Photographer: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Soccer Bosses Want a $1 Billion Pan-American Tournament

  • National teams from North, South America would take part
  • Current Concacaf Gold Cup would become a quadrennial event

After soccer’s international governing body moved to expand the World Cup, regional officials are considering creating a new tournament pitting the best national teams in the Americas against each other, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions.

Concacaf, which oversees the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean, is weighing holding its biennial national team competition every four years, said the people, who asked not to be identified as talks continue. The switch would create room for a new quadrennial tournament that would also include teams from South America, perhaps as early as 2020.

Revamping the Concacaf Gold Cup, which has always been held in the U.S., would bring it into line with other major regional competitions and the World Cup, which are played every four years. The global tournament this month was expanded to include 48 teams, up from 32, starting in 2026.

Concacaf President Victor Montagliani has asked for an evaluation of all the competitions it runs, including the Gold Cup, the organization said in a statement.

Copa America

The success of last year’s Copa America Centenario, which was billed as a one-time event to mark the anniversary of South America’s Copa America but also included teams from elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, prompted regional soccer officials to consider a regular tournament. The new event would bring traditional powers Brazil and Argentina face to face with national teams from Mexico and the U.S., two of the region’s most lucrative broadcast and sponsorship markets.

The Centenario, put together hastily after nearly collapsing following the arrests of several regional soccer leaders in an investigation into corruption allegations, generated roughly $400 million, about four times what the Gold Cup raises, according to two of the people. Having more time to sell commercial rights would lead to far higher revenues, said Patrick Nally, the Englishman who pioneered sports sponsorship at global governing body FIFA.

The 2016 European Championship had sales of more than $2 billion, and Nally said a joint event featuring the best teams from North and South America could generate at least half that much.

“As a tournament it would be very strong commercially,” Nally said by phone. “The U.S. is a very commercially viable market with more broadcast and media opportunities as soccer is gathering more and more momentum there.”

For broadcasters, the 2016 Centenario, won by Chile in a final against Argentina in front of a packed MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, proved a boon. Univision, which paid $70 million for Spanish-language rights in the U.S., sold more than $135 million in advertising.

Fox Interest

21st Century Fox Inc.’s sports division, which provided the English-language broadcasts, has expressed interest in buying rights to a new event, said one of the people. Fox and Alejandro Dominguez, the president of South American soccer body Conmebol, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Concacaf announced it had chosen sports marketer Lagardere Sports to sell commercial rights to the next two editions of the Gold Cup, in 2017 and 2019, the same year Brazil hosts the Copa America. The first opportunity for the proposed combined event is 2020. One stumbling point would be to get professional clubs to release players for another event in soccer’s already packed annual calendar.

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