South America’s continental football competition, Copa Libertadores, it’s heralded as the ultimate prize in football on that side of the globe. There’s a rumour afoot that the Mexicans and Americans want in. Are we diluting the completion or enriching it?
America and Mexico, aren’t they lovely? The party doesn’t start until an American comes in ravages the jukebox and his friend serves up some tacos. Well, that’s exactly what could happen in CONMEBOL’s Copa Libertadores.
The rumours are that the CONCACAF professional divisions from America and Liga MX want to play in the South American continental competition. The host confederation president has been woolly about the whole subject, but there’s more to it than simply declining the thought. Given contemplation, this is a real opportunity for everyone involved.
The respective associations will surely be licking their lips at the idea of moving from their own champions league to the South American trophy. Why? Well, their continental competition just isn’t competitive. The last 12 editions of the tournament have produced a Mexican winner usually with an all-Mexican final or an MLS side losing out in the last game.
In reality, the Mexican sides need more competition at this level; in order to raise their ability and expose national talent to a better quality. Whilst an all-Mexican final is great, its happened too many times in the current system to be considered remarkable.
US Soccer has a lot to earn from the transition too. Americans, on the whole, have a reluctance to get into football, due to the long-standing traditions of non-English sports. The domestic league does have a growing support but is limited by its lack of exciting international football. Should the likes of Boca Juniors, Corinthians and Atletico Nacional turn up in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York; they’ll be a palpable new interest as the quality in competition would skyrocket.
So what do the South Americans gain from all this? Dilution of their historic competition will not come for anything. But honestly, this relationship would be beneficial for everyone.
In recent years it’s been harder and harder for nations to keep a hold of their best players. Take Brazil, for example, Jo finished last year as the top scorer. He left the title-winning, Corinthians, to play in the J.League. Roger Guedes didn’t even wait for the season to end to split for Asia as he left Mineiro mid-season to play in the Chinese Super League. Why? Instincts lead us to money. You can earn a lot more there.
The introduction of away days in America with the corporate sports pay that follow would significantly bolster their checkbooks. This money would be able to be used to help keep stars in South America; by the same token taking away the appeal of Asia which at the moment can cherry pick anyone it wants from South America despite the overall quality be considerably lower.
The Mexican teams also offer a different dimension given their huge success in CONCACAF so far. Statistically, Club America is the most valuable club in the Americas, so why not open the door to them earn a wedge in the process. In addition to the vulgarities of being driven purely by capital gain – think of the football. Despite being so close, inter-confederation games are few and far between. Corinthians at the Azteca, Boca Juniors playing to a full house at the Orlando Bowl, the options are endless.
Whether the speculation is based on Mexican whispers or more, the reality is that the confederations need each other. Whether it’s development in popularity or competitiveness, Liga MX and MLS need to play CONMEBOL teams more often.
South America for all its long-standing tradition steeped in football just isn’t generating enough money or prestige. The players are bowing out at an unsustainable rate, sure they won’t run out of people soon the quality will. Introducing the boys from the Central/North America will inject real money and excitement into the confederation’s international tournament.