The early morning raid on FIFA executives at a Zürich hotel has yielded several unforseen outcomes. Sep Blatter has resigned (sort of) and now the United States looks set to abdicate as hosts of the 2016 Copa America Centenario due to ongoing concerns of legal liability after several of the FIFA executives and marketing officials connected with the tournament were arrested in May.
The Copa America is the South American regional championship and is typically held every four years during the summer immediately after a World Cup year. The 2016 Cententario edition was intended to be a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the competition, and was due to be hosted in the United States in an effort to showcase the United States Men’s National Team alongside world stars like Lionel Messi, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez and more. However, U.S. Soccer officials have announced that they will not be attending a meeting in Mexico on Thursday 9/18/15 to finalize plans for the tournament. Officials with intimate knowledge of the organization’s position have indicated that if the United States did not host the tournament, then the USMNT would probably not take part in the competition.
Officials from CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, and CONCACAF, the confederation that oversees soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, are to meet in Mexico City to try to find a way to salvage the event, set for next June. Planning for the tournament has been delayed since May, when 14 top soccer and marketing officials were arrested as part of a wider investigation into corruption in the sport in which authorities charged that kickback schemes were linked to the Copa.
The Copa América, the South American regional championship, is held every four years. In the past, its organizers have invited teams from outside the continent to participate. But in May 2014, a special tournament called the Copa América Centenario was created to celebrate the championship’s 100th anniversary. Six teams from Concacaf — most notably the United States and Mexico — would join the 10 from South America, and the United States would serve as the host country, making it the first time the event would be held outside South America. Deals for sponsorship and marketing opportunities, as well as lucrative broadcast rights, were in the works, and plans called for the games to be held in the country’s biggest stadiums, like the Rose Bowl and MetLife Stadium.
But the repercussions of a United States Justice Department investigation delayed the announcement of the host cities in June, and U.S. Soccer officials — wary of more arrests and their potential exposure in the case of further legal action — have been seeking assurances about the contracts and details of the tournament before agreeing to proceed as host. Some conditions have been met, according to the officials, but several significant requests by U.S. Soccer and its lawyers have not been addressed.
Conmebol has wavered on whether the tournament will take place as scheduled. In August, the president of Conmebol, Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay, refused to confirm that the tournament would take place in the United States. Last week, however, Napout told a Paraguayan radio station that Conmebol had “ratified” the decision to hold the Centenario as planned.
Officials from several major stadiums in the United States — U.S. Soccer said in January that 24 cities had shown interest — confirmed in the past two weeks that they would continue to hold open dates for the tournament next summer. But organizing a 16-team tournament in multiple cities is an ambitious undertaking, and with less than nine months before the opening kickoff is scheduled, all parties are eager for a resolution.