What took you so long?

Posted by Jeff Carlisle

Getty ImagesWith the Copa America coming to the U.S., the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar will play alongside Clint Dempsey.

With the announcement that the 2016 Copa America will be held in the United States, and will include six teams from CONCACAF, there is only one question remaining for CONMEBOL, the tournament organizer and governing body of South American soccer: What took you so long?

CONMEBOL made the decision Wednesday at a meeting in Buenos Aires, and the Copa America Centenario, as it will be known, will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the confederation. The decision is a win-win on many levels. It gives the tournament a clear shot of adrenaline, especially considering the game's expanding profile in North America.

Factor in the United States' historical support for big events, as well as increasing interest in competitions such as Euro 2012, and you have a tournament that is bound to be well attended. There is simply no way that the American sporting public will pass up the opportunity to see the likes of Argentina's Lionel Messi, Brazil's Neymar, Colombia's Radamel Falcao, and who knows what other talents who will have emerged by then.

All told, it should amount to a television rights bonanza for CONMEBOL.

The opportunity to host the tournament is a coup for the U.S. as well, and helps ease the sting of losing out on the right to host the 2022 World Cup. It's not often that the U.S. program has the chance to play top-level competition in a tournament setting, and while there is ample evidence that CONCACAF is improving, the biennial Gold Cup doesn't provide enough quality competition. The U.S. took part in the Copa America in 1993, 1995, and 2007, and hosting the 2016 edition will provide American players with another vital layer of top international experience. With five other CONCACAF nations participating, including Mexico, the benefits will be spread throughout the region as well.

The synergy of holding a Pan-American tournament seems obvious, given the depth of passion for the game in Central and North America, and the size of the added markets. For that reason it's a wonder that the decision to create an expanded tournament wasn't made earlier.

But the fiefdoms within CONMEBOL and CONCACAF are still very well entrenched, which leads to the biggest disappointment of the announcement. For the moment, the move appears to be a one-off. The 2015 Copa America will go on as planned, with the winner taking part in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The same is true on the CONCACAF side for the 2015 Gold Cup. In fact, it appears that there will be no change in the offing for CONCACAF's biggest tournament, which looks as if it will continue to be held every two years, even though the edition held the year before the World Cup often sees the U.S. and Mexico field B-teams.

Alas, this is a necessary evil, as CONCACAF relies heavily on the revenue the Gold Cup generates to fund grass-roots events like international youth tournaments. But if the Copa America Centenario is a success – and there's every reason to expect that it will be – then hopefully, the two tournaments could coexist, which would amount to another win-win situation for the region.

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