DOHA, Qatar – Christian Benitez, a standout from Ecuador who led the Mexican league in scoring last season, died Monday — a day after playing in a match for his team in Qatar. He was 27.
The Qatari team El Jaish provided no details about the death but said Benitez did not complain about his health Sunday. Team officials said they are awaiting a medical report.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, Benitez’s father-in-law said the player was admitted to a hospital with severe stomach pains that were the result of complications related to appendicitis. The newspaper said the problem “then became peritonitis before leading to respiratory arrest.”
El Jaish played Qatar Sports in the Sheikh Jassim Cup, a warmup tournament for the upcoming season.
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The match was Benitez’s first with his new team.
The match was played in hot and humid conditions typical of the Persian Gulf this time of year. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and the searing heat has prompted many in soccer to call for the tournament to be moved to winter.
Benitez, a powerful striker, joined El Jaish after helping Mexican team Club America win the championship last season.
“He was a player that over the short period he was here was regarded for his high moral character,” El Jaish said in a statement.
Benitez had 24 goals in 58 international appearances for Ecuador and was on its 2006 World Cup team. He scored against Chile in the 2007 Copa America and had four goals during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Benitez also spent a season with Birmingham of the English Premier League.
In Mexico, he played with one of the country’s most popular teams. On its website, the team mourned “one of the most recent America idols, and shares the sorrow felt by the entire Benitez Betancourt family, and the sport in Mexico, Ecuador and the world.”
MLS to expand, Garber says
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Expansion is coming to Major League Soccer. The only questions facing the league’s board are how many teams, where to locate them and when to bring them into the fold.
Commissioner Don Garber told The Associated Press in an interview Monday the league’s owners plan to discuss expansion “in great detail” Wednesday.
The MLS will play Italian team AS Roma in its annual All-Star Game that night in Kansas City, Kan.
At the moment, the 19-team league is focused on adding a second team in New York. But with soccer icon David Beckham holding an ownership option and several cities expressing interest in a franchise, more growth is likely.
“The league is going to expand. It’s not an ‘if,’ but a ‘when,’ and it’s a ‘how many,’ ” Garber said. “There’s lots of interest among many, many different markets, so we’ll get pretty focused on establishing something firmer in the next few months.”
There was a time when an ownership group could spend less than $10 million on a franchise, but those days are over. Surging attendance, modest but consistent television growth and the recent success of the U.S. national team have made the MLS a hotter property.
It cost English team Manchester City and its partner, baseball’s New York Yankees, an expansion fee of $100 million to launch New York City FC, which will begin play in 2015.
Other cities that have expressed interest, or have lower-tier franchises that want to join MLS, include Atlanta; the Minneapolis-St. Paul region; Sacramento, Calif.; and Orlando, Fla.
• U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden suffered a torn ligament in his right knee early in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Chicago. Holden, 27, is expected to miss at least six months.