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FIFA will only allow natural grass fields at 2023 Women’s WC

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FIFA will only allow natural grass fields at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The stipulation is contained in requirements sent to bidding nations and follows controversy over the use of artificial turf at the 2015 tournament in Canada.

Some players launched a gender discrimination case -which was later withdrawn – over FIFA’s use of turf four years ago because men’s World Cup games have always been on grass. They claimed the artificial surface is less forgiving than grass and impacts the game because of concerns over injury. They also claimed balls travel and bounce differently on artificial turf. FIFA said it wanted the same surface in every stadium.

This year’s 24-team tournament in France will be played on grass in nine venues. FIFA has made it clear artificial surfaces won’t be acceptable in 2023, either. What is permitted is the hybrid system used at many leading stadiums where millions of synthetic grass fibers are woven in between and beneath the natural grass.

“The pitch shall feature a natural grass playing surface,” FIFA’s bidding requirements state. “Hybrid-grass systems are considered natural grass according to FIFA’s requirements and hybrid reinforcement should be considered for stadium pitches.”

FIFA also is asking bidders to ensure that each training ground has at least one grass field.

There is record interest in hosting the 2023 tournament, with nine countries having expressed their intent to bid.

The most intriguing bid is by South Korea, which wants to combine with North Korea. But FIFA now includes an evaluation on human rights and worker conditions when assessing Women’s World Cup bidders, just like the new requirements for prospective hosts of the men’s tournament. That could prove problematic for North Korea, which would also have to provide visas in a “non-discriminatory manner” while currently being one of the most closed countries in the world.

From Asia, there also is interest in hosting from Australia and Japan. There are three potential bidders from South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia. New Zealand and South Africa are also pursuing becoming candidates ahead of the April 16 deadline to register a bid. FIFA set an Oct. 4 deadline to submit bid books.

The 37-member FIFA Council will pick the host in March next year after inspectors produce bid evaluation reports.

The bidding document also states that the opening game and final must be played in venues with at least 55,000 seats. For other games up to the quarterfinals, 20,000 seats are required. The semifinals must be played in 35,000-capacity venues.

In the technical evaluation, five aspects of infrastructure will be given grades between zero and five: stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, the international broadcast center site and other competition-related sites. There’s also a score on commercial matters, including revenue and costs projections.

“The scores received may have a bearing on whether or not the bid is eligible for consideration by, or presentation to, the FIFA Council,” the bidding documents state. “FIFA reserves the right to deem the bid ineligible on the basis that a bid does not achieve the minimum scores” of 2.0 for the overall mark, or stadiums, accommodation and facilities for teams and referees.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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After another busy midweek, the latest batch of Premier League player Power Rankings are here.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Wolves, Watford and Everton dominate our list, as those teams are in fine form right now.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
  2. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Up 4
  3. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Up 8
  4. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 8
  5. Idrissa Gueye (Everton) – New entry
  6. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 4
  7. Richarlison (Everton) – New entry
  8. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – Down 5
  9. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – New entry
  10. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 2
  11. Ayoze Perez (Newcastle) – New entry
  12. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – New entry
  13. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  14. Chris Wood (Burnley) – Down 4
  15. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – New entry
  16. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 1
  17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 10
  18. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry
  19. Ben Foster (Watford) – New entry
  20. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Down 11

Real Madrid confident of signing Pogba, Hazard

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Two of the Premier League’s biggest stars could be heading out this summer, with Real Madrid increasingly confident of signing both Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba.

[ MORE: Has Pogba delivered at United?

With Chelsea star Hazard only having one year left on his contract, it seems he is far more likely to leave, but Pogba’s recent displays and comments after Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid have certainly set tongues wagging about his future.

Our partners at Sky Sports are reporting that Real are confident that both Pogba and Hazard will arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It has been reported that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has cancelled a meeting between United and Pogba about signing a new contract (Pogba has two years left on his current deal) and is keen for his client to head to Real this summer.

Asked about the recent speculation regarding Pogba ahead of United’s clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reaffirmed his belief that Pogba will remain at United.

But Solskjaer doesn’t seem as sure as he was a few weeks ago when talking about this topic…

“You can’t guarantee anything in football but yes I think Paul is going to be here,” Solskjaer said. “I can assure you he is now very determined to succeed at Man United. I would say yes I can guarantee, but in life you can never. He will be as far as I can answer.”

Which player would be the bigger loss for their respective club?

Hazard, no question. He has scored 16 goals and added 13 assists this season in the Premier League, meaning he has had a hand in just under 50 percent of Chelsea’s goals. With a transfer ban hanging over Chelsea, they won’t be able to replace him either, meaning more pressure will be placed on the likes of newcomer Christian Pulisic and youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to deliver.

The Belgian star has spent the past seven seasons at Chelsea and many of their fans, although reluctant, will accept it if he tells the club he wants to leave this summer.

As for Pogba at United, even though he’s scored 13 goals in his best-ever return in a PL season and was the only non-Liverpool and Man City player named to the PFA Team of the Year on Thursday, it is tough to say United would be totally lost without him.

If United do want to cash in on Pogba, the time is now. With two years left on his contract, they could probably recoup a large chunk of the $120 million they paid Juventus to sign the midfielder in 2016. Pogba’s influence in the dressing room is huge, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard close friends, and the way his dip in form has coincided with United losing seven of their last nine outings under Solskjaer is worrying.

With Zidane undertaking a huge rebuild of Real’s squad which failed so miserably in all competitions this season, it would be a huge shock if at least one of Pogba or Hazard aren’t lining up at the Bernabeu next season. Selling the likes of Gareth Bale could enable Real to spend big, while reports of Neymar also heading to the Spanish capital also continue. In the prime of their careers, Hazard and Pogba seem like prime targets for Zizou to kickstart his rebuild this summer.

Emiliano Sala’s father dies three months after plane crash

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The father of Emiliano Sala, Horacio, has died suddenly in Argentina.

It has been reported that Horacio, 58, suffered a heart attack and died before paramedics arrived at the Sala family home in Progreso, Argentina.

The mayor of Progreso, Julio Muller, confirmed to radio station La Red that Horacio Sala had passed away and that a ‘heart issue’ was the cause.

“The partner of Horacio called me at five in the morning. The doctors were already there. When he left his home, he had already died,” Muller said. “He could never get over Emi’s death.”

This terrible news for the Sala family comes just over three months since Emiliano tragically died in a plane crash in the English Channel. The Argentine striker was flying back from Nantes to his new home of Cardiff, just two days after completing a club-record $19 million transfer to the Premier League side.

An investigation into why the small aircraft flying Sala crashed continues, as his body has been recovered from the English Channel but pilot David Ibbotson, the only other person on board, has never been found.

Cardiff City and Nantes are currently in discussions with legal teams and FIFA over the payment of the transfer fee and other funds that were due to Sala, and now his family, after his big move to the PL in January.

Clubs push for promotion-relegation in European competitions

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LONDON (AP) The head of the European Club Association says the existing Champions League format should be overhauled to introduce promotion and relegation.

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, who runs Juventus, wrote in a letter to the organization’s 232 clubs that “European matches with higher sporting quality and a more competitive environment at all levels” are desired.

That points to more games between elite clubs in a formatted Champions League after 2024 rather than less attractive games that can feature in the group stage.

Agnelli wrote “a pyramidal Pan European League System with continuity and opportunity to grow from within enhancement of mobility and dynamism across the system through carefully applied promotion and relegation.”

While stressing that entry to competitions should be on “sporting meritocracy, not historical privilege,” Agnelli says European competitions should be “open to all – keeping the dream alive.”

Agnelli has told his members to boycott a meeting being staged by the European Leagues group in Madrid on May 6-7.

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