UEFA, the governing body of soccer in Europe, disclosed plans Friday for the largest soccer competition in history. The event, called the Global Nations League, would involve 223 national teams, peaking with a series of eight-team knockout tournaments in June of every odd-numbered year.
The headline attraction of a complex format involving regional qualifying groups with promotion and relegation and intercontinental finals brackets is a top-tier finals that would include three European teams, two from South America and one each from Africa, Asia and the North American region.
The first finals could be as soon as June 2021. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final would be played in an intense week of action in a single host nation, officials briefed on the Global National League told the Associated Press.
The event would take place every two years and would replace many of the often-meaningless friendly matches. The format expands on UEFA’s Nations League, which kicks off next September in Europe.
FIFA said in a statement it was “involved from the beginning in the process.”
Teams would be graded in seven divisions according to their FIFA ranking. Each confederation would run its own qualifying groups with promotion and relegation.
Speed record falls in Texas qualifying
Kurt Busch won the pole position for the Monster Energy Cup Texas 500, going faster than anyone ever has gone in NASCAR Cup qualifying on a 1½-mile track.
Busch averaged 200.915 mph at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on his only lap in the final round of qualifying.
Five drivers surpassed the previous qualifying record at the track, Tony Stewart’s 200.111 mph three years ago.
Denny Hamlin qualified second at 200.617 mph. Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones and Kyle Busch also broke the record.
Seven of the eight championship contenders will start in the top nine spots. The only one who won’t is Chase Elliott, who will start 34th.
Marlins make Ichiro a free agent
The Miami Marlins declined Ichiro Suzuki’s $2 million team option, making him a 44-year-old free agent after 17 seasons in the majors.
Ichiro batted .255 this season, when he set major league records with 109 pinch plate appearances and 100 pinch at-bats. His 27 pinch-hits were one shy of the single-season record.
He said during the last week of the season he wants to play until he’s 50.
Mets keep Cabrera, Blevins
The New York Mets exercised an $8.25 million option on infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and a $7 million option of lefthanded pitcher Jerry Blevins, preventing them from becoming free agents.
Around the horn
Golf: J.J. Spaun shot a 6-under 65 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas to take a three-stroke lead in the suspended second round of the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He’s at 11-under 131 … Defending champion Shanshan Feng shot a 6-under 66 and shared the lead with six others after the first round of the LPGA Tour’s Japan Classic in Ibaraki.
College athletics: Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said he will step down by June 2018 as leader of a department hit by scandals in its men’s basketball and softball programs. He has held the job since 2004.
Tennis: Top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters because of a right knee injury. He said he would strive to be fit for the ATP Finals, which start Nov. 12 in London.