Concacaf, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, will implement video assistant referee (VAR) for its remaining World Cup qualifier matches. Those matches will be played this week through March.
World Cup qualifiers for national teams in Concacaf began in March 2021, with the Qatar World Cup scheduled to begin in November of 2022. Video review has not been used by Concacaf in any of those contests, which drew critical comments from U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter in September.
“That’s where the modern game is going,” Berhalter told the AP. “We want to be right up there with the rest of the world, our region, in terms of the quality and the technology. And we need to find a way to get that done.”
Concacaf also announced it will add VAR to games for this year’s women’s championship, men’s and women’s under-20 championships and its Champions League. VAR made its World Cup debut at the 2018 men’s tournament in Russia and was again used at the 2019 women’s World Cup in France. 
Whoop, a leading fitness and wellness wearable, has partnered with digital coaching platform MaxOne for direct data integration in order to provide wearers with personalized recommendations across Whoop’s three areas of focus: readiness, recovery and sleep. 
Core to this new experience is the Own It coaching system that MaxOne acquired last October. Former NHL performance coach Justin Roethlingshoefer started Own It to provide habit coaching based on physiological data, especially heart-rate variability, a readiness indicator dependent on stress, sleep, exercise, nutrition and more.  
MaxOne’s Own It includes an app for athletes and offers a coach consulting service. The collaboration with Whoop was piloted with the University of Miami football team last fall. Among the reported results were a 27% increase in total sleep and 20% increase in HRV, as well as reductions in time missed due to illness and injury. 
“The whole world really can use the knowledge of understanding how my daily habits around hydration, nutrition, sleep affect my health and well-being and how I show up for my job every day,” MaxOne founder and CEO Jason Mejeur told SportTechie in October. MaxOne serves more than 650,000 athletes across 26 sports. 
eBay will now offer authentication services for trading cards sold on its platform through an expansion of the company’s Authenticity Guarantee program. The service has been available for sneakers, watches and handbags, but will now include all ungraded sports and non-sports cards sold for at least $750 on eBay in the U.S. 
The move aims to strengthen eBay’s position as a marketplace for trading cards after card transactions accounted for $2 billion on eBay during the first half of 2021. The company says that an average of one sports card was bought every second on eBay in 2020. Later this year, eBay plans to expand its Authenticity Guarantee service to all graded, autograph and jersey patch cards sold for $250+. 
eBay’s authentication program will see sellers ship their eligible cards to the thirdparty Certified Collectibles Group to inspect the card’s physical quality, a process that includes computer-driven magnification and x-ray fluorescence. A QR code is then placed on the card’s packaging and shipped to the buyer, who can scan the QR code with their mobile phone to view the proof of authentication details.    
“More time at home has been a boon for collecting and, as hobbies turn into investments, authentication services in categories of high value have become a priority for enthusiasts and hobbyists alike,” Dawn Block, VP of collectibles, electronics and home at eBay, said in a statement. 
 
New Jersey has issued a transactional waiver to Esports Entertainment Group to permit the company to begin accepting bets in the state. The company is the first esports betting operator  meaning it strictly offers wagers on video games, but not traditional sports — to receive regulatory approval from NJ’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.  
Esports Entertainment Group’s VIE.gg online betting site will take bets from Garden State-based users on esports competitions spanning titles such as Call of Duty, CS:GO, League of Legends and DOTA 2. EEG’s CEO Grant Johnson estimated that global betting on esports will reach $205 billion by 2027. 
EEG is publicly listed on the Nasdaq under its stock symbol GMBL. The company partnered with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 to host Madden esports events. New Jersey-based esports team Dignitas, owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, formed a partnership with EEG in 2019. HBSE also owns the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers. 
 
Aver, a sports betting exchange built on the Solana blockchain, has raised a $7.5 million seed funding round. The company’s peer-to-peer betting platform is expected to launch in the second quarter of this year. 
Peer-to-peer wagering lets users create bets and set their own odds while other gamblers can choose to accept or reject those odds, serving as an alternative to traditional wagers set by bookmakers. Venture capital firm Jump Crypto led Aver’s seed round alongside participation from Mirana Ventures, Susquehanna International Group, Genesis Block Ventures, Serum Ventures, Blue Pool Capital, MEXC, Gate.io, PetRock Capital and the Solar Eco Fund. 
Leading cryptocurrency exchange FTX invested in decentralized sports betting startup BetDEX in November. BetDex’s platform is also built over the Solana blockchain, and its co-founders include former FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles. 
 
Charlotte Hornets star point guard LaMelo Ball has launched his own esports brand MB1 Gaming in partnership with esports tournament platform One Up. MB1 Gaming will host esports tournaments on One Up, while Ball will offer exclusive content and merchandise giveaways through the One Up app. 
MB1 Gaming’s first event on One Up will be an NBA 2K tournament sponsored by Puma on Feb. 5. Gamers must be at least 18 years old to sign up for the free tournament, which will offer $25,000 in prizes. The four finalists will compete in Cleveland during NBA All Star festivities on Feb. 18, and all finalists will receive a pair of Ball’s Puma MB.01 signature sneakers 
One Up says more than 250,000 users have registered for its platform, which hosts tournaments for NBA 2K, Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, NHL and Fortnite. Former South Plains College basketball player Brandon Pitts is the founder of One Up, whose investors include NBA players Victor Oladipo, Terry Rozier and Quinn Cook, as well as Cleveland Browns defensive back Denzel Ward. 
 
Las Vegas-based casino giant Wynn Resorts is looking to sell its online sports betting unit Wynn Interactive for $500 million, according to the New York Post. The asking price is significantly lower than the $3 billion valuation that Wynn Resorts assigned to its Wynn Interactive unit last year, the Post reported.
 Fanatics and Penn Interactive were mentioned by The Post as possible suitors for Wynn Interactive, which includes the WynnBet mobile sports betting app. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal joined Wynn as a mobile sports betting ambassador in August; the company is also an official gaming partner of the Las Vegas Raiders.
 The Post reported that exorbitant marketing costs—essential to acquiring customers—is a main reason Wynn is looking to abandon its sports betting business. David Katz, a gaming analyst at Jefferies, told The Post that it costs between $300 and $500 on average to acquire an online gaming customer. 
 “The market is really not sustainable right now,” outgoing Wynn Resorts CEO Mike Maddox said on a Nov. 10 earnings call. “Competitors are spending too much to get customers. And the economics are just not something that we’re going to participate in.”
Microsoft has debuted a new statistic called Goal Probability for La Liga match broadcasts. The stat can be calculated within 30 seconds and has been shown as an on-screen graphic during replays of goals.
 Goal Probability determines the likelihood of a shot attempt being successful by measuring factors such as distance between the ball and goal, a player’s line of sight while shooting and their distance to defenders—as well as the shooter’s individual goal scoring history.
 Data is captured by 16 optical tracking cameras in each La Liga team’s stadium. Microsoft Azure analyzes the data alongside historical data from 2,000 previous La Liga matches to generate Goal Probability on a zero to 100% scale.
 La Liga expanded its technology partnership with Microsoft in May, and the organizations plan to release up to 21 more new metrics this year. Goal Probability is similar to the Expected Goals statistic that Amazon Web Services introduced for Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league in 2020.
Major League Baseball is looking to hire tech support in 11 Triple-A cities to operate its Automated Ball-Strike system. The job post signals that MLB is readying to implement ABS in Triple-A for the 2022 season, a significant jump after its trial at the Low-A level in 2021. 
 The ABS Tech job opening on MLB’s careers page says ABS will operate in “Spring Training venues in Florida, in AAA West and Low-A Southeast, and potentially in other non-MLB games and venues.” The job’s responsibilities include using the ABS iPhone app for at-bat data entry during games and assisting human umpires and staff with ABS operations.  
 Low-A games last season used Hawk-Eye’s optical cameras to call balls and strikes, while the human home plate umpire wore an AirPod in his ear to receive and execute the call from the software. TrackMan’s 3-D Doppler radar system has piloted MLB’s initial ABS deployment in the Atlantic League since 2019. The job posting says ABS will leverage “optical tracking data” to call balls and strikes—indicating Hawk-Eye and not TrackMan to be the preferred tech provider moving forward. 
 MLB is “actively recruiting” applications to support 11 Triple-A teams: the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.  
Wagr, a sports betting app with social chat features, announced its public launch amid the completion of a $12 million Series A. The round included investments from The Kraft Group—operated by New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft—and HBSE Ventures, the venture arm for owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. 
The Nashville-based startup is initially available in Tennessee following a private beta release that began last month. The mission of Wagr is to present an accessible interface for all levels of bettors, who can use the app to challenge others on bets. The experience is designed to be social with leaderboards and other community posts. Wagr generates revenue through a 5% transaction fee. 
Among those who joined HBSE Ventures and The Kraft Group in the funding round were BITKRAFT Ventures, Greycroft, Pear Ventures and Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six. Greycroft and Seven Seven Six had led the $4 million seed round that closed in Dec. 2020. Wagr’s co-founders are CEO Mario Malavé and CPO Eliana Eskinazi, who met while studying at Harvard Business School. 
Space Entertainment Enterprise, the UK-based company producing Tom Cruise’s upcoming space movie, has announced plans to launch a sports arena and entertainment studio in space by 2024. The module will be connected to the International Space Station and is being constructed by Axiom Space, which won NASA’s approval in 2020 to build the commercial component of the ISS.
 The low-earth orbit project, called SEE-1, is expected to be operational by December 2024. In addition to an arena to host sports events, SEE-1 will consist of a content studio to produce, record, and livestream films, television and music, according to a press release from Sports Entertainment Enterprise. 
 Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) was founded by film producers Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, and the company’s advisors include Mark Taffet, a former SVP of sports at HBO. A SEE spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that the company is in production of Cruise’s upcoming movie set to be filmed in space. 

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