As reported by everyone, and speculated on by everyone, the 100th anniversary of the oldest continuous international competition in association football will be held in the United States of America. SI reports that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will make it official on Thursday. As of yet, there is no mention of breaking up the normal rotation (2015 and 2019), and the projected hosts of those tournaments (Chile and Brazil) aren't making a peep about what is tentatively being dubbed the "Centenario". So why the fuss?
It's true that this tourney won't earn the winner a spot in Confederations Cup or a free pass to the World Cup (should it?). That said, will there be any lack of investment in pride in the largest intercontinental world championship in modern history? Let's examine a few points:
1. This is a blatant money grab: For a non-soccer country, we've become a cash cow for off-season and off-year tours. Along with the our fun MLS All Star game that's not going away anytime soon, we get a steady stream of MLS v. Big club exhibitions in the summer. We also get royal rumbles featuring
off the ball biting and nut-punching fierce international exhibitions as qualifiers (Ivory Coast) face a regional team (El Salvador) who feign injury while removing your kidney by hand are probably just a cycle away from playing in a similar warmup due to their clear quality. I'll go on record and predict nil-nil for this one and a stout crowd for a midweek fixture at Toyota Park Stadium. It looks like CONMEBOL is ready to cash in on the growing appetite.
2. This is a blatant money grab at the expense of Euro 16': CONCACAF and CONMEBOL are ready to go head to head with UEFA's continental championship in 2016. In a year when the money would traditionally filter to Europe, the West decides that they'll hold a big tournament in a similar timeframe so the locals are more interested. Europe got a leg up on having a summer tournament in Olympic years, but I have to imagine the bite of a 16 team tournament for 4 weeks featuring local national federations will draw eyes away from Euro 16'. These extra resources could help Jeffrey Webb's plan to hold the Gold Cup outside of the US.
3. Sure, I'll bite...even if it means going to Houston. It doesn't look like Dallas is going to be a venue for this one-time (until they clear a boatload of cash) smorgasbord of an international tournament, but I'll be glad to make a drive to see how the region (and their respective fans) perform when the Centenario comes around.
My concern about this tournament is participation. What kind of stakes will be offered to make this enticing for players coming off of a long season? How will MLS teams react to having their squads plundered during the heart of the schedule? Is the risk of sending top shelf talent from Western Hemisphere powers worth sending in to face
head-hunting Salvadorean goons with razors in their boots aggressive upstarts from CONCACAF looking to impress scouts.
Assuming this ends up being a de facto 'A' tournament, then this could be a once in a lifetime event. Can we beat Brazil in an elimination game for the first time since the 1998 Gold Cup? Can we get Ghana in to this tournament somehow? Who are the other CONCACAF teams you'd like to see? We'll get a peek on Thursday.