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Bucks seeking 2-0 lead over Raptors in East finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press When the season started, everyone knew the Eastern Conference would have a new king. LeBron James left Cleveland, having taken his talents to Los Angeles. And even Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t sure who would take his place. “I didn’t know we were going to be in the Eastern Conference finals or not,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just know that he’s a top player that we always had problems against him and the Cavs. Now he’s not playing for the Cavs, so it’s going to be a little bit easier. I didn’t see it as an opening. But when you look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely an opening not having LeBron in the East.” [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Bucks are three wins away from taking full advantage of that opening, and becoming the team that replaces James after his eight consecutive seasons going to the NBA Finals as a representative of the Eastern Conference. Game 2 of the East final is Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks will aim to take a 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors. “We’re happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “But the job is not done. We’ve got to protect our home. We’ve got to be able to get Game 2.” Toronto got swept out of the 2017 and 2018 playoffs by James and the Cavs. Now they’re already facing a 1-0 deficit against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, after dropping Game 1 despite leading for 37 of the game’s 48 minutes. “Sometimes, we just missed some shots,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry shrugged. The way the Raptors see it, the adjustment to make finals might not be an adjustment at all. They liked most everything but the outcome of Game 1 — a 108-100 Bucks win — and figure that if they play the same Friday (Saturday, PHL time), they’ll have another chance at stealing away home-court advantage. “This team has handled downs pretty well and ups pretty well, and that’s been one of our focuses since day one of training camp,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “So let’s hope we can keep that going a little bit.” The Bucks won a game where they shot just under 40 percent and were 11-of-44 from three-point range. They made up for that on the defensive end and on the backboards — they held every Raptor not named Lowry or Kawhi Leonard to 1-for-23 shooting after halftime, and outrebounded Toronto 60-46. Still, Toronto insists it is not worried about the offense. “Everything starts on the defensive end,” Raptors forward Serge Ibaka said. Here’s some other things to know going into Game 2: RARE LOSS The last time Toronto had two 30-point scorers in the same game and lost — before it happened Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) — was Feb. 2, 2012. Game 1 was only the third time this season that the Bucks allowed two opponents to score 30 in the same game; Brandon Ingram and LeBron James did it for the Los Angeles Lakers in a Milwaukee win on March 1 (Mar. 2, PHL time), and Leonard and Pascal Siakam did it in a Toronto victory on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). RARE WIN Before Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Milwaukee had been 0-7 this season when not shooting better than 40 percent. The Bucks shot 39.8 percent in Game 1. The Raptors had been 9-1 this season when holding teams to such a low shooting percentage; the only other previous blip came in Game 2 of the second round against Philadelphia, when the 76ers shot 39.5 percent and won in Toronto. BROGDON’S IMPACT Much gets made of Milwaukee’s bench mob, and rightly so, but having Malcolm Brogdon back after he was out for basically all of the first two playoff rounds with a heel injury is a huge plus for the Bucks. Brogdon played 27 minutes in Game 1; he scored 15 points and the Bucks outscored the Raptors 57-39 in those minutes. When Brogdon wasn’t on the floor, Toronto held a 61-51 edge. DANGER TIME Friday (Thursday, PHL time) isn’t technically a must-win for the Raptors, but a loss might conjure up some unfriendly memories for the franchise. Toronto has dropped the first two games of a playoff series seven times; the Raptors are 0-7 in those series, and four of them ended in sweeps — one of them a 3-0 decision, the others by 4-0 counts. ALMOST PERFECT Milwaukee is off to a 9-1 start in these playoffs. It’s the 24th time in NBA history that a team has opened a postseason with at least nine wins in 10 games; of the previous 23 to start at least 9-1, 15 went on to win the NBA championship. Only six teams have started 10-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2019

Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman set for July 20th

Eight-division world champion and reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao of the Philippines will be returning to the ring later this year.  Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KO) will be taking on undefeated reigning WBA (Super) Welterweight World Champion Keith "One Time" Thurman in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 20th and will be aired on FOX PPV.  The bout was initially announced by boxing insider Mike Coppinger and was later confirmed by Pacquiao himself SOURCES: The welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman has been finalized for July 20 in Las Vegas on FOX PPV and will be formally announced tonight on the broadcast of Jarrett Hurd-Julian Williams — Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) May 11, 2019 The summer just got a little hotter! pic.twitter.com/SxcZsEauNq — Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) May 12, 2019 The 40-year old boxer-slash-senator is coming off a successful title defense against Adrien Broner back in January, his first defense of the WBA's secondary world title, which he captured with a TKO win over Lucas Matthysse back in 2018.  The 30-year old Thurman (29-0, 22 KO), a native of Clearwater, Florida, is coming off a near-two year absence with a unanimous decision win over Joselito Lopez to retain the WBA crown.  Thurman owns wins over the likes of Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Robert Guerrero......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Federer loses to Thiem in Madrid Open quarterfinals

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Roger Federer's return to clay lasted only three matches. A day after saving two match points at the Madrid Open, Federer squandered two match points himself in the quarterfinals against Dominic Thiem on Friday, losing 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4. It may have ended his first appearance at a clay-court tournament in three years, but Federer wasn't leaving the Spanish capital too disappointed with the outcome of his return. "I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here," Federer said. "I feel good on the clay right now. It's been a good week. Frustrating, clearly. Losing with match points is the worst, so that's how I feel. But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it's all good." Federer skipped the clay swing the past two years to remain fit for the rest of the season. He decided to return this year in preparation for his first French Open appearance since 2015. The fifth-seeded Thiem, runner-up in Madrid the last two seasons, will next face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who didn't have to play his quarterfinal after Marin Cilic withdrew because of food poisoning. Thiem has a chance to win his third title of the year after victories in Barcelona and Indian Wells, where he defeated Federer in a three-set final. "Facing him, it always requires my absolute best game and also a little bit luck, which I both had in Indian Wells and also here, and that's why I won these two matches," Thiem said. The other semifinal will be between Stefanos Tsitsipas and five-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal. Tsitsipas defeated defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, while Nadal cruised past Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2. Nadal lost only seven points on his service games, conceding no break opportunities against the 34th-ranked Wawrinka. The Swiss lost the 2013 Madrid final to Nadal. "It was one of my best matches in a long time, my best match on clay this year," the second-ranked Spaniard said. "It means a lot to have this feeling in this crucial moment of the clay season." On the women's side, Simona Halep made it back to the Madrid final for the first time since 2017 with a 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-0 win over unseeded Belinda Bencic. The French Open champion can surpass Naomi Osaka for the No. 1 ranking if she wins Saturday's final. "I don't want to think about that. For me, it is more important to win the trophy here than being No. 1," the third-ranked Halep said. "I prefer titles than numbers and rankings. So this is my goal, to play finals and to win trophies." She will face last year's runner-up Kiki Bertens, who defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-5. The 37-year-old Federer was trying to win his third Madrid title, and first since 2012. He has already won hard-court titles this season in Dubai and Miami. Federer got off to a great start against Thiem at the Magic Box center court, breaking the Austrian's serve early and cruising to a first-set win. He squandered five break points in the second, and then had match points at 8-7 and 10-9 in the tiebreaker before Thiem forced the deciding set by converting his sixth set point. Federer had saved two match points in his difficult three-set win over Gael Monfils on Thursday. Thiem broke Federer for the first time in the third game of the third set, converting his ninth break opportunity of the match. Federer got back on serve at 4-4, but started his next game 0-40 and couldn't recover. Thiem then served out for the victory, converting on his second match point. Thiem has won the last two matches he played against Djokovic, who got the day off because of Cilic's withdrawal. "It was supposed to be definitely a good match," said Djokovic, who has played only four sets this week. "I went back on the court, trained for another hour and got a good sweat in. Happy that I'm going to be fresh for my semifinal." The top-seeded Serb is seeking a third Madrid Open title, and his second of the season after winning the Australian Open. Thiem lost the Madrid final to Nadal in 2017 and to Alexander Zverev in 2018. "I was playing Novak last year and two years ago and he was not at his best I guess, and now he is again," Thiem said. "He's won the last three Slams and he is at the top of the ranking again. So the challenge couldn't be bigger.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

Boxing: Jerwin Ancajas targets seventh title defense against Ryuichi Funai

Filipino boxing world champion Jerwin "Pretty Boy" Ancajas looks to continue his reign of dominance when he puts his IBF Super Flyweight World Chamionship on the line for the seventh against Japanse challenger Ryuichi Funai in Stockton, California this Saturday, May 4th (Sunday, May 5th, Manila time.) The 27-year old Ancajas has lorded over the IBF's 115-pound division since 2016, and has since dispatched all challengers, including the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan, and even compatriot Jonas Sultan.  Ancaja's 17-fight winning streak was snapped however, when he and Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios figured in a 116-112, 111-118, 114-114 Split Draw back in September of 2018.  Now, the Panabo, Davao del Norte-native looks to bounce back from that lackluster performance and return to his dominant ways.  Standing in front of him will be a longer and taller challenger in Japan's Funai.  The 33-year old Tokyo native is riding a wave of momentum as he heads into his first shot at a world championship on a seven-fight winning streak, with six of those wins coming via KO or TKO.  The number one-ranked IBF contender will be making his United States debut as he looks to dethrone the long-time Super Flyweight king.    Catch Jerwin Ancajas vs. Ryuichi Funai LIVE this Sunday, May 5th 10:30 am on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23!   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Arsenal, Chelsea in strong positions in Europa League semis

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The possibility of an all-English final in the Europa League grew likelier after Arsenal and Chelsea moved into strong positions in the semifinals on Thursday. Arsenal will take a 3-1 lead into the second leg against Valencia after coming from behind through two goals by France striker Alexandre Lacazette and a 90th-minute volley from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Emirates Stadium. Chelsea also rallied to earn a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, with Pedro Rodriguez scoring the potentially crucial away goal in Germany to extend his team's unbeaten run in the competition to 16 games — a record. Neither Arsenal nor Chelsea is guaranteed a top-four finish in the Premier League, which earns automatic qualification for next season's Champions League. Winning the Europa League also offers that reward, which is why the teams have taken the competition seriously. The final is in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 29. It had previously been a disappointing week in Europe for English clubs, with Tottenham and Liverpool losing the first legs of their Champions League semifinals against Ajax (1-0) and Barcelona (3-0), respectively. MR. EUROPA LEAGUE A three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla, Unai Emery is on course for another Europa League final in his first season at Arsenal. He has his lethal strike partnership to thank for that. The potency of Lacazette and Aubameyang continues to make up for Arsenal's weakness at the back, which was exposed again when Valencia took the lead off a corner in the 11th minute. A delivery to the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Rodrigo, and Mouctar Diakhaby rose above Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka to nod in from close range. Arsenal has been saving its best performances for the Europa League of late — back-to-back wins over Napoli in the quarterfinals were followed by three straight losses in the Premier League — and the English team hit back almost immediately through Lacazette in the 18th. He played in Aubameyang with a superb through-ball and was then on hand to receive a squared pass from his fellow striker to stroke the ball into an empty net from the edge of the area. Lacazette made it 2-1 eight minutes later when his header from Xhaka's first-time cross could only be palmed over the goal line by Valencia goalkeeper Neto. Lacazette missed out on a hat trick by wasting two clear-cut chances in the second half, but Aubameyang gave Arsenal a two-goal cushion heading into the second leg next Thursday by volleying home at the far post from Sead Kolasinac's floated cross. "I hope that third goal will be important," Aubameyang said. "We started a bit nervous because we lost the last three games, I think that's normal. We are human, but after that we had a good reaction." LOFTUS-CHEEK IMPRESSES With Eden Hazard only starting on the bench, Chelsea needed another player to be its attacking inspiration and it proved to be Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The powerfully built England midfielder has had to bide his time this season, with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley often starting ahead of him, but he has forced his way into the starting lineup in recent weeks and was Chelsea's best player in Frankfurt with his passing and runs from deep. Fittingly, it was Loftus-Cheek who set up Pedro's 45th-minute goal, shrugging off a couple of defenders and laying the ball off to the Spanish winger, who shifted it onto his left foot and swept in a finish from 15 yards (meters). That canceled out Frankfurt's opener from Serbia striker Luka Jovic, who glanced in Filip Kostic's cross for his ninth goal of this season's competition — a tally bettered only by Chelsea's Olivier Giroud. Chelsea defender David Luiz struck a free kick against the crossbar in the second half but the visitors were hanging on near the end, with Sebastian Rode heading over from close range and Giroud getting away with a handball in his own area. The video assistant referee system is not being used in this season's Europa League until the final. "I think, in the end, we deserved the win," said Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, who is looking to win his first trophy in 29 years as a coach. "But 1-1 away is not so bad.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Pochettino, Guardiola confounding expectations in EPL

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer   LONDON (AP) — In one dugout at Etihad Stadium on Saturday will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place. Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola. But the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City hosts Tottenham with Guardiola's side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leader Chelsea by 10 points. Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English soccer. It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach's winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach. Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch? 'The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach,' Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press on Thursday. 'Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona ... he needs time. They will win trophies. 'I spoke with some players from (City), tactically they learn a lot,' Adibal added at a Barcelona event on Thursday in Singapore. 'But when you have a good coach and good players, a lot of teams want to beat you. So it's not easy, every weekend, and we know the intensity of English football.' City racked up six successive wins in the league before losing 2-0 at Tottenham on Oct. 2. Since then City has dropped 18 points, winning seven of its 14 games as the shortcomings of the brittle defense and shaky goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been exposed. City's attacking options have been reinforced with Gabriel Jesus completing his move from Palmeiras in time to feature against Tottenham. 'Gabriel is a technically gifted player who was chased by some of Europe's biggest clubs and we are delighted he decided to join City,' director of football Txiki Begiristain said. 'He has the potential to become one of the best attacking players in the game.' And for the 19-year-old Jesus, Guardiola played a big part in deciding his next destination. 'He was the only manager who called me so I was very pleased,' Jesus said. 'One thing I've noticed is that, like me, he is mad about football. He lives football 24 hours a day. I'm like that, too. 'When I'm not playing, I'm watching, or playing a video game, doing something linked to football. This is very important, that I'm the same as him, and I hope to learn.' Tottenham could move six points clear of City by completing the double over Guardiola's side. And for Pochettino it's not just about securing a second successive season in the Champions League but delivering the north London club's first domestic title since 1961. 'We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League, that's the real challenge,' Pochettino said. 'It's more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City. 'We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure, and to try to win games to achieve big things.' Tottenham has received more positive news on defender Jan Vertonghen's ankle injury. After initial fears the center back could be out for three months, Tottenham now expects him back in six weeks. Here are some other talking points around the Premier League: ___ PAYET PREDICAMENT West Ham travels to Southampton on Saturday with the fate of star player Dimitri Payet still uncertain after the France midfielder told the club more than a week ago he wants to leave to rejoin Marseille. Payet would not play against Crystal Palace last weekend, according to manager Slaven Bilic. 'Is his departure inevitable? I don't know,' Bilic said. 'We are not going to sell our best players on the cheap just because someone wants to sign them or even because they want to go home. 'I left it with the chairman and I'm sure he's going to do the best thing. The ball is in Marseille's court. They are the ones who expressed interest. Now they should act ... like everybody, he has his price.' AT THE BOTTOM Two of the teams in the relegation zone have tricky trips to top-four opposition. Paul Clement takes Swansea to third-place Liverpool on Saturday for a daunting second league game in charge of the bottom-place team. 'It does not look hopeless,' the former Bayern Munich assistant coach said. 'We are one point behind the team outside the relegation zone and not far behind the teams just above that as well.' Sunderland, which is above Swansea on goal difference, is at West Bromwich Albion. Hull is a point further up the standings going into Sunday's game at leader Chelsea. .....»»

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 20th, 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 9th, 2017

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. .....»»

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Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

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