Sunday, April 03, 2011

Creating a Superconference, International Football Edition

I was by no means alone in expressing the sentiment after the USA-Ghana match that it would be nice if the US played in a major tournament more than every four years:

  • After the game, I was commiserating with another fan about the fact that the Nats don't have any major tournaments other than the World Cup. The atmosphere at the Midway was electric. It sucks that we are going to have to wait four years for the Nats to play in a match that approaches the stakes of the World Cup (and no, the Gold Cup isn't the same). My solution: convince CONMEBOL to expand Copa America. Make the tournament 16 teams: the ten powers in CONMEBOL, the US, Mexico, and then four qualifiers from the remaining countries in North and Central America. Let the U.S. and Mexico host the tournament once in a while. CONMEBOL has already invited Mexican club teams to the Copa Libertadores because of the market potential in Mexico; imagine what they can do with Copa America if they can get the US and Mexico as regular participants (as opposed to being the occasional invitee). Wouldn't everybody win with a true American championship?

In a super column last weekend, Gabriele Marcotti went one step further and took the position that CONCACAF and CONMEBOL should merge completely:

That's why the best possible thing for U.S. soccer may be combining CONCACAF and its equivalent in South America (CONMEBOL) into one confederation of the Americas. With its 10 members, CONMEBOL is the smallest confederation, but it's filled with the game's historical and current heavyweights: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others. Creating one pan-American confederation would allow the U.S. and Mexico to play more competitive games on a regular basis. Second-tier CONCACAF teams—countries that rarely meet top opposition, even in friendlies—would benefit, too.

South American teams would get something out of this arrangement, as well. They'd play a wider variety of teams and styles, which would be a welcome break from playing each other over and over again. There are also financial benefits, like accessing the television markets in the U.S. and Mexico, which would translate into an increase in rights fees and lucrative sponsorship deals. It's not a coincidence that both Argentina and Brazil, arguably the sport's biggest draws, chose to play friendlies in the United States in the past nine months: It pays to do so.

Because this idea makes perfect sense for all of the major stakeholders, it will never happen.  Keeping in mind that FIFA has been run for 15 years by a kleptocrat and the only opponent in that kleptocrat’s bid for another four-year term is the person who brought us Qatar 2022, it’s hard to imagine that the sensible solution of combining federations will happen.  As a result, the US and Mexico will keep on playing “big” matches Trinidad & Tobago and Nicaragua instead of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.  Hooray!


Jerry Hinnen said...

That even the USA-Argentina friendly got some level of media traction (and drew some 78,000 fans) on an insanely busy recent sports Saturday shows how much sense this makes. So I agree it'll never happen, not least because CONMEBOL won't want to risk accidentally giving away one of their WC slots to some CONCACAF also-ran. Hell, Costa Rica came within a goal of managing it this go-round.

I'll continue to hold out hope for a two-continent Copa America, though, just because no one outside of S.A. seems to care that much about it anymore.

Michael said...

I would think that CONMEBOL would like this idea. If they get 4-5 spots for ten countries now, wouldn't they be excited to get eight spots, knowing that their second tier are competing against Caribbean and Central American countries for the extra spots? Isn't that a prospect that would make Columbia very happy? Also, they would become a much bigger political force with 50 members as opposed to ten.

Anonymous said...

CONCACAF is also run by a kleptocrat. Also, CONCACAF probably doesn't want to give up its spots in the World Cup, the thought being that CONMEBOL is a stronger conference per bid than CONCACAF.

Agree that it would be a good idea and agree that it would never happen.