 12 venues.

Infantino’s suggested feasibility study to look at 2022 tournament expansion could be agreed on at scheduled meetings in Moscow ahead of the World Cup kicking off on June 14.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Short-handed Galaxy beat Impact after Ibrahimovic red card

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MONTREAL (AP) Playing a man down after Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a red card in the 42nd minute, the Los Angeles Galaxy got past the Montreal Impact 1-0 Monday on a goal by Ola Kamara.

The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.

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Ibrahimovic was sent off after slapping Michael Petrasso, who had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s foot while marking him well away from the ball. After consulting video, referee Ismail Elfath showed Ibrahimovic the red card and Petrasso the yellow.

Both went down after the slap, and Ibrahimovic was limping as a trainer helped him off the field.

With 10 men, the Galaxy stayed back in the second half, looking for counterattacks.

In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.

Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).