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After being slowed by the pandemic, the race among 17 US cities to land a coveted spot hosting the 2026 World Cup is back on. Two FIFA inspectors were in Atlanta Friday to get a look at 72,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of a record-setting Major League Soccer team and centerpiece of the city’s bid. FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani, who also leads regional governing body CONCACAF, joked that Atlanta is now “a football city, as in the real football that is played globally.” Atlanta is counting on its retractable-roof stadium, which opened in 2017, and history of staging everything from the Summer Olympics to the Super Bowl to help it land what is arguably the biggest worldwide spectacle of them all. Montagliani and Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief tournament and events officer, already visited Boston and Nashville. FIFA officials joined Robert Kraft and Revolution president Brian Bilello in kicking off a nine-city tour at Gillette Stadium Wednesday morning. Over the next week, they’re planning stops in Orlando, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Miami. In the next two months, FIFA will complete site visits to the remaining US finalists: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City, Houston, Dallas, and Cincinnati. The United States won hosting rights along with Mexico and Canada in what will be the first World Cup staged in three nations. The site visits were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing back a final decision on the host cities to early 2022.

Pulisic could miss US qualifier against Panama

The British government is keeping Panama on its red list, which means the United States may have to play without star Christian Pulisic and several other U.K.-based players for its World Cup qualifier at the Central American nation Oct. 10. The US team plays at Panama between home matches against Jamaica on Oct. 7 at Austin, Texas, and Costa Rica on Oct. 13 at Columbus, Ohio. Britain requires anyone visiting a nation on its red list to quarantine upon arrival in England for 10 days. An Oct. 10 match in Panama followed by the game in Columbus would rule out Pulisic from playing for Chelsea in its Premier League match at Brentford on Oct. 16 and a home Champions League game against Malmö on Oct. 20. US coach Gregg Berhalter could be forced to leave Pulisic and other British-based players in the United States for training between the two qualifiers, which may cause Berhalter to bring a larger group to camp. Pulisic was among five England-based players on the US roster for the opening three qualifiers in September: a 0-0 draw at El Salvador, a 1-1 home draw against Canada, and a 4-1 win at Honduras.

Pelé takes slight step back in surgery recovery

Brazilian soccer great Pelé “took a little step back” in his recovery from surgery to remove a tumor from his colon, his daughter Kely Nascimento said, but he is “recovering well” at a Sao Paulo hospital. She did not comment on local media reports saying the 80-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento is back in intensive care. Kely Nascimento posted a picture with her father on Instagram which she said she had just taken in his room at the Albert Einstein hospital. The hospital has not issued statements on Pelé's health since Tuesday, when he was removed from intensive care. The tumor was found when Pelé went for routine exams at the end of August. His surgery took place Sept. 4.

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Allan Saint-Maximin secures Newcastle tie against Leeds

Newcastle had Allan Saint-Maximin’s brilliance to thank after coming from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Leeds in the Premier League. The 24-year-old Frenchman blasted home a superb equalizer to cancel out Raphinha’s opener on a night when sections of the 50,000 crowd at St. James’ Park once again chanted for Newcastle manager Steve Bruce to go. Both sides are still awaiting a first league win of the season and the 60-year-old Bruce knows his critics are far from placated, but equally that his players are playing for him ... Cádiz held on for a 2-1 victory at Celta Vigo to end its winless streak in the Spanish league.Anthony Lozano and Luis Alfonso Espino scored five minutes apart at the end of the first half to give the visitors the win in Vigo. Cádiz had lost two games in a row after opening with consecutive draws ... Habib Diallo scored twice after strike partner Ludovic Ajorque netted early on as Strasbourg beat Metz, 3-0, in the French league. Ajorque put the Alsace-based side ahead from the penalty spot in the fifth minute following a foul on midfielder Dimitri Lienard ... Jurgen Ekkelenkamp scored 87 seconds into his Hertha Berlin debut in a 2-1 win over promoted Greuther Fürth in the Bundesliga. The 21-year-old Dutch midfielder, who joined Hertha from Ajax on the last day of the summer transfer window, scored with a header from a corner in the 61st minute.

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GOLF

Jin Young Ko takes lead at Portland Classic

Jin Young Ko shot a 5-under 67 to take the second-round lead in the Cambia Portland Classic. The second-ranked South Korean star needed only 23 putts in her morning round, making six birdies and a bogey to reach 8-under 136 at hilly, windy and tricky Oregon Golf Club. “I change the putter few weeks ago in Korea and I spend time, over a month, in Korea, so I feel really like comfortable and like fresh,” Ko said. “I’m playing really good right now.” Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland was a stroke back after a 69. “It was quite tough out there. It was quite windy,” Dryburgh said. “Reminded me of home a little bit, especially my back nine, the front nine. It’s a bit more open around there so it’s kind of tricky.” Carlota Ciganda, the only member of the winning European Solheim Cup team in the field, had a 71 to get to 5 under. Jeongeun Lee (67), Jeongeun Lee6 (70), Andrea Lee (68), Alana Uriell (66), Su Oh (71), Jenny Shin (71), and Pajaree Anannarukarn (72) were 4 under. Making her first start since the Tokyo Olympics, Ko rebounded after bogeying three straight holes late Thursday afternoon in an opening 69. She won in Texas in July for her eighth LPGA Tour victory.

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K.J. Choi and Darren Clarke share lead

K.J. Choi closed eagle-birdie-birdie for a 7-under-pR 63 and share of the first-round lead with Darren Clarke in the PGA Tour Champions’ Stanford International. Choi had a bogey-free round at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, S.D. Choi, 51, won eight times on the PGA Tour. Clarke, 53, also finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. He has two victories this season, the TimberTech Championship in November and Mitsubishi Electric Championship in January ... Maverick McNealy overcame three consecutive bogeys and holed out from 74 yards for eagle on the last for an 8-under 64 and the second-round lead in the Fortinet Championship. Winless in 66 career starts on the PGA Tour, McNealy had nine birdies — one from a greenside bunker to offset his stumbles and get to 12 under at Silverado Resort and Spa ... Kristoffer Broberg of Sweden shot 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Dutch Open.

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MISCELLANY

Casper Ruud helps Norway take 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan in Davis Cup

Casper Ruud’s Davis Cup debut as a Top 10 player resulted in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Khumoyun Sultanov, helping Norway take a 2-0 lead over visiting Uzbekistan in the World Group I playoffs. The 22-year-old Ruud — whose father, Christian, played for Norway’s Davis Cup team with current captain Anders Haseth — became the country’s first player in the ATP Top 10 when he rose one spot from 11th on Monday.In other results, South Korea took a 2-0 lead against New Zealand at Newport, Rhode Island, Chile and host Slovakia were tied 1-1, Finland led visiting India 2-0, and Peru was hosting Bosnia and Herzegovina ... The Portland Sea Dogs beat the Hartford Yard Goats, 7-2 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Pedro Castellanos and Devlin Granberg each hit home runs in the victory while Josh Winckowski spun a gem in his 20th start of the year ... The Syracuse Mets took an early lead once again on the way to a 7-1 win over the Worcester Red Sox at NBT Bank Stadium. Syracuse put up seven runs on 13 hits and five home runs, tying a season-high for the most homers Worcester has allowed in a single game this season ... AJ Allmendinger slid sideways across the Bristol Motor Speedway finish line to edge rival Austin Cindric for both the win and the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season championship. The race was Cindric’s to win and the reigning Xfinity champion was four laps away from a second straight regular-season title and a healthy lead for the start of the playoffs. Instead, a late caution gave Allmendinger a shot to steal a sixth win from Cindric and continue his own fairytale season.

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