Thursday's soccer news starts with FIFA president Gianni Infantino releasing his plan. Marking four years in charge, Infantino is pushing forward with what he calls the true globalization of the sport. "My vision is for the organization to help develop football in all regions of the world so that many more can compete at the very highest level," Infantino writes. "The goal is to have at least 50 national teams and clubs from all continents competing fully against the current elites of the game.
On its face, Infantino's ambition is laudable. Even in the era of expansion of the World Cup and revamping of the Club World Cup, there's a sharp divide between the competitive countries and clubs in world soccer and the rest. That the rest makes up the bulk of FIFA's voting membership may seem tough to ignore, but the sport does a commendable job of managing to do it. The FIFA trials in New York and the continued investigations in Switzerland point to the problems the sport has identifying and overcoming corruption. That helps stall any progress in growing the game in places where it could be stronger.
With FIFA needing a competitive field to justify expanding the World Cup from 32 to 46 teams in 2026, the time is now to show that the game can progress outside of the elite nations. None of this should sound familiar. Pick an era, and someone within FIFA was describing the kind of true globalization needed to continue to grow the game. Any sport can't afford to remain static, especially if only a few teams are truly competitive.
FIFA is still FIFA, with a sharp focus on generating revenue. That's the polite way of saying making money, with the Club World Cup the latest attempt at extending their ability to do just that. The NY Times' Tariq Panja reported earlier this week that FIFA is looking for $1 billion to turn the Club World Cup into the top event for club soccer. FIFA has spent two decades trying to get that by default, holding the tournament even with rampant criticism over its purpose and disinterest from its fans.
That's the biggest challenge for FIFA, not just putting more games on the schedule but giving fans all over the world a reason to care. We already know that passion isn't a given, even in a passion-driven sport like soccer at the international level. The World Cup may well be FIFA's special case, the only tournament capable of generating the amount of money world soccer needs, much less wants. It's the driver, no matter how much FIFA may want to spread that to the club game. The question here, especially for UEFA and its Champions League, is one of scope. Historically, that's not been a strong point for world soccer's governing body.
Moving to the Concacaf Champions League, Atlanta United shutout Motagua 3-0 at home to advance to the quarterfinals 4-1 on aggregate. Pity Martinez scored in the 40th minute with Josef Martinez assisting. They switched roles in the 60th, with Josef Martinez scoring from a Pity assist. Once again, it was Pity Martinez and Josef assisting in the 83rd minute. Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan didn't need to make a save to keep the clean sheet.
On Wednesday, NYCFC shutout San Carlos 1-0 at Red Bull Arena to advance 6-3 on aggregate. Alexander Callens scored in the 41st minute. Montreal and Saprissa finished scoreless at Olympic Stadium and 2-2 on aggregate. Montreal advances on the away goals tiebreaker.
Moving to the soccer news, US Soccer released the provisional roster for Olympic qualifying. SI.com's Brian Straus with USMNT general manager Brian McBride's scouting trip to Europe. The Telegraph's Sam Wallace on Alphonso Davies's performances with Bayern Munich and what they mean for the reputation of MLS. AP's Graham Dunbar explains Manchester City's appeal of their UEFA ban.
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