USMNT, United Bid receive major lift with 2026 World Cup approval

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Hosting a World Cup is a spectacle unlike any other, and in two cycles, the world’s biggest competition will return to North America following Wednesday’s vote.

[ MORE: Spain fires Lopetegul two days before first WC match ]

With the decision to hand the United Bid — comprised of the Canada, Mexico and United States football federations — the rights to the 2026 edition of the World Cup, it gives those in the western quadrant of the world something significant to look forward to for the future.

Mexico will once again enjoy itself this summer, as the 2018 tournament prepares to kick off on Thursday, but there has been a bitter taste in many Americans’ mouths since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s failure in the build up to Russia.

By no means does the award of 2026 take away that grief, nor should it, but what the positive vote does offer the U.S. and its North American mates is an exciting beginning to a new era.

And it’s one that the three CONCACAF nations can say they historically took part in.

2026 ushers in the start of the 48-team World Cup, which gives teams from North America an enhanced opportunity of qualifying for the competition.

Instead of three automatic places in the tournament, six will be given by that time. Meanwhile, it is expected that another spot will be up for grabs in the form of a playoff.

While the U.S. and Mexico have become World Cup mainstays throughout the tournament’s past, this is particularly pertinent for Canada — who has appeared in just one World Cup (1986).

For years, North America has looked at avenues to grow its game, and while some may argue that a 48-team competition will dilute the World Cup field, for CONCACAF and the rest of the World Cup it opens up a brand-new opportunity for teams that have previously been left at the alter.

From an American perspective, it’s selfish but after the struggles in the lead up to 2018 it’s nice knowing that the USMNT will be guaranteed a spot in its own tournament.

Joking aside though, the U.S. has a track record of putting on quality events, whether that be the 1994 World Cup, the Olympic Games and beyond.

Not to mention the 2026 World Cup will coincide with the 250-year anniversary of the U.S.’ independence.

As nice as it is to travel and experience new countries, having the tournament come to our own backyard is a chance that simply cannot be missed, especially considering it will be held in three separate countries for the first time in the history of the World Cup.

The wounds of 2018 may still sting for the U.S., but for today at least, the Yanks, El Tri and The Canucks have won in the biggest way possible.

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

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

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia