2016 Copa details still must be ironed out
More negotiations are needed before Copa America, the championship tournament for South America, is staged in the United States in 2016.
An announcement that the tournament would take place in the United States was made Wednesday by CONMEBOL, the confederation overseeing South American soccer. But it was premature, according to CONCACAF, which runs the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
"While the idea of a centennial tournament with some of the best teams in the hemisphere is certainly intriguing, it is not something we have agreed to host or participate in at this time," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Thursday. "As CONCACAF stated, there are still a number of discussions that need to take place with CONMEBOL. U.S. Soccer would also need to be involved in discussions about hosting the tournament. We're looking forward to those discussions in the near future."
In July, CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb met with executive committee members of CONMEBOL in Sao Paulo to discuss collaborative opportunities between the two confederations. Among the items explored was the staging of a special Copa America in 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of CONMEBOL that would involve CONCACAF's partnership and participation.
"Even though playing the 2016 Copa America in the CONCACAF region with our teams and those from CONMEBOL would be a wonderful experience for all fans, we are still in the midst of talks and negotiations between all parties involved in this decision," said Enrique Sanz, CONCACAF's general secretary. "This is an idea we are hoping to materialize, but we are still evaluating and discussing before it becomes official, but the intention is definitely there."
CONMEBOL said in its statement that a proposed tournament would include the 10 South American confederation teams, plus the United States, Mexico and four others from the CONCACAF region, which comprises North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The news was greeted by fans as a win-win on a multitude of levels. It would give the tournament a clear shot of adrenalin, especially given the game's expanding profile in North America. Factor in the United States' historical support for big events and the growing U.S. interest in competitions like the European championships, and you have a tournament that is bound to be well-attended.
It would potentially give U.S.-based fans the chance to watch squads loaded with hugely talented international stars such as Argentina's Lionel Messi, Brazil's Neymar, Colombia's Radamel Falcao, Mexico's Javier Hernandez and the U.S.'s Clint Dempsey. In addition, it would amount to a television rights bonanza for CONMEBOL.
The opportunity to host the tournament would be a coup for the U.S., as well, and would help ease the sting of losing out on the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
The event would potentially go head-to-head with the 2016 European championship in France, which will be expanded to 24 teams for the first time.
Information from ESPN.com soccer writer Jeff Carlisle and The Associated Press was used in this report.