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Ahead of the 2026 World Cup, Copa America will return to the United States

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/27/2023 Steven Goff
Lionel Messi hoists the trophy after Argentina's win over Brazil in the Copa America final in 2021. (Bruna Pardo/AP Photo) Lionel Messi hoists the trophy after Argentina's win over Brazil in the Copa America final in 2021. (Bruna Pardo/AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES — Copa America, the acclaimed South American men’s soccer championship, is returning to the United States in the summer of 2024 — two years before 11 U.S. cities help stage the sport’s biggest competition, the World Cup.

The governing bodies encompassing the Americas announced Friday that the country would host Copa America for the second time in eight years. In 2016, a special edition celebrating the event’s 100th anniversary, was held at 10 U.S. stadiums and won by Chile, which defeated Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“Conmebol and Concacaf are united by historical and affective ties,” Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American organization known as Conmebol, said in a statement. “But above all, we are united by the passion, characteristic of all the Americas, for football and sports.”

The 2024 venues haven’t been determined, but in all likelihood NFL stadiums in major markets would be utilized, just as they will be for the 2026 World Cup. In 2016, the smallest venue was Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

Copa America is the third most prominent tournament for national teams, behind the World Cup and European Championship.

The event is a huge moneymaker for organizers, and it provides participating teams the opportunity to test themselves in a World Cup host country. The United States, Mexico and Canada will jointly stage the 2026 spectacle, with the bulk of the matches played in the United States.

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Assuming he does not retire, Messi would play in a major tournament for the first time since last month’s World Cup triumph in Qatar.

The 2024 Copa America will feature all 10 teams from Conmebol and six from 41-member Concacaf, the region for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Those six will qualify via the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League, a regional competition.

In the 2016 Copa America, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti and Panama were the Concacaf representatives. The U.S. team finished atop its group and defeated Ecuador in the quarterfinals before losing to Argentina, 4-0.

With an automatic berth in the next World Cup — host countries do not have to qualify — the U.S. program has been seeking high-end competition to prepare for the 48-team tournament. Mexico and Canada are in the same position. The three countries are heavily favored to earn places in the 2024 Copa America.

Without this opportunity, the United States would have had to put most efforts into the 2023 and 2025 Gold Cups and the Nations League, which involve teams only from Concacaf, a middling region.

“We do have Nations League coming up, Gold Cup coming up with titles that we’re trying to defend, but [Copa America] definitely adds that element of big games, big pressure and a great tuneup prior to 2026,” defender Walker Zimmerman said.

The Copa America announcement was among three major partnerships unveiled by Concacaf and Conmebol. In 2024, four South American women’s teams will participate in the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup, a 12-team tournament to be played in the United States. Brazil would add spice to a Concacaf region dominated by the United States and Canada. Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay have also qualified.

The governing bodies also announced plans for a joint men’s club competition, featuring two teams from each region, determined through existing regional tournaments. The aim, the organizations said, is to play the first edition in 2024.

“This is a partnership to support the ongoing growth of men’s and women’s football in Concacaf and Conmebol, and will truly be of mutual benefit to both confederations,” Concacaf President Victor Montagliani said in a statement. “Working hand in hand with Conmebol, we will deliver elite competitions that will provide more opportunities for our federations, and that we know passionate fans want to see.”


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