It was supposed to be an anniversary celebration that would be the highlight American soccer event of 2016. It was going to be a moment to honor 100 years of the storied Copa America competition with a special, unified tournament between CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, and CONCACAF, the North American soccer federation. Together, with star-studded lineups like Brazil and Argentina playing against northern powerhouses, USA and Mexico, it would truly be a cup of the Americas. The buzz might just have what it takes to rival the UEFA European Championship. But now, it might not happen. Or worse, it won’t happen with the USA involved.
How did we get here? Why would any soccer official in their right mind cancel or move what could be the biggest men’s soccer event in the United States since the 1994 World Cup? Corruption is almost always the answer when FIFA is in the picture. At the beginning of the summer, when U.S. and Swiss authorities acted on information that FIFA was involved in a bribery scandal, they uncovered a plethora of damaging information surrounding the 2016 Copa America tournament in particular, with the corrupt presidents of both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL playing a key role in its organization and development. As a result, holding the event is not just a question of marketing potential, but now a question of ethics for an organization attempting to rectify its deceitful public image.
Here is the lowdown on what this means for the U.S. The Euro tournament consistently gets great viewership not just in the stands but on TV around the globe. The Copa America, while not as big as the Euro, still generates better TV viewership than the paltry performance soccer fans expect to find at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The U.S. Men’s National Team performance at this year’s edition certainly didn’t help those figures. A tournament combining the colossal giants from Copa America with the World Cup stalwarts, U.S. and Mexico, would almost definitely mean great TV ratings in the United States. Even more so, a tournament combining these teams that takes place inside of the United States would pretty much guarantee those great TV ratings, huge attendance figures, not to mention another boost for soccer in America that has been sought and coveted since 1994.
If the tournament is not held, all these potential sales dollars will be lost, which casts a negative shadow on both CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. But if the tournament is moved to another country, the only real shadow will be cast on the U.S, the nation that sacrificed a marketing bonanza for the purpose of righting the corrupt ship that is FIFA. Time will tell just how noble this sacrifice truly was. If no good deed goes unpunished, then a good deed involving FIFA could metaphorically be the equivalent of imprisonment.