NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. Soccer Federation official testified Friday that the governing body considered canceling the 2016 Centennial Copa America after learning top executives in South American federations had been indicted.
After the arrests, the USSF stopped the planning process until "we had a clear view of what was going on," USSF chief commercial Jay Berhalter said from the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
"Even though we were not involved, the negative implications could affect negatively upon U.S. soccer and would reflect poorly on the sport," he testified. "We had meetings on how to proceed or not proceed with Copa Centenario."
More than 40 defendants have been charged in the corruption case, with many pleading guilty in hopes of getting reduced sentences. Berhalter testified in the trial of Manuel Burga, former president of the Peruvian soccer federation; Jose Maria Marin, former president of the Brazilian soccer federation and Juan Angel Napout, former head of the Paraguayan soccer federation and former president of CONMEBOL, South America's soccer governing body. They are charged with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
Berhalter said the USSF moved with the tournament only after imposing conditions that included a bidding process for broadcasting and sponsorship rights.
Datisa, the venture created by three South American marketing firms alleged to have paid bribes, was excluded from negotiations. CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, the confederation that governs soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, agreed with the conditions, he said.
Chile won the tournament, which was played in 10 U.S. cities and included many top players such as Argentina's Lionel Messi.
The case, now in its third week, is projected to go the jury this month.