[FIFA] The USA never got a chance to play Mexico at the Concacaf U-17 Championship in Panama City -- its 3-1 loss to Honduras in the quarterfinals snapped a record streak of 14 straight times it has qualified for the U-17 World Cup finals -- but another USA-Mexico showdown will take place in Panama City on Friday when U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati squares off against his Mexican counterpart, 72-year-old Justino Compean, for the seat on the FIFA executive committee to be vacated by American Chuck Blazer.
The Mexican press has dubbed the Concacaf Congress showdown the "Clásico personal" between Compean and Gulati, who has been president of U.S. Soccer since 2006.
The backdrop to the election will be Friday's release of the detailed account of serious financial mismanagement within Concacaf during the reign of since departed Concacaf president Jack Warner.
Warner exited all his official duties in international soccer in 2011 after longtime general secretary American Chuck Blazer, Warner's longtime ally, turned against Warner with allegations of corruption against him and other Caribbean officials in the aftermath of Qatari Mohammed bin Hamman's bid to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Blatter is in Panama City for the Concacaf Congress, where Concacaf's 40 member federations will select a successor to Blazer, who announced his intention to step down from his FIFA position this spring.
Jeffrey Webb, who succeeded Warner as Concacaf president, told The Associated Press in March that resentment against Blazer, who blew the whistle on Warner and led FIFA to investigate more than 20 Caribbean soccer officials, might work against Gulati in his election against Compean. (Gulati and Blazer go back to the 1980s when they both began their involvement in American soccer as ODP administrators and after that the architects of the U.S. national team program, which they built up from scratch.)
The Caribbean vote will decide the Concacaf election as 30 of its 40 members are from the Caribbean -- including five non-FIFA playing members. Seven members are from Central America, and the remaining three consist of the USA, Mexico and Canada in North American.
The USA and Mexico are the two economic giants of Concacaf. The USA has hosted or co-hosted every Gold Cup since its inception since 1991. The Gold Cup has become one of the biggest regional championships in the world and a huge money-maker for Concacaf. Mexican teams have dominated Concacaf competitions in recent years and Mexico's TV networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, have traditionally held great power throughout Latin America.
The X factor in the Concacaf election is the influence of the embattled Blatter. He had worked to get Concacaf back on its feet after the Warner debacle and just how much influence, if any, he has on Webb -- viewed as his hand-picked successor -- and the Caribbean bloc could determine the outcome of the election.
Gulati is very much an inside-outside man at FIFA.
He has been a member of Independent Governance Committee that has worked on developing reform policies in light of the frequent scandals involving FIFA executive committee members in recent years.
On the other hand, he holds the position of "FIFA Ticketing consultant," acting as a board member of FIFA Ticketing AG, arguably FIFA's most important on-going commercial entity, which oversees ticketing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Who is favored? Reuters reported on Thursday night the Gulati-Compean contest was likely to be extremely tight.