Football Federation American Samoa

American Samoa’s World Cup qualifying return a family affair

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) The return of the American Samoa women’s team to the World Cup qualifying competition for the first time in 20 years has been both a national and a family celebration.

The team is competing with three others at the Oceania Women’s Nations Cup in Fiji, the first stage of a qualifying process which will eventually involve all 11 Oceania member nations and will find the confederation’s representative at next year’s women’s soccer World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

American Samoa’s two-decade absence from World Cup competition and 11-year absence from Oceania tournaments is due in large part to its struggle to field a competitive team in a nation with a population of only 55,000.

The team’s return is largely due to the efforts of Seattle-based coach Larry Mana’o, who scouted a number of players living in the United States who are eligible to play for the Pacific Island nation.

Ten of Mana’o’s squad of 18 players are based in the United States, but his roster also includes three of his daughters and a niece, making the team’s participation in the Nations Cup a family affair.Sisters Alma, Ava and Severina Mana’o are joined in the current American Samoa squad by cousin Haleigh Mana’o.

Larry Mana’o enjoys the rare distinction of having coached both male and female teams in World Cup qualifying competitions. The national men’s team had a 31-0 loss to Australia in World Cup qualifying in 2002 – an unenviable world record. A decade later, the country achieved its first-ever international victory.

Of the U.S.-based players in his current squad, two – Ashley Hall and Louis Mavaega – were born in American Samoa. Two of Mana’o’s daughters Alam and Ava – from Seattle – are the only U.S.-based players who have previously represented American Samoa.

“This is a different look for our team. We have more different players from different places,” Mana’o said. “I am privileged and honored to have my three daughters and a niece as part of this team here in Fiji and as a coach I am so happy to have them.

“This makes me feel extra special about this campaign as we all get together as a family for the country.”

American Samoa lost 1-0 to Vanuatu and 2-0 to the Solomon Islands in its first two matches in Fiji, but Mana’o said the experience of playing in a qualifying tournament would be positive for the team.

“A lot of these kids are younger than the teams we’ve taken in the past for our senior women so it will be a positive experience regardless of what happens,” he said.

Of the Mana’o women Alma, 24, and Ava, 22, are veterans by the team’s standards while Severina, 17, and Haleigh, 21, are relative newcomers. The oldest member of the team is 27, the youngest 14.

“Football is in our blood. The whole family plays and that is how I got into football,” Alma Mana’o said. “We all stay in different parts of the world and today we are together because of football and I would say it is true that football brings everyone together.”

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Lamar Hunt’s legacy looms large over Garber’s HOF induction

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FRISCO, Texas (AP) Back in 1999, NFL team owners Lamar Hunt and Robert Kraft approached Don Garber and asked if he might be interested in serving as commissioner of Major League Soccer.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

The domestic soccer league was in trouble in just its fourth year, and at the time Garber was head of NFL International.

Garber mulled the proposition before ultimately taking the job. Now nearing two decades at the MLS helm, Garber is guiding an ever-expanding league that is set to field 26 teams by 2020.

Garber will be enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas, this weekend. Originally selected for the honor in 2016, Garber put off his addition until now for a simple reason.

Lamar Hunt.

“Probably more important than just his role in bringing me here, Lamar is really one of the true legends in the sports industry. He had such grace and such humility, and such a passion for the sports industry, but really a deep passion for the sport of soccer,” Garber said. “As a young man in my early days at MLS, I was in such awe everything that he was – not just what he accomplished, but how he thought about life, and how he thought about the commitment needed to make the game permanent and indelible in this country.”

[ MORE: USMNT’s Sargent moved to Werder Bremen first team ]

The story goes that Hunt was inspired to promote soccer in the United States after attending the World Cup in 1966. He founded the North American Soccer League in 1967. He was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to the United States in 1994. And he was a founding investor in MLS.

Hunt, who owned the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew, passed away in 2006. One of his last big projects was to open Toyota Stadium. So it was in his memory that his family partnered with U.S. Soccer, the city and Frisco Independent School District and announced plans in 2015 for a new National Soccer Hall of Fame to be built at the stadium.

Garber put off his induction so he could be enshrined at the new Hall of Fame, which also allows him to further honor Hunt.

“When I was told that I was going to be inducted, at that point I knew that the Hall was being built and I just thought it would be a really special opportunity for me, and really, Major League Soccer, to have a close MLS connection with the Hall,” Garber said. “And it would give me an opportunity to honor the memory of Lamar and to really make a strong statement on how indebted I am and how MLS is to the Hunt family overall.”

The Hall of Fame was established in 1979 and for a time was located in Oneonta, New York. It was closed in 2010, but inductions continued. The collection was stored in North Carolina.

“We just thought it would be a fitting way to honor everything he did for the sport, while also giving the sport of soccer and the Hall of Fame, that celebrates all the great players, a really outstanding home,” eldest son Clark Hunt said.

Garber tells the story of seeing Hunt at the 2002 World Cup match between the United States and Portugal. Hunt was seated in the stands and following the U.S. upset victory, Garber glanced over and saw Hunt had a tear in his eye.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

“When we were both leaving the stadium I said, `Boy, Lamar, you looked quite emotional.’ And he said it was one of the great sporting experiences of his life. And this was a guy who won the Super Bowl,” Garber said.

Garber asked Clark Hunt to introduce him at the induction ceremony Saturday.

“Our family does have a 30-year relationship with Don, going back to his time with the NFL,” Clark Hunt said. “He and my dad were very close, and my dad played a critical role in luring him from the NFL over to Major League Soccer, where he became commissioner. And I know he’s very excited that the Hall is going to be associated with one of the stadiums and teams my father was involved in.”

In addition to his role as commissioner, Garber is also CEO of Soccer United Marketing, the exclusive marketing partner of U.S. Soccer, and a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors.

Joining him in the Hall of Fame this year is a trio of former U.S. national team players, Tiffeny Milbrett, Brad Friedel and Cindy Parlow Cone, as well as former U.S. Soccer President Bob Contiguglia. Veteran broadcaster JP Dellacamera is the 2018 Colin Jose media award recipient.

The new Hall opens to the public on Nov. 2.

Dyche: Hart has “nothing to prove” in return to Man City

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Anytime a player faces his former club, there exists a certain edge and desire within the player to get one over on his former team — especially when said player was driven out of the club the way Joe Hart was done at Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

Players and managers can — and typically do — say there’s no animosity and that they only have fond memories of those earlier days of their career, but, assuming that top-level athletes are indeed still humans, rarely should they be believed. Especially when that player is Joe Hart.

Alas, ahead of Hart’s clash with Man City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold), Burnley manager Sean Dyche insists that Hart “has no point to prove” and that his first trip back to the Etihad Stadium after 12 years at the club will be just another outing in Hart’s 15-year career — quotes from the BBC:

“He has no point to prove. He just wants to get on with it.”

“I was pretty sure he was still a top-class keeper. There can be different reasons why you play well at some places and not others. Sometimes you just fit naturally. You can sense it.

“For keepers, sometimes what is in front of you helps. He wants a defensive unit he has faith with. I think there is a nice connection here. Possibly at other clubs he didn’t find that connection.

“But a lot of credit goes to him for finding his way again.”

Hart was welcomed back to the Etihad on Thursday, when a small ceremony was held to honor his return and a training field, bearing a mosaic of Hart from his time at the club, was named after him.

Report: Martial rejects “several offers” of new Man Utd contract

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Anthony Martial‘s Manchester United future has been in doubt ever since the summer, when Phillipe Lamboley, the 22-year-old’s agent, announced that his client wanted to leave the club.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

Since that time, Man United reopened negotiations with the French international over a new contract — the key concern of his desire to leave — but a report from French news outlet RMC Sport, the same outlet that was first on the scene when Lamboley began making demands, indicates that those negotiations are not going well.

According to the report, Martial and Co., have rejected “several offers” of a new contract in recent weeks. Martial’s current contract expires at the end of this season, though the club has an option to extend the pact an additional year.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

While the expectation remains that a new contract will be agreed, United have just two and a half months before clubs from outside of England can discuss pre-contract terms with Martial as an impending free agent. At that point, United would undoubtedly exercise their option for the 2019-20 season, but that’s a situation they’d certainly like to avoid — for the sake of the player’s happiness and willingness to sign a long-term contract after months of failed negotiations.

Martial has scored 38 goals (in 144 appearances) during his three-plus seasons at the club. Nearly half of his goal haul — 17 — came in his debut season of 2015-16.

Salah, Van Dijk updates following injuries on int’l duty

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Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk are expected to be available for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

The Egyptian and the Dutchman each suffered an injury during the most recent international break, but both returned to full training on Wednesday and Thursday. Jurgen Klopp is expected to name both his star winger and star center back in the starting lineup at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Salah suffered an undisclosed muscular injury to his leg during Egypt’s 4-1 victory over Swaziland last Friday and missed altogether the Pharaohs’ following game three days later.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

Van Dijk carried a pre-existing rib injury into the international break, thus the 27-year-old was held out of the Netherlands’ friendly with Belgium on Tuesday. He played all 90 minutes, and scored a goal, in the Oranje‘s 3-0 dismantling of Germany on Saturday.

The latest updates on Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and James Milner, however, aren’t so positive. Mane (thumb) and Milner (hamstring) aren’t expected to travel for Saturday’s fixture, while Keita (thigh) could be out for two weeks.