Philadelphia could be host city when World Cup comes to North America in 2026

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Philadelphia could be host city when World Cup comes to North America in 2026

MOSCOW — North America will host the 2026 World Cup and Philadelphia could potentially be a host city after FIFA voters overwhelmingly opted for the financial and logistical certainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroccan proposal for the first 48-team tournament.

The venues for the 2026 World Cup will be picked from 23 stadiums that either already exist or are under construction, and 16 of the U.S. venues are NFL stadiums.

Philadelphia joins Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington as potential U.S. host cities.

The soccer showpiece will return to the U.S. for the first time since 1994 after gaining 134 votes, while Morocco got 65 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow on Wednesday.

The vote by football federations was public, in contrast to secrecy surrounding the ballot by FIFA's elected board members for the 2018 and 2022 hosts, Russia and Qatar, in 2010.

The U.S. proposed staging 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the finals, leaving Canada and Mexico with ten fixtures each.

An optimistic promise of delivering $14 billion in revenue helped sway voters, along with the lack of major construction work required on the 16 planned stadiums, all of which already exist.

By contrast, Morocco appeared too hazardous as a potential host when all 14 venues had to be built or renovated as part of a $16 billion investment in new infrastructure. The vote leaves Morocco reeling from a fifth failure in a World Cup hosting vote, with the continent's sole tournament coming in 2010 in South Africa.

While Morocco's combined tickets and hospitality revenue would be $1.07 billion, according to FIFA analysis, North America would generate $2 billion additional income.

Canada will host men's World Cup matches for the first time, while Mexico gets its first taste of the event since staging the entire event in 1986.

President Donald Trump tweeted his approval: "The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations - a great deal of hard work!"

While Trump has been feuding with Canadian leaders over tariffs and Mexico about his proposed border wall, the political leaders are not heavily involved in the World Cup bid. Even if Trump wins re-election, his presidency will end before the 2026 World Cup.

The 87,000-capacity MetLife Stadium outside New York is proposed for the final. It's just miles from where federal prosecutors spearheaded an ongoing investigation into FIFA corruption. More than 40 soccer officials and businesses indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty.

The bribery scandal put the governing body on the brink, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the congress ahead of Wednesday's vote.

"FIFA was clinically dead as an organization," Infantino said, reflecting on his election in 2016. "Two years later, FIFA is alive and well, full of joy and passion and with a vision for its future."

The North American victory suggests football officials are ready to gather for a World Cup in a country whose government has demonstrated its willingness to jail corrupt sports leaders through undercover investigations.

The North America bid also had to overcome concerns about the impact of policies from the Trump administration, including attempts to implement a ban on travel by residents of six majority-Muslim countries.

The main intervention by President Donald Trump was a warning in a White House news conference, discussing the FIFA vote, that he would be "watching very closely." It was a veiled threat to withhold U.S. support from countries opposing the bid.

FIFA now has the final say on which cities are selected to host games and whether all three countries are guaranteed a place at the tournament. Victor Montagliani, the Canadian who leads CONCACAF, wants them to take three of the six qualification slots reserved for the region.

There is also a chance to send a seventh team via an inter-continental playoff. North America will host the six-team playoff tournament in November 2025 to decide the last two places in the 48-team lineup.

Supreme Court gives go-ahead on sports betting in New Jersey

Supreme Court gives go-ahead on sports betting in New Jersey

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 law barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.

One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.

The court's decision came in a case from New Jersey, which has fought for years to legalize gambling on sports at casinos and racetracks in the state. Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said after arguments in the case in December that if justices sided with the state, bets could be taken "within two weeks" of a decision. On Monday, after the ruling was announced, Christie tweeted that it was a "great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions."

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy shared Christie's excitement in a press release Monday.

"I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court finally side with New Jersey and strike down the arbitrary ban on sports betting imposed by Congress decades ago," he said.

“New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country.

"Today’s victory would not have been possible without the incredible bipartisan effort from so many in our state, particularly former Governor Christie and former State Senator Lesniak. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”

It's possible that the first to market with sports betting in New Jersey will be a racetrack at the Jersey shore. Monmouth Park has already set up a sports book operation and has previously estimated it could take bets within two weeks of a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, said his Atlantic City casino will "absolutely" offer sports betting once it can get it up and running. "It's been a long time coming," he said.

More than a dozen states had supported New Jersey, which argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the law barring states from authorizing sports betting. New Jersey said the Constitution allows Congress to pass laws barring wagering on sports, but Congress can't require states to keep sports gambling prohibitions in place.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a win for New Jersey and the rest of the country," New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. said in a statement. "PASPA was clearly unconstitutional, and the ban on sports betting has now rightfully been rejected by the Court. I have long believed that New Jersey should have the opportunity to proceed with sports betting. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down this unlawful and confusing law, it is time for Congress to move the GAME Act forward to ensure that consumer protections are in place in any state that decides to implement sports betting.”

Last year, Pallone introduced the GAME Act, allowing states to legalize sports betting and online gambling if protections are also in place. The GAME Act could now act as the legal blueprint for states to adopt sports betting.

All four major U.S. professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government had urged the court to uphold the federal law. In court, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball had argued that New Jersey's gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games. Outside court, however, leaders of all but the NFL have shown varying degrees of openness to legalized sports gambling.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.

New Jersey has spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees trying to legalize sports betting at its casinos, racetracks and former racetracks. In 2012, with voters' support, New Jersey lawmakers passed a law allowing sports betting, directly challenging the 1992 federal law which says states can't "authorize by law" sports gambling. The four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued, and the state lost in court.

In 2014, New Jersey tried a different tactic by repealing laws prohibiting sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. It argued taking its laws off the books was different from authorizing sports gambling. The state lost again and then took the case to the Supreme Court.

Ben Simmons still has a chance to be an All-Star

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Ben Simmons still has a chance to be an All-Star

WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards point guard John Wall will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday and could miss much of the rest of the regular season.

The Wizards announced Tuesday that Wall would have the operation in Cleveland and that a timeline for his return would be determined afterward.

A person with direct knowledge of the injury said Wall could miss six to eight weeks. That person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not release any estimate of the length of Wall's absence. Washington's last regular-season game is on April 11.

"It just proves that he wasn't the John that we know," backup guard Tomas Satoransky said. "His knee was bothering him all season long."

This is the latest knee problem for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft out of Kentucky. Wall had surgery on both of his knees before last season.

Coach Scott Brooks delivered Tuesday's news to other players at a shootaround.

"The message is we just need guys to step up and take their game up a level. It's going to be tough without our best player," forward Markieff Morris said.

"By the time he comes back, we'll be in the playoff push," Morris said, "or just getting ready for the playoffs."

Wall is second on the Wizards in scoring this season, averaging 19.4 points, and is second in the league with 9.3 assists per game. In July, he agreed to a $170 million, four-year contract extension that starts with next season.

He was selected last week to participate in his fifth NBA All-Star game but now is expected to miss that event in Los Angeles next month, which opens up a spot for Ben Simmons to potentially become an All-Star. Commissioner Adam Silver will choose the Eastern Conference player who will replace Wall in the event.

Assuming Silver considers both frontcourt and backcourt players as a replacement for Wall, Simmons' competition for the spot figures to include Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond.

If Simmons is selected, he would play on Team LeBron and would be pitted against Joel Embiid, who will be playing for Team Stephen. 

The timing of the surgery gives Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld a chance to find a new point guard before the NBA trading deadline, which is Feb. 8.

In the meantime, reserves Satoransky and Tim Frazier figure to get additional playing time.

"We cannot panic about it," Satoransky said about the prospect of losing Wall for a lengthy absence.

"John is the main guy, so it's always tough to cover your main guy when he goes down," said Satoransky, who is averaging five points and 2.6 assists this season. "It's very challenging. Obviously, I like challenges, but it will (mean) a lot of responsibility."

The Washington Post first reported that Wall would be having a procedure on his knee.

He sat out Washington's most recent game, at the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, because of a recurrence of soreness and swelling in his left knee. Earlier issues with the knee led him to sit out nine games in November and December, and he got platelet-rich plasma injections to try to cut down on the inflammation.

The Wizards entered Tuesday, when they were scheduled to host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at night, tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 27-22 record.

Led by its backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal, a first-time All-Star pick this season, Washington lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals each of the past two years.