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Toronto FC earns draw with Club León in 1st leg of CONCACAF Champions League tie

As first impressions go, there was plenty to like Wednesday in Toronto FC’s first outing under head coach Chris Armas.

Despite missing some key personnel and playing its first competitive match since Nov. 24, Toronto held Club Leon to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie.

The Mexican side is in-season and on a good run of late. But it could not put Toronto away despite dominating possession and coming on in waves as the clock wound down.

While the draw came from a second-half Leon own goal, Toronto pressure forced the mistake. And Armas had promised pressure from his team.

“I love the way we stuck together,” said Armas. “I loved the way we stepped on the field and straight away we were going to try to stick to being who we are and be aggressive on the night. That’s what gets us the goal, from a pressing situation.

“I loved the way the guys dug deep, into the second half . Overall a gutsy performance.”

WATCH | TFC, Club León share spoils in 1st leg of round of 16:

Toronto FC and Club León play to a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg of their Round of 16 series as Andrés Mosquera records an own goal. 1:25

A fierce competitor during his playing days as a defensive midfielder, Armas still burns very bright on the sidelines. He celebrated the Leon own goal that brought his team back as if he had hit the jackpot in Vegas.

The Champions League is CONCACAF’s flagship club competition, with the winner advancing to the FIFA Club World Cup against other confederation champions.

Playing on hostile ground, Toronto was without at least five starters. TFC had hinted at health issues in the buildup to the match but, in the closed world of the pandemic, the true extent of the problem did not become clear until the starting lineup was released.

Not dressed were Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, defenders Chris Mavinga and Justin Morrow and midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Nick DeLeon.

Armas started 18-year-old Ralph Priso and 20-year-old Noble Okello in midfield with 21-year-old Jacob Shaffelburg on the wing. The Toronto bench included 20-year-old Jordan Perruzza, 22-year-old Griffin Dorsey and 20-year-old Luke Singh, a TFC 2 defender signed to a short-term deal ahead of the match.

The youngsters did not disappoint and it took a moment of brilliance for Leon to breach the Toronto defence.

Fernando Navarro opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a spectacular right-footed volley from the edge of the penalty box after Jean Meneses eluded fullback Richie Laryea and found Navarro with a delicate chip. A diving Alex Bono got a hand to the ball but the power of the shot carried it in off the post.

Toronto had eight players in its box but none close enough to stop Navarro’s moment of magic.

TFC’s pressure led to an own goal in the 50th minute as the MLS team lived up to Armas’ pre-game promise. He said Toronto would look to make Leon uncomfortable

TFC substitute Erickson Gallardo did just that, demonstrating the aggressive press that Armas has instituted. The 24-year-old Venezuelan winger struggled to make an impression under former coach Greg Vanney and it looked like more of the same when he gave up the ball cheaply soon after coming on to open the second half.

But he made the goal, stealing the ball off William Tesillo before trying to thread it through to Jozy Altidore. A sliding Andres Mosquera got a foot to the ball at the edge of the box, deflecting it over goalkeeper Rodolpho Cota to give TFC a valuable away goal.

‘A great result for us’

A tiring Toronto held on in the dying minutes with Bono blocking a rocket in the 86th minute. TFC and Leon, who had never met before, will play the second leg April 14 in the Orlando area.

“It’s a great result for us but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said centre back Omar Gonzalez, who was immense at the heart of the Toronto defence. “We consider this halftime.”

Leon was without influential captain Luis Montes, serving a suspension after being sent off in last year’s competition against Los Angeles FC. He will be back for the second leg,

Toronto’s lineup is full of question-marks.

The club said Pozuelo stayed in Florida to have what is thought to be a mild strain re-evaluated. Mavinga, Osorio and Morrow were not cleared to play by team doctors while DeLeon was a game-day decision. Westberg was late joining camp for personal reasons.

And the draw may have come at a cost for Toronto.

Altidore came off in the 74th minute after clutching the back of his right leg. The U.S. international has had a history of hamstring issues.

And Gallardo, who came on to start the second half, had to leave in the 75th due to injury. Armas had to throw on Singh in the 87th minute for his first-team debut.

“I said I’m going to play young players,” said Armas. “Look how may played tonight.”

The Toronto-Leon winner will face either Mexico’s Cruz Azul or Haiti’s Arcahaie FC in the quarterfinals. Arcahaie held the visiting Mexicans to a 0-0 draw Tuesday.

Leon came as advertised, shifting the ball around with good passing and movement. But the final ball was often missing or the offside flag went up for the eight-time Mexican champions as they tried to get behind the TFC backline. Toronto also did a good job clogging up space in its own end in the first half.

After a slow start that saw Leon win just two of its first 10 league matches (2-6-2) this year, the Mexican side has returned to form. Leon defeated Toluca 3-1 Sunday to extend its win streak to three and currently stands eighth in the standings at 5-6-2.

TFC opens the MLS season April 17 against CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

It was 29 degrees Celsius at kickoff at Estadio Leon, where Canada lost 1-0 to France in its opening game of the 1986 World Cup. Attendance Wednesday was pegged at 30 percent of the 31,297 capacity.

One can argue TFC also failed to score there. But the MLS side set itself up for a more than a chance in the second leg.

Leon won the Liga MX Apertura Liga MX Guardianes title — named in honour of Mexico’s health-care workers — in December, defeating Pumas UNAM 3-1 on aggregate after a 12-1-4 campaign.

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Bayern eliminate Canada’s Labbé, FC Rosengård in women’s Champions League

Bayern Munich will face Chelsea and Canadian midfield-sensation Jessie Fleming in the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League after dispatching Swedish club FC Rosengård 1-0 on Thursday.

Lea Schuller headed in the winner past Canadian international goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to seal the German side’s win, and 4-0 total-aggregate victory over two-legs. 

Barcelona reached the final four by eliminating Manchester City — which also featured Canada’s Janine Beckie –  on Wednesday.

The Spanish side awaits either five-time defending champion Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain, whose quarter-final second leg was moved to April 18 after a coronavirus outbreak in the Lyon squad. Lyon leads 1-0.

WATCH | Canada’s Beckie sweeps in opening goal as Man City ousted by Barcelona:

Canadian striker Janine Beckie scored the opening goal as Manchester City beat Barcelona 2-1, but fell 4-2 on aggregate scoring in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals. 0:43

The battle of French rivals features Toronto’s Kadeisha Buchanan for Lyon, while both Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack, B.C., and Ashley Lawrence of Toronto line up for PSG.

Chelsea advanced by eliminating two-time champion Wolfsburg. The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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Canada’s Jessie Fleming helps Chelsea women retain Continental League Cup

Canadian international Jessie Fleming and Chelsea won the Continental League Cup on Sunday with a 6-0 romp over Bristol City in Watford, England.

The 23-year-old midfielder from London, Ont., played the full 90 minutes as the Chelsea women retained the title won in February 2020 with a 2-1 decision over Arsenal.

Sunday’s win gave Emma Hayes her eighth major trophy as manager.

Australian captain Sam Kerr scored a hat-trick for the Blues with England’s Fran Kirby adding a pair and Norway’s Guro Reiten contributing a single.

Chelsea led 1-0 after two minutes and 4-0 at the half at Vicarage Road.

Having made their three substitutions, the Blues played the last 15 minutes with 10 players after fullback Maren Mjelde, who captains Norway, was stretchered off with an apparent knee injury.

Chelsea currently tops the FA Women’s Super League table at 13-1-2. Bristol City is 11th in the 12-team division at 2-10-3.

Fleming joined Chelsea last July after a stellar collegiate career at UCLA. She has won 77 caps for Canada with 10 goals and four assists.

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Canadian Premier League looking to add expansion team in Saskatoon

The Canadian Premier League is looking to add a team in Saskatchewan, awarding “exclusive rights” to an expansion club to a company planning to start a franchise in Saskatoon.

But there are more hoops to jump through before the fledgling soccer league, which grew to eight teams with Atletico Ottawa coming on board last year, expands again.

The agreement in principle with Living Sky Sports and Entertainment Inc. (LSSE) is contingent on the Saskatchewan-based company providing a soccer-specific stadium to league standards.

LSSE is looking at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon as the preferred site for a stadium — on the site currently occupied by the Marquis Downs racetrack.

“The key thing now is to get everybody behind it — the community, the soccer public in Saskatchewan and get that machine running the way they do. Because they’re great sports fans,” said CPL commissioner David Clanachan. “I think soccer will fit perfectly in that province.

Should everything fall into place, 2023 would likely be the earliest for the Saskatchewan team to kick off.

The man behind LSSE is Alan Simpson, a 63-year-old Regina businessman.

He was co-founder of Hospitality Network Canada, which provides entertainment services within the healthcare industry. He subsequently co-founded StorageVault Canada and currently is chairman of the company’s acquisitions committee and serves on its board of directors.

Soccer is his game now

“My time right now is consumed with Living Sky Sports and Entertainment and trying to get this soccer project to fruition with CPL,” he said in an interview.

Simpson has no partners as of now, but says he is open to bringing on “other founding partners and community partners in Saskatchewan.”

While the soccer team would be the primary tenant, the proposed venue could be used for other things. Simpson said Prairieland Park would be a partner in the stadium.

Prairieland Park, a non-profit corporation established as an agricultural society in 1886, is a 55-hectare site in the southeast section of Saskatoon.

Prairieland Park CEO Mark Regier said his site is reviewing the merits of adding a soccer stadium.

“When Prairieland was approached about the possibility of a soccer stadium at the park, we felt compelled to consider whether such an infrastructure project could enhance the long-term sustainability of the park, as well as contribute meaningfully to the city of Saskatoon,” Regier said in a statement. “While we have not come to a definitive answer, Prairieland has entered into a memorandum of understanding with LSSE.”

Regier said the memorandum of understanding “marks the ending” of thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs.

Simpson is looking at a stadium that can accommodate 5,000 to 6,500 to start, refurbishing some of the existing infrastructure of the racetrack. Clanachan says the plan could see the venue expand to 10,000 to 12,000.

Starting in 2023 would mean “we would need to put shovels in the ground probably second quarter of 2022,” said Simpson.

“We’ll focus on 2023. We’ll be assertive and aggressive on trying to achieve that,” he added. “But we will also be realistic that it’s a very very ambitious timeline.”

Simpson says his soccer dream is “somewhat idealistic.”

“The province is ready for it. Saskatoon is ready for it. And all the kids who have participated and will participate in soccer are ready for it because it’s a stepping stone to creating a vision and a hope and a dream of perhaps playing professional soccer one day if not in your own province, in your own country. That’s the underlying driving force to do it.”

The CPL’s current lineup includes Pacific FC (Langford, B.C), FC Edmonton, Calgary’s Cavalry FC, Winnipeg’s Valour FC, Hamilton’s Forge FC, York United FC (Toronto) and HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax) in addition to Atletico Ottawa.

The league has targeted the Victoria Day long weekend (May 22-24) as the kickoff for its third season.

Clanachan says the league is moving “full steam ahead” on expansion.

“We’re still having conversations with multiple other groups,” he said. “Every one of them is going to come along at a different pace. This is one that just seemed to be able to pick up a little more steam than the others. And so it’s important for us to get it out there and get working on it.”

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TFC awarded CONCACAF Champions League bye with Forge unable to train

Toronto FC has been given a bye into the CONCACAF Champions League with Forge FC, its opponent in the Canadian Championship final, unable to return to full training.

Canada Soccer, which runs the Canadian tournament, said the final will be played at a later date.

The pandemic has taken a toll on both clubs. Hamilton’s Forge is still waiting approval from local authorities to start camp while TFC, which started training Feb. 17, has been sidelined by a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

Canada Soccer was facing a time crunch given the winner of the Canadian Championship final has an April 7 date with Mexico’s Club Leon in the first leg of round-of-16 play in the CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation’s flagship club competition.

Canada Soccer said TFC and Forge had both signed off on the decision, adding “every effort will be made to hold the Canadian Championship at a later date pending league schedules and in accordance with all public health and safety measures.”

Canada Soccer, which had previously only said the final would be played in the first quarter of 2021, confirmed Thursday that March 20 had been the tentative date. The Champions League dates and a FIFA international window opening March 22 left it little wiggle room.

Eventually, we will crown a Battle of the North champion and award the Voyageurs Cup for the 2020 season.– Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis

Still it did not sit well with Forge owner Bob Young, who released an open letter last Saturday complaining his team was not prepared given the lack of training. Forge has not played since a Dec. 8 loss to Honduras’ CD Marathon in the CONCACAF League, a feeder competition to the Champions League.

Two days after the Young letter, TFC announced its camp had been closed with players and staff sent home to self-isolate after several positive COVID-19 tests.

Canada Olympic coach Mauro Biello opted not to pick any of TFC’s youngsters for the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, saying they would not be ready for Canada’s first game March 19.

The Canadian Championship final will be played at a later date in Hamilton.

“Canada Soccer looks forward to hosting the Canadian Championship final at Tim Hortons Field and celebrating the achievements of both clubs with their fans in the stands in a safe manner,” Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis said in a statement. “Eventually, we will crown a Battle of the North champion and award the Voyageurs Cup for the 2020 season.”

Changes made

The 2020 Canadian Championship originally was to have featured 11 clubs — three Canadian teams from Major League Soccer and eight Canadian Premier League sides. The tournament was slated to kick off June 16 and run through Sept. 23, but was delayed when soccer suspended play due to global pandemic.

In August, Canada Soccer decided to scrap the tournament and just stage a one-off final.

Forge qualified for the final by winning the CPL’s Island Games in Charlottetown last summer. Toronto made it by finishing first among the Canadian teams in the first phase of the revised MLS 2020 schedule.

The Canadian Championship was first held in 2008. Toronto FC has won the Voyageurs Cup seven times compared to four for Montreal and once for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Toronto (2018) and Montreal (2014-15) have both finished runners-up in CONCACAF Champions League.

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Canadian Premier League opens up about finances, saying it’s time for transparency

Entering its third season, the Canadian Premier League has demonstrated there is an appetite for a domestic soccer circuit.

Two-time champion Forge FC has done the CPL proud in CONCACAF club play. Atletico Ottawa joined last year; an addition more remarkable in that the expansion franchise arrived during a pandemic.

Some 10 CPL players — 11 if you include Montreal FC defender Karifa Yao, who has been loaned to Calgary’s Cavalry FC — were named in Canada’s provisional men’s roster for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying.

CPL talent has made the jump to Major League Soccer and abroad.

The eight-team league has shown plenty. What it hasn’t done is lift the curtain on its finances.

Until now.

The CPL, with teams in Halifax, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Langford, B.C., is sharing some of its financial data for the 2021 season, saying it’s time for more transparency.

“It needs to be done,” commissioner David Clanachan said in an interview.

‘In a long-term game’ to make profit

With media and supporters clamouring for such information, Clanachan said the decision was made to share numbers to get the accurate information out there.

  • The league says this season each team will operate with a $ 1.2-million salary cap, which covers both players and coaching/technical staff.
  • Player spending must fall between $ 650,000 and $ 850,000 while the coach/technical range is between $ 350,000 and $ 550,000. Combined, the two must fall under $ 1.2 million.
  • The cap includes salaries, housing and travel allowances and individual player bonuses but not “league or club accomplishment bonuses.” The league says, on average, the salary cap accounts for some 57 per cent of team revenue — and could reach some 70 per cent factoring in bonuses.

The league says, on average, it takes more $ 4 million a year to run a CPL team.

Asked when the league might make a profit, Clanachan replied “We’re not there yet, that’s for sure. We’re going to be a few years into it.”

“Our owners know that. They’ve invested circa $ 60 million already in this league. We’re in a long-term game here.”

The league says the salary cap is the same as it was last year, because of the shortened season in 2020. The plan is to raise it in 2022.

The decision to share some of the financial figures comes at a time when CPL players are trying to form a union. Last April, some 90 per cent of the players in the league signed on during the association’s organizing drive.

The Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan) was accepted last month as a candidate member by FIFPRO, which represents more than 65,000 professional men’s and women’s players across 65 affiliated national player associations.

PFACan will have to serve two years as a candidate member before becoming a full member of FIFPRO, which recognizes one player association per country.

Time for league to adjust, former player says

PFACan has complained about the league’s lack of transparency with regards player pay. Other complaints include the league adopting new rules and not publicizing them, and teams having access to player wage details throughout the league while the players themselves are not allowed to disclose their pay.

“It’s a deeply unfair field right now for players,” said Paul Champ, an Ottawa-based labour and human rights lawyer who is helping the players organize. “And we’re just trying to make it a bit fairer in terms of mobility, and negotiating free contracts and also having a minimum standard.”

Canadian international Marcel de Jong is president of PFACan. The 34-year-old, who retired as a Pacific FC player last Friday, says he understands the CPL is a new league.

“But it’s been two years now and I think that’s enough time for the league to make some adjustments and see what it did wrong and correct them,” he said.

  • The league says its average player pay in 2021 is around $ 40,000, which may include housing, car allowances and incentive bonuses. The league says the top end of the salary scale is $ 77,000.
  • There will be a minimum player salary of $ 22,000 in 2021, which including other compensation is expected to reach $ 26,000. The league says it had a “target” minimum salary in the past but is now “raising and codifying it.”
  • The minimum does not cover those on U-Sports contracts, who play during the summer while not at school. Clanachan said those deals would be in the range of $ 10,000 to $ 12,000.
  • Options on player contracts come with 15 per cent raises on average, according to the league.

Champ, however, said there are CPL players with contacts under $ 10,000 with a “large number” in the low teens. They would now be eligible for a bump in salary, according to the league figures.

“We recognize there will be economic realities of this league. But these clubs still do OK. In the first season, a lot of clubs averaged 5,000 spectators per game. And they’ve got a big broadcast contract [with MediaPro],” said Champ. “So, they don’t have to be paying these poverty wages to players.”

Dreaming big

De Jong says some players are forced to move home and live with their parents in the off-season because they can’t afford their own place.

Clanachan says the league is young and looking to improve standards and conditions every year.

“Look at the amount of young Canadians that are playing professional football today that weren’t playing it prior to 2019,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. That’s what we’re doing. We’re creating a soccer economy in the country.”

The CPL is dreaming big. Clanachan says the goal is to become one of the top three leagues in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

To get there, Clanachan says the CPL has to take “a managed, staged approach to how we grow the league.”

As a comparison, Major League Soccer teams will be able to spend $ 9.225 million US on player salaries in 2021, including basic general allocation money and targeted allocation money. The number is higher if they have designated players, only a portion of whose salaries count against the cap.

The minimum MLS salary in 2021 is $ 81,375 on the senior roster and $ 63,547 on the reserve roster.

The league has yet to release its 2021 schedule but is targeting the Victoria Day weekend (May 22-24) for kickoff. The hope is some fans will be allowed in.

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Canada’s Jonathan David scores twice as Lille reclaims top spot in French league

Canadian forward Jonathan David scored two late goals as Lille beat Marseille 2-0 to stay top of the French league on Wednesday.

David, from Ottawa, scored in the 90th minute and again two minutes into injury time. The northern side remains two points ahead of defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which won 1-0 away to Bordeaux.

Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda kept out shots from United States forward Timothy Weah and David in the second half to frustrate Lille.

But the veteran France No. 2 spilled an angled shot from Jonathan Ikone in the 90th and David finished from close range.

Defending champion PSG was missing Kylian Mbappe through suspension and was without the injured Neymar, while striker Moise Kean was ruled out after testing positive for the coronavirus earlier Wednesday.

Winger Pablo Sarabia filled in and scored in the 20th minute when he turned in Idrissa Gueye’s cross from the left.

Bordeaux winger Hatem Ben Arfa should have equalized against his former club when he ran through in the 70th, only to shoot just wide of the left post.

The top three sides all won 1-0, with Lyon edging out Rennes at home to stay one point behind of PSG.

Lyon is now four points clear of fourth-place Monaco after it lost 1-0 at Strasbourg for a first defeat in 13 league games.

There are 10 rounds left.

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Reigning CPL MVP Kyle Bekker re-signs with league champion Forge FC

Captain Kyle Bekker, who led Forge FC to back-to-back Canadian Premier League titles, has re-signed with the Hamilton team.

The Canadian international midfielder was named the CPL’s most valuable player last year after leading the league in appearances (tied with 11) and minutes played by an attacking player (879). The 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who had three goals and one assist in the league’s truncated 2020 season, was also a finalist for MVP honours in 2019.

“We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future,” Costa Smyrniotis, Forge’s director of football, said in a statement. “Kyle has been such a valuable leader for our club since day one, both on the field and in the community. We look forward to continued success together in Hamilton.”

Bekker has made 49 appearances for Forge in all competitions, including 39 in league play.

Bekker played in Major League Soccer from 2013-16 with Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Montreal. He then suited up for North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League and the San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League.

Bekker, who has won 18 caps for Canada, came up through the Sigma FC youth program in Mississauga, Ont., under current Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, Costa’s brother. He played collegiate soccer at Boston College.

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FIFA threatens World Cup, Champions League bans to squash potential breakaway super league

Plans by Europe’s richest soccer clubs to launch a new competition worth nearly $ 5 billion US annually jolted FIFA and Champions League organizer UEFA into warning players on Thursday that they would be banned from the World Cup if they take part in such a breakaway league.

FIFA and all six continental confederations issued a statement saying they would not endorse a new so-called European Super League, and that players who participate in such a competition would be banned from playing in major international tournaments — such as the World Cup or continental championships.

The statement was a clear response to proposals that are circulating in European soccer, and which have been seen by The Associated Press, for the creation of a 20-team annual competition that would include 15 top clubs as permanent members. The five other teams would vary each season, although the qualification method has not been determined.

Each of the 15 founding members would get a share of at least $ 4.2 billion in initial infrastructure grants. The money would be split among four tiers of clubs, with the top six each getting $ 420 million.

Larger share of the pie

The Times of London, which first reported on the details of the proposal, identified Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool as being among the driving forces for the proposal. The competition would begin with two groups of 10 teams, with the top four from each group advancing to the quarter-finals. That would guarantee every team between 18 and 23 annual Super League matches, compared to a minimum of six games in the Champions League group stage.

The games — apart from the final — would be played in midweek like the current Champions League, allowing them to still play in domestic competitions.

Real Madrid and Barcelona were linked last year with planning a breakaway competition inviting famous clubs to enter and increase their own wealth from global broadcasting deals by playing each other more often.

Outgoing Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said in October a Super League plan had been “put forward by the biggest clubs in Europe.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin denounced a “selfish and egotistical scheme” after Madrid president Florentino Perez was reportedly seeking financiers to back the project.

This latest Super League proposal hopes to generate $ 4.86 billion US annually from broadcasters. In comparison, UEFA most recently reported making a combined 3.25 billion euros from selling the rights to the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup.

The 15 founding clubs of the new competition would take the greatest slice of the broadcasting revenue.

Madrid and Perez were previously linked in 2018 to preparing an invitational breakaway league. That project was revealed in leaks of hacked clubs documents to German magazine Der Spiegel.

‘Deeper reforms’

The influential European Club Association, whose vice chairman is Real Madrid official Pedro Lopez, has a working agreement with UEFA for its members to play in European club competitions and co-operate to develop them “in a strategic and holistic perspective.” The working deal expires in July 2024.

Asked for comment Thursday, the ECA said it was working with UEFA on “deeper reforms” in competitions and financial regulations to take account of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the soccer industry.

The FIFPRO group of players’ unions declined comment on a potential threat to its members’ right to play in recognized national team competitions.

The 30-nation European Leagues group said Thursday that breakaway plans were “for a limited number of clubs similar to those franchise models operating in North America.”

FIFA and UEFA reaffirmed Thursday the importance of promotion and relegation giving access to all clubs as a key principle of soccer.

“Participation in global and continental competitions should always be won on the pitch,” the FIFA-led statement said.

UEFA is expected to announce proposals in the coming weeks for modifying its club competitions’ entry paths and playing formats taking effect in 2024.

The group stage of the Champions League is likely to be changed to give clubs who qualify 10 guaranteed games instead of the current six.

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Canadian Cyle Larin continues scoring tear in Turkish league play

Canadian forward Cyle Larin added to his goals total in the Turkish Super Lig on Thursday scoring in league-leading Besiktas’ 4-1 win at Fatih Karagumruk.

The 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., made it 3-0 for the Black Eagles in the 66th minute, sliding to knock a cross from left back Ridvan Yilmaz into the corner of the goal.

Larin kissed the club crest on his jersey and pounded his chest in celebration after the goal

Larin who came into the game having scored six times in his previous four outings, is second in the Turkish Super Lig scoring race with 12 goals. He also has three goals in other competitions.

Veteran Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson also started for Besiktas, which tops the Turkish table at 13-4-2.

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