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FIFA scraps 48-team expansion for 2022 World Cup

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FIFA has confirmed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will remain a 32-team tournament, abandoning plans to expand the event to 48 teams.

The world football governing body made certain to cite that Qatar’s implausibility to host such an expanded tournament as the sole reason for the decision, essentially confirming that the 2026 World Cup – joint hosted throughout North America – will remain expanded as confirmed back in January of 2017.

FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighboring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” FIFA said in a statement. “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”

Qatar has been criticized for its lack of infrastructure and relative inability to host a tournament of the World Cup’s magnitude, and the FIFA statement hinted that nearby options in the Persian Gulf were severely limited. Along with the country’s own limitations, there is political strife between Qatar and many of its immediate neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, making a joint expanded effort nearly impossible.

“A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June,” FIFA said. “It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June.”

FIFA clearly made certain to cite Qatar’s inability to handle such an expansion as the sole reason for the status quo, not a blanket desire to keep the tournament at 32 teams permanently. FIFA has come under fire after announcing the expansion of the 2026 games, with widespread critics claiming the move would water down not only the tournament itself but also qualification, lessening the amount of high-leverage games both at the event itself and between tournaments in qualifying. The governing body had looked to speed up expansion for 2022, but today’s news ended that idea.

Raiola transfer ban extended worldwide by FIFA

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According to reports across Europe, including Sky Sports, superagent Mino Raiola has seen his transfer ban extend worldwide by FIFA’s disciplinary committee.

News of Raiola’s initial suspension came through on Thursday, with the Italian FA banning the agent from performing his representative duties for three months, a suspension that only took effect within the Italian federation. However, the reports on Friday state that the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, Ghanan judge Anin Yeboah, has taken charge of the case and extended it to apply worldwide. This means Raiola is effectively banned from performing any duties as an agent for the duration of the suspension.

It is still unclear what the reason for the suspension is, as neither the Italian FA nor FIFA have officially stated the reason for the disciplinary action. However, Gazzetta dello Sport reported Thursday that the suspension has to do with the 2015 transfer of Gianluca Scamacca from Roma’s youth system to PSV. Scamacca, now 20 years old, was just 16 at the time, and the transfer reportedly angered Roma. The report did not explain what rule Raiola may have violated during the proceedings of that transfer.

The exact start and end dates of the suspension are not known, but theoretically, if it were to take effect yesterday, that would mean Raiola could resume duties on August 9, exactly one day after the close of the summer transfer window in England.

The ban could have a significant affect on the transfer market this summer, with Raiola representing a number of high-profile players who are the subject of heavy transfer speculation. The most notable two Raiola clients are Paul Pogba and Matthijs de Ligt, with Pogba reportedly unhappy at Manchester United and de Ligt a highly sought-after young defender set to play in the Champions League final with Ajax in a few weeks. Raiola will likely have coworkers and colleagues who could perform the duties he would otherwise complete during a normal, uninterrupted transfer window, but it could leave Raiola clients in a tricky situation if they are unable to communicate with their agent normally.

Raiola said Thursday that he would challenge the suspension legally, calling it “a sentence dominated by political willing, without taking into the right consideration the reason of law.”

Chelsea turn to CAS after losing FIFA transfer ban appeal

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Chelsea have lost their appeal with FIFA after being handed a ban on signing first-team players.

[ MORE: Pulisic back to his best?

The Premier League side were banned from signing new players for the next two transfer windows by world soccer’s governing body, after a lengthy investigation saw FIFA charge them with breaking rules regarding the signing of foreign players under the age of 18.

That means Chelsea will not be able to sign any new players until the summer of 2020.  FIFA have agreed to allow Chelsea to continue to sign players under the age of 16 from the UK, which is a small victory for the Blues.

However, the west London club said they are “disappointed” and will now launch an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to try and get the ban overturned.

“The Club notes that the FIFA Appeal Committee has decided to partially uphold the appeal lodged by Chelsea FC against the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. However, the Club is very disappointed that the transfer ban of two consecutive registration periods was not overturned. Chelsea FC categorically refutes the findings of the FIFA Appeal Committee. It acted in accordance with the relevant regulations and will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”

So, Chelsea will take this case to CAS and that is their last chance of overturning this decision.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side have achieved their goal of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for next season, but the Italian coach knows it will be tough to kick on and challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the Premier League title without reinforcements over the summer, especially if Eden Hazard leaves as expected.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic will be the only new arrival this summer after his January move to Stamford Bridge which saw him loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign.

But don’t get your violins out for Chelsea. They have a staggering number of players out on loan, and have stockpiled young talent for years. Next season is the perfect time to use the likes of Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kurt Zouma, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount to bolster their squad.

In the grand scheme of things, a two window transfer ban isn’t ideal for Chelsea, but even if Hazard leaves this summer they could cope and finish in the top four again in 2019-20.

FIFA adds new awards categories to provide gender parity

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA is introducing gender parity for its awards by adding a women’s goalkeeper category and a female team of the year.

The announcement on Monday ensures men and women will be in line for accolades in the same categories at the FIFA Best ceremony in Milan on Sept. 23.

FIFA Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban says “FIFA is certain that France will host a groundbreaking edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, so I cannot think of a better moment to introduce these new awards. It is yet another step in the right direction to raise the profile of women’s football.”

There were already both men’s and women’s players and coaches of the year awards.

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

See who made Pulisic’s FIFA Ultimate Team

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When Christian Pulisic plays FIFA 19, he plays with a lot of the same players the rest of the world does, such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But there’s one exception, and it’s a familiar face to all U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

Watch the video to see: