CONMEBOL have announced that Australia and Qatar will be the invited nations to the 2020 Copa America, leaving Mexico without another Copa America participation. It seems the rumored split between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL has in effect not given Mexico the chance to play in the biggest tournament played in the Americas.
After not being able to play in the 2019 edition because of the fact that the Gold Cup was going to be played simultaneously, Mexico will miss the tournament for the second straight time, a tournament they had been playing in since 1993. Unlike this year’s edition, there is no tournament for the summer in 2020, which means it wasn’t calendar congestion that was the problem this time. This will mean that Mexico will have to rely on the overly inferior Gold Cup and CONCACAF Nations league as the only official tournaments to play this World Cup cycle, while the Confederations Cup is also gone.
In the Mexican press, a lot has been made of the refusal of players like Hector Herrera, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela to not play the Gold Cup. While Hernandez gave the reason that he was expecting the birth of his first child, Herrera said he needed to rest after not having a summer off for years. On the other hand, Vela just said he had other priorities. The press (and many fans) have jumped on the players for being “ungrateful” to the national team but few have questioned what is the goal that they are missing. The Gold Cup is the continental championship of CONCACAF, but with the Confederations Cup now gone, the tournament has now lost a lot of luster. Mexico will now have to continuously play with the pressure of needing to win a cup, which if they do win would be the expected result and will not be seen as much of an achievement.
To make matters worse, the lack of participation in a Copa America mostly because of the conflict between CONCACAF means that now the organization is being a hurdle for the development of Mexican football. With no Confederations Cup, a Copa America would be the best competition that Mexico has faced and the problems with CONCACAF have taken it away from them. This means that ultimately the Gold Cup, a tournament whose biggest goal to make money for CONCACAF, is now a prize for the organization that has done the biggest harm to Mexico this World Cup cycle. It might be time for fans to question what is the need to criticize players so harshly when in the end of things the biggest winner in all of this is the one whose doing the most harm to Mexican football.
CONCACAF President Victor Montaglaini has been clear that his priority is for more inner continental participation. When asked about Mexico’s participation in Copa America and Copa Libertadores, he said the future is for more participation like the CONCACAF Champions League. For Mexico, this spells a step backward. More participation in CONCACAF, in tournaments like the Nations League is of benefit to the CONCACAF Nations which Montagliani relies on but not to the Mexican national team.
While it’s understandable that Mexico needs to participate in their confederation, especially when tournaments like the Gold Cup and Copa America are played at the same time, it’s not understandable at all for Mexico to not be given permission when there is no tournament at all. While the confederation should try to improve, it could do so with a balanced participation by Mexico.
At the end people will get mad at players like Herrera for skipping the Gold Cup, but if the main thing is the benefit of Mexican football land its improvement, no decision of any player skipping a tournament is as harmful as CONCACAF not giving Mexico permission for a Copa America. It’s not Hector Herrera’s wish that is going to hurt Mexico but Montaglani’s.