By J Hutcherson (Jul 28, 2015) US Soccer Players – There’s already a recent history of how Confederations tend to respond to outsider clubs and countries winning competitions. The Asian Football Confederation might have allowed Australia to join them from Oceania a few years ago. FIFA might’ve put their seal of approval on that move. It doesn’t mean AFC is all that excited about Australia winning their tournaments.
CONCACAF never faced that issue in the invited guest era of the Gold Cup. Brazil finished in 2nd-place twice, but they never won the title. Neither did Korea, the 4th-place finishers in 2002. We don’t know how the region would’ve responded had an outsider country taken the trophy. The assumption is that had it happened in say 1996 the era of invited guests would’ve ended much earlier.
So what to make of Tigres, booking their place in the 2015 Copa Libertadores as the top Liga MX finisher not obligated to play in the CONCACAF Champions League? Tigres is a home and home final series away from winning the 2015 Copa Libertadores. Though it’s CONCACAF and not CONMEBOL insisting that the best Liga MX teams play in the Champions League instead of the Libertadores, that doesn’t make things better for South America.
Imagine, a non-champion from Mexico taking home CONMEBOL’s club championship. Tigres is in position to do it, already showing that they can come back in the Libertadores with their semifinal win over Brazil’s Internacional. It’s worth the reminder that Internacional entered the Libertadores as the 3rd-place finisher in Brazil’s Serie A. Tigres beat Ecuador’s champions Emelec in the quarterfinals and Bolivia’s champions Universitario in the Round of 16. They finished the group stage second only to Boca Juniors among the seeded teams.
All of that is probably fine in the eyes of CONMEBOL should the story end there. It’s good for all involved that Liga MX can put a team into the final. What changes that is if Tigres actually goes ahead and wins it.
CONCACAF and CONMEBOL relations are at an odd moment. They’re so friendly that the US Department of Justice made the connections linking officials in both organizations with allegations of bribery. Those officials are now awaiting extradition and/or trial under US law. The 2016 Centenary Copa America is part of those allegations, with CONMEBOL’s national team championship scheduled for the United States and involving several CONCACAF teams. Well, at least in theory considering what the Department of Justice claims happened with that tournament’s rights packages.
Whether or not the Centenary Copa America goes ahead as scheduled, the idea is a celebration rather than CONCACAF putting multiple teams in the knockout stages on the way to one of them winning the title. There’s comradery and there’s ruining a party. CONCACAF teams have long been invited guests at the Copa America, but none of them have been rude enough to win it.
So what happens when a CONCACAF team club or country shows it can win CONMEBOL’s trophy? Does a one-off result from Tigres require Liga MX doing it again before CONMEBOL reacts? Is it the AFC scenario where Australia’s triumphs haven’t exactly thrilled confederation officials? Does it reopen the discussion on why confederations can bring in outside teams?
All Tigres has to do is force the question.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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