By Paul Nicholson
March 5 – The offer by the US Soccer Federation to South America’s 10 national federations to discuss the opportunity of playing a tournament in 2020 in the US is still open, USSF federation president Carlos Cordeiro has told Insideworldfootball.
Cordeiro wrote to the 10 South American federations last week inviting them to Miami to explore the potential of playing in the US in 2020 which currently has no major Concacaf senior mens tournament scheduled.
He copied in regional confederations Conmebol and Concacaf. While Concacaf expressed support for the initiative, Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez immediately rejected the invitation to meet saying that a 2020 tournament was neither sanctioned by FIFA and that Conmebol had scheduled an edition of the Copa America for 2020.
The speed of Dominguez’s reply questions whether he was able to consult his national federations. Cordeiro is adamant that the discussion should not be dismissed out of hand and that his proposal for a tournament (friendly or otherwise) is both serious and achievable.
“Our attempts are simply to look at 2020,” said Cordeiro. “We have nothing in the calendar for next year. We know the South Americans have scheduled a Copa America but it is only 15 months away and they have not announced where. In that vacuum what we have, as the US Soccer Federation, is a very real opportunity.”
Conmebol are playing an edition of the Copa America this year in Brazil and will move the tournament to even numbered years starting in 2020. In 2016 the US federation and Concacaf hosted the extremely successful Centenary Copa America 16-team tournament in the US – put back together at extremely short notice after the US Justice Department indictments that saw the multiple arrests of administrators from both confederations and shook the world of football to its core.
If proof were needed that the US has the capability to mobilise to make things happen at short notice then that was it.
This time round Cordeiro has raised the bar and is coming to the table with a guarantee of $198,250 million and saying that it doesn’t have to be an edition of the Copa America but could be a friendly tournament. It is a substantial amount of revenue that Conmebol would almost certainly find impossible to match playing on their own continent in 2020.
There is also the proposal to create a legacy fund for the Concacaf region that would see the tournament benefit a much wider group of nations than just those playing in the competition – the exact shape of that fund is to be decided but with legacy from the 2026 World Cup a key issue for the region, it would potentially see the US seed a forerunner of that programme.
“The invitation to talk is for 2020 but we are open to any conversation, including as part of a longer term agreement,” said Cordeiro, emphasising that Concacaf would be part of the conversation. “FIFA have been more than constructive and would like to help this happen…we didn’t have FIFA approval in 2016 but we got it. It is true that we had to turn down an invitation from Conmebol to play in Brazil this year but the problem is it clashed with the Gold Cup – the finals are on the same day.”
It is the financial underpinning of this tournament by the USSF that makes the rebuttal of the invitation more remarkable. The risk to the US federation is about $400 million – it costs about $200 million to stage an event of this scale.
“On top of the organisational costs we are underwriting close to $200 million,” said Cordeiro. That breaks down to guarantees of $4 million for each competing national team, $50 million for each confederation and prize money of £33-34 million. It is a substantial commitment that Cordeiro says they would cover through ticketing, broadcast and sponsorship sales and licensing.
Concacaf for its part is behind the plan saying in a statement: “We view this opportunity positively as it is not intended to replace or substitute any future editions of the Concacaf Gold Cup and it complements our vision to continue providing opportunities for our Member Associations to play competitive football at the highest level.”
Conmebol are somewhat slower to come to the table but there are at least 200 million reasons why the conversation is worth them having.
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