Mexico still pushing for joint Concacaf, Conmebol 'Copa Continental' despite lack of talks

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Raul Jimenez Diego Godin Mexico Uruguay 2018
Bob Levey
Mexican FA president Yon de Luisa says a competition like the Copa America Centenario would be critical for Mexico's growth

While there are no current negotiations between the confederations, Federacion Mexicana de Futbol president Yon de Luisa says he will continue to push for a combined tournament between national teams from Concacaf and Conmebol in the new year.

Concacaf the governing body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, joined forces with Conmebol, the governing body for South America, in a 2016 tournament that took place in the United States. Everything pointed toward the groups putting on a similar event this summer, but negotiations were unsuccessful and Conmebol will host a Copa America with South American teams plus two guests from the Asian Football Confederation this summer.

That's a difficult pill for Mexico to swallow, with El Tri feeling it needs more competition than it's currently getting in Concacaf, and De Luisa said he will lobby Concacaf officials to once again look to pull off a combined tournament.

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"On the level of possibility for calendar questions, that part already has been resolved. Today more then ever, the possibility is open. On the level of negotiations with Concacaf and Conmebol, today there aren't any," De Luisa told Record.

"It's on us to keep pushing. I've been saying for more than 10 years and now as the responsible party for the country's national team and with the vote we have within Concacaf and the close relationship we have with (Concacaf president Victor) Montagliani, every time we meet - which we'll do this very week, we're going to have a meeting to share advice in Miami - and once again we'll say that for us it would be very important to have this Copa Continental with Mexico not being invited to the Copa America but if we have continental tournament where teams from Conmebol and teams from Concacaf have a great tournament like we had in 2016."

That tournament ended in frustration for Mexico on the field, with an infamous 7-0 loss to Chile in the quarter finals, but was a success off the pitch for nearly everyone involved as the highest-attended tournament in Copa America history.

However, the relationship between Mexico and South American officials seems to have strained in recent years. Mexican clubs are not currently taking part in the Copa Libertadores as they did from 1996-2016, and rather than invite Mexico for this year's Copa America, the invited teams are Qatar and Australia. Qatar also took part in the 2019 Copa America, along with Japan.

If no combined Concacaf-Conmebol tournament materializes, Mexico may seek South American competition on its own. Mexico manager Tata Martino has said Mexico must play better competition to reach its goal of finishing in the top eight of the 2022 World Cup.

While El Tri has a deal in place with Soccer United Marketing to play a certain number of games in the United States and also has an increasing number of Concacaf commitments between Nations League and World Cup qualification, the national team also anticipates finding a way to play South American teams.

"One of the positive things Mr. Martino presented in the last meeting with (Liga MX) owners was, 'Gentlemen, don't be surprised if we're go play more games in South America. That rather than bring in hundreds of opponents to Mexico or the United States we should go to their houses,'" De Luisa said.

"We might play against Colombia in Colombia, we might play against Ecuador in Ecuador. We have to require our boys to play games that are more difficult. Why? So that when we're in the group stage of the World Cup, it's more natural to have that kind of competition."

Mexico closed out 2018 with a pair of friendly matches in Argentina, but encounters outside of the U.S., where Mexico enjoys home-team status, or Mexico are rare. Of 17 matches in 2019, El Tri played outside North America only for Nations League away games in Bermuda and Panama.

The Nations League is promising for many of Mexico's Concacaf rivals, and De Luisa said it "without a doubt, is going to help the level of various national teams grow." However, it also cuts down on the number of FIFA dates in which Mexico is free to schedule friendly matches.

El Tri will open 2020 with a pair of friendly matches in the United States, playing March 26 in Charlotte, North Carolina and March 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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