Copa America in North America won't be a regular event, Jeffrey Webb says
PHILADELPHIA -- For obvious reasons, the 2016 Copa America Centenario is being billed as the biggest soccer tournament to hit the United States since the 1994 World Cup.
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the host nation are scheduled to be among 16 teams that will vie for the title in front of packed NFL stadiums -- leading to an inevitable question: Could CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, the South American and North American (and Caribbean) confederations, make a combined championship for the Western Hemisphere a regular occurrence?
That's not going to happen, according to CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb.
"Our agreement with CONMEBOL and FIFA is that we'll do it every 100 years," Webb told ESPN FC in an interview.
"It's a tremendous occasion to celebrate 100 years of history of that trophy. But I don't think you're going to see it again in four years or eight years. I believe that's it."
The potential exists that the one-off, U.S.-hosted Copa America will be such a colossal financial success that Webb will reconsider his stance. After all, large sums of money have a way of swaying global soccer executives.
Then again, Webb's job is to represent the interests of his constituents across the region, including many smaller nations that wouldn't have a prayer of being regular participants in an event that would immediately rival the European Championship as the biggest in the sport outside of the World Cup.
For Webb, the focus remains squarely on beefing up CONCACAF's biennual Gold Cup, which he credits for boosting the credibility of the region over the past two decades.
"The Gold Cup has had an incredible impact on football within our confederation," Webb said inside a suite at Lincoln Financial Field, shortly after the City of Brotherly Love was officially announced as the site of this summer's final.
"We're criticized a lot for playing the Gold Cup every two years, but I believe the results that were manifested in Brazil last year happened because our national teams are playing more games, and our coaches are having the opportunity to play more players."
Webb was alluding to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where three of the four CONCACAF teams advanced past the group stage. He also noted that since 1994, teams from this region have advanced to the knockout round as often as their counterparts from Europe, despite having far fewer spots.
That's one reason why Webb, a FIFA vice president, is trying to convince his colleagues in Switzerland that CONCACAF deserves more than the current three automatic places, plus a playoff for the fourth-best team against another confederation.
"Definitely the minimum I think CONCACAF should have is four spots," he said. "At the end of the day, it comes down to sports politics, but it's very difficult for other confederations to argue for more when they haven't performed. Performance must be the number one criteria."
As for the Gold Cup, the 2015 event promises to be the biggest yet. The winner will play the 2013 champion U.S. for the right to represent the region at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup that will be held there the following year.
It's a new twist on the competition, one that makes the so-called off-year Gold Cup more important than ever, while maintaining the importance of the one that, like this July's, takes place a year after soccer's global showpiece.
"The Gold Cup continues to grow," Webb said. "There's no off-year Gold Cup anymore."