The Copa América is returning to the U.S in 2024, giving the American men, Mexico and Canada the chance to test themselves in a prestigious inter-regional event ahead of the ’26 World Cup.
The three World Cup co-hosts won’t have to go through the grind of qualifying, so were faced with looking elsewhere for competitive opportunities during the build-up to 2026. Enter the partnership between Concacaf and CONMEBOL announced Friday morning. Soccer’s North American and South American governing bodies previously worked together to stage the 2016 Copa América in the U.S. That event, a one-time celebration of the South American championship’s centenary, was well received (average attendance surpassed 46,000 across 10 venues).
For CONMEBOL, returning to lucrative U.S. shores was attractive (the 2024 Copa was originally scheduled to be held in Ecuador). For Concacaf, offering its teams the chance to compete beyond continental borders was vital to its continued growth. The arrangement also includes a ’24 tournament for women’s national teams and a four-team event for men’s club sides that’s designed to be an annual fixture.
The 16-team 2024 Copa América will be the centerpiece, taking place two years before the World Cup and during the same summer as the European Championship in Germany. All 10 CONMEBOL members will qualify automatically, while Concacaf will furnish six entrants from the next addition of its Nations League competition.
Launched in 2019, the Nations League was designed to give Concacaf’s smaller nations more competitive games while serving as Gold Cup qualifying for the bigger teams. Now being staged for the second time, the Nations League comprises three tiers and features home-and-away group play. The ’22-23 edition, which concludes in June, will determine this summer’s Gold Cup participants. Concacaf didn’t announce Friday how the ’23-24 Nations League will be formatted.
Theoretically, the U.S., Mexico or Canada could miss out on the 2024 Copa América if they stumble in Nations League play. The risk is worth the reward, however, because opportunities to play meaningful games outside Concacaf have been so slim.
The U.S. finished fourth at the 2016 Copa América Centenario, getting crushed by Lionel Messi and Argentina, 4–0, in the semifinals before falling to Colombia in the bronze medal match. The Americans also competed as a Copa América guest in 1993, ’95 and 2007. Mexico has been a more frequent invitee. El Tri finished second in the ’93 Copa and third in ’97, ’99 and ’07.
There was no information provided Friday regarding potential 2024 Copa América dates or venues.
On the women’s front, Concacaf will invite Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay—the top four teams from last year’s Copa América Femenina—to compete in the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup alongside eight North American sides. The U.S. women will host and qualify automatically for that 12-team event, which will be played in advance of the Summer Olympics scheduled for France in late July and early August.
The yet-to-be-named annual men’s club tournament will feature four teams in one location playing two semifinals and a final (and perhaps a third-place game). The two Concacaf entrants will almost certainly be the finalists from the most recently-completed Concacaf Champions League. CONMEBOL could choose to send the two Copa Libertadores finalists, or the Libertadores champion and the winner of its second-tier Copa Sudamericana.
Clubs from North and South American last faced off outside the expanded Club World Cup in the old Copa InterAmericana, which was staged from 1969 through ’98 and pitted the two confederation champions against each other in a one-off match or a home-and-away series. The final edition was won sensationally by D.C. United, which upset traditional Rio de Janeiro power Vasco da Gama in a “home and away” contested in Washington D.C. and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.