Will a revamped Copa America format rival the prominence of the Euro Cup?

Costa Rica are CONCACAF's most successful club at the World Cup and should play in Copa America 2024.

Will a revamped Copa America format rival the prominence of the Euro Cup?

On January 27, 2023, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF announced a strategic partnership revamping the 2024 Copa America tournament. The summer 2024 edition of the tournament will be hosted in the USA for the second time ever. This revised format will feature six CONCACAF teams in addition to the 10 regular CONMEBOL contestants. As excitement builds for the tournament it could rival the Euro Cup in worldwide popularity. 


CONCACAF benefits from a revised Copa America

With the U.S. Mexico and Canada hosting the 2026 World Cup, they will get automatic placements into the tournament. They’ll forgo a challenging World Cup qualification campaign that all the other nations in the tournament must successfully navigate. This could leave them inadequately prepared for the World Cup. Playing in Copa America will give their squads valuable experience playing elite-level South American competition. Nothing better could prepare Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. for a successful 2026 World Cup.


The European advantage 

National teams in Europe rotate through a two-year Euro Cup qualification campaign and final tournament.  Once completed, they immediately begin a similar two-year campaign with World Cup qualification matches and a final tournament. This leaves European nations well-prepared and accustomed to playing frequent matches at the highest level of world football.


Why CONCACAF finds it hard to compete 

Canada topped the CONCACAF qualification group, yet lost all three of their World Cup matches. Perhaps Canada fared so poorly at the World Cup because they lacked high-level match experience outside the confederation. Despite playing in the World Cup in nearly every tournament, Mexico has won a knockout match only once. Mexico had their home fans cheering them on to their greatest-ever World Cup victory in their round-of-16 match against Bulgaria in 1986. In the modern era, the U.S. has a similar World Cup legacy. When the U.S. defeated Mexico in their round-of-16 matchup in 2002, it was the deepest they finished at the World Cup since 1930. The most impressive performance by a CONCACAF nation at the World Cup was in 2014 by Costa Rica. Their improbable run to the quarter-final round included winning the so-called group of death in that tournament’s group phase.


What Copa America can do for CONCACAF

With no CONCACAF nation ever reaching the semifinals at the World Cup, the confederation should have some questions. Korea represented Asia in the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup. More recently Morocco became Africa’s first-ever World Cup semifinalist in December. Through participation in Copa America, CONCACAF nations will become more accustomed to the pressures and rigour of high-level tournaments.


CONMEBOL benefits from a revised Copa America

With only 10 nations making up CONMEBOL, the Copa America tournament regularly invites outside participation into the tournament. The U.S. even hosted the 2016 edition of the tournament; being well-equipped to host an event of such magnitude. Without upping the number of teams in the Copa America, opening-round play often suffers. The 2021 edition of the tournament showcased relatively meaningless games in the opening (two-groups-of-five) phase.


Knockout round excitement

To engage football fans on the world stage, it’s vital to provide enthralling matchups in all tournament phases. This is what the Euro Cup does so well, even though it’s now expanded from 16 to 24 teams. The 2022 edition of the World Cup was perhaps the greatest ever because of the dramatic group phase play in the tournament. The format matters, it’s the difference between grabbing the world’s attention (and their advertising dollars) for a few days, or a month. Copa America had a spectacular final and semifinals in 2021, however, the buildup was somewhat lacking.


A revamped Copa America will rival the Euro Cup. 

Copa America was already slated to run concordant with the Euro Cup, however, COVID-19 altered CONMEBOL’s game plan. By expanding the competition to 16 teams it becomes a tournament to rival the Euro Cup in prominence and prestige. With four groups of four nations, Copa America can run in a similar format to the Euro and World Cup. Meaning every group stage match could be capable of grabbing the world’s attention. And with North American marketing support and advertising dollars, Copa America could be a windfall for CONMEBOL.


Could CONMEBOL and CONCACAF merge?

Considering CONCACAF already has several South American nations in their confederation it would make sense if these confederations merged someday. However, the 10 nations of CONMEBOL would be footballing giants among the 41 current CONCACAF nations. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are all located within the South American continent yet play in CONCACAF. Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 World Cup as part of CONCACAF, despite their location just off the northern coast of South America. Even the name of the Copa America tournament is a natural fit for both confederations. Considering that CONMEBOL’s level of play is matched by only the top half dozen or so teams in CONCACAF, it’s unlikely a merger will happen soon. However, the 10 CONMEBOL nations could be assured automatic entry into a permanently merged Copa America tournament featuring the two confederations.


The international match calendar 

The Copa America is now set to be played during the same timeframe as the Euro Cup, alternating with the World Cup on even years. As it stands, in 2024, the Copa America may likely take place on the same dates, but shortly after Euro Cup action has concluded for the day. This will make for great television if you’re into binge-watching football all day in the height of summer. The CONCACAF Gold Cup could be used along with the Nations League to qualify six CONCACAF nations for Copa America. Although at this stage it appears only the Nations League will be used as qualifiers for the Copa America. With the next Gold Cup slated for summer 2023, it could help this tournament gain significance if perhaps some of the highest-placed teams gained automatic qualification into the following year’s Copa America. That should be an ongoing discussion for future years.


Alternate international match calendars

If FIFA were to get its way, the World Cup would happen more often than every four years. Every two years would be a lot to ask and UEFA would be dead set against it. But what if the international match calendar was altered to accommodate a World Cup every three years? Would UEFA agree to that if they also were to play a Euro Cup tournament every three years? Would a revamped Copa America, played every three years between Euro and World Cup tournaments be considered? Perhaps this is where we could be headed.


A revised four-year cycle

A better solution for football fans would be to have the Euro Cup, World Cup, and a revamped Copa America take place in separate years, but within the same four-year cycle. Having huge international tournaments within the same June-July window every year would be great for marketing purposes. The Asian Cup and Africa Cup of Nations tournaments should also be included within the 4-year cycle, perhaps played simultaneously. Having the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in the middle of the European domestic campaign isn’t a great fit. Having all the confederations tournaments held in a predictable window would give international football fans a massive tournament to look forward to every summer.


The future of CONMEBOL and CONCACAF on the world stage 

With the announcement of cooperation and strategic partnerships in national and club competitions between these two confederations; it’s exciting to see where this could end up. Challenging the prominence of UEFA is an ambitious long-term project. On the club side, the Americas are at least decades behind the dominance of UEFA and their Champions League. However, when it comes to national team play, a revamped Copa America tournament could place it on a similar playing field as the Euro Cup in the eyes of the world. The preeminence of European football on the world stage should continually be challenged. And with Argentina defeating France in the World Cup final, it’s sometimes defeated.

About the Author /

[email protected]

Nathan Holowaty is a writer and blogger, with a passion for everything soccer-related. He is a lifelong soccer player and fan, helping to grow the sport in a positive manner. Nathan began working on Top World Football in early 2021.

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.