NEW YORK - CONCACAF secretary general Philippe Moggio met with a group of reporters on Tuesday to take questions about a range of topics. Among the big ones were the upcoming Gold Cup, the confederation's role in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada 2026 World Cup bid, and the future of the CONCACAF Champions League.
I wrote a story for Friday's Inquirer and Daily News about how the Gold Cup is a big chance for cities like Philadelphia to prove they should be part of the World Cup bid. With the first round of paperwork due to FIFA in August, the tournament is the last one on U.S. soil before that deadline.
Here are Moggio's full remarks on that subject and the others mentioned above. There's a little bit of editing for clarity, and to group quotes by subject.
On preparations for this summer's Gold Cup:
We're seeing great traction from a ticket sales perspective. We have over 250,000 tickets sold to date, which is better than we've been [for any previous Gold Cup] in the past with 50 days out. We have great momentum with potential partners that are getting behind the property in a meaningful way. We have new partners such as Modelo coming in, and Post Foods as new partners to the competition.
On the 2026 World Cup bid and CONCACAF's role in it as an organization relative to the U.S., Mexican and Canadian national federations:
We are certainly thinking about a World Cup nine years out from today, and how three of our members are coming together to put our best foot forward for the World Cup to come back to our confederation. It's a tremendous development, and certainly, CONCACAF will work very closely with these members to ensure that the World Cup does come back here.
That serves as a great post for us to say, "Where do we want to be in 2026 as a confederation? Where do we want soccer to be then?" And then that gives us the opportunity to to think about the potential of soccer in this region, and the tremendous opportunity that it has.
If we think about the growth that MLS has enjoyed in this country, with the expansion of teams, with the increase in attendance figures that they have year on year, the broad distribution that they now have [for broadcasts] on a global basis, that really demonstrates the traction that soccer is enjoying in this country.
And I think that serves as a great opportunity for us, CONCACAF, to continue developing soccer in the region, and ensuring that we are competing in the best way possible, ensuring that our teams are representing our region in the best way possible, to potentially dream about winning a World Cup, which is ultimately the best demonstration of success that we can have in the football world.
Each of these countries could potentially host a World Cup on their own. The fact that they have decided to come together to collaborate, and that CONCACAF can help in that process, has been fantastic.
Because it really demonstrates that this is one region, one CONCACAF, which has been our president's campaign [new CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani of Canada]. That's how he ran, saying that he was going to unite the entire region.
So to have these three nations come together, to collaborate, to put our best foot forward, to ensure that this World Cup can come back here and benefit the entire region is, I think, a great development.
And I think focusing on that bid within the context of a Gold Cup coming this summer and what that Gold Cup is going to be, is going to help cement the messaging about the potential for football development here.
CONCACAF is there to support our members in any way necessary to ensure that the bid is the best possible bid. Then, on the back end, from an execution perspective, helping them come together, helping them through the assessment of execution, determining how it should be split, and ensuring that the requirements that FIFA will put forth are being met when it comes to submitting the bid.
I think that from a CONCACAF perspective, it's just ensuring that we're helping [with] the coordination as best as possible. Whether it's as simple as communication; as helping that [national federations'] media teams are properly coordinated from a messaging perspective; [or] helping with any of the background work on research and analytics to meet the requirements of the bid.
We're there to support the three members in any way they need us, to make sure that we collectively are putting the best foot forward.
On whether the documents filed in August will include a statement about where the final will be played, and whether there is competition yet for the honor:
I don't believe so. We haven't gotten into that level of detail, and that really will be something that will be determined between the three federations. I don't think it's a requisite to determine that from FIFA's perspective. I think for them, it's really more [about] capacity, execution and ability to host a competition.
On whether he knows if the initial bid filing due on August 11 will include an estimate of the number of cities that would host games.
[As in he does not know.]
On whether this year's Gold Cup is an audition for the tournament's host cities to prove that they should be part of the 2026 World Cup bid:
I think the Gold Cup in general is a tremendous opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its ability to host top-notch competitions. And when you start thinking about cities that are interested in potentially having a World Cup game, certainly this serves as a great opportunity to showcase that.
The level of interest that we saw from cities for this Gold Cup is unprecedented. We received bids from over 30 cities, and narrowed it down to what we have today, which is 14 [venues]*.
They are getting behind the competition in a meaningful way. We have four new cities coming into the fold hosting [Cleveland, Nashville, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif.], which also demonstrates their interest in potentially having MLS teams [in the cases of Nashville and San Antonio].
So it has many implications, having a successful Gold Cup this summer, for soccer in general in this country and in our region.
[* - Two of those venues are in the Dallas region. FC Dallas' Toyota Stadium will host a group stage doubleheader, and the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium will host a semifinal. Frisco and Arlington are 40 miles apart.]
I think the Gold Cup will serve as another example of this country's ability to host magnificent competitions. And I think after the competition is done, we'll be able to demonstrate increased attendance, great viewership, great execution and fan experiences in all these amazing venues.
That, in the end, will help the overall bid of this confederation to bring the World Cup back in 2026, no question. And I think that's going to be a story coming out of the end of July, [with] the demonstration of a bid due and [to be] assessed in August.
On what role geography can play in a city's potential to host a major international tournament, especially if that city (like Philadelphia) is situated near other major cities, which can cut down on travel requirements for teams:
One of the issues we need to assess is travel for teams [and] travel for fans. To the extent we can regionalize it, or create hubs around some of the competitions, that's a very important component. That's something we've tried to do heading into this Gold Cup. And I think it's something that the [World Cup] organizing committee, when they look at how the matches are being distributed for a World Cup, will look into for sure.
On the role that government regulations across three countries, especially regarding visas, will play in the 2026 World Cup bid:
Certainly, there's a lot of work to make sure that we can satisfy FIFA's requirements. That's going to be, over the next year, the work that the three federations, with the support of CONCACAF, are going to be doing. But we feel very comfortable about being able to satisfy those requirements.
I think what we've got to focus on is our competition. The fact that we're having a Gold Cup [this summer] is a great opportunity to demonstrate the ability to host competitions on the world stage, and how coming in and out of this country is very straightforward. How the infrastructure that exists to host great competitions - stadiums, hotels, airports - is the best it can be.
I think that will help send the right message to everybody that this confederation is ready to host a World Cup in 2026. And any requirements that aren't there already, there's a nine-year runway to ensure that we have the right infrastructure and everything else in place to meet those requirements.
On what constitutes a successful Gold Cup:
I think success is measured across many different metrics. Certainly, the visibility of the tournament overall - whether it's attendance, audience across multiple media platforms, whether it's the return on investment from our sponsorship partners, what they got out of the property, and ensuring that it was the right investment for them, the right association for them.
But then, I think more qualitatively, it's helping demonstrate that through the Gold Cup, this confederation is well-organized, it's well-focused, and is heading in the right direction for the overall development of the sport in our region, and taking it to the next level.
On whether, in that context, it's better for CONCACAF if the final is U.S.-Mexico or has two other teams in it:
That's a very good question. I think we want to make sure that competition continues to improve, and to that point, to always try to strike a right balance of competition. So, seeing countries like Curaçao and French Guyana come in for the first time can demonstrate that there's improvement in the competition. And seeing powerhouses like Mexico and the U.S. perform well is also important, because they have very strong fan bases.
I think the balance between the two - I'm not sure what the right answer is to that one.
On rumors that the 2017 Gold Cup could be the last edition of the tournament, and on the expansion of the Copa América to 16 teams in 2019, with the potential for CONCACAF teams to be invited to South America's tournament that year and in the future:
We have a Gold Cup scheduled for 2019, and we continue to analyze how to best profile this competition - whether it's expanding the format, whether it's thinking about a different format. But we're very committed to the platform.
We're very focused on the Gold Cup. It's our most important confederation tournament. It's scheduled for 2019. If there's an invitation coming for teams from our region to play in a Copa América, it would be something that they would need to explore, but not with their [top] national teams. There would be maybe a composition of youth teams participating in that.
[A reporter replied that such an arrangement might not go over well with those nations' fans, not to mention CONMEBOL, given the prestige of the Copa América and the value of being invited as a guest.]
For our countries, it's really important for them to participate in our Gold Cup.
On whether he foresees a time when more Gold Cup games, or even the entire tournament, could be moved out of the United States:
Those are certainly scenarios we analyze. The fact is that the Gold Cup, commercially, does the best in the U.S., and that's the reality of our business. But we certainly want to explore opportunities for the Gold Cup to go to other countries in our region [and] to have more games overall. That's all part of the analysis we are looking at heading out of this Gold Cup.
I think for the moment, though, it's ensuring that this Gold Cup here in the U.S. this summer is as successful as it can be.
On what CONCACAF is doing to boost exposure for its Champions League in addition to overhauling the competition format, especially since there is currently no English-language television broadcaster for the tournament in the United States:
Our focus over the past nine months has really been on the format of the competition. We went through a pretty rigorous process working with our media partners, working with our clubs, members and federations, to figure out how we can evolve the competition and continue to improve it.
Hence the format of having two competitions. The Champions League in the spring [after] the CONCACAF League in the fall* allows it to properly tier in the right way, so that we're maximizing the competition at the top and allowing the right development to happen. That's been our main focus.
I think [after] launching that new format, now it really is about ensuring that it's getting the broadest distribution possible. Having U.S. English-language distribution is essential for that, and we're having active conversations to ensure that we get that distribution into the next tournament.
[The CONCACAF League will serve as a qualifying tournament for smaller nations' club teams to reach the Champions League. Click here for an explanation.]
On whether the forthcoming Canadian Premier League's winner will get a Champions League berth, since the Canadian Soccer Association is sanctioning the CPL as a first-division league in that country:
That's something we would want to look at. I think the way the teams are qualified today to the competition doesn't envision that, because obviously the league hasn't launched. But I think we're committed to evaluating how the competition evolves to ensure that the clubs in it have the broadest representation possible.
One of the important things for us is to continue to develop club competition. So even beyond the CONCACAF League that starts in the fall, we're also doing an entire club competition in the Caribbean, to ensure that in the Caribbean we're developing a club system at the right level, and that they're putting forth the best possible teams to compete in the CONCACAF League, and even in the Champions League.
We want to make sure that we're evaluating all the systems in place on how teams are qualifying to these competitions.
On whether CONCACAF is considering creating a League of Nations tournament for its national teams similar to the one UEFA is creating in Europe to replace friendlies and some tournament qualifiers:
[Note: It is under consideration, though Moggio didn't acknowledge it directly. CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani spoke publicly about the idea last month, when it was an agenda topic at the CONCACAF Congress.]
We've been very focused on reviewing all our competitions, to ensure that what we're doing on a day-to-day basis in executing these competitions, we're getting the most out of them that's possible. Hence the new format of the Champions League; ensuring that we're properly executing at the Gold Cup; and determining success at that competition.
But that also includes reviewing how our World Cup qualifying structure is today. I think if we were to look at it, when we think about what we want to achieve from it, it's broader participation. We would want to think about a system that allows more teams to compete during an entire four-year cycle, rather than playing one or two games and being out.
I think that's going to help the overall development [of the region]. But it's still in the very early stages for us to determine if a change in format can be implemented.
We've looked at what UEFA has done, and certainly that has evolved in a very interesting way. I think national team competition is really important in our confederation, and I think if we're to think about what the landscape should look like, I think that's an example that could be followed.
Obviously, we have very different dynamics in place, so it's hard to say whether we can implement a change like that. But again, we're looking at all our competitions and how we can enhance them.
On whether he thinks the United States and Mexico will still be able to bring over marquee European nations for high-profile friendlies once the UEFA Nations League launches:
I think it's becoming increasingly harder for that cross-confederation competition to happen. And because of that, I think we need to look at how we better create a competition within our system that is benefiting all. It's clear that it's important [to have] the opportunity to play against the UEFAs of the world and the CONMEBOLs of the world. But under those systems, it's becoming much more difficult to do so, at least within FIFA windows.
They can continue to explore opportunities outside of that, but I think it's increasingly hard to have the right players in place. So I think that begs the question for us to say: What system can we put in place where top teams and all teams can benefit the most out of a four-year cycle?
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