Thursday, April 14, 2011

Combining the Cups

Combining the Copas?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to combine the Copa America (the CONMEBOL championship) and the Gold Cup (the CONCACAF championship)? Just think about it for a minute.

Did you have visions of Canada’s excellent performance against Brazil in Seattle? Or our Victory over Colombia in the Gold Cup final? Or our defeat in Buenos Aires? It is not that absurd a question given that CONMEBOL invites teams from other regions to participate in the Copa America anyway. In fact Mexico is a regular attendee. Canada was invited after we won the Gold Cup, however we declined the invitation due to security concerns in Colombia. As well the Gold Cup has invited CONMEBOL teams in the past too, as I mentioned above we beat Colombia in the Gold Cup final.

What would a combined tournament look like?

I imagine that the tournament would feature 16 teams in four groups. With the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Based on the current FIFA rankings the top 16 teams in the regions are: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, USA, Paraguay, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Panama, and Canada. So the groups would likely be something like this:

Group 1 – Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Canada

Group 2 – Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Panama

Group 3 – Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Venezuela

Group 4 – Chile, USA, Ecuador, Jamaica

Looks like a good tournament to me. What do you think? One issue that the new tournament would face, is how often to play. Currently the Gold Cup is every two years, while the Copa America is every four years. I think it is more likely that the combined tournament would take place every four years. That said it would be fantastic if it was played every two years. Each tournament could rotate between North and South America, so it would be four years between tournaments on each continent.

What would qualifying look like?

Currently there is no qualifying for the Copa America. All ten CONMEBOL sides are included and two other sides (usually Mexico and another nation) are invited. At the Gold Cup, Canada, USA, and Mexico are given automatic berths while other nations must qualify. There is no chance of a combined qualifying involving all 45 of the teams. There is no way that Brazil etc would go for it. Brazil make millions playing friendlies around the globe, they certainly wouldn’t want to use an international break to play away to St. Vincent. I think that the most likely scenario is either that the eight highest ranked sides are given automatic berths. The rest of the sides would then compete for the remaining 8 places. That would mean that Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia and Canada would all have to go through a qualification process to make the Cup. Also the 13 lowest ranked sides would compete in pre qualifying for 8 places. Pre-qualifying is already a feature of the Gold Cup Qualification process. That would give 8 groups of 4 with the group winner advancing to the Cup.

This would be a good thing for Canada. Qualification gives us more opportunities to cap-tie players, and also a chance to accrue more ranking points. Qualification matches are worth two and half times a friendly match. I am not sure how Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia would feel about it though. I think that they may go for it, for similar reasons as it appeals to Canada. However if they don’t like it there is another option. All the CONMEBOL teams qualify and CONCACAF sides qualify against each other for the six remaining places. I really can’t see CONCACAF going for this one. It doesn’t really provide the incentive to combine the two tournaments, especially since a number of CONCACAF sides have been invited to the tournament anyway. That would mean giving up their regional tournament for four more places in CONMEBOL’s doesn’t strike me as likely.

Could it happen?

I really don’t know. I think that it would be a good thing for football in the Americas. One side effect that could come from this would be talk of combining the federations entirely. That would mean that there are 8 World Cup places for the Americas. If you are curious the current top 8 from the Americas includes 5 South American sides and 3 North American sides. I think that this combining the tournament would have a positive impact on football in Canada. We would play more competitive matches and a few of them would be against some of the top sides in the World. It would also help to change the perception that Canada is not a footballing country if we are regularly competing with South American sides. Not to mention we may get a chance to host the Cup. That would be a fantastic opportunity for football fans around the country and a definite boost to our football infrastructure.

This article is also published at The Subs Bench

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