A One-Time Deal?
Posted on March 26, 2012 3:05 am
The recent falling out between Brazilian authorities and FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke served to expose serious, justifiable concerns about Brazil’s preparedness for hosting the 2014 World Cup. The problem only becomes more amplified when one considers the glut of international competitions that Brazil had been slated to host in the next four years: the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa América and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Fortunately for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Chile stepped up and offered to make things easier by swapping hosting responsibilities for the Copa América: now, the 2015 tournament will take place in Chile, while the 2019 edition will be held on the other side of the continent.
Why do I care, you may ask? The Copa América itself lies outside of my main interests; and even if one or two CONCACAF teams get to participate, the fact that they are invited (rather than qualifying through a process open to all CONCACAF members) underlines the reality that the tournament is a CONMEBOL affair, first and foremost. However, the news that Brazil is already planning on hosting a 2019 Copa América directly affects the hopes of those that wanted to see the potential 2016 Copa “Panamericana” become permanent.
The last time this topic came up, I specified the reasons why European clubs would refuse to allow CONMEBOL to regularly hold two continental championships in a World Cup cycle (namely, CONMEBOL’s 18-game World Cup qualifying format). While they would be hard-pressed to impose on the confederation’s 100-year anniversary, such leniency would prove the exception to the rule: “Don’t wear out our employees.” If the “Panamericana” format is to be preserved from 2018 on, it will only be possible through the expansion of the Copa América itself.
The choice of year presents a particular complication vis-a-vis the Gold Cup, normally held in the year after the World Cup in order to select CONCACAF’s representative in the following Confederations Cup (…and then rehashed two years later, just to make more money). If both the Gold Cup and Copa América are held in 2019, then an expansion of the latter will force the national teams that play in both to split their squads. Remember how the US sending second-stringers to the 2007 Copa América turned out? I’m not sure it’s in anyone’s best interest to have four more participants like that.
There is a workable alternative, depending on the flexibility of both sides. If CONCACAF is willing to postpone its Gold Cup to 2020, then its member associations will be able to call up their strongest available squads for both tournaments (give-or-take European cooperation with releasing players for the 2019 Copa América). For the question of which teams would get to play in the latter, an agreement could be reached in which the six participants in the final round of qualifying for the previous World Cup (i.e. the 2017 Hexagonal) also qualify for the 2019 Copa América. During the same summer, the rest of CONCACAF could get a head-start on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
With such a deal, the normal World Cup cycle for CONCACAF teams would be as follows:
Year 1 – 16-team Copa América / first rounds of WC qualifying
Year 2 – Repesca Centroamericana 1 / Gold Cup / semifinal round of WC qualifying, 1st Caribbean Cup 2
Year 3 – Hexagonal 3 / Confederations Cup
Year 4 – Copa Centroamericana 4 / World Cup / 2nd Caribbean Cup 5
The main challenge, then, would be convincing CONMEBOL that the increased exposure and TV revenue would be worth giving CONCACAF six permanent guest spots; having at least two countries not named the US, Mexico, Costa Rica or Honduras in their championship; sharing the proceeds from the tournament with CONCACAF (although any bitterness could be smoothed over with a cut of the Gold Cup money); and possibly having to include North America in the permanent rotation for hosting the Copa América. One can’t help but think that both sides would be better off cooperating on a long-term basis, and hopefully the 2016 tournament will demonstrate as much; but there is plenty to be negotiated if we want to see another “Panamericana” before the year 2116.
1 – Copa Centroamericana finalists and third-place exempted, two qualify for the Gold Cup held in the same year.
2 – Top two qualify for the following Gold Cup.
3 – All six qualify for the Copa América.
4 – Top three qualify for the Gold Cup.
5 – Previous finalists exempted, previous third place automatically qualifies for Finals; two finalists qualify for the Gold Cup.