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CONCACAF refuses to sanction Canadian team in USL

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The best part of soccer is definitely the politics, amirite?

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to avoid the CONCACAF palace intrigue inside of Wednesday’s news out of Ottawa, where CONCACAF has decided not to sanction the Ottawa Fury for 2019 play in the USL.

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As a refresher, there are Canadian professional teams in three separate leagues right now. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, and Toronto FC are in Major League Soccer, seven teams are slated to kick off the Canadian Premier League (CPL) in 2019, and the Ottawa Fury participate in the United Soccer League.

Or do they?

CONCACAF has informed the Fury that it will not be sanctioned for play in the USL this season, with the new CPL billed as a Tier 1 league that takes away the “exceptional circumstance” that allows Ottawa to participate in another nation’s league (the USL). Ottawa has played in the USL in 2017 and 2018 after playing its first three seasons in the on-hiatus NASL.

The main controversies from this ruling are serious concerns for both the CPL, USL, CONCACAF, FIFA, and the many staffers and players who work for the Ottawa Fury:

  1. In a press release regarding the decision, Ottawa pointed out that CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani is “the former president of Canada Soccer, where he was the chief promoter of the new Canadian Premier League (CPL) that will start play in 2019.”
  2. Per The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, “The USL is in the final stages of scheduling for the 2019 season. In addition, Ottawa has sold more than 1,500 tickets in the midst of its renewal campaign, and has 12 players under contract, with several other deals pending according to (Ottawa CEO Mark) Goudie.”

So, yeah, not a great look. The Montagliani point alone scuttles the logical floor of CONCACAF’s argument.

Ottawa’s decision to stay in the USL in lieu of joining the upstart CPL — a league we must say is looking very promising — came after plenty of negotiation. In September, CPL commissioner David Clanachan said the other clubs were willing to let Ottawa operate for the 2019 season under the same parameters that governed their planned USL campaign.

As the Ottawa press release states, however, there was neither a protest from the Canadian Soccer Association nor the United States Soccer Federation, but this decision came from above: CONCACAF.

That’s tricky, especially since three Canadian teams play in Major League Soccer, and there has been talk that Liga MX teams could join with it to make a North American super league (though such a league could exist while its teams participate in domestic leagues, and goodness knows it couldn’t be called the NASL).

And what about Toronto FC II playing in USL League One, as well as several amateur teams in the newly-rebranded USL League Two (formerly the PDL).

Cans and cans of worms, potentially, yes?

It seems likely that this move isn’t about this season, and that the Fury will be strong-armed into joining the CPL for the 2020 season while being allowed to participate in the USL in 2019.

And let’s face it: As unjust as this ruling seems to be, the U.S. and Canada are among the only higher level leagues in the world where teams cross borders to play.

The biggest exceptions are Monaco playing in France’s Ligue 1; Cardiff City, Swansea City, and Newport County play in the Football League. That likely saves the MLS teams, at least until the CPL grows into newer, pricier boots. And can’t teams like the Fury make an argument about Welsh side Newport playing in England’s fourth tier (maybe the argument is tough to make without an open, promotion and relegation system).

North American soccer: Growing sport, growing leagues, just as much confusion.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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‘Pulisic injury news’ is probably trending worldwide at this point, and Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has an injury update after he damaged his right hamstring in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Pulisic, 21, scored a superb goal early on and was arguably the man of the match even though he pulled up abruptly in the 46th minute when sprinting free (once again) of the Arsenal attack and then hitting a shot wide.

After being helped off the pitch while clearly in pain, Pulisic was seen hanging around the tunnel area after the FA Cup final and was at least walking on his own.

Posting a message on Instagram following the final, here’s what Pulisic had to say:

“Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time,” Pulisic said.

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The fact Pulisic went off injured early in the second half of the FA Cup final severely hampered Chelsea and gave Arsenal the impetus to go on and win the final at Wembley. He has become that important to Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard previously confirmed that Pulisic would not be fit enough to play at Bayern Munich on Saturday in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg (Chelsea trail 3-0 from the first leg) and would have a scan to assess the damage.

Pulisic’s 2019-20 season is now done and both Chelsea and USMNT fans will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update as hamstring injuries can be a nasty thing and reoccur easily.

The USMNT star had a few of them at Borussia Dortmund and given his incredible pace it is clear he will be more susceptible to hamstring and upper leg injuries.

Previously Lampard revealed that Pulisic had been working hard with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coaches in recent months to build up his strength in order to adapt to the Premier League. We’ve certainly seen the results of that work in recent week as he took the Premier League by storm during the restart.

This latest update from Pulisic seems to be very good news as many had feared a lengthy injury layoff for the USMNT star but it seems like he may be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season for Chelsea.

Willian, Chelsea fail to agree new contract terms; Arsenal in talks

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Willian and Chelsea have failed to agree to terms on a new contract and the Brazilian winger is now in talks with Arsenal over a free transfer.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Willian has rejected a two-year contract offer from Chelsea as he wants a longer deal, as Sky Sports in Italy have more details on the developing situation.

Sky Sport contributor Fabrizio Romano states that Willian’s representatives are now in talks with Arsenal over a contract, while there hasn’t been any contact from Barcelona so far.

Willian, 31, has been a regular for Chelsea this season and Frank Lampard is keen to keep the Brazilian star as his experience will help the younger players develop at Chelsea.

After suffering a small injury, Willian didn’t feature in Chelsea’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal over the weekend and Lampard had the following to say about his future.

“It’s his decision so I haven’t got that answer,” Lampard said. “He’s been a great servant for Chelsea and he’s been brilliant for me this season with his input and work ethic but if he decides to move on then we obviously will move on as well. I know the situation from the club’s end so it’s his choice and I respect that.”

It appears that Willian will move on this summer as winger Pedro is also moving on a free transfer to AS Roma, although he did look to severely injure his shoulder in his last-ever appearance for Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

With Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount around, Chelsea have plenty of options out wide and Timo Werner, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham give them plenty of options centrally with Kai Havertz also potentially arriving this summer.

As for a potential move to Arsenal, this makes perfect sense.

The Gunners have a small transfer budget this summer and Willian gets to stay in London as well as add extra quality to the Arsenal attack. His arrival may mean one of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave, though, as his wages will not be cheap. That said, if Willian is available on a free, plenty of clubs would love to have him. He is consistent, professional and delivers a steady stream of goals, assist and direct wing play.

Report: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United
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Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is moving on as the Red Devils are said to be in talks with Borussia Dortmund over the talented winger.

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According to numerous reports Dortmund still want $140 million for Sancho, 20, but are now willing to accept a smaller initial payment and larger instalments for the England international and want a deal done before Aug. 10.

Our partners in the UK at Sky Sports have some more details on the developing situation:

“Discussions between Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United are ongoing over the structure of the transfer fee for Jadon Sancho as the Bundesliga club appear open to accepting less money up front as part of the deal. Dortmund have not moved from their €120m (£108m) valuation of the England international, but seem to be open to accepting less money up front.

“Ideally, the Bundesliga side would want an initial €100m (£90m) to fund a replacement for the 20-year-old – though it is very unlikely they would spend that amount of money on a new signing, hence the softening of the stance on Sancho’s initial fee.”

The report from Sky goes on to state that Dortmund could sign Kingsley Coman on loan from Bayern Munich in order to replace Sancho. That would be a pretty good deal, all things considered, for Dortmund.

They have Gio Reyna, Erling Haaland, Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard in attacking areas and have talented young midfielder Jude Bellingham in midfield. As good as Sancho is — and he was brilliant for Dortmund in 2019-20 with 17 goals and 17 assists on 32 Bundesliga games — selling him for close to $140 million in the current market is good business.

Manchester United now know they will be in the Champions League next season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be rewarded for a third-place finish by being handed one of the top attacking players in the world. Sancho will be a menace out wide with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as United’s other forward options and Paul Pogba and the brilliant Bruno Fernandes creating just behind them.

After months of speculation, Jadon Sancho to Manchester United looks like it will actually happen.

FIFA: Infantino should remain president during probe

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LONDON (AP) Gianni Infantino can remain FIFA president and should not be forced from power while under criminal investigation, world football’s governing body told The Associated Press on Saturday.

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A Swiss special prosecutor opened a criminal case into Infantino’s conduct on Thursday over his meetings with the country’s attorney general who has been leading a sprawling investigation into football corruption.

“There is nothing preventing the president from performing his duties,” FIFA said in a statement to the AP. “He will continue to fully assume his functions within FIFA.”

The FIFA ethics committee faced calls to suspend Infantino from his predecessor, Sepp Blatter, who was toppled in disgrace in 2015 and banned from world football until 2021.

“The FIFA president is subject to a criminal investigation by the Swiss judicial authorities,” FIFA said, “but he has not been charged nor is he guilty of anything. … FIFA and its President will continue to cooperate fully with the judicial authorities in Switzerland until these investigations are concluded.”

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber has offered to resign over the case that centers on three meetings he had with Infantino in recent years – including one that he hadn’t disclosed and claimed no memory of.

“FIFA is convinced that at the end of the current investigations it will be confirmed that the FIFA president didn’t do anything wrong by performing his fiduciary duties and meeting the attorney general of Switzerland,” FIFA said.

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