Is institutional racism to blame for the lack of US soccer stars?

The head of US Soccer’s diversity task force says the some of the country’s most gifted players are prevented from showcasing their talents because of their cultural background.

Doug Andreassen believes athletes in mostly African American and Latino neighborhoods get left behind, while parents from wealthier areas are able to fund their child’s progression in the game.

Andreassen points out that last year’s Women’s World Cup winners were almost all white, and that several of the non-white players in the US Copa America squad grew up overseas.

“People don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “The system is not working for the underserved community. It’s working for the white kids.

“We used to say to ourselves: ‘How good would we be if we could just get the kids in the cities?'”

The US pay-to-play system is said to be the main contributory factor to the disparity, with talented youngsters from poorer backgrounds heavily reliant on scholarships or sponsorships to break into the game.

Julio Borge, director of coaching at the largely Latino Heritage Soccer Club in Pleasant Hill, California said: “You are buying skill – but there are some pieces of the game that just can’t be bought.

“In my area, we are missing a ton of these kids. A lot of coaches don’t have time to see everybody.

“It’s expensive to try out for the big programs, so many don’t even go after the opportunity.”

Borge believes US Soccer should implement a strategy to ensure the best players, whatever their background, have a route to the top.

“We need someone to speak up – (Jurgen) Klinsmann or whatever – and say: ‘Here are the players we are looking for, and here’s how the system should be built.’

The diversity problem is seemingly more prevalent in the women’s game than the men’s.

While more than a third of the men’s roster in this month’s Copa America will be non-white, the women’s team playing at the Rio Olympics will be mostly white.

With five players from the women’s team threatening to boycott Rio 2016 after filing a wage-discrimination complaint, it appears the issues of diversity and equality are a long way from being resolved.

Soccer has greatly improved in the US in recent years, but Borge insists more needs to be done by both US Soccer and the MLS to create a structure where players can progress in the game, whatever their background might be.

“We have coaches who need to recruit talent from all over the nation and invest in the Olympic Development Program and let them be creative and let the let them play freely,” he said.

“It takes huge dedication and it takes money, but we have the money at US Soccer.”

Andreassen also believes more should be done to ensure soccer becomes as accessible and diverse as sports such as Basketball or American Football.

“There are the kids in the diverse communities playing on the street corner, and we have to find them,” said Andreassen.

“Someone knows they are there, either the church or the school.

“Maybe it’s a pastor or a principal or someone at the YMCA or Boy’s and Girl’s Club. We have to identify those community leaders.

“I think I’ve pushed the ball one revolution. But my goal is to get it down to the goalline.”

Curry keeps Warriors alive; Cavaliers one game from final

It may not have been the dazzling Steph Curry performance people have become accustomed to, but his 31-point haul was enough to lead Golden State Warriors to a 120-111 victory against Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and keep their NBA Championship hopes alive.

Despite question marks over his fitness, Curry dug deep to inspire the Warriors to the win which pulled them back to 3-2 down in the seven-game Western Conference final series.

“We just did what we’re supposed to do – we’re supposed to win at home,” Curry said. “We know what we still have to do going forward.

“We knew if we didn’t win we were going home. There’s no other motivation you need.”

He made just three out of eight three-point attempts, but hit all 10 of the free throws he took to keep Warriors’ hopes alive.

Head Coach Steve Kerr said: “I thought he looked like 91 percent. He came out and played a really good game. That’s all I can tell you.

“He’s going to compete every night. He had an excellent night and helped us get it done.”

Warriors’ record-breaking 73-9 regular season has been a distant memory at times during this series.

Thunder have been dominant at home so far, winning both games in Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points, but Kerr was impressed with how his team fought back.

“I liked our will, I liked our fight,” Kerr added. “We were embarrassed in OKC the last couple games.”

History is against the Warriors as the look to clinch back-to-back NBA titles.

Only nine teams have previously recovered from 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, while their record of just two wins in their last 16 visits to Oklahoma City shows the size of the task they face in Game 6 on Saturday.

Klay Thompson, who backed up Curry with 27 points last night, believes they are capable of completing the comeback.

“None of us want to go home,” Thompson said. “We’re having too much fun out there.”

Curry’s celebrations after extending Warriors’ lead to 10 with just over a minute remaining showed just how much they want a second successive championship.

“We ain’t going home, we ain’t going home,” he yelled.

With Curry leading the charge there’s still plenty of life left in this series.

In the Eastern Conference, Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Raptors 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Toronto.

The Cavaliers are 0-4 this season in Toronto and lost Games 3 and 4 on the road in this series.

After going 32-9 at home during the regular season, the Raptors are 8-2 in the playoffs, and recorded Game 7 wins against Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the previous rounds.

“We’ve got to play the same way we played the two home games we’ve had so far,” Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry said. “That’s all we can do. Can’t worry about the road. We might not get a chance to go back on the road if we don’t play the right way.”

The Cavaliers have had the edge over the Raptors during the last decade, winning 27 of their previous 44 meetings.

Germany and France to co-host 2017 IIHF World Championships

Russia will once again face the US at the next year’s International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship which will be held in France and Germany during May.

The two teams met in the bronze medal game at this year’s tournament in Russia, with the hosts running out comfortable 7-2 winners.

Sweden, Slovakia, Germany, Latvia, Denmark and Italy will join Russia and the US in Group A which will be played in Cologne.

Reigning champions Canada will start the defense of their title in Group B in Paris where they will face Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, Norway, France and Slovenia.

Canada claimed their second successive world crown with a stylish 2-0 victory over Finland earlier this month.

The 2017 tournament will be held at the 18,500-seat Lanxess Arena in Cologne and at the recently refurbished 14,500-seat Palais Omnisports Bercy in Paris.

The group stages and quarter-final games will be shared between the two host cities, with the semi-finals and final hosted in Cologne.

The two venues offer a total of 886,000 tickets for the 64 games, an IIHF record.

Organising Committee general secretary Henner Ziegfeld believes hosting the World Championships in two countries is an exciting development for ice hockey.

“We are two nations but we are one host,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to sum up in our slogan ‘Together for 2017’.”

Germany previously hosted the Championships in 2010, but France have not staged the elite level men’s event since 1968.

“I’d like to thank the IIHF for giving this opportunity to a country like us,” added Luc Tardiff, President of the French Ice Hockey Federation.

“It would be a bit too much for us to welcome 16 teams on our own, but now we can share the experience of our partner.

“I think this will show a way forward for other countries like France.”

Fans wishing to watch games in both countries will be able to use the Thalys bullet train with a trip between the two venues taking around three-and-a-half hours.

Russia currently lead the way in World Championship victories with 27 gold medals ñ 22 as the Soviet Union ñ with Canada just one behind with 26.


Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid: 2016 Champions League Final Preview

The San Siro has seen many trophies being lifted by its own clubs but this time it will witness one of the Madrid clubs being crowned the Champions League champions in the 2016 final.

These two teams locked horns in the 2013-14 Champions League final, which Real Madrid won 4-1 at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon and took home their tenth crown or La Decima under Carlo Ancelotti. The scoreline was misleading on the day as Atletico performed very well and it was only extremely late that Real were able to break Simeone’s team’s resilience.

Two years later, Simeone faces a different rival in Zinedine Zidane. Zidane took over from Rafa Benitez midway this season and the Real Madrid legend has done a good job so far.

After being denied the La Liga title, which went right down to the wire, both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid’s ambition will be to get one of the most prestigious titles in football, the Champions League. The latest champions league betting tips and pundit predictions favour Real Madrid, but you can’t discount the threat that a rested, hungry Atletico side poses.

Real Madrid beat Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City to enter the finals while their Madrid rivals defeated PSV, Barcelona and Bayern Munich on their run to Milan.

There are doubts over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness which could be a massive thorn in Los Blanco’s side; however, it is expected that the superstar will be able to feature in the gigantic tie. Ronaldo is the key player for the side but if he is absent, the others have to step up, something that didn’t happen against Manchester City in the first leg.

For Atletico, Antoine Griezmann is the key player and the 25-year-old did score the decisive goal against Bayern Munich. Like his counterpart Ronaldo, the bulk of the burden of firing the side to glory would be with the Frenchman who would be expected to continue his fine form.

It would be a battle of Zinedine Zidane’s offensive and what has been dubbed as the beautiful brand of football against Diego Simeone’s rigorous and often unappealing style; style and finesse against grit and determination.

Russian athletes will have to give their medals away if doping confirmed

A host of Russian athletes that excelled at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 could well have their medals stripped if the latest doping scandal comes to fruition.

It is believed that 14 Russian Olympians are in the spotlight after retrospective investigations into samples provided back in 2008 were re-examined using new methods.

However, the latest news in the scandal details that the Russians could actually have to part company with the medals they won and hand them over to fellow athletes.

A number of British athletes would be in line to win medals after finishing fourth in the Beijing Olympics.

Andrew Steele was part of Britain’s 4x400m men’s relay team and has stated that he and his compatriots deserve the medals if doping is proven.

“I don’t want to get carried away until the news is officially confirmed but right now my emotions are a bizarre mixture of happiness and anger,” he said.

“It is very unusual to celebrate something as special as an Olympic medal eight years on and of course I’ve missed out on standing on the podium at the Olympic Stadium in Beijing.

“We were quite a young team in Beijing but we were frustrated to finish fourth, because I think we ran the fastest 4x400m time ever in an Olympics that didn’t earn a medal.

“To be honest, we didn’t expect Russia to be a threat. We thought if we ran 2:58 we’d get a medal but the guy who is alleged to have doped ran a 43.4 sec 400m, which was incredibly fast.

“After that we had our suspicions. I can’t help thinking how much an Olympic medal would have changed our lives.”

Steele also said that those athletes that potentially missed out on a medal due to the doping of others should be allowed to stand on the podium at the Rio Games this summer in a feat of recognition.

“Definitely. Not only would it be a nice consolation prize for all us athletes who were deprived of a rightful medal but it would show that the IOC are acknowledging the issue,” he said.

The Russian athletes thought to be implicated in the scandal include high-jumper Anna Chicherova, runner Denis Alekseyev and walk bronze medallist Denis Nizhegorodov.

Man United announce Louis van Gaal has been sacked, Mourinho appointment expected

Manchester United have confirmed that Louis van Gaal has been sacked as manager of the Old Trafford club after two years in charge.

The experienced Dutchman arrived in England as the Red Devils were undergoing major changes following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and a disastrous period under David Moyes.

Over 24 months Van Gaal has led United into the Champions League and won the FA Cup two days before being dismissed as the club’s manager.

Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward paid homage to the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss as the news was announced.

“I would like to thank Louis and his staff for their excellent work in the past two years culminating in winning a record-equalling 12th FA Cup for the club (and securing him a title in four different countries),” a statement reads.

“He has behaved with great professionalism and dignity throughout his time here. He leaves us with a legacy of having given several young players the confidence to show their ability on the highest stage. Everyone at the club wishes him all the best in the future.”

Van Gaal ultimately has paid the price for finishing outside the top four in 2015-16, with a lack of attacking inspiration in the final third also leading to his exit.

The Dutchman released a long statement saying he was honored to have been in charge at Old Trafford.

“It has been an honor to manage such a magnificent club as Manchester United FC, and in doing so, I have fulfilled a long-held ambition,” he said.

“I am immensely proud to have helped United win the FA Cup for the 12th time in the club’s history. I have been privileged during my management career to have won 20 trophies but winning the FA Cup, which is steeped in so much history, will always be one of the most special achievements of my career.

“I am very disappointed to be unable to complete our intended three-year plan. I believe that the foundations are firmly in place to enable the club to move forward and achieve even greater success.”

United have stated that an announcement on the club’s new manager will be made in the near future, with it little secret that Jose Mourinho is set to be unveiled at Old Trafford.

The former Chelsea boss was sacked from the outgoing Premier League champions following a tumultuous start to the 2015-16 campaign but boasts a proud record of managerial success.

Having won the Champions League for both Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho has also claimed domestic titles in Portugal, Italy, Spain and England.

The reaction of the United fans to the outspoken coach’s arrival will be interesting given that he was highly disliked in the Old Trafford ranks during his reign at Stamford Bridge.

Tokyo 2020 will get a man-made meteor shower, but transparency lags far behind

The announcement that the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feature a man-made meteor shower, certainly sparked some interest for a Games which have been beset by controversies to date.

Back in July 2015, the Japanese government scrapped plans for a $2 billion stadium envisioned as the centerpiece of the event due to concerns over rising costs and a growing public backlash.

Designers were eventually appointed in December, but just a month later the bidding process came under scrutiny when the second part of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission report into corruption was published.

The report detailed a conversation between another of Lamine Diack’s sons, Khalil, and Turkish officials leading the Istanbul bid team.

A “sponsorship” payment of between $4m and $5m US dollars had been made by Japanese organizers either to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) or the Diamond League series.

The report claims Istanbul lost the support of Lamine Diack, the IAAF boss at the time, because they did not pay.

Further payments from the Japanese were revealed earlier this month, with French prosecutors saying $2m had been paid to a Singapore-based company called Black Tidings to help secure the games.

The controversies surrounding the 2020 Games appear to mirror those which have hit the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Allegations of bribery and corruption in the selection process involving members of FIFA’s executive committee first surfaced in 2011, although these were subsequently retracted.

In March 2014, it was alleged that a firm linked to Qatar’s bid paid committee member Jack Warner and his family almost $2m.

Mohammed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation, came under scrutiny in June 2014 when The Sunday Times claimed to have evidence proving he had paid over $5m to football officials to support the Qatar bid.

Bin Hamman and all those accused of accepting bribes denied the charges.

Cultural issues regarding Qatar’s laws on homosexuality, along with major controversies involving the treatment of migrant workers tasked with building the infrastructure have also hit the headlines, but arguably the biggest talking point has been the timing of the tournament and its impact on the stadiums and the players.

The event is scheduled to be held between November and December 2022, timing which will cause major disruption to some of the world’s top leagues.

With the World Cup normally scheduled during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, the weather in Qatar came firmly into focus.

Temperatures of more than 50 degrees were a big concern for the players, leading FIFA to move the tournament to later in the year.

Despite the switch, organizers still plan to fit out the five stadiums with solar-powered air conditioning capable of reducing temperatures within each stadium by up to 20 degrees.

The technology will harness the power of the sun’s rays to provide a cool environment for players and fans by converting solar energy into electricity that will then be used to cool the stadiums.

When games are not taking place, the solar installations will export energy onto the power grid which will then be used during subsequent matches, creating a carbon neutral status for the venues.

French Open preview: World number ones Djokovic and Williams eager for victory

The French Open is set to start on Sunday, with world number ones Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams both having a point to prove.

For the Serbian, the Paris-based tournament remains the only Grand Slam that he is yet to win in a glittering career, while American Williams has not been at her best in 2016.

In the men’s tournament, Stan Wawrinka shocked Djokovic in last year’s final and will take on Lukas Rosol in the first round of his title defence.

Djokovic has been the dominant force in tennis over the last two years, with defeat in the French Open final the only blemish in his copybook in 2015.

Having won the other three major competitions, the Serb started 2016 in fine fashion by claiming the Australian Open.

Elsewhere, Roger Federer has withdrawn from the tournament after suffering from a back injury, while Rafael Nadal will fancy his chances of winning a competition he has claimed a staggering nine times previously.

The Spaniard has proven that he can be devastating on a clay surface and will hope to claim his first Grand Slam since winning in 2014 at Roland Garros.

World number two Andy Murray has been paired with Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the first round and will fancy his chances given that he is the in opposite side of the draw to both Djokovic and Nadal.

The Scot also defeated Djokovic on clay earlier this month in the final of the Italian Open.

Russia’s only competitor in the men’s tournament is Evgeny Donskoy, who faces 11th seed David Ferrer.

In the women’s tournament, Williams remains the world’s number one and the player to beat.

The 34-year-old American has won the French Open on three previous occasions but the competition in Paris is her least successful major tournament as she has won the other three six times apiece.

Williams was stunned in the semi-finals of the US Open last year by Italian Roberta Vinci, which robbed her of winning all four major tournaments.

She also started this year with an upset defeat at the hands of Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open, but did win the Italian Open on clay earlier this month. Williams starts against Magdalena Rybarikova.

World number five Victoria Azarenka is a dark horse after returning to full fitness and beating winning the Miami Open earlier this year.

Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who lost to Azarenka in the final in Miami after defeating Williams, will start her campaign against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova and hope to make the latter stages of the tournament in France.

Other Russians to compete in the women’s tournament include Margarita Gasparyan and Vitalia Diatchenko, who face Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safaova respectively, while Maria Sharapova remains banned.

Video: Man United captain Wayne Rooney in bizarre X-Men Apocalypse movie teaser

The video below may well be slightly unnerving and cringeworthy, but it is yet another example of Manchester United’s innovative ways of monetizing the club’s fame.

With a furore around the new X-Men Apocalypse movie, the Old Trafford club have become involved in promoting the film’s release.

As can be seen in the video below, Wayne Rooney is asked by the movie’s heroes to help them in their latest quest to save humanity, while both David De Gea and Anthony Martial also star.

The video is sure to help opposition supporters attack Rooney, with the United captain’s blushes potentially on show at Wembley as his side take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final later today.

The latest ploy to make money from the Red Devils brand adds to an array of sponsorship agreements that United have signed up over recent years.

As well as their major partnerships with the likes of Adidas and Chevrolet, the Premier League side also have an official diesel engine partner and official savoury snack partner – with seemingly every opportunity to make money capitalized upon.

In the latest figures released by Forbes, United are third in the global rich list behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Adidas targets US sports stars in bid to close Nike’s marketing dominance

A leading executive at Adidas has admitted that the apparel giant is targeting American sports stars in a bid to close the gap on industry leader and rival Nike.

Nike have a stranglehold on the market, thanks largely to having leading basketball and American football stars endorsing their product.

The latest figures show that Nike possessed a 21.1 per cent share in the US sports market in 2015, rising from 20.1 per cent the year prior. In comparison, Adidas has a 3.4 per cent market share.

Although Adidas has a venerable reputation in Europe, the German manufacturer is losing ground in America and has been overtaken by Under Armour in terms of market share.

With Nike also threatening to take away the European organization’s lucrative sponsorship deal with English football team Chelsea, Adidas have started a new offensive.

Adidas’ North America president Mark King has stated that the company want to bolster the arsenal of US sports stars wearing their product.

His goal is to increase the number of NFL players that his company sponsors from 95 to 250 by 2020, while boosting its numbers in the NBA from 70 to 100.

“When you do well in football in the United States, it is like doing well in soccer in Germany,” he said.

“The more grounded that we are in America, in American sports, the more success we’re going to have.

“We’re a brand that can take care of you when you play your game and we can also make you look cool when you come off the pitch.”

Some of the big names to sign up with Adidas recently include Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers football team and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.

The manufacturer’s main target market is teenagers aged 14-18.

Adidas have recorded positive first-quarter sales in 2016, which have increased by an impressive 31 per cent – but this is largely due to the popularity of retro shoes such as Superstar and Stan Smith rather than functional apparel.

The German producer is clearly keen to boost its market share in sports specific products also, given the vulnerable and insecure nature of banking on fashion items.

Adidas’ focus in North America has seen King been given more autonomy and leading executives from head office in Germany transferred to the company’s US base in Portland.