Report: Copa America, Gold Cup could be merged into permanent U.S. tourney
It always seemed like a likely possibility. Once the South American confederation, CONMEBOL, got wise to the money to be made on live soccer stateside, it would surely want to find ways to cash in again and again.
So when the Copa America Centenario was announced as a one-off event, it wasn't such a leap to assume that it would probably be making some kind of comeback if it came off even moderately successfully.
[ Copa America Centenario | Scores and Schedule | Standings | Teams ]
And lo, on Monday, after just three days of Copa games in the United States, ESPN Deportes reported that there are advanced talks to make the unified tournament something permanent. To be held in the United States every four years.
The latter claim was disputed elsewhere.
Hearing that the Copa América/Oro merger will NOT feature USA as sole host. Opportunities for bidding countries will be considered.
— Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86) June 6, 2016
And it isn't yet clear whether a combined tournament would take the place of the regular quadrennial Copa America (for South America) or the biennial Gold Cup (for North and Central America and the Caribbean).
At least one well-sourced reporter believed it would not.
Need to clarify something. @rafaramosESPN report only talks of repeat of combined Copa America. Nothing re: Gold Cup/Copa merger. Apologies.
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) June 6, 2016
That's an important distinction.
If the regional tournaments remain in their current iteration and interval, a combined Western Hemisphere tournament would regularly clutter the already bursting soccer calendar. And the novelty might wear off. It would probably draw live spectators, television viewers and attention, but it wouldn't necessarily change the landscape all that much, other than to give the bigger CONCACAF nations – the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica – more regular competitive games against quality opposition.
"It would be huge for the CONCACAF top teams," U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday. "it would be huge to have that type of competition every four years for us to grow and to compete with these top nations from South America. It would be absolutely fantastic."
If such an event were to replace the regional tournaments, however, it would have all manner of ripple effects on international soccer west of the Atlantic Ocean.
For starters, all 10 South American teams currently qualify for Copa America – with two guest teams habitually added in. Only 12 of 41 CONCACAF teams make it to the Gold Cup, though. Sorting out who would reach such a unified tournament would require some kind of qualifying system, potentially in both confederations.
And how would places for the Confederations Cup be decided, which currently go to the winners of the Copa and Gold Cup?
What, for that matter, would the consequence be for the smaller countries? If the new tournament were to retain its Centenario format, there would be 16 places every four years, rather than 24 – half of which are available every other year as well. This contraction of places at major tournaments could stagnate ascending soccer nations.
As for the fans, if the tournament really were to stay in the U.S., it would make it ruinously expensive for fans from South America to attend. And even if it moves around, a lot of fans would be asked to go an awful long way to witness their hemispheric championships.
The survival of the old tournaments is pivotal. Keep them and the new tournament would be a burden. Get rid of them and the new tournament would make for an interesting product, but also come at a steep cost for the fans and smaller countries.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.