Holding a Copa America in CONCACAF territory raises merger questions that should be addressed in the following months to unite North and South American football.
When the world thinks of football on this side of the Atlantic, Brazil and Argentina immediately spring to mind. Uruguay's recent conquest of the Copa America off the back of a great 2010 World Cup has it firmly reentering the top tier of the sport.
It's been said for years now that the United States and Mexican federations have actively been avoiding a merger due to the income that both countries receive from their TV contracts, hugely dependent on the near-certainty that both nations attend the World Cup every four years.
With that said, a CONCACAF-CONMEBOL merger would significantly increase the number of nations vying for World Cup spots out of the same region. FIFA would forcibly dole out double-digit amounts of qualifying spots in order to appease the new group and take part in the financial windfall that North America brings every four years.
Another common gripe is the not-so-subtle way South American fans consistently boast that as a whole, their level of play greatly exceeds even the best in North America. Based on current form, it's safe to say that CONMEBOL's 10 member nations would not grab all of the hypothetical spots to the 2014 World Cup. Mexico and the United States would consistently qualify, Central America and the Caribbean would really be the only regions taking a hit.
While CONCACAF covets the increase in quality, notoriety and the saucy matchups that a merger might bring, CONMEBOL's benefit from the deal is clearly financial. No doubt, Brazilian and Argentine federation members were clearly impressed by the sell-out crowd in New York for their recent friendly.
The fact that Mexico is a constant invitee to the Copa America stems from the important sponsorship deals that companies from that country bring to the table every four years. Adding the United States to that mix means an even bigger pot of cash.
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An all-inclusive Panamerican Cup or a revamped Copa America complete with prior qualifying tournament (much like the Euros) would create huge opportunities for bigger amounts of cash stemming from increased sponsorship deals, the possibility of holding competitions in the United States beyond 2016 (assuring ticket prices go on sale in dollars) and huge TV contracts infusing the new confederation with more money.
The biggest winner of a merger undoubtedly, though, is the common fan. Due to Mexico's participation in CONMEBOL events, a natural rivalry between South America and the Mexicans has emerged, fueling further interest on both sides. Consistent showdowns between Mexico and the United States against world powers like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others will keep fans more than interested year after year.
The possibilities are mouthwatering. Lionel Messi in Los Angeles. Neymar in New York, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan in Mexico City. The opportunity for CONCACAF nations to conquer palaces of world football such as Maracana or El Monumental while Mexico and the United States expose their qualifying fortresses in Columbus and the Estadio Azteca.
2016 is the first step, but a huge one at that. Talks will continue, negotiations will follow. The Americas (and the world) anxiously await.
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