American Samoa

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.”

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FIFA will not block US territories from 2026 World Cup vote

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FIFA will not block U.S.-governed territories from voting in the 2026 World Cup contest where a United States-led bid is taking on Morocco.

The bidding nations – the U.S. along with partners Canada and Mexico, as well as Morocco – are excluded from the June 13 vote by more than 200 federations at the FIFA Congress.

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In a letter to FIFA, Morocco raised questions over whether American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands would have a conflict in the vote. Although governed by the U.S., the quartet is considered to be four separate football nations by FIFA so each has a vote.

FIFA bidding regulations puts the onus on congress delegates to declare if they feel the need to withdraw from participating in the vote.

“FIFA’s member associations are entitled to participate and vote in the FIFA Congress,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press, pointing to the rules. “Regarding potential conflicts of interest in the context of the voting procedure for the election of the host of the 2026 FIFA World Cup … at the time of writing, no member association has notified FIFA about its intention not to perform their duties in connection with the bidding procedure.”

FIFA’s ruling executive committee chose the World Cup sites from 1986-2022, but now the decision has been opened up to the membership with each vote to be made public.

Morocco has repeatedly protested about the fairness of the process and the role of FIFA President Gianni Infantino as the north African nation tries to avoid a fifth unsuccessful bid.

Morocco complained that FIFA had imposed burdensome demands for technical criteria that the bids will be scored on. FIFA, which has defended the integrity of the contest, last month sent a task force to inspect both bids. The FIFA Council could block a bid that doesn’t meet minimum requirements over infrastructure, costs and revenue projections from the vote in Moscow.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup