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Centenary Copa America launched with eye on future

(Reuters) - The United States will stage a centenary Copa America in 2016 hoping it will lead to more competition between the sport's two continental governing bodies in the Americas, South American ruling body CONMEBOL president Eugenio Figueredo said on Thursday.

CONMEBOL and its northern counterpart CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, made the official announcement of the tournament at a Miami news conference.

“This is a Copa Centenario we want to play as an extra tournament and it’s going to be a resounding success that will make us think about not waiting another 100 years for a more permanent competition between CONCACAF and South America,” Uruguayan Figueredo said.

“This is a first, without forgetting that CONCACAF teams have already played in the Copa America,” added Figueredo. CONMEBOL began inviting teams from its northern neighbors to the Copa America in the early 1990s, notably Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States. Figueredo also said the Copa Centenario would be part of world governing body FIFA’s international calendar while adding that he could not speak for any similar event beyond 2016. The Copa America, the South American championship first played in Argentina in 1916, is the oldest active competition involving national teams since the four-nation British Home Championship was discontinued in the mid-1980s.

“I congratulate CONMEBOL for inspiring players and fans throughout a century of fantastic football, and thank them for extending the legacy of this hugely successful event to CONCACAF territory,” CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb said. “The American continent may have been discovered in 1492, but I can’t imagine a better way to unite this continent than with football and an exceptional celebration of talent in 2016. “We are proud to play a leading role in the celebration of the centennial of a tournament born to unite all America. Year after year the Cup has gained prestige, which has allowed the opening of doors to the football of an entire continent. Now, CONCACAF and the United States will play host to the world’s oldest national team competition,” Figueredo said. The tournament, involving CONMEBOL’s 10 nations and six from CONCACAF, including Gold Cup holders the United States and six-times champions Mexico, will be held at venues yet to be designated across the U.S. between June 3 and 26.Uruguay will defend their Copa America title, a record 15th crown won in Argentina in 2011, in the next tournament in Chile in 2015.

(Reporting by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion, editing by Ed Osmond)

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