SOCCER

Luciano Acosta, the star midfielder for Major League Soccer’s FC Cincinnati, has been named the 2023 Landon Donovan MLS MVP, the league announced Monday.

Acosta, 29, led MLS with 31 goal contributions this season, including 17 goals and 14 assists, to help lead FC Cincinnati (20-5-9 overall record) to winning the Supporters’ Shield, the franchise’s first MLS-era trophy. He won the MLS MVP in a landslide, receiving 60.37% of total votes.

Acosta finished ahead of Los Angeles FC forward Dénis Bouanga (14.97% of vote) and Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada in the voting, which is determined by a poll of MLS players, clubs and media. A native of Rosario, Argentina, Acosta is the first FC Cincinnati player to win MLS MVP since the club joined the league in 2019, and the fourth Argentine to win the award since it was first introduced in 1996.

U.S. MEN: The U.S. men’s soccer team will open its 2024 schedule with an exhibition against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio.

The game announced Monday is not on a FIFA fixture date, which means most Europe-based players will not be available.

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The U.S. plays Jamaica on March 21 at Arlington, Texas, in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Nations League and faces Mexico or Panama three days later in the championship or third-place game.

BULGARIA: Borislav Mihaylov, the controversial president of the Bulgarian soccer federation and a former national team goalkeeper, resigned Monday following mass protests against him.

Several thousand soccer fans had taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand the resignation of Mihaylov, the goalkeeper on the Bulgaria team that reached the semifinals at the 1994 World Cup.

The fury was fueled by the federation’s decision to play a European Championship qualifying match against Hungary on Oct. 16 in an empty stadium, and longer-term unhappiness with the national team’s decline.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Willian converted two of the game’s three second-half penalties – including the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time – to help Fulham defeat Wolverhampton 3-2 in another English Premier League match dominated by VAR calls on Monday in London.

The former Brazil winger’s first spot kick in the 59th minute made it 2-1, only for Hwang Hee-chan to win and then convert his own penalty in the 75th to leave an end-to-end game at Craven Cottage heading for a draw.

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LA LIGA: Girona missed a chance to return to the top of the Spanish league on Monday when it was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Athletic Bilbao in Madrid.

The result means Girona remained in second place, tied on points with leader Real Madrid, but four points ahead of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, who were tied for third.

SERIE A: Bologna returned to winning ways when second-half goals from Giovanni Fabbian and Joshua Zirkzee beat Torino 2-0 in Serie A on Monday in Rome.

AUTO RACING

INDYCAR: Two-time IndyCar champion Alex Palou concedes in court documents that he breached his contract with McLaren Racing when the Spaniard did an about-face and stayed at Chip Ganassi Racing.

The admission came in Palou’s response to a lawsuit filed against him by McLaren in September seeking to recoup at least $23 million in losses the team calculated Palou’s reversal cost the organization. Palou’s 20-page response was filed in the High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court. The Associated Press reviewed the filing Monday.

In the response, Palou says he changed his mind about joining McLaren ahead of the 2024 season when he “lost trust and confidence that (McLaren) genuinely intended to support his ambition to race in the Formula One Series and decided to continue racing with CGR in the Indy Car Series instead.”

Palou “therefore admits that he renounced his contractual obligations” with McLaren and “the real issue between the parties is as to the quantum of any damages which the Defendants are liable to pay,” the documents say.

The spat over the 26-year-old between two IndyCar teams began when Palou initially disputed a Ganassi claim that the team had picked up the 2023 option year on his contract. McLaren in July 2022 said it had signed Palou and had him earmarked for an IndyCar seat and a reserve driver role with its Formula One team. Chip Ganassi Racing said it had the contractual rights for Palou for the 2023 season.


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