Copa chiefs open to joint football tournaments

New York (AFP) – Copa America Centenario organizers said Friday they are open to staging a joint tournament featuring teams from North and South America every four years but the possibility has not yet been discussed in detail. 

This year’s special edition of the Copa America, which brought together teams from South America (CONMEBOL) and North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) was held in the United States for the first time. 

Officials said Friday the event had proven to be a resounding success, averaging record attendances of more than 46,000 fans per game while being seen on television in 1.5 billion households around the world. 

Sunday’s final between Chile and Argentina at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is an 81,000-ticket sellout. 

Asked if he thought a joint Copa America could be held every four years in future, CONMEBOL chief Alejandro Dominguez said no idea was off the table. 

“We will always continue to hear all proposals and ideas that there may be,” he said. “All ideas will be taken into consideration.”

CONCACAF counterpart Victor Montagliani reacted cautiously to the suggestion. 

“This tournament has been a great example of confederations coming together, so there could be opportunities from a development standpoint and any other standpoint,” he said. 

“From a CONCACAF perspective we’re open to discussions moving forward but it’s not something that we’ve been able to really sit down and discuss in a concrete sort of way.”

Sunil Gulati, the influential head of US Soccer, added: “From a US perspective there’s two elements — participating in the Copa America and hosting it. We’re open to all of it.” 

While US coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called for more frequent competition against top-ranked opposition, Gulati said the thorny issue of player availability would make regular participation by the US in the Copa America a problem in future. 

Under FIFA rules, countries participating in continental championships of which they are not a member are unable to secure guaranteed player releases from clubs, he said. 

“It’s a very difficult tournament for us to play in,” Gulati said. “As a CONCACAF team we can’t get mandatory release of our players and with about half of our team playing in Europe, that’s a problem.

“To play in the competition without those players is a very difficult challenge. It’s also right in the middle of our league. 

“In the past it has also been held the same year as the Gold Cup, so you’re asking teams to play two tournaments back-to-back which creates obvious challenges.”

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