Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Wednesday. A full Sports Digest will be sent by about 3 p.m. All times EST:
– ZURICH – As the soccer world digests FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup, a look at the some of the benefits and pitfalls of a 48-team tournament in 2026.
– CARSON, Calif. – Coach Bruce Arena opens camp with the U.S. men’s national soccer team in the same training complex where he spent the past eight years running the LA Galaxy. Arena returned to the U.S. team in November to salvage its run for World Cup qualification.
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– FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott was in the first group of collegians to go through something resembling the NFL playoffs when Ohio State won the national title two years ago. Now the Dallas rookie is among a handful of young players seeing how the experience translates.
– FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons’ last hope in their 26-24 loss at Seattle on Oct. 16 was a no-call on Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s apparent pass interference on Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Jones and the Falcons get another shot at Seattle in Saturday’s divisional round playoff game.
– When the point spreads came out for the divisional playoff round, the line getting the most attention was for the game at Foxborough, the one projected blowout. But Pro Picks isn’t afraid of that spread.
– WASHINGTON – With Alex Ovechkin a point away from 1,000, the Washington Capitals go for their seventh consecutive win when they face Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who try to extend their winning streak to six. Game starts 8 p.m.
– OMAHA, Neb. – No. 12 Butler, which followed up its win over Villanova with an overtime victory against Georgetown, goes for its fourth win in a row when it visits No. 8 Creighton. The Bluejays’ only loss was to `Nova. Game starts 9 p.m.
– HOUSTON – Paul Chryst of Wisconsin, Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck, James Franklin of Penn State, USC’s Clay Helton, Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre, Nick Saban of Alabama, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoop and national championship winner Clemson’s Dabo Swinney are finalists for the Paul ”Bear” Bryant coach of the year award. Announcement at 10:45 a.m.
– HONOLULU – Same state, different island and a very different course greets the first full-field event of the year at the Sony Open. Instead of a course on a mountain, Waialae is flat and on the shores north of Waikiki.
– The Ryder Cup announces its next U.S. captain, with all signs pointing to Jim Furyk, for the 2018 matches in France, where the Americans will try to win back-to-back for the first time in 25 years.
– HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Carl Edwards confirms that he is walking away from NASCAR this season. Edwards deliberately did not use the word ”retirement” in explaining his decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing with one year remaining on his contract.