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Pan-American tournament could become regular event

By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - A Pan-American tournament similar to last year's Copa Centenario could be played on a regular two or four-yearly basis depending on the outcome of discussions between the two confederations involved.

Victor Montagliani, president of the North, Central America and Caribbean Confederation (CONCACAF), told Reuters that significant talks had taken place with South America's CONMEBOL over the organisation of future competitions.

The new tournament would effectively be a merger of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and South America's Copa America which could cease to exist in their own right.

The Copa America, the world's oldest continental competition, has been organised by CONMEBOL since 1916 while the CONCACAF championship was first held in 1963 and renamed the Gold Cup in 1991.

The Copa has suffered from having only 10 teams while the Gold Cup, traditionally dominated by Mexico and the United States, has been held back by a lack of world-class sides.

The Copa Centenario, won by Chile, was held in the U.S. last year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the South American competition.

"We've had some significant discussions with our CONMEBOL friends in terms of moving forward on a (tournament) on a more regular basis rather then a one-off," said Montagliani, adding that CONCACAF was pleased with last year's event.

The new tournament, which would take place in 2020 at the earliest, would be "similar to what Centenario was in the sense that it was CONCACAF and CONMEBOL teams," added the Canadian.

Asked if it meant ditching the Gold Cup and Copa America, he said: "Those are some of things we are talking about - would it be viable to still have a Gold Cup, in our case?

"If you have that kind of situation, those are things that are being analysed."

CONMEBOL could not immediately be reached for comment although resistance to the end of the Copa America as a competition in itself is likely to be strong.

Hosting rights and the frequency of the tournaments would be another issue. The Gold Cup is permanently hosted by the U.S. while the Copa America is rotated between countries.

"Do you alternate between confederations on a quadrennial basis, do you split it up, those are all things we are discussing with our good friends in CONMEBOL," said Montagliani.

"Is it every two years, it is every four? The calendar is already packed, I'm not sure every two would be sensible but I think at this point you want to look at everything, you don't want to leave any stone unturned."

Montagliani, elected last year, has already overseen fundamental changes to the CONCACAF Champions' League, its flagship club competition, where the group stage will be replaced by a knockout contest from next season.

"You need to make games relevant and impactful...and I think our format change is going to do that," he said.

(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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