On Wednesday of this week, interim CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit gave the clearest signal yet that the confederation will collaborate much more closely with CONMEBOL than they have in the past. Will it be a merger in everything but name? Not yet, but significant factions within both groups are considering the possibilities.
In recent years Mexican and some other select North and Central American clubs have participated in South American club competitions. Mexico is practically a half-member of CONMEBOL given their clubs' participation in both Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana and the national team's consistent participation in Copa América. Other CONCACAF clubs have been limited to participate in the Copa Sudamericana with some limited national team participation in Copa América.
Hawit's proposal for a 16-team Copa América (in the truest sense of the word) to celebrate CONMEBOL's centenary is an intriguing one that could serve as a proving ground for such a competition in a merged American confederation. Such a competition would give CONMEBOL a figleaf for hosting the tournament in either USA or Mexico. It's not known how the eight CONCACAF representatives would be selected -- rankings? qualification tournament? -- but what is known is that the USA would be a participant in an expanded event. And if rankings are used, it's possible that one or two Caribbean countries would be in the group of eight.
Beyond an expanded Copa Libertadores and Copa América, full integration and then a full merger of CONCACAF with CONMEBOL would be much more difficult. Hawit did not propose any changes to the World Cup qualification process, which would require CONCACAF Congress approval and then FIFA approval. While Mexican teams have CONCACAF's blessing to participate in Copa Libertadores, no other domestic league in the region has the financial ability to carry out a Libertadores program or the television market to interest CONMEBOL, with the exception of MLS. But even then, CONMEBOL already has access to the US market through Mexican teams and MLS teams haven't shown much interest in Copa Libertadores anyway.
At the end of the Medio Tiempo article was Hawit's call for a 4-year rotating presidency between the Caribbean, Central American, and North American subregions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist like me to notice that such a proposal is dead on arrival in the Caribbean. As far as the Caribbean nations are concerned, it would be like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Such a presidency would force the other ten nations of CONCACAF to take a more assertive role in the leadership of the confederation as opposed to their more subservient role. My impression is that the events of last year have awoken them from their disinterest, but the confederation has not yet found the right vehicle to get the North and Central Americans "in" and keep the Caribbeans reasonably happy.
The bottom line here is that Hawit is proposing some significant changes in the direction of CONCACAF, changes that need to be ratified by a new Congress and election. The next four months will be important ones in the history of the confederation.