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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

Orlando City raised over $300,000 in friendly for Puerto Rico hurricane relief

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It isn’t always the score at the end of the match that matters, and Orlando City proved that with its recent friendly to benefit those affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico.

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Orlando City faced off with the Puerto Rico national team on Nov. 4, which the Lions won 6-1, but it was the club’s humanitarian efforts that proved to be the real story from the event.

The club announced that it raised $327,530 from the match, with all proceeds from the event going directly to the Puerto Rican people.

“I’m very proud of what our Club and our partners were able to accomplish,” Orlando City SC owner Flavio Augusto da Silva said in a team statement. “What we did meant more than just raising funds for Puerto Rico. Once again, we came together as a community to rally behind something bigger than us all.”

Three things we learned from the USMNT win over Puerto Rico

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For a “transition roster”, this wasn’t too bad.

Despite some sloppy moments on a rough pitch in Bayamon, an inexperienced USMNT defeated Puerto Rico 3-1 in the first ever meeting between the two teams.

[ MORE: Match recapWatch Wood’s goal ]

The side will have an injection of talent and first-choice players for this week’s Copa America Centenario preparation matches against Bolivia and Ecuador, and those will deserve some real inspection. But for today, three things will do.

Bobby Wood up to plenty of good

It’s been so long since we saw an in-form club striker bring that confidence to the United States set up. Even if the opponent was Puerto Rico, it was refreshing to watch Bobby Wood put in more than an hour of “Nope. You’re not stopping me” up top.

The new Hamburg forward sounded like a veteran after scoring his fifth international goal, a bullish run through the box complete with a calm finish in the face of chaos.

[ MORE: Klinsmann names Copa America squad | Breaking it down ]

“We’re just looking forward to gradually growing as a team. We’re going to take it step by step and hopefully reach our peak by the Copa.”

If he’s not at his peak already, we’re in for something special.

Good day for debutants

Both Paul Arriola and substitute Fafa Picault made their international debuts, and both did plenty to impress.

Arriola was especially solid. The diminutive Club Tijuana winger worked well with Wood, showed a nose for where the ball was going, and even tapped in a goal to go with his assist.

As for Picault, we only got a limited sample size of the St. Pauli man, but he showed good speed and plenty of unpredictability. Given the opponent and a longer stint, a goal would’ve felt inevitable.


Defense/goalkeeper in fits and starts

Michael Orozco wasn’t an absolute nightmare this go-round, but he didn’t inspire a lot of faith that he could be an answer if Geoff Cameron or John Brooks pick up a knock during next month’s tournament. DeAndre Yedlin had a good turn at right back, and has definitely scooped up confidence from his time at Sunderland. Tim Ream scored a goal, but the Fulham man didn’t have his best days on the outside. Eric Lichaj showed us what we’re missing at left back, but Klinsmann didn’t include either in his Copa roster.

We know Brad Guzan is a pretty good ‘keeper in his own right, and he also has experience playing behind leaky back lines (Cough. Aston Villa. Cough), but he was way off his line on Puerto Rico’s goal. Still, we want to see a strong performance against either Ecuador or Bolivia, because right now there’s not confidence oozing from the big veteran. Tim Howard wasn’t really tested as the No. 2.

Puerto Rico 1-3 USMNT: Arriola scores on debut

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  • Guzan, Howard split halves
  • Lichaj, Green make returns
  • Arriola with goal, assist
  • Bedoya wears the armband

Tim Ream, Paul Arriola and Bobby Wood all scored on a rough pitch in Puerto Rico as the Yanks secured a mostly easy 3-1 win on Sunday in Bayamon.

For Arriola, it was a goal on debut. He also added in assist in the first ever match-up between the national teams.

[ MORE: Watch Wood’s goal ]

The unfamiliarity was clear from the kickoff as the U.S. possessed well but struggled to provide real danger until the 14th minute, when Michael Orozco couldn’t get on the end of Alejandro Bedoya free kick.

The Yanks broke through five minutes later when Alfredo Morales curled a shot on goal and Ream was on the end of a parried rebound.

Wood made it 2-0 in the 34th minute with a hard-nosed, confident dribble that avoided a slide tackle and a tug on the back to push a ball past Matthew Sanchez (Loyola Greyhounds).

Puerto Rico grabbed a goal through Florida International attacker Luis Betancur, who was on the end of the third pass after a poor U.S. giveaway. He hit a left-footed ball over Guzan. Betancur scored nine goals for FIU as a junior.

[ MORE: Klinsmann names Copa America squad | Breaking it down ]

It should’ve been 2-2 when Ream and Alfredo Morales lost track of Joseph Marrero, who hammered Alexis Rivera’s left-footed cross a sliver wide of the far post.

Bedoya helped restore the two-goal advantage when he chipped a pass across the six from the right for Arriola to tap into a yawning net. 3-1.

Manolo Sanchez forced Tim Howard into a diving stop in the 73rd minute, the first real action for the USMNT’s current No. 2 keeper. At the other end, Matthew Sanchez stopped Morales’ hard shot.

Julian Green stung a shot off Matthew Sanchez’s hands in the 77th minute, as the U.S. sought a fourth goal.


USMNT: Guzan (Howard, HT); Yedlin, Brooks (Miazga, HT), Orozco, Ream (Lichaj, 63′); Kitchen (Hyndman, HT), Morales, Williams, Bedoya (Green, 63′); Wood (Picault, 71′), Arriola.

Lineup out as USMNT takes on Puerto Rico: Captain Bedoya (Follow Live)

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Puerto Rico is the opponent for the first USMNT match since March’s World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala, held in Bayamon at Noon ET Saturday.

The United States’ “transition roster” makes up the unit, so several players were not on the Copa America Centenario 40-man roster or the final 23-man list.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT on Twitter ]

This is the first ever match-up between the two sides.

It’s a 4-4-2 for the Yanks, with Nantes’ Alejandro Bedoya wearing the arm band.


Guzan; Yedlin, Orozco, Brooks, Ream; Kitchen, Williams, Bedoya, Morales, Wood, Arriola