#Breaking: Reportedly, negotiotions are going on between CONMEBOL & CONCACAF officials to merge Copa America & Gold Cup into 1 competion.
— Argentina Football (@ARG_soccernews) June 6, 2016
News broke this month that officials from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL were in negotiations to merge each confederations regional tournaments – CONCACAF’s Gold Cup and CONMEBOL’s Copa America – into one Copa America tournament to be held every four years in the United States. It was later reported that talks were to keep the two individual competitions and then keep the combined version that we’re watching this summer and add that to the calendar every four years.
USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann was quick to back the idea.
“That would be huge for our region to play every four years the Copa America,” he said. “The format for us and, speaking on behalf of Mexico and Costa Rica, it would be huge for CONCACAF’s top teams.”
On the surface Klinsmann is right. It would be great for the United States to be able to play with CONMEBOL which features some of the best teams in the world, every four years. Under the current format, the US typically only gets to play competitive games against non-CONCACAF teams once every four years in the World Cup. A shift to a Copa America for all the Americas every four years would allow the US to play non-CONCACAF teams competitively twice every four years. That’s a good thing.
But that’s also where the good about this news stops because shifting to one Copa America tournament every four years is simply step one. Ever since plans for the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL combined Copa America Centenario were announced, there have been rumblings and whispers that in the not so distant future the two confederations could end up merging into one American confederation. Shifting to one tournament puts us very close to that happening and that would be a disaster for not only the United States, but for all the CONCACAF teams.
The news would certainly excite US fans who would see playing in the Copa America every four years as a great way to help develop and improve the national team. However the truth is the US doesn’t need to participate in the Copa America to help us grow.
Just look at how far the United States has come in the last 20 years. In the 1998 World Cup the US finished dead last out of all 32 teams, yet four years later they made the quarterfinals. When the US advanced out of the group stage of the World Cups in 2010 and 2014, it was the first time they’ve ever accomplished that feat in consecutive World Cups. Over the past 20 years, the US has grown from a team that hopes to make noise and lose in the round of 16 to a team that is expected not only to get out of their group, but also to win their regional Gold Cup championship every time out.
The US has managed to do all that growing despite only competing in one Copa America over that time back in 2007.
So would it be great to compete against CONMEBOL teams every four years? Absolutely. But is it necessary for the growth of US soccer? Not at all.
For fans that would still be excited about a CONCACAF-CONMEBOL merger consider this; a merger would make qualification for the World Cup much more difficult. Currently the US simply has to compete with CONCACAF teams who despite most of which are inferior to the US, the US still struggles to beat outside of the United States. If they were now one confederation guess who else the US would be competing against?
That would make things a lot trickier for the US. Forget about having to worry about traveling to Jamaica or Panama for World Cup qualification, imagine having one game left on your schedule and having to fly to Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires to take on Brazil or Argentina or miss out on the World Cup? The US struggles at Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, which has an elevation of 7,349 ft, are well documented, imagine having to now go to Ecuador’s Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa whose altitude is nearly 2,000 ft greater at 9,127 ft?
Those don’t sound like benefits for the US but the real losers will be the rest of CONCACAF. Not only would the smaller CONCACAF teams have virtually no chance at qualifying for the World Cup, but it would greatly reduce their chances of even playing in a regional tournament. So if organizers are planning on continuing this combined Copa America every four years, it’s imperative to keep the individual tournaments as well in order to strengthen both confederations from top to bottom. Or just not do the combined tournament at all.
While the current Copa America hasn’t been the best soccer tournament to ever be played it has so far still produced some very enjoyable moments. But it should remain what it was designed to be, a one-off. Because making this a once every four year thing is a slippery slope that will ultimately not be good for North American soccer.