SANTIAGO: The South American football confederation wants to follow the trend and expand the Copa in Brazil in 2019 as it seeks to cover the financial holes left by the FIFAGate corruption scandal writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Alejandro Dominguez, the first of four CONMEBOL presidents not to have been indicted by the United States Justice Department, told its congress in Santiago that the body wanted to repeat the 16-team model used for the Copa Centenario last year in the United States.

Traditionally, the tournament has featured CONMEBOL’s 10 member nations plus two invited teams from North or Central America. The expanded version could mean European nations being invited.

Early this year the governing council of world federation FIFA decided to increase the size of the World Cup in 2026 from 32 teams to 48.

Dominguez said:  “The board has agreed that it will take place in Brazil and the ideal number of teams will be 16.”

Brazil had been lined up to host the 2019 Copa America following a switch deal struck between the Brazilian CBF the Chilean ANFP in March 2012.

Initially Brazil had been due to play host in 2015 but it authorities decided this was too much right inbetween the 2014 World Cup finals and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Hence Chile took over 2015 with delaying its Copa hosting to 2019.

European discussions

Dominguez also said that talks are “maturing” with European football’s governing body UEFA over an event matching the Copa America champion against the winners of the European Championships.

He has promised that the corruption cases which have wiped out much of CONMEBOL’s leadership since in recent years would “never again” happen, as the organisation described itself as a victim and stated it would attempt to recover stolen funds.

Details of an audit compiled by Ernst & Young were released at the congress, stating that former CONMEBOL leaders, such as Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, transferred $128.6m between 2000 and 2015 to personal accounts, suspicious accounts, or unauthorised third-party accounts.

Leoz, who was CONMEBOL president for 27 years until resigning in 2013, is said to have transferred $26.9m to his personal accounts. The audit also detailed $58m in payments “to third parties without adequate documentation,” payments of $33.3m to “unidentified accounts,” and $10.4m to “suspicious third-parties.”

Monserrat Jimenez, CONMEBOL’s legal director, said the organisation has formally decided to attempt to recover the missing funds.