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South America could open Libertadores Cup to U.S. sides

By Daniela Desantis

ASUNCION (Reuters) - South America is looking to strengthen ties with its northern neighbors CONCACAF which could open the door for U.S. teams to take part in the Libertadores Cup.

Mexico has already had sides take part in the South American Confederation’s (CONMEBOL) top club competition since 1998 and two have reached the final, Cruz Azul in 2001 and Guadalajara in 2010.

"We're going to carry on working with CONCACAF, looking at the possibility of greater ties," CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout told Reuters.

Paraguayan Napout, who has held the chair at the Asuncion-based CONMEBOL for a month, suggested at the Libertadores Cup final this month that U.S. teams could be added into the tournament's mix.

"In the future, so long as the U.S. Soccer Association agrees, CONCACAF agrees and the MLS agrees, (we will) try to organize different championships or look at the possibility of them participating in our championships and, why not, we in theirs," Napout said.

CONCACAF members the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras have played in CONMEBOL’s Copa America, the world’s oldest active international tournament, as guest sides since 1993, when Mexico lost the final to Argentina.

"What I said at the Libertadores Cup final is we have excellent relations with CONCACAF," Napout said in an interview on Friday.

"The Americas are one, it is man who creates frontiers. I believe in a single America in a working context with CONCACAF and we’ve reached something real which will go ahead in 2016,” he added.

The two confederations have joined forces for a Centenary Copa America, to be held in the United States in 2016, with six CONCACAF teams joining the 10 CONMEBOL members in a 16-nation tournament.

"That’s a project that is being realized and these days in the Libertadores Cup we have teams from Mexico, and Mexico and Jamaica will take part in the Copa America in Chile (next year)," Napout said.

Napout took over the CONMEBOL presidency from Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, who left to fill the vacancy on the FIFA executive committee held by the late Argentine Julio Grondona, who died on July 30.

(Writing by Rex Gowar. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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