Copa America Centenario in United States still a possibility - CONCACAF

Hope remains to hold the Copa America Centenario in the United States next summer, according to a CONCACAF spokesman.

Leaders of CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, as well as CONCACAF's television partners, Televisa and Univision, met in Mexico City on Thursday in a bid to kick-start an organizing process that has run aground in recent months.

"The meeting was very positive and we emerged from the meeting with the common goal of holding the Copa America Centenario in the United States," said CONCACAF spokesman Jurgen Mainka via telephone.

The U.S. Soccer Federation did not have a representative in attendance but a USSF spokesman said that the federation's leadership already had a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

In May, the indictments of 14 soccer and marketing executives revealed corruption surrounding the organizing of the Copa America Centenario. Since then, U.S. Soccer, which had been selected by CONMEBOL to host the expanded version of the Copa America, has sought assurances that the companies involved were above board and that there was total transparency with regard to the commercial and television rights of the tournament.

U.S. Soccer hasn't been able to receive those assurances to its satisfaction and may withdraw from hosting the tournament as a result.

With each passing day, the likelihood that the tournament would be held has lessened, since the U.S. promoters in line to book stadiums for the tournament are starting to look elsewhere in order to fill their venues with other events. On Wednesday, a source familiar with the situation confirmed the lengthening odds.

While Mainka said that progress was made during the meeting, he did note that some challenges remain.

"We know that there is an aggressive timeline with respect to the operations of the tournament that needs to be hosted," he said. "We are well aware of that. We're also aware that there are a couple of more steps that need to be taken to put this tournament together. What's important is that we have alignment with these four entities."

Mainka declined to elaborate on what those steps are, but a source with knowledge of the situation indicated that the major sticking point surrounds Datisa, an Argentina-based marketing company that owns the commercial rights to the Copa America Centenario, and was implicated in the FIFA scandal to the extent that its accounts have been frozen by U.S. investigators.

Datisa was formed as a joint venture that included Traffic Sports, Full Play and another Argentine company, Torneos y Competencias. Datisa acquired the rights to the 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2013 Copa Americas for $318 million. Datisa later acquired CONCACAF's share of the commercial rights to the Copa America Centenario as well.

If CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, Televisa and Univision can somehow obtain those rights from Datisa, then the odds of the tournament being held in the U.S. go up considerably. A complicating factor however is that Datisa had already sold some of the commercial rights to third parties, a group that includes Televisa.

Mainka also said in a news conference on Thursday: "We are still aligned with a common goal of holding the Copa América Centenario in the U.S. on the dates previously planned. There are several steps that must be taken but our alignment is very clear and we are working toward this goal."

Copa America is normally held every four years, with the latest edition having been held last June in Chile. This edition is designed to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the formation of COMNEBOL, and was set to include six nations from CONCACAF in addition to the 10 countries that comprise COMNEBOL.

Last week, CONCACAF had issued a statement in which it alluded to the ongoing concerns of both the confederation and U.S. Soccer.

"We are continuing to work with CONMEBOL, the U.S. Soccer Federation and all other stakeholders on hosting the Copa America Centenario tournament in the United States," the statement read. "CONCACAF is committed to continue working with all parties to address the operational, format and financial issues relating to the tournament in order to ensure greater transparency to this event. We are hopeful that the meeting on Thursday in Mexico City will lead to progress on these issues."

On Wednesday, a source with knowledge of the ongoing conversations had said that the U.S. chances of hosting were dwindling before Thursday's meeting in Mexico City. The U.S. national team currently has no games scheduled for the summer months in 2016.