Former CONCACAF General Secretary and FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer has been banned from all soccer activities for life on Thursday. The announcement’s timing was ironic as the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Blazer’s biggest contribution to the world soccer landscape, had just kicked off in suburban Dallas on Tuesday. The 2015 Gold Cup is the 13th edition of this biannual classic and 13th consecutive edition either completely held or primarily held on American soil.
Thanks to Blazer, an American, CONCACAF grew from a tiny backwater to a financial behemoth. But part of turning CONCACAF, which governs the sport in North and Central America as well as the island nations of the Caribbean, into such a potent force was due to alleged corruption, bribery and graft. It may seem cynical to state this, but the sort of alleged corruption that involved Blazer and other soccer executives and marketing companies could not have taken place unless the Gold Cup was always primarily held in the United States, where larger stadiums, more disposable income, ethnic populations and better transportation made the tournament financially lucrative.
It is difficult to look at the United States’ record in Gold Cup competitions objectively because the tournament is ALWAYS held on American soil, for the most part. Only once has the USA had to play a game in the Gold Cup outside the country and that was in 1993 for the final. Simply put, the tournament does not meet the standard established by other confederations for continental championships. The fact that the United States and Mexico have dominated the tournament through the years owes itself partly to the superiority of those countries to others in the region in terms of footballing prowess but also to always having “home” games until the two nations face one another in the final.
Without a regular bidding process to award the tournament to other nations, CONCACAF was able to guarantee marketing company Traffic Sports and its American forerunner Interforever Sports, as well as TV companies, access to the American market every two years. This ultimately made the tournament more lucrative, opened the door for potentially more corruption and made everyone beginning with Blazer a great deal of money.
If CONCACAF is truly serious about putting the stench of the likes of Blazer, Jeffery Webb, Jack Warner and Traffic Sports behind them, they will allow other nations the opportunity to stage the Gold Cup. Canada, which just hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup, would be a logical choice as would Mexico who has hosted two FIFA World Cups and recently hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Even if the tournament were rotated between the “NAFTA” countries, it would be a start, a sign of legitimacy.
We just witnessed a Copa America in Chile where the host nation was victorious. COMNEBOL has rotated the tournament, its equivalent of the Gold Cup throughout all its member nations. While CONCACAF has serious logistical challenges in many of its member nations, a basic rotation should begin and one place to start would be with Canada or Mexico hosting the next edition of this tournament.