The United States Soccer Federation has sent letters to CONMEBOL, CONMEBOL's member federations and CONCACAF proposing a new international men's tournament that it is calling the Continental Cup 2020.
The New York Times was the first to report the news.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN FC, proposes a tournament that will in many ways mirror the Copa America Centenario that was hosted by the U.S. in 2016. The invitees will consist of all 10 CONMEBOL countries as well as six CONCACAF nations.
The USSF is offering to underwrite the entire event, including a guarantee that each team will receive a minimum of $4 million to participate. Teams can earn additional prize money of $225,000 per point won, and $5m for winning the tournament. Before prize money, the total compensation to CONMEBOL and its teams will be $90m, while CONCACAF and its teams will receive $74m. All told, the USSF is willing to pay out nearly $200m to the participants -- both teams and confederations -- of the event.
The tournament is set to run concurrently with that year's European Championships. The USSF is also offering to establish a 2026 Legacy Fund to assist in growing the sport of soccer in the entire CONCACAF region ahead of the 2026 World Cup.
"CONCACAF is in receipt of the communication sent by the U.S. Soccer Federation to CONMEBOL Member Associations," the regional governing body confirmed in a statement. "We view this opportunity positively as it is not intended to replace or substitute any future editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and it complements our vision to continue providing opportunities for our Member Associations to play competitive football at the highest level."
CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have been engaged in talks for over a year on holding another combined Copa America, but have been unable to come to an agreement. The intention is to turn the combined tournament into a quadrennial, joint continental event. Any combined tournament would have to be approved by both confederations as well as the USSF. According to the letter, USSF president Carlos Cordeiro has invited CONMEBOL leaders to discuss the proposal next week in Miami.
Due to fallout from the FIFA corruption scandal that ensnared executives of both CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, the USSF had less than a year to organize the Copa America Centenario. By getting its proposal on the table now, the USSF is hoping to kickstart organizing efforts, regardless of which entities will agree to participate.
The USSF's motivation is clear. Despite the short run-up to the 2016 tournament, the U.S. still managed to receive a cut of $72m. That proved to be a critical infusion of cash for the USSF given the fallout from the U.S.'s subsequent failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The tournament would also provide a valuable event in which the U.S. could participate, as well as help determine host cities for the 2026 World Cup, which is being hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
A USSF spokesperson indicated to ESPN FC that it is still possible for a combined Copa America to be held if the three aforementioned parties can agree.
The letter indicated that the proposed tournament will not have any impact on the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup or the Copa America. Cordeiro, speaking at the organization's Annual General Meeting earlier this month, cast doubt on the future of the Gold Cup, stating that he was unsure if the event would continue beyond 2021. CONCACAF later issued a statement indicating that the Gold Cup is on the FIFA calendar through 2023, and that it has every intention of continuing to hold the tournament.
This year's Copa America is slated for this June and July in Brazil. But CONMEBOL said last year that it was planning to move the Copa America to a quadrennial schedule starting in 2020 to coincide with UEFA's European Championship.