Last week The US was officially extended an invitation to Copa America, the football championship for the South American continent. The US last participated in Copa America back in 1995 when the red white and blue reached the semi-finals.
Since 1996, the USSF has rejected the invitations to Copa because it falls in the middle of the MLS season. Secondly, CONCACAF two years ago moved its continental championship which the US must participate in to the summer as well. While MLS success is vital to the long term prosperity of US Soccer, we cannot be blinded by MLS and must find a way to participate in Copa.
Here is my solution:
- Send a team of European based players to Copa America. They will train after a few weeks of vacation following the conclusion of the European seasons. Perhaps one or two MLS players can be included, preferably players that are under 23.
- Send a team of MLS based players, largely Under 23s to the Gold Cup. I know this is our continental championship and we should exhibit some pride in trying to win it on a regular basis, but the emphasis on the Gold Cup in the past has done little to improve the level of play of American soccer on the international level.
Winning Copa America is unrealistic and should not be an objective. What should be the goal is to harden our soccer players and develop some of our potential young stars. This can be done with little pain towards MLS and little disruption to the MLS season.