Officials open to exploring joint Copa America tournaments in the future

Copa América Centenario trophy title close up

NEW YORK – The Copa America Centenario comes to a close with Sunday's final at MetLife Stadium (8 pm ET, FS1 & Univision), but it's already considered successful enough that officials won't rule out organizing another joint tournament in the future between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL regional confederations. 

The presidents of both confederations and the head of the host US Soccer Federation all expressed their delight with the event at a press conference on Friday afternoon at a Times Square hotel in midtown Manhattan.

"We'll always be open to listen and analyze any proposal and ideas there are. The three of us [CONMEBOL, CONCACAF and US Soccer] are working with the intention of developing soccer, which is why it's always interesting to have an open mind in this sort of situations," said CONMEBOL president Alejandro Domínguez. "Looking at what this [Copa America] has been, it's been a success, and as long as we’re dedicated to develop soccer, all the ideas will be well received."

Recently elected CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani also supported the possibility of a regular joint tournament, but also reinforced his confederation's needs.

"I also think we're in the business of not only developing football, but also our assets, and we have our own Gold Cup [CONCACAF championship], which we're continuing to try to develop, both on and off the pitch,” he said. “Obviously, if there's a possibility for CONCACAF and CONMEBOL to look at opportunities I think we have to look at those, but those discussions can be had at a future date".

More than 1.5 million people have filled stadiums across the US, making the 2016 edition the highest-attended Copa America in its 100-year history, while also breaking records in TV viewership in both the US and South America. 

An ESPN Deportes report earlier this month claimed officials were already entertaining the prospect of holding a joint Copa America every four years, with teams from both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. The report also identified the United States as a host of future tournaments, although that was not specifically addressed in the press conference.

"We already have an established calendar and our next Copa America will be celebrated in Brazil [in 2019]. On a short-term basis that's what we have planned so far,” added Domínguez. “But I do reiterate that we're always open to listen and work together. In terms of having a commitment, I think all three of us are here to develop soccer and if this is a beneficial scenario, we'll take it into consideration."

"From the US perspective there are two elements,” said Sunil Gulati, chairman of the Copa América Centenario Local Organizing Committee and US Soccer Federation president. “One is participating in Copa America or a similar tournament, and two is hosting it. We're open to all of it.”

According to Gulati, the US national team has been invited to previous editions of the Copa America, but they have had to decline because clubs were not required by FIFA to release their players to non-CONMEBOL nations, meaning the USA were unable to send a strong enough team with their best players. 

Gulati, who’s also a member of the FIFA Council, noted that the world soccer governing body would have to officially include the Copa America on the international competition calendar -- this happened for the Copa America Centenario -- and that would make the releasing of players a requirement.

Another potential obstacle is posed by the fact that both the Gold Cup (CONCACAF's regional championship) and Copa America (CONMEBOL's regional championship) are played in the same year. 

But a joint tournament could potentially shake up the current order.

"The idea of doing a special event, every four years, or every eight years, or every hundred years, that's something we can look at,” Gulati said. “But we haven't had any discussions about it. We want to wait until this tournament is over and put a successful conclusion to it and then look at possibilities.”

Domínguez and Montagliani echoed Gulati’s words, expressing the desire to continue any discussions after the completion of the current Copa America Centenario.

“Victor and I, actually, kicked around an idea this morning of having 10 teams from CONMEBOL, 10 teams from CONCACAF and the four British teams that are now apparently looking for a place to play,” said Gulati jokingly in reference to the news of the "Brexit" vote that broke on Friday.

“It could be an interesting 24-team tournament to rival the Euro.”