Soccer

FIFA, soccer officials arrested in Zurich; World Cup votes probed

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FIFA, soccer officials arrested in Zurich; World Cup votes probed

By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer

ZURICH (AP) -- Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption.

FIFA, meanwhile, said Friday's presidential election would go ahead as planned with Sepp Blatter going for a fifth term. Blatter was not named in either investigation.

FIFA also ruled out a revote of the World Cups won by Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

The Swiss prosecutors' office said in a statement they seized "electronic data and documents" at FIFA's headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.

The Swiss investigation against "persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering" again throws into the doubt the integrity of the voting.

"FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard," FIFA said in a statement.

The Swiss announcement came only hours after 14 people were indicted in the U.S. for corruption. Seven of them were arrested and detained by Swiss police at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested and indicted, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay. The others are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.

All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in the statement. "It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."

Nine of the 14 that were indicted by the Justice Department are soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives and another works in broadcasting. Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president from Trinidad and Tobago, was among those indicted.

The Swiss prosecutors' office said the U.S. probe was separate from its investigation but that authorities were working together.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also a FIFA executive committee member, told The Associated Press "we've got nothing to hide."

"We're prepared to show everything," Mutko said in a telephone interview. "We've always acted within the law."

Qatari soccer officials declined to comment.

The U.S. case involves bribes "totaling more than $100 million" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said. The Justice Department said the corruption is linked to World Cup qualifying matches and the Copa America -- South America's continental championship.

Dozens of soccer officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where Blatter is widely expected to win re-election at the helm of the governing body of world soccer.

Blatter had been scheduled to attend a meeting of the Confederation of African Football in a different downtown Zurich hotel, but he canceled his appearance.

Blatter's only opponent in Friday's presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was "a sad day for football," but declined to comment further.

The arrests were made at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favored as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay. It was the stage for intense lobbying for votes ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting decisions in December 2010.

In Florida, a small group of agents from the FBI and IRS executed search warrants at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach.

Neither agency offered comment on the investigation.

The North American regional body, known as CONCACAF, reported itself to U.S. tax authorities in 2012. Then based in New York, the organization had not paid taxes over several years when its president was Warner and secretary general was Chuck Blazer of the United States.

Warner left soccer in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions in a bribery scandal during that year's presidential election. Blazer left in 2013 and has pleaded guilty to charges, the Justice Department said in Wednesday's statement.

Warner's successor as CONCACAF leader and FIFA vice president is Webb, who was staying at the Baur au Lac this week.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in its statement that U.S. authorities suspect the arrested officials of having received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the crimes were agreed to and prepared in the U.S., and payments carried out via U.S. banks.

"The bribery suspects -- representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms -- are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries (FIFA delegates) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations - totaling more than USD 100 million," the FOJ statement said.

A statement in German added that the probe involved tournaments in the United States.

International media gathered at the street entrance of the Baur au Lac in scenes reminiscent of the World Cup votes won by Russia and Qatar more than four years ago.

Then, former President Bill Clinton was inside meeting FIFA voters who later rejected the American bid in favor of Qatar, and Britain's Prince William was part of the losing English bid team.

Suspicions of vote-buying and wrongdoing in those bidding contests have dogged FIFA ever since.

2018 World Cup: Group Stage results, scores, TV Schedule, and how to watch

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USA Today Sports

2018 World Cup: Group Stage results, scores, TV Schedule, and how to watch

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia begins Thursday, with group stage play until the knockout round begins June 27.

Although the United States Men's National Team did not qualify, the field is set for an unpredictable tournament featuring the best soccer players in the World. 

Brazil, Germany and Spain — as they seem to always be — are the favorites to win the 2018 World Cup. Before they can get there, though, they'll have to advance out of the group stage.

The 2018 World Cup airs on FOX and FS1. You can stream World Cup games online with Fox Sports Go and the Fox Sports Go app.

Here's everything you need to know about the group stage fixtures.

2018 FIFA WORLD CUP HOW TO WATCH: 

GROUP STAGE TELEVISION SCHEDULE

Group A schedule, teams, standings, results, scores

Group A Teams: Russia (70), Egypt (45), Saudi Arabia (67), Uruguay (14)
Group A Schedule:
June 14: 
Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0
June 15: Uruguay 1, Egypt 0
June 19: Russia vs. Egypt. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 20: Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia. 11:00 a.m. FOX
June 25: Uruguay vs. Russia. 10:00 a.m. FOX
June 25: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt. 10:00 a.m. FS1

Group B schedule, teams, standings

Group B Teams: Iran (37), Morocco (41), Portugal (4), Spain (10)
Group B Schedule:
June 15: 
Iran 1, Morocco 0
June 15: Spain 3, Portugal 3
June 20: Portugal vs. Morocco. 8:00 a.m. FS1
June 20: Iran vs. Spain.  2:00 p.m. FOX
June 25: Spain vs. Morocco. 2:00 p.m. FS1
June 25: Iran vs. Portugal.  2:00 p.m. FOX

Group C schedule, teams, standings

Group C Teams: Australia (36), Denmark (12), France (7), Peru (11)
Group C Schedule:
June 16: 
France 2, Australia 1
June 16: Denmark 1, Peru 0
June 21: Denmark vs. Australia. 8:00 a.m. FS1
June 21: France vs. Peru.  11:00 a.m. FOX
June 26: Australia vs. Peru. 10:00 a.m. FS1
June 26: Denmark vs. France. 10:00 a.m. FOX

Group D schedule, teams, standings

Group D Teams: Argentina (5), Croatia (20), Iceland (22), Nigeria (48)
Group D Schedule
June 16: 
Argentina 1, Iceland 1
June 16: Croatia 2, Nigeria 0
June 21: Argentina vs. Croatia. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 22: Nigeria vs. Iceland. 11:00 a.m. FOX
June 26: Nigeria vs. Argentina. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 26: Iceland vs. Croatia. 2:00 p.m. FS1

Group E schedule, teams, standings

Group E Teams: Brazil (2), Costa Rica (23), Serbia (34), Switzerland (6)
Group E Schedule
June 17: 
Serbia 1, Costa Rica 0
June 17: Brazil 1, Switzerland 1
June 22: Brazil vs. Costa Rica 8:00 a.m. FS1
June 22: Serbia vs. Switzerland. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 27: Serbia vs. Brazil. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 27: Switzerland vs. Costa Rica. 2:00 p.m. FS1

Group F schedule, teams, standings

Group F Teams: Germany (1), Korea Republic (57), Mexico (15), Sweden (24)
Group F Schedule
June 17: 
Mexico 1, Germany 0
June 18: Sweden 1, Korea Republic 0
June 23: Korea Republic vs. Mexico.  11:00 a.m. FOX
June 23: Germany vs. Sweden.  2:00 p.m. FOX
June 27: Korea Republic vs. Germany. 10:00 a.m. FS1
June 27: Mexico vs. Sweden. 10:00 a.m. FOX

Group G schedule, teams, standings

Group G Teams: Belgium (3), England (12), Panama (55), Tunisia (21)
Group G Schedule
June 18: 
Belgium 3, Panama 0
June 18: Tunisia vs. England. 2:00 p.m. FS1
June 23: Belgium vs. Tunisia. 8:00 a.m. FOX
June 24: England vs. Panama 8:00 a.m. FS1
June 28: Panama vs. Tunisia. 2:00 p.m. FS1
June 28: England vs. Belgium.  2:00 p.m. FOX

Group H schedule, teams, standings

Group H Teams: Colombia (16), Japan (61), Poland (8), Senegal (27)
Group H Schedule
June 19: 
Colombia vs. Japan. 8:00 a.m. FS1
June 19:Poland vs. Senegal. 11:00 a.m. FOX
June 24: Japan vs. Senegal. 11:00 a.m. FOX
June 24: Poland vs. Colombia. 2:00 p.m. FOX
June 28: Japan vs. Poland. 10:00 a.m. FS1
June 28: Senegal vs. Colombia. 10:00 a.m. FOX

2018 FIFA WORLD CUP SCHEDULE

Group Stage: Thursday, June 15 to Thursday, June 28
Round of 16: Saturday, June 30 to Tuesday, July 3
Quarterfinals: Friday, July 6 and Saturday, July 7
Semifinals: Tuesday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 11
Third Place Game: Saturday, July 14
World Cup Final: Sunday, July 15

2018 FIFA WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE SCHEDULE, RESULTS, SCORES:

Thursday, June 14: 
Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0 (Group A)

 Friday, June 15: 
Uruguay 1, Egypt 0 (Group A)
Iran 1, Morocco 0 (Group B)
Portugal 3, Spain 3 (Group B)

Saturday. June 16: 
France 2, Australia 1 (Group C)
Argentina 1, Iceland 1 (Group D)
Denmark 1, Peru 0 (Group C)
Croatia 2, Nigeria 0 (Group D)

Sunday, June 17:
Serbia 1, Costa Rica 0(Group E)
Mexico 1, Germany 0 (Group F)
Brazil 1, Switzerland 1 (Group E)

Monday, June 18:
Sweden 1, Korea Republic 0 (Group F)
Belgium vs. Panama. 11:00 a.m. FS1 (Group G)
Tunisia vs. England. 2:00 p.m. FS1 (Group G)

Tuesday, June 19: 
Colombia vs. Japan. 8:00 a.m. FS1 (Group H)
Poland vs. Senegal. 11:00 a.m. FOX (Group H)
Russia vs. Egypt. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group A)

Wednesday, June 20: 
Portugal vs. Morocco. 8:00 a.m. FS1 (Group B)
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia. 11:00 a.m. FOX (Group A)
Iran vs. Spain.  2:00 p.m. FOX (Group B) 

Thursday, June 21: 
Denmark vs. Australia. 8:00 a.m. FS1 (Group C)
France vs. Peru.  11:00 a.m. FOX (Group C)
Argentina vs. Croatia. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group D)

Friday, June 22:
Brazil vs. Costa Rica 8:00 a.m. FS1 (Group E)
Nigeria vs. Iceland. 11:00 a.m. FOX (Group D)
Serbia vs. Switzerland. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group E)

Saturday, June 23:
Belgium vs. Tunisia. 8:00 a.m. FOX (Group G)
Korea Republic vs. Mexico.  11:00 a.m. FOX (Group F)
Germany vs. Sweden.  2:00 p.m. FOX (Group F)

Sunday, June 24:
England vs. Panama 8:00 a.m. FS1 (Group G)
Japan vs. Senegal. 11:00 a.m. FOX (Group H)
Poland vs. Colombia. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group H)

Monday, June 25: 
Uruguay vs. Russia. 10:00 a.m. FOX (Group A)
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt. 10:00 a.m. FS1 (Group A)
Spain vs. Morocco. 2:00 p.m. FS1 (Group B)
Iran vs. Portugal.  2:00 p.m. FOX (Group B)

Tuesday, June 26: 
Australia vs. Peru. 10:00 a.m. FS1 (Group C)
Denmark vs. France. 10:00 a.m. FOX (Group C)
Nigeria vs. Argentina. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group D)
Iceland vs. Croatia. 2:00 p.m. FS1 (Group D)

Wednesday, June 27:
Korea Republic vs. Germany. 10:00 a.m. FS1(Group F)
Mexico vs. Sweden. 10:00 a.m. FOX (Group F)
Serbia vs. Brazil. 2:00 p.m. FOX (Group E)
Switzerland vs. Costa Rica. 2:00 p.m. FS1(Group E)

Thursday, June 28: 
Senegal vs. Colombia. 10:00 a.m. FOX  (Group H)
Japan vs. Poland. 10:00 a.m. FS1 (Group H)
Panama vs. Tunisia. 2:00 p.m. FS1 (Group G)
England vs. Belgium.  2:00 p.m. FOX (Group G)

2018 FIFA WORLD CUP LOCATIONS

Moscow: Luzhniki Stadium (81,000), Otkrythye Arena (44,9292)
Saint Petersburg: Krestovsky Stadium (66,881)
Sochi: Fisht Olympic Stadium (47,659)
Ekaterinburg: Central Stadium (35,000)
Saransk: Mordovia Arena (45,015)
Rostov-on-Don: Rostov Arena (43,702)
Kazan: Kazan Arena (41,105)
Kaliningrad: Kaliningrad Stadium (35,00)
Samara: Cosmos Arena (44,918)
Volgograd: Volgograd Arena (45,015)
Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium (44,899)

2018 FIFA WORLD CUP TOP-10 ODDS & NOTABLES

Brazil: 4-1
Germany: 19-4
Spain: 13-2
France: 7-1
Argentina: 9-1
Belgium: 11-1
England: 16-1
Portugal: 22-1
Uruguay: 28-1
Croatia: 35-1
Russia: 60-1
Mexico: 100-1
Iceland: 300-1
Costa Rica: 500-1
Panama: 1000-1 

North American trio beats Morocco to host 2026 World Cup

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North American trio beats Morocco to host 2026 World Cup

MOSCOW -- North America will host the 2026 World Cup 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 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. The U.S. is set to host all games from the quarterfinals onward.

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.

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.