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A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Nadal holds off Zverev to reach 4th round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal held back time, for one match at least, when he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 win over German teenager Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open. The 14-time major winner is on a comeback after an extended injury layoff, yet he finished stronger in the 4-hour, 6-minute match on Rod Laver Arena as Zverev tightened up with cramping and nerves. 'I enjoyed a lot this great battle. I was losing the last couple of times in the fifth set and I said to myself, 'today's the day',' said ninth-seeded Nadal, who had lost eight of the previous nine times he'd trailed 2-1 in a best-of-five set match. His 30-year-old legs, conditioned by 236 Grand Slam matches, carried him all the way. 'Well, fighting — and running a lot,' Nadal said, when asked to explain the difference. 'I think you know, everybody knows how good Alexander is — he's the future of our sport and the present, too.' Serena Williams has done it more easily, reaching the fourth round without dropping a set to stay on course in her bid for a record 23rd Grand slam title. Williams beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 and didn't face a break point until she was serving for the match. Dropping serve in that game was her only lapse in a match that then extended just beyond the hour — to 63 minutes to be precise. The six-time Australian Open champion next faces No. 16 Barbora Strycova. 'I don't have anything to prove in this tournament here. Just doing the best I can,' Williams said. 'Obviously I'm here for one reason.' Milos Raonic is here pursuing his first major title, aiming to improve on his runs to the semifinals in Australia and the final at Wimbledon last year. He reached the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 25 Gilles Simon and will next play No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4. Nadal, who had two months off with an injured left wrist at the end of 2016, will get another veteran next after U.S. Open semifinalist Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4. In another gripping five-setter, but on an outside court, wild-card entry Denis Istomin followed his upset win over defending champion Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. No. 8 Dominic Thiem beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against No. 11 David Goffin, who ended Ivo Karlovic's run 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Zverev's creative shot-making gave the 19-year-old German a confident start. He had won his previous three matches against top-10 players, and has been widely touted as a future Grand Slam champion. But Nadal, the champion here in 2009, didn't let him get too far in front. In an exchange of breaks in the fifth set, Nadal broke to open, then dropped his own serve, before breaking Zverev again. Nadal finished with 43 winners and 34 unforced errors, while Zverev — hitting harder and trying more to find the lines — had 58 winners and 74 unforced errors. In early women's matches, Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but had a mid-match fade, needing three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3. 'An amazing fight,' Makarova said of her first win over sixth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 finalist at Melbourne Park. 'I got, to be honest, a bit tight at 4-0 in the second set. But I'm still here.' She'll now take on last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1, in a rematch of their fourth-round encounter here last year. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady. Before this week, the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni hadn't won a match at Melbourne Park since her debut here in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm. The 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist next plays No. 116-ranked Brady, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week. The 21-year-old Brady had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

A tournament without Djokovic to hit home in Australia

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The stark reality of an Australian Open third round without Novak Djokovic — for the first time in 11 years — hits home on Saturday when the remaining players in his half of the draw, Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic among them, attempt to advance to the second week of the tournament. Djokovic was beaten on Thursday in five sets by wild-card entry Denis Istomin, the earliest that the Serbian star has left Melbourne Park in singles since his first appearance here in 2006 when he was beaten by American Paul Goldstein in the first round. 'What Novak did here is just amazing, six victories here, six titles ... so it is not possible to be every time in that situation, no?' Nadal said after his second-round win. 'So then today was probably an accident, that's all. We are athletes. We know when we are going on court we can lose and we can win. It probably was a combination that Denis played a great match and Novak didn't play his best. When this combination happens, then you are in trouble. Everything can happen. And (it) happened.' Istomin, meanwhile, plays on. He's up against 30th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Show Court 2 on Friday. Here's a look at some of the key matchups Saturday: ___ RAFA'S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: Nadal plays 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. The young German was voted the ATP Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and has mostly lived up to the hype, seeded 24th here. 'He is one of the best players in the world, without a doubt ... and one of the next Grand Slam winners,' Nadal said. 'He has a big chance to become the future world No. 1 if he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing.' Nadal has been playing well since his return to the circuit after two lengthy injury spells last year, the 14-time major winner looking almost flawless in his straight sets win over Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. Still, he's expecting to have his hands full with Zverev: 'I know I have a very tough match ... I know I need to play my best if I want to have a chance.' ___ A SERENA BREATHER?: Six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams had two fairly tough matches through the first two rounds, facing Belinda Bencic, a former No. 7-ranked player now sitting at 59, and Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 61 but who Williams beat in the 2015 French Open final. Williams won both matches in straight sets. Her third-round match is against fellow American Nicole Gibbs, who Williams beat in straight sets at Stanford in 2012 in their only previous meeting. Williams said she feels she's better for the experience of having had tough opposition in the first two rounds. 'When I play players like Bencic and Safarova, they force me to play better,' Williams said. 'It forces my game from the very first day to be at a high level. I needed something to start really fast. I'm not going to complain about it.' ___ CONTRASTING STYLES: Third-seeded Milos Raonic plays Gilles Simon on Hisense Arena and the Canadian holds a 3-1 edge in career meetings. Their only Grand Slam match came in the fourth round of the 2014 French Open, when Raonic won in five sets, including 7-5 in the fifth. 'I know a lot about his game. I've watched him play a lot,' Raonic said. 'He's going to be there really trying to get me to play at his speed, his rhythm. Obviously he tries to slow things down, play low. I won't have the opportunity to get too many swings at many shots.' Which means Raonic, with one of the best serves in the game, will try to get points over quickly. 'I've got to serve well and I've got to be aggressive and I've got to take it to him. The last thing I want to do is get into this sort of game of playing long rallies with him.' ___ KONTA vs WOZNIACKI: Last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1 who made it to the final four here in 2011, meet for the first time in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Both have been playing well, Konta coming off a win in the Sydney International last week, and Wozniacki having dropped just seven games in her first two matches at Melbourne Park. 'She had a good last year,' Wozniacki said. 'But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is on the other side.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Silence, mourning since fatal crash turn to hope at Chapeco

MAURICIO SAVARESE, AP Sports Writer   CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — Silence and mourning are slowly being replaced by boisterous fans and hope. As the Chapecoense club rebuilds after the air crash that killed 19 players and nearly all members of the staff and board of directors, so is the town of 200,000. Like many in Brazil, football is the oxygen for everything: gossip, community pride and heated debate. On Saturday, Chapecoense's 20,000-capacity Arena Conda will host the team's first match since the tragedy almost two months ago. Lines outside are filled with fans excited about the club's and the city's restart. Fifty coffins lined the same field in November, where this time Chape's reconstructed team will play Brazilian champion Palmeiras in a friendly match. 'I bet I won't be able to sleep Friday night,' 19-year-old fan Marcelo Ribeiro said as he walked to the stadium. 'Since the accident the city is dead. The festivities were mostly canceled at the end of the year, and all most people are thinking about is the rebirth. I want to see what the rebirth looks like.' At the Hotel Bertaso, where most of Chape's players and coaching staff have traditionally lodged, the first signs of that rebirth are obvious. The second floor, which was home to many of the victims, including coach Caio Junior, is once again full. 'I can't help feeling a lot of hope for the future now,' said receptionist Gelson Mangone, who lost several friends in that crash on an Andean mountain side near Medellin, Colombia, on Nov.28. 'It has been a lot of work to settle all these new signings here, they are also learning their way here,' the receptionist said. 'But it does feel like a brand new start.' New coach Vagner Mancini is one of the hotel's new residents. He said the job makes him 'a better human being, but it's the most challenging to face.' 'We have to build a team, a coaching staff and a club infrastructure in a season in which Chape will be in demand,' Mancini told The Associated Press. 'I understand now that the city was so affected because the club and the city are run like a family,' he added. 'The players we brought are cut from that cloth, but we have to reach a higher level now.' After the crash, Colombian club Atletico Nacional, which was to face Chape in the Copa Sudamericana final in Medellin, awarded the victory to the small Brazilian team. That means that Chape qualified for South America's No. 1 tournament for the first time, the competitive Copa Libertadores. The team will also try to defend its title in the Santa Catarina state championship, try to stay up in Brazil's top-flight competition, and play in a pile of fundraisers, including one against Barcelona. 'We have to assemble a competitive team at the same time we need to hire someone to handle passports, contracts,' Mancini said. 'The club used to handle this well, but like a family run business. Now we are at a different moment.' Chapecoense had almost nothing left after the crash: six players that did not travel on the ill-fated flight, two physiotherapists, one goalkeeping coach, one doctor, one data analyst, one nurse and a few club officials. New chairman and club co-founder Plinio David de Nes Filho, a wealthy local businessman known as Maninho, is leading the charge to bolster club finances. Former players like Nivaldo Constante, who played as a goalkeeper until the tragedy struck, are approaching players that can help. And Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon is working as a kind of ambassador for the club and the city. 'Our weekends were about three things: family, church and Chapecoense,' Buligon said. 'It has been hard to get the city back on track because the wounds are still very open. But we are slowly moving on. On Saturday we will start getting a part of our weekends back.' Not everyone is happy. Rosangela Loureiro, widow of crash victim Cleber Santana, said she is upset because his belongings still have not been returned to the family. 'I feel sadness and rage. No one is doing anything to bring their belongings back. I plead with them to soften our pain and make us get the memories that we will hold dear for the rest of our lives,' she said on Instagram last week. Other widows have complained about damages not yet being paid by the club. Chapecoense directors say they are doing the best they can as they try to rebuild. There are even complaints at the joyous Hotel Bertaso. 'These new players love to make a mess in their rooms,' said a cleaner, who declined to offer her name. 'The other ones were older, more mature and the new ones seem to be more infantile. I hope they are up for the task. The city really needs that now.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Bonds, Clemens making slow gains with changing electorate

NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer The electorate is changing, however, and that could be good news for both. Bonds and Clemens inched past the 50-percent mark for the first time Wednesday, each appearing on about 54 percent of ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. For a fifth straight year, Bonds and Clemens fell short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but their support is slowly climbing. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to the Hall on Wednesday. Bonds and Clemens remain on the outside looking in because of drug suspicions, but they could continue to gain ground as more new voters are welcomed into the process. 'I think, just generationally, people in their 20s and 30s look at this different than people in their 50s and 60s,' said Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, a first-time voter who supported Bonds and Clemens. 'Maybe we're missing something — I'm not one of these people that thinks, like, I'm right and they're wrong. It's just different viewpoints.' A writer can receive a Hall of Fame vote when he or she has been an active member of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, so newcomers are always on the way. In 2015, the Hall of Fame eliminated voters who had been inactive for more than 10 years — a move that further boosted the influence of newer voters. The closest thing to a Hall of Fame exit poll is Ryan Thibodaux's online vote tracker , which has charted over half the ballots from this year's election. Of the 14 first-time voters identified on the site as of Wednesday night, 13 supported Bonds and Clemens. One of those first-time voters was Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, who said he supported Bonds after former Commissioner Bud Selig was elected as part of this class by a veterans committee. Selig presided over the era in which drug suspicion became so rampant. 'The last few years in my Sunday column in The Buffalo News, I refused to use Barry Bonds' name. In my column, it became kind of a trademark. I just referred to him as No. 25,' Harrington said. 'So now people see my article in The Buffalo News — 'Wait a minute, how did you vote for Bonds and Clemens?' I explained in my column a couple weeks ago: To me, I felt, the Bud Selig thing was a tipping point.' Bonds and Clemens are back on the ballot next year, along with newcomers such as Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana and Omar Vizquel. Here are a few more things to watch: PUBLIC BALLOTS The BBWAA voted to release each voter's Hall of Fame choices to the public, starting next year. That change will add transparency to the process, although there are some concerns about groupthink and peer pressure. 'I'm very conflicted about this,' Mellinger said. 'I applaud the reasons that they are public. We are a profession that demands transparency in others, so why shouldn't we have the same here? I get all that. I can't argue against any of that. The part that I'm uncomfortable with is: I hope that people still vote their hearts and their minds and don't change based on, you know, 'I don't want to get ripped on Twitter.'' SABERMETRIC FAVORITES Raines had plenty of support in sabermetric circles. 'You've got these new stats. You've got WAR (wins above replacement). You've got all this stuff,' Raines said. 'Back in the day, when you looked at a Hall of Famer, you looked at 500 home runs, 300 wins and 3,000 hits, and a lot of times if you didn't reach those criteria, it was kind of hard for anyone to kind of look at you as a Hall of Famer. But I think the way the game has changed today, the way they look at the stats and everything, it has changed.' The next beneficiary of modern stats could be Mike Mussina, who achieved 51.8-percent approval this year. Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, but according to Baseball-Reference.com, his career WAR is comparable to that of Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson. LOGJAM Nearly half of this year's 442 voters used the maximum 10 slots on their ballots, and although three people were elected, players like Trevor Hoffman (74.0 percent) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) fell just short, meaning they'll be back to take up votes again next year. With some credible new candidates eligible in 2018, the 10-player limit could come into play for quite a few voters. Lynn Henning of The Detroit News has abstained from voting at all when he's felt there were more than 10 Hall-worthy players. He didn't have that problem this year, but it could happen again. 'The 10-ballot restriction is silly, it's perverse, it's unjust, it's convoluted. It's a complete affront to players who deserve recognition, when they've earned recognition and are otherwise screened out because of some arbitrary adherence to this number 10,' Henning said. 'I think it's the most outlandishly preposterous restriction I've ever been exposed to in the realm of professional voting.' SPECIALISTS One challenge Hall voters now face is evaluating players who had more specialized roles — like designated hitters and closers. 'It's easy to find context for a Vladimir Guerrero or a Mike Mussina because there are tons of outfielders in the Hall of Fame, there are tons of starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame,' said Ryan Fagan of Sporting News. 'Defining the context for a DH or for a relief pitcher, that's more challenging, because there aren't a lot of guys like that in there.' Fagan supported Edgar Martinez, a DH, but did not vote for closers Hoffman, Billy Wagner and Lee Smith. None of those four made it in. All but Smith will be on the ballot again in 2018. ___ Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

LA2024 committee proposes venues for 3 more Olympic sports

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The committee seeking to land the 2024 Summer Olympics for Los Angeles would stage archery at a new football stadium, mountain biking in a regional park and modern pentathlon at a stadium, with all three locations away from the downtown core. LA2024 announced on Tuesday its proposed locations for the three sports in completing a list of existing, planned or temporary venues for the Games. The committee has stressed the city's bid doesn't require any permanent venue construction. Archery would be held in the new football stadium in Inglewood, 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The stadium is currently under construction and set to open in 2019. It will be the home of the NFL's Chargers and Rams. It would also be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, with gymnastics across the street at the Forum. Mountain biking would be hosted at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in suburban San Dimas, 30 miles from downtown. The venue would be upgraded and allow for future World Cup races to be held there. Modern pentathlon would be at StubHub Center in Carson, 17 miles from downtown, with all five of the sport's disciplines held within a single stadium. StubHub is the proposed venue for rugby during the first week of the games, and modern pentathlon would be held the second week. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

6-time champs Djokovic, Williams post Australian Open wins

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The record will show that six-time Australian Open champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic each had straight-set wins. It may seem straight-forward, but it was not routine. Newly-engaged Williams, aiming for an Open-era record 23rd major title, and Djokovic, bidding to become the first man to win seven Australian titles, confronted former top-10 players in the first round at Melbourne Park. And so there was no chance for the No. 2-ranked players, in the recently unaccustomed position at the foot of the draw, to feel their way into the season's first major. Djokovic faced Fernando Verdasco, who beat Rafael Nadal in the first round last year and who had five match points in their last head-to-head encounter — only 10 days earlier. Djokovic held off the Spanish lefthander in a 71-minute, momentum-swinging second set before winning 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Tuesday. The first and third sets were great, he said, but the second was 'a gamble.' 'I'm very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form,' Djokovic said. 'He's a quality player. He's a big match, big-time player.' The 33-year-old Verdasco peaked at No. 7 in the rankings in 2009, not long after he pushed eventual champion Nadal in five sets in one of the best and latest-finishing semifinals ever at the Australian Open. 'From one perspective it was good that I got to have the very tough first-round match, because it made me prepare better and kind of approach the tournament with the right intensity, right from the first point,' Djokovic said. Williams, on the comeback after a stint on the sidelines following a U.S. Open semifinal loss, took a 5-0 lead in the second set against Belinda Bencic. But Bencic has been ranked in the top 10, and was seeded 12th in Melbourne last year. She applied pressure on Williams, who made mistakes on key points — including a double-fault to give Bencic a break point, and another on her first match point — before recovering to win 6-4, 6-3. Williams became engaged to Alexis Ohanian during the holiday break, and the Reddit co-founder was in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. She has been asked repeatedly about her wedding plans since arriving in Australia, but only gave a time frame for that discussion after her opening match. 'February I'll start looking at the bigger picture of my life,' she said. 'Right now, I'm just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about.' Williams made a big statement, though, by walking into her news conference wearing a shirt with the word 'Equality' emblazoned across the front. It was still before midnight Monday in the United States, where the holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was nearly ending. 'It's important to spread the message,' she said. Asked if she was concerned about the future of equality in the United States, Williams declined to comment apart from saying it was 'a concern for just everyone in general.' After improving her record in the first round of majors to 65-1, Williams will play Lucie Safarova, who saved nine match points before beating Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Nadal, also returning from a couple of months on the sidelines following the U.S. Open with an injured left wrist, has already improved on 2016. 'I'm happy to do an interview with you — last year, I didn't have the chance!' Nadal said in his on-court interview after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Florian Mayer. As usual at Melbourne Park, the heat was a factor. The thermostat reached almost 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) on a day when Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic beat Dustin Brown and No. 11 David Goffin beat 19-year-old qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Ivo Karlovic was thankful that it was cooler at night, when the 37-year-old Croat fired 75 aces and held off Horacio Zeballos 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 in a match that set a record for most number of games (84) at the Australian Open in the tiebreak era. No. 6 Gael Monfils, No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 18 Richard Gasquet were among the other seeded players to advance. Heather Watson beat No. 18 Sam Stosur, extending the 2011 U.S. Open champion's drought on home soil. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Johanna Konta, No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova, former top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Elena Vesnina, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and No. 28 Alize Cornet all advanced before third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska finished off her 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win over Tsvetana Pironkova just before midnight. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Young Americans coming of age at Australian Open

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — More than 13 years after Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time an American man triumphed at a Grand Slam, the future of U.S. men's tennis appears bright. The next generation of young players, all aged between 18 and 20, is starting to emerge and showing enough promise at this year's Australian Open to suggest they may be on the cusp of a breakthrough. Seven made the main draw at Melbourne Park and three were still in contention after the first round. br /> Frances Tiafoe, who turns 19 on Friday, defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. They joined 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who won his opener a day earlier to set up a second-round match against Roger Federer. The others failed to advance, but not before serving notice to the tour's old guard. Reilly Opelka, 19, lost a tight five-setter to 11th-seeded David Goffin, while Jared Donaldson, 20, lost to Brazil's Rogerio Dutra Silva after leading two sets to none. Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, both 19, each put up good fights in defeats to veterans Gilles Muller and Gilles Simon, respectively. 'We're all really supportive of each other and happy to see all of us doing so well,' Tiafoe said. 'Hopefully we can keep going and not stop now.' br /> Much has been expected of Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, since he won the Orange Bowl at age 15, the youngest champion in the prestigious 18-and-under tournament's history. Tiafoe just missed out on a career-defining win at last year's U.S. Open, where as a wild card, he led the long-time top-ranked U.S. player, John Isner, by two sets to none before the match slipped away. It was a heartbreaking loss, but one Tiafoe learned from. 'I was like, the next opportunity I'm definitely going to take it,' he said after his first-round win on Tuesday, flashing a wide grin. 'Now, getting through relatively comfortable today means a lot. ... I really feel like I belong now.' He next plays another 19-year-old, his close friend, Alexander Zverev of Germany. Both Opelka and Donaldson, meanwhile, got their own tastes of Grand Slam agony in Melbourne. br /> Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11 meter) former Wimbledon junior champion with a booming serve and whip-like forehand, had two break points to go up 4-2 in the fifth set against Goffin, but couldn't convert either and ultimately lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Opelka had never before played a five-set match and was making his debut in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Yet he showed grit — and no hint of nerves — deep into the fifth set against a seasoned pro like Goffin, even as he started to cramp and struggled to move. 'I've played some guys in the top 10 before so I wasn't uncomfortable,' he said. 'With the way I play, hopefully it really shouldn't matter who's on the other side of the net.' Donaldson's loss was less expected. The Rhode Island native made a stunning run to the third round of last year's U.S. Open, upsetting the 12th-seeded Goffin and Viktor Troicki, a former top-20 player. And he was well on his way to a commanding win over Dutra Silva before the Brazilian stormed back for a 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory. 'Losses like this really define your character,' he said. 'So I can be upset and sulk about it or I can get back on the practice court and keep working hard and get better so matches like that don't happen again.' br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Matthews leads Mavericks to 98-87 win over T-Wolves

em>By Dave Jackson, Associated Press /em> DALLAS (AP) — Wesley Matthews scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 17 and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-87 Sunday (Monday, PHL time). J.J. Barea scored 15 points for Dallas, and Deron Williams had 13 points and 10 assists. Gorgui Dieng scored 21 points and Andrew Wiggins had 19 for the Timberwolves, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Dallas broke open a two-point game by closing the third quarter on an 11-4 run, then Barea scored his team's first nine points of the fourth quarter. His bank shot in the lane with 8:01 to go extended the Mavs' lead to 88-76. Seth Curry then scored the next five points with a triple and a fast-break layup to give Dallas its largest lead of the game. Seeking their first four-game winning streak since December 2012, the Timberwolves closed a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to as little as two. Dieng scored nine points in the quarter, making all four of his field-goal attempts. Nowitzki scored 10 points in a 17-4 run at the start of the second quarter, including seven straight to finish the run. His three-pointer as the trailer on a Mavericks' fast break gave Dallas its biggest lead of the half at 44-29. They led 56-47 at the break. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em> Zach LaVine had missed the past two games with a hip bruise, but warmed up before the game and coach Tom Thibodeau declared him ready to go. He scored 11 points. em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>The Mavericks announced the signing of guard Pierre Jackson to a 10-day contract. Jackson played for the Mavericks from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 (Dec. 28-Jan. 7, PHL time), averaging three points, before being waived. Dallas also recalled forward Nicolas Brussino from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, where he was averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. strong>PEER RECOGNITION /strong> As head of the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA), Dallas coach Rick Carlisle talked about the association's announcement of the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award. The award will be the only one chosen by an NBA coach's peers and will be announced at the end of the regular season. Goldberg was the first executive director of the NBCA. 'Michael Goldberg is a beloved figure in the coaching world,' Carlisle said. 'We felt it was time to honor the work that he's done. This is a unique award because it's going to be voted on by peers only. It will have a little extra meaning for coaches. It's really time for something like this to happen.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Stay in Texas with a visit to San Antonio on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em> Visit Chicago on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) for the first of a two-game road trip. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Klinsmann believes US Soccer made progress before his firing

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer br /> LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann is proud of his half-decade in charge of the U.S. national team, and the coach believes he left successor Bruce Arena in a position to make the Americans even better. Klinsmann made his first public remarks since his firing when he spoke Friday at a convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in downtown Los Angeles. Klinsmann agreed to speak at the session before losses in the first two games of the final round of World Cup qualifying led to his dismissal. Klinsmann also was the program's technical director for his final three years in charge, supervising every aspect of the team's development and training. 'The results will tell in the future if it helped Bruce to achieve the goals that are set,' Klinsmann said. 'But I think whenever you have the chance to put your stamp on a program, you do it with everything you have, and that's what I tried to do. I think we achieved a lot within the system of U.S. Soccer, connecting a lot of dots — even though there are so many out there that are disconnected, which we know. But now it's there for the next group of leaders to continue that.' When his team lost at home to Mexico and at Costa Rica late last year, falling into an early hole in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Klinsmann was fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Nov. 21 after 5 1/2 years. Klinsmann didn't appear to agree with the decision, but he understands how it was reached. 'You have to be measured against benchmarks,' Klinsmann said. 'You cannot lose to Costa Rica and Mexico (if) that's the benchmark. Then that's the benchmark, and you have to live with that.' Klinsmann took the U.S. job after stints in charge of the German national team and Bayern Munich. The Americans won 16 games in his first year in charge, and they later claimed the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and a spot in the second round of the 2014 World Cup. But the program encountered several recent setbacks, and criticism grew for Klinsmann's style and strategy. The Americans still reached last year's Copa America semifinals before getting routed 4-0 by Argentina. Klinsmann wryly recalled that loss, saying it was a 'fair question' to ask how U.S. Soccer could accept such a blowout. Hyperbolizing, he said a team led by Lionel Messi 'could have given us eight' against the best American squad. Arena, who coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, opened the first training camp of his second stint this week, welcoming roughly 30 Major League Soccer-based players to a month-long camp. The U.S. resumes qualifying at home against Honduras on March 24, then plays four days later at Panama. Arena's roster includes several players ignored by Klinsmann, who at times seemed to preferred those on European clubs. He also engaged in public clashes with popular veterans, most notably leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. Klinsmann, a World Cup champion player with West Germany in 1990, looks at his relationships with the top American players through the lens of experience now. 'I think as a player, you are kind of in a mindset where you know it always better than the coach, so you go through your career as a player and you never have the perfect coach,' he said. 'Later on, when you become a coach, you realize you were so wrong.' Klinsmann got a standing ovation from the audience of soccer coaches after his hour-long remarks during an interview and question-and-answer session. The coaches in attendance asked Klinsmann extensively about his technique and philosophy around numerous aspects of the job. 'As coaches, it's important to look outside and see, 'How do they do it there?'' Klinsmann said. 'We are always learning. I want to encourage you to understand how a better plan can be built.' As for his unfinished work with the U.S. team, Klinsmann sounded philosophical about that, as well. 'I think we all need to be aware that we're just part of a certain timeline, and then somebody else takes over and takes it to the next level in his own way,' he said. 'But a lot has been done in the last five years which I've been really proud of.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Best day ever: Destanee hits with Serena, her inspiration

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Last week, Destanee Aiava became the first player born this millennium to win a main draw match at a WTA event. Next week, the 16-year-old Australian will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the main draw at a Grand Slam tournament, thanks to a wild-card entry to the Australian Open. This week, the highlight has been hitting with Serena Williams, the 22-time Grand Slam champion and the inspiration for Aiava's career. Aiava was 5 when she watched one of the Williams' matches on TV, and told her parents that tennis was going to be her career. Her parents took her seriously, and her mother became her learn-as-she-goes coach. On Thursday, the 35-year-old Williams did a promotional appearance for her racket sponsor on Margaret Court Arena, including a hit up against the Melbourne schoolgirl. Asked what it was like to hit with the six-time Australian Open winner, Aiava paused for a while before Williams chimed in with an answer for her: 'Great.' Aiava laughed, admitting she was more nervous meeting Williams than she had been playing in an exhibition tournament earlier in the day. 'It's actually one of the best days of my life,' she said. 'I've had a lot of fun today, getting to hit with Serena. Hopefully there'll be more opportunities like this in future.' Williams is seeded No. 2 at Melbourne Park, where she lost the final last year to Angelique Kerber. She lost the French Open final to Garbine Muguruza before winning Wimbledon to equal Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 major titles. Aiava, who was born on May 10, 2000, and was No. 386 at the start of the season, has already met the long-retired Graf, her prize for winning the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in Paris in 2012. After her first-round win in Brisbane last week, she lost to two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. So she's getting more comfortable in elite tennis company. The arena where she hit with Williams carries the name of the woman who holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles — Margaret Court won 24 from 1960 to 1973 in a career that spanned the amateur and Open eras. Williams is aiming for 23 when the Australian Open starts Monday and, with her competitive spirit, there's little doubt there's another target for her in the future. For now, though, she's not prepared to mention those milestones. 'I'm not talking about that,' Williams said Thursday, despite some extra urging. 'I said I'm not talking about that, move on.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

FIFA to expand World Cup to 48 teams in 2026

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — FIFA will expand the World Cup to 48 teams, adding 16 extra nations to the 2026 tournament which is likely to be held in North America. President Gianni Infantino's favored plan — for 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32 — was unanimously approved Tuesday by the FIFA Council. It meets Infantino's election pledge of a bigger World Cup, and should help fund promised raises for FIFA's 211 member federations. With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion revenue forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA projects an increased profit of $640 million despite some extra operating costs and prize money for teams. FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will each get. UEFA wants 16 European teams at the tournament, which is strongly favored to be played in North America. The CONCACAF region has not hosted the World Cup since the 1994 tournament in the United States. American, Canadian and Mexican soccer leaders have had informal talks about a co-hosting bid. Africa and Asia could be winners in a bigger World Cup with up to nine places each. They had only five and four teams, respectively, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Still, FIFA said it expects the standard of soccer to drop compared to the 32-team format locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The 'absolute quality' of play, defined by high-ranked teams facing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA acknowledged in a research document sent to members last month. It made 10,000 tournament simulations to reach that conclusion. Instead, Infantino wants to create fervor and months of anticipation back home in the 16 extra nations which would qualify, some probably making their World Cup debut. FIFA has pointed to Costa Rica, Wales and Iceland as examples of teams which overachieved at recent tournaments. FIFA must break with soccer tradition to make its new format work after an original 48-team plan — with an opening playoff round sending 16 'one-and-done' teams home early — was unpopular. Instead, three-team groups will replace the usual groups of four to create simple progress to a knockout bracket. However, it leaves one team idle for final group games and could risk collusion between the other two teams. FIFA said it could guard against result-rigging by introducing penalty shootouts after group games that end in draws. Despite the 16 extra games, FIFA believes the current maximum of stadiums needed will stay at the 12 used by Brazil and Russia. However, the demand for more training bases and hotels means developed countries would be better equipped to win future hosting contests. North America is the strong favorite for 2026 because European and Asian countries are blocked by a FIFA rule excluding continents which hosted either of the two previous tournaments. Russia will host the World Cup next year and Qatar in 2022. South America has been focused on a centenary tournament including original 1930 host Uruguay, and African nations are seen as lacking existing capacity and unlikely to fund multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

FIFA set to approve bigger, richer World Cup on Tuesday

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is set to make the World Cup bigger and richer, even if the price to pay is lower quality soccer. FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes his ruling Council will agree Tuesday to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 nations, playing in 16 groups of three teams. A decision could be delayed if some Council members demand to know exactly how many qualifying places each continent will get before agreeing to scrap the 32-team format. It has been successful, popular and profitable since 1998 and is locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The prize of 16 extra places, and the biggest increases to Africa and Asia, has 'overwhelming' support from FIFA's 211 member federations, Infantino has said. Their promise of extra funding from Zurich could also be secured by FIFA's forecast 20 percent rise in rights fees paid by broadcasters and sponsors. 'Financially, the 48-team format is the most appealing or successful simply because the sporting element is prevailing and every match is important,' Infantino said two weeks ago. 'The decision should not be financially driven, neither in terms of revenue or costs ... but the driver should really be the development of football and boosting football all over the world.' World Cup champion Germany is not in favor. It argued that diluting the number of European and South American teams — which won all 20 titles since 1930 — could 'strengthen the imbalance' seen at some tournaments. 'The (German soccer federation) fundamentally believe that the current 32-team format is the best option,' its president Reinhard Grindel said last week. Germany has no delegate at Tuesday's meeting though Grindel is set to join the FIFA Council in May. FIFA acknowledged the risk of lower standards in a research document sent to members last month, as first reported by The Associated Press. The 'absolute quality' of soccer, defined by high-ranked teams playing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA said, citing 10,000 tournament simulations made to reach that conclusion. Still, Infantino promised voters more World Cup places and funding raises before his election last February. FIFA expects $5.5 billion income tied to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, though 25 of 34 sponsorship slots are unsold. The research document predicted the equivalent of $6.5 billion revenue from a 48-team tournament in the '16x3' format, which would send two teams from each group to a new Round of 32 knockout bracket. All 80 matches would play in an exclusive time slot. Currently, 64 World Cup matches have 56 broadcast slots because the eight four-team groups play their last matches simultaneously. FIFA predicts organizing costs for '16x3' rising from $2 billion to $2.3 billion, giving a potential profit rise of $640 million. Though a '16x3' World Cup would still need a maximum of 12 stadiums, the demand for 16 more top-quality training camps and hotels suggests FIFA would look for 2026 hosts with existing capacity. A North American bid from two or three of the United States, Canada and Mexico is currently favored in a contest that could start within weeks. Five options are open Tuesday, including staying with 32 teams. Infantino campaigned last year on a 40-team promise, in either eight groups of five teams or 10 groups of four teams. Neither impressed voters in recent regional meetings of FIFA member federations. When the FIFA leader first proposed 48 teams, it included an opening playoff round. The 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group stage. FIFA members disliked 'one-and-done' teams going home before the 'real' World Cup kicks off. It would also stretch to a 39-day event with more short-notice travel for fans. Africa and Asia could be the big winners, and FIFA hopes new teams would include another Iceland, Wales and Costa Rica — over-achieving teams and feelgood stories at recent tournaments. Still, hapless Tahiti was outclassed at the 2013 Confederations Cup, conceding 24 goals in three games. 'The goal of expanding the FIFA World Cup,' it has told members, 'is to further advance the vision to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all.' ___ Entry quotas for 2018 World Cup: Europe 14 (including host Russia to qualify direct); Africa 5; Asia and South America 4.5 each; North, Central America and Caribbean 3.5; Oceania 0.5. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Djokovic beats Murray to successfully defend Qatar title

SANDRA HARWITT, Associated Press br /> DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Qatar Open title by beating top-seeded Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the final on Saturday. The dramatic match showcased the best of men's tennis for 2 hours, 54 minutes. Djokovic needed four match points - three in the second set and one in the third - to prevail. He was also fortunate not to be defaulted for accidentally hitting a woman in the stands with a ball hit in anger. 'Best scenario I could ask for for beginning of the season,' Djokovic said. 'Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against No. 1 of the world, (my) biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match is something that definitely can serve as a positive incentive for what's coming up in Australia. 'It's only the beginning of the season, so we had a little laugh at the net actually about it. We both felt like if every match we're going to play against each other is going to be this way this season, we're going to have a fun time.' Murray's loss ended his 28-match winning streak that dated to Sept. 18. Djokovic had three match points in the 10th game of the second set, but couldn't prevent Murray from making it 5-5 and eventually winning the second set. Murray finally capitalized on his fourth break point - second in that 10th game - with an inside out forehand winner. Despite going up 0-30, Murray wasn't able to come up with the same magic when Djokovic served for the match a second time at 5-4 in the third set. Murray also failed to take advantage of a break point in the sixth game of the set. 'Physically, it was a good test to start the year,' Murray said. 'My body feels all right just now, so that's positive. 'Still think there are things I can do better. I wasn't that clinical on break points this week, which maybe that comes with playing a few more matches.' Djokovic's frustration got the better of him twice, which caused umpire Carlos Bernardes to hand the Serb two warnings, including the loss of a point on the second warning. The second warning resulted when Djokovic smashed his racket in frustration at 40-30 to end the 11th game of the second set prematurely. The first warning came in the sixth game of the first set. Annoyed at losing a point, Djokovic angrily smacked a ball to the ground that accidentally flew into the stands and hit a woman. While that could have resulted in a default, Bernardes just issued Djokovic a warning. 'I definitely didn't want to hit the ball at anybody,' Djokovic said. 'Just happened. Fortunate not to get a bigger fine. I have to be more careful I guess. I accept that I made a mistake. It was not intentional at all.' The top-ranked Murray has lost all 20 matches he's played against Djokovic when he's lost the first set. Overall, Djokovic held a 25-11 career record over Murray. 'Playing against Andy, somehow it feels like playing the mirror image of (me) because we have very similar styles of game,' Djokovic said. 'I can't recall out of the 35-plus matches how many were kind of one-sided really. Most of the matches we play it's always going down to the very last few points to decide the winner.' Murray won their last encounter 6-3, 6-4 in the ATP Finals in November. That victory catapulted Murray ahead of Djokovic to the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Blazers acquire unprotected first round pick from Cavaliers

em>Portland Trail Blazers press release /em> PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired an unprotected first round draft pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a 2018 first round pick, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. The 2018 pick sent to Cleveland was originally acquired from the Cavaliers along with Anderson Varejao in exchange for a future second round selection on Feb. 18, 2016. Portland now holds two first round selections in the 2017 NBA Draft. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

A clean slate and a fresh start for Jordan Spieth

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Three victories around the world. A chance to win another major. A Ryder Cup victory. Jordan Spieth had every reason to celebrate his year. Part of him, however, couldn't wait for it to end. 'I was happy when the ball touched down and 2017 started,' Spieth said Wednesday. He wasn't the least bit bothered by what he achieved last year, especially a pair of PGA Tour victories that ran his total to eight before he turned 23. He just knew he faced endless comparisons with the year before, and even matching that was going to be close to impossible. Spieth was coming off the best season in golf over the last 40 years by anyone not named Tiger Woods. His five victories included the Masters and U.S. Open and as close as anyone has come to the modern Grand Slam. He capped it off with a FedEx Cup title and all the big awards. And it didn't help when he started the next year with an eight-shot victory in Kapalua. 'Off of this week last year, it didn't necessarily help my own and anyone else's expectations, given the performance that we had,' Spieth said. 'But I also knew that wasn't realistic to continue to do. It's also a 30-something event ... which makes your chances of winning significantly higher, even though it is a world-class field. 'But I learned a lot on both end of things, highs and lows, which I didn't really have many lows in 2015,' he said. 'I think I can use that to my advantage.' One bad swing on the 12th hole at Augusta National could have changed that. Spieth lost a five-shot lead on the back nine of the Masters and never caught up, and then he never had much of a chance. But consider his outlook a year ago. Asked what he would consider a good season, Spieth at first joked, 'Last year.' He's not one to be specific about goals, though he did mention giving himself a serious chance in a couple of majors and closing out individual events. He had a chance in one major. He closed out victories at Kapalua, Colonial and the Australian Open. The Masters was the only tournament he had a chance to close out and let get away. Not a bad year. Just not like the previous year. And now, 2015 is far enough in the past that it's easier to look forward. Another reminder is the world ranking. Even with three victories and a runner-up in a major, Spieth went from No. 1 to No. 5. 'Just have to get it back,' he said. It starts on a Plantation Course that is far different from a year ago, when Spieth became only the second player in PGA Tour history to finish 72 holes in 30-under par or lower. It was dry with light wind throughout the week. This year, nearly two months of rainy weather makes has made the fairways lush. More rain this past weekend made it so soggy that instead of balls running down the fairways, tee shots were backing up from pitch marks. That would seem to be more suited to U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, who will be paired with Spieth in the opening round. Then again, length has nothing to do with why Spieth loves it here. In his only other appearance in 2014, he was in a three-way tie for the lead going into the final round and finished one shot behind Zach Johnson. 'I think this course, a lot like Augusta National, a few other ones, with the amount of slope and uneven lies and the amount of imagination you need in approach shots and on and around the greens, it brings out more the feel side of my game,' Spieth said. 'More kind of the quick-twitch, reactionary-type golf that I just love playing and I feel like is my DNA, my golf DNA. So that's why I feel like I've had success. 'When your swing isn't a driving range swing other than tee balls, I tend to hit the ball better than I do if it's just a dead-flat golf course,' he said. 'I don't know necessarily why. I think it's just the strength of mind to be able to adapt my swing to different lies.' Spieth has played only twice since the Ryder Cup, winning the Australian Open and tying for sixth in the Hero World Challenge. He's not alone. Jason Day, the world's No. 1 player, last played Sept. 23 at the Tour Championship. Dustin Johnson played only twice since the Ryder Cup. Everyone gets a chance to see where their game is against a 32-man field in paradise. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Nadal in Australia, still aiming to contend for major titles

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal cuddled a koala on the banks of the river, something that has become a customary photo opportunity for celebrity players on debut at the Brisbane International. The 14-time major winner has altered his preparation for the Australian Open, hoping a change of venues for the warmup tournaments will bring a change of luck at the season's first Grand Slam tournament after a shocking first-round exit in 2016. Nadal kicked off his season with a win in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on New Year's Eve, then headed directly to Australia to fine-tune at the Brisbane International in preference to remaining in the Gulf for the event in Doha. 'I played well in Abu Dhabi ... I played three good matches, and that's important for me,' Nadal said Monday after the brief meet-and-greet with a local politician and a native marsupial. 'I really hope the good matches I played in Abu Dhabi helps me for here.' The 30-year-old Spaniard is playing in Brisbane for the first time, replacing Roger Federer as the tournament's male draw card. He has a tricky opener against Alexandr Dolgopolov and, if he gets through that, a potential quarterfinal against top-seeded Milos Raonic, the defending champion. Nadal is coming off a left wrist injury that curtailed his 2016 season, and thinks the extra time in Australia will help him prepare to win his first major title since the 2014 French Open. Until last year, he had reached the quarterfinals or better at every Australian Open he had contested since 2007, including victory in '09 and runs to the final in 2012 and '14. The wrist injury last year forced Nadal to withdraw from the French Open before the third round and skip Wimbledon. He won the Olympic doubles gold medal for Spain in Rio de Janeiro, but he struggled with the pain and didn't win a title on a surface other than clay in 2016. 'Last year that I was playing great, I get injured in the worst moment possible,' he said. 'I'm happy to be back on the competition again. Abu Dhabi was a good start. I need to continue that way.' Despite his struggles with injury and the recent dominance of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, Nadal thinks he can still contend for the Grand Slam titles. 'Being here in Brisbane is good news for me,' he said, two weeks before the Australian Open starts. 'I don't know if that's going to help me or not — I can tell you after Melbourne, I cannot predict the future. 'The only thing I can say is if I am healthy, I believe that I can do it. If not, I (would) be at home fishing.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

The Roots to open NBA All-Star Game 2017

NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2016 – The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that Grammy® Award-winning hip-hop group The Roots will tip off the 66th NBA All-Star Game during the “Entertainment Series presented by JBL” on Sund.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 19th, 2016

Arts & Leisure: The Grammys stop fighting the future

THE NOMINATIONS for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards were announced on Dec. 6, and as the experts predicted (and as the show's producers no doubt prayed for), it's a battle of the biggest......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsDec 8th, 2016