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How to Make Copa America Relevant Again July 19, 2007

Posted by Soccer Current in Argentina, Brazil, Copa America, Mexico, soccer, sports, Uruguay, USA.

Brazil Celebrating 2

Well Copa America 2007 ended in Venezuela on Sunday and what do you know Brazil wins yet another tournament. While Brazil’s 8 championships in this event pail in comparison to the 14 both Uruguay and Argentina have, Brazil has won 4 of the last 5 Copa America’s and it doesn’t seem like they will be letting down anytime soon. At this point in time the Copa America which has been played 42 times since 1916 is about to be an after-thought in the world soccer conscience.What has caused this tournament that at one point in History was second to only the World Cup in importance fall so far?

How about the fact that in the 11 tournaments since the 1979 edition, that Paraguay won, the only country other than the Big 3 of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina to win the event was Colombia in 2001 when every country in the tournament sent their Youth Teams over fears of terrorist actions in the unstable country of Colombia where the event was being held. Other than Colombia(1) and Paraguay (2), Peru (2) and Bolivia (1) are the only other teams to win this event with Paraguay and Peru being the only other multiple winners. That leaves 3 countries from South America (Chile, Ecuador, and Venezuela) as the only teams without a championship. While most of us would look at that and say well a lot of teams cant win the big one in the case of both Ecuador and Venezuela they cant even make it into the big game with Ecuador finishing fourth twice in 42 tries and Venezuela never even making the final four. While parity, or a lack there of, is a problem it isn’t the biggest and i want to list a few ideas of how i think this wonderful tournament can get back into the soccer spotlight.

The biggest change this tournament needs to make is to open the event up to all teams in North and South America so that the consumer base opens to an entire new market that has yet to be tapped. While they currently invite two teams from outside of South America to be apart of the event it is not enough. While opening the event up to more teams could seem like a logistical problem i don’t see it that way. They could expand the tournament field by 4 teams to 16 and in order to get to the final 16 participants a qualification tournament would be held two years prior to the actual Copa America just like Europe does for Each European Championship. One of the biggest problems that the event has is that while soccer is biggest sport in South America the continent is one of poorest in the world so consumers are not able to attend the matches or maybe they don’t even have enough money to own a television and watch the matches there. This addition adds 40 more nations into the event that while not all of them will be able to participate you at-least begin to brand the event in new regions that otherwise would not have cared for this event.

The last big change that needs to be made is for FIFA to step in and make all of the best players play in this event. One of the things that makes the European Championships so special is that the best players from all over Europe are playing in this event. Unfortunately outside of Argentina no team brought a full strength squad to Copa America this year. Its not that the likes of Juan, Doni, and Jose make me turn off the television when they are playing for Brazil, I would just rather watch Ronaldihno, Kaka, and Roberto Carlos. Part of the reason that these players ask for the time off is the grueling schedule they play in Europe during their regular season, but the main culprit is the lack of other great players and importance for this event. Some of the greatest players to ever play the game have played in this competition and it shows a lack of professionalism that these young players now see themselves above this tournament.

Part of this problem is the lack of relevance that this event has undergone over the last couple decades and while the problems probably cannot be fixed overnight they can be fixed. The first steps to fixing this problem is the commitment from FIFA that they will have all the best players available for this event as well as a big expansion that could grow it to regions  of Central and North America that otherwise would not have bothered to watch this tournament in the past.