Cup v. Copa...again...(new angles, though)

Given that the consequential parts of the debate over what kind of team the U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) sends to the Gold Cup versus the Copa America have been by and large settled, I almost didn't bother with the latest contributions. I'm somewhat glad I did, though, because one of them challenges a foggy assumption about what we'll get out of the Copa, while the other suggests a way to make both the Cup and the Copa work better with the ever-sprawling soccer calendar.

The first comes from Andrea Canales, whose column discards the "Copa first" argument in a tone that approaches mocking - and that's a good thing, given the angle she's examining. That angle deals with respect and how it's earned and so on. The worst I can say about her column is that Canales ignores some practical benefits of the Copa: giving the expected U.S. first-string players experience against stronger opposition; this "what a waste" argument is the one I see most often. But her larger point, even if it's directed against a strawman - put another way, I rarely see the "prestige" argument she keeps attributing to "some quarters" - is that a solid performance in the 2007 Copa America won't do anything meaningful for the esteem in which U.S. soccer is held around the world. Reputation grows from sustained performance and nothing else, a point well supported by her thumbnail history of the past decade.

And, curiously, I'd argue we've reached a place in which we are, in fact, respected; I wouldn't go much beyond that, though.

The other item, this one written by Ken Pendleton for deals in tournament infrastructure and, for what it's worth, I'd say he's on to something. His piece argues for scheduling both the Copa America and the Gold once every four years. As it now stands, both tournaments are biennial (with some deviations with regards to the Copa). There's more to Pendleton's post than simply playing both tournament's every four years - he'd expand qualifying and, like me, look into merging the two tournaments - but the fundamental piece comes with lowering the frequency.

One last thing regarding my general snark about strawmen serving as the only "quarters" thinking that prestige will magically accrue to U.S. Soccer through a decent run in the Copa; this passage comes from Pendleton's essay:

"For example, Brazil crashed out of the 2001 tournament to Honduras in the quarterfinals largely because they only fielded a few players who started for them during the World Cup the following year. Host Colombia went on to win the tournament, but how much prestige did they gain by winning a watered down competition?

It may not be direct, but it's out there.

No comments: