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Morocco jibes at North American cash pledges for 2026 World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) In a FIFA election where money could be key, Morocco tried to heap doubt on North American promises of multi-billion dollar 2026 World Cup profits on Monday.

Moroccan jibes at projections from the United States-Canada-Mexico bid came when leaders of the rival campaigns met voters from five of FIFA’s six continental groups.

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“There is lots of uncertainty,” Morocco Football Federation president Fouzi Lekjaa said of the detail in North American pledges of $14.3 billion revenue for FIFA.

“That doesn’t correspond either to historical facts or future extrapolation, it’s an exercise that goes beyond that,” Lekjaa said in French.

Money will not be the only factor on the minds of up to 206 expected FIFA member federations who can vote on Wednesday in Moscow.

Still, a FIFA-appointed panel assessing the two candidates already noted the “significantly higher” number than Morocco’s projected income of $7.2 billion for football’s governing body from a 48-team tournament.

Morocco’s counterattack is that $5 billion pure profit for FIFA would be a World Cup record.

“We do not blush when we propose that,” Morocco tourism minister Lamia Boutaleb said in an impassioned speech to 53 African voters in a Moscow hotel conference center.

The Moroccan bid team took to the stage at a Confederation for African Football (CAF) meeting minutes after the North Americans presented their plan to what shaped as its most hostile audience of the day.

“We have shown the best we have to offer to all the FIFA members,” Decio de Maria, the Mexico federation president, said.

Though the American team was met with just polite applause, and no follow-up questions, it still hopes for African votes on Wednesday.

Liberia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe pledged support before arriving in Russia, and the North Americans have targeted voters in the southern African group known as COSAFA.

It was perhaps telling that CAF President Ahmad stressed the need to “show cohesion within our continent” in a contest where FIFA will publish each member’s choice soon after the ballot.

“There is an obligation to remain within our family,” the Madagascar official said “But of course it is an individual choice.”

The African meeting began with Ahmad announcing his first vice president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, resigned from CAF and FIFA’s ruling council while facing a corruption investigation in his native Ghana.

A television documentary last week showed Nyantakyi taking $65,000 in cash from undercover reporters posing as businessmen to secure favor with Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo and other government officials.

Ghana can vote on Wednesday, though Moroccan attempts to pressure FIFA into acting against four American territories seem sure to fail.

FIFA election rules suggested American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could be barred from voting by a potential conflict of interest.

“Our voting delegate has a New Zealand passport,” American Samoan official Sandra Fruean, a FIFA Council member, told The Associated Press.

The last-minute lobbying continues on Tuesday morning at another central Moscow hotel, where the rival bid teams make presentations to 54 European voters.

Russell hat trick snaps Sporting KC’s win streak (video)

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Struggling, short-handed Sporting KC needed a star show to kickstart its summer, and Johnny Russell was ready to go.

Maybe the 29-year-old Scotsman was feeding off the buzz of his old club Derby County preparing for the Championship Playoff Final, but Russell scored thrice as Sporting took care of Seattle 3-2 in Washington on Sunday.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

The right winger scored his fifth, sixth, and seventh goals of the MLS season as Sporting won its first match since March 30.

Russell scored 35 goals with 34 assists in 205 matches with the Rams, but has destroyed that mark with KC. He now has 19 and 16 in 55.

Seattle loses ground on LAFC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, while KC is now within four points of the playoff places.

 

 

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

[ MORE: Kante to miss Europa League final ]

Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.