In a historic announcement made jointly by North and South American officials, it was confirmed that a special centennial edition of the Copa America will be held in the United States in 2016. This will mark the first time South America's continental championship — the world's oldest national football team competition — will be held outside of South America. CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, first announced and then quietly retracted plans for this tournament back in October 2012, but after further negotiations between the two confederations, it's finally set to proceed.
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) has billed this event as "the most important sporting event to come to North American shores in decades – rivaling the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1996 Olympic Games in grandeur and relevance to the world of sport." But what does all of this actually mean? Here are answers to the biggest questions...
Why is this happening in 2016 and what makes it so special?
The tournament was founded in 1916 as the South American Championship (it became Copa America in 1975), so 2016 will mark its 100th anniversary. In its normal format, the 10 CONMEBOL member nations participate along with two invited guest nations from outside of the region. It's held every four years and Uruguay won the last edition hosted by Argentina in 2011.
But in 2016, the tournament will include all 10 CONMEBOL teams plus six CONCACAF teams. The U.S. and Mexico have been guaranteed entry, while the remaining four CONCACAF slots will go to the winner of the 2014 Caribbean Cup, the winner of the 2014 Central American Cup and the last two will be determined by a four-team playoff comprised of the top finishers in the 2015 Gold Cup.
Have CONCACAF teams ever played in Copa America before? What about the U.S.?
CONCACAF frequently fills those two guest nation slots. Costa Rica (best finish: quarterfinals in 2001 and 2004), Honduras (3rd in 2001), Mexico (2nd in 1993 and 2001) and the U.S. (4th in 1995) have all participated as invited nations in the past (Canada was invited in 2001 but withdrew). Costa Rica and Mexico both played in 2011, but failed to make it out of the group stage.
So if it's held every four years and the last one was in 2011, wouldn't the next one be in 2015 instead of 2016?
That's the other big reason the 2016 edition a "special" one. The next Copa America will be held in 2015 and hosted by Chile, as scheduled, with the usual 12 teams. Brazil will then host in 2019. The 2016 edition, with its unique collection of teams, will be a one-off event to mark the tournament's centennial year.
In that case, will countries like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay send their best players in 2016?
Maybe. They might send B-teams or a mix of established stars and young players that need tournament experience. They still have a couple of years to decide and a couple of big tournaments to focus on before they do.
When and where in the U.S. will the 2016 Copa America be played?
The tournament will start on June 3 and end June 26. It will be played all over the country. The AP reports that potential venues include: "the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California; Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens; and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey."
And why is it being held in the U.S.?
Probably for the same reason European and South American club teams play offseason matches in the United States: money. It's essentially a novelty event and it's sure to sell a lot of tickets as it might be the only chance North American fans have to see a competitive tournament like this played in their region. Even if the South American sides don't bring all of their best players, it should still be a treat to see and far more entertaining than the usual international friendlies.
Will there be a special European Championship held in the U.S. involving CONCACAF teams after this?
If this proves to be a success for CONMEBOL both financially and in growing the tournament's international viewer base, UEFA will probably wish they thought of this idea first.
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