The United States will stage a centenary Copa America in 2016 that could prove to be the seed for a true pan-American soccer tournament, officials said at the launch of the tournament in Miami on Thursday.
Eugenio Figueredo, president of the sport's South American ruling body CONMEBOL, said he hoped the event would lead to more competition also encompassing CONCACAF, its counterpart for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
"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," the Uruguayan told a news conference.
"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 neighbours to the Copa America since 1993, 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, Figueredo said.
"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."
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.
Asked why the tournament will be held in the United States, Figueredo said: "One always wants to have good neighbours. The best we can do is join together because we are all America, we're all Americans.
"It's been a good choice which we're taking to fruition with the excuse of the 100 years."
Figueredo, who succeeded Nicolas Leoz as CONMEBOL president a year ago when the Paraguayan retired citing health reasons when he was being investigated by FIFA's ethics committee, said it was part of global growth for the Copa America to become a tournament spanning the Americas.
The idea came about "so we might be stronger and more competitive and so that the champions should not be only from one sector of the continent but the whole of America."
(Reporting by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)