By Simon Evans
MANHATTAN BEACH, California (Reuters) - Two of the leading players for the United States and Mexico national teams have given their backing to the idea of a regular Pan-American soccer tournament.
The Copa America Centenario, bringing together the top teams from North and South America, was held in the United States last summer and there are reports of officials being interested in creating a similar tournament in the future.
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The centenary event was billed as a one-off but its commercial success has led to speculation that officials from South American confederation CONMEBOL and North and Central American body CONCACAF being interested in making it a regular event.
The United States Soccer Federation declined to comment on whether such talks had formally begun but their president Sunil Gulati has previously said that discussions around the topic have been held.
United States goalkeeper Tim Howard believes last year’s event proved a Pan-American tournament had its value.
"I think it is exciting," Howard told Reuters television.
"I think some of the best players in the world are in South America and so the summer was exciting for our country to see and showcase not only those teams but also the individuals who play on teams like Chile and Colombia, Argentina and Brazil and so on.
"It was special and so it would be great if CONCACAF teams could be part of that for sure," he added.
CONCACAF organizes a Gold Cup tournament every second year for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean but Mexico forward Giovani dos Santos believes playing against South American opposition would improve their games.
"I think it is great because obviously the competition in that kind of tournament is higher because of the players you had in there and I hope in the coming years it will be the same," he said.
"I think the quality of the teams in North America is getting better and better all the time," he added.
CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said after June’s Copa America that he was looking at ideas for future joint tournaments but acknowledged that European clubs, who employ most of the top players, would need to be won over.
In order to force clubs to release players for the tournament it would also need to feature as an official part of the FIFA calendar.
"We remain open to hearing any proposals and ideas," CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said after the tournament.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)