Will there be a Copa America in the United States next year? CONCACAF is preparing as if there will be one, scheduling qualifiers to determine their final two entrants to the tournament.
The confederation reportedly set October 13 as the date for the first leg of the two-legged qualifiers. Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti will play in one of the ties, while Panama will take on Cuba in the other. There is no word yet on when the second legs will be played.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica already qualified for the tournament. The U.S. and Mexico automatically qualified as the top teams from the region, while Costa Rica did so as the Copa Centroamericana winners and Jamaica book their spot by winning the Caribbean Cup. The four teams in the playoffs made it to that stage by virtue of being the four best performing teams at the Gold Cup, teams which already qualified aside.
Copa America Centenario, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first South American championship tournament, is scheduled to be played in the U.S. next summer. It is supposed to be a championship for all of the Americans with all 10 teams from CONMEBOL making it, along with six from CONCACAF. But more than anything, it's a cash cow waiting to happen.
That desire to cash in on the tournament was part of the recent FIFA indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice. Several members of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL were indicted, while a plot to sell the Copa America Centenario TV rights illegally was also part of the indictments.
The corruption attached to the tournament, as well as the trouble organizing a tournament between two confederations in flux and absent competent leadership, threw the future of the competition into flux. There has been indications that the tournament might be canceled, and while the host cities and stadiums were supposed to be announced in May, they have yet to be determined. CONMEBOL has made it clear that they still want the tournament to go ahead, but CONCACAF has been silent, only hinting that a cancelation is possible.
It's still unclear whether Copa America Centenario will be played, but in the meantime, CONCACAF is going ahead with qualifying. They need to be prepared to play the tournament in case it does go on and, if it doesn't, then the teams got a couple competitive matches under their belts.