Is A 16-Team Copa America The Way Forward For The Americas?

by | Jul 27, 2021 | CONCACAF, International, USMNT

A CONCACAF And COMNEBOL Merger Tournament Could Be The Best For All Nations

By Aayan Ghimire – LA Soccer Press /

CONCACAF and COMNEBOL, the governing bodies of soccer in North and South America, respectively, have separate FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaigns. But what if the Copa America, the most prestigious international tournament in the Western Hemisphere, featured the America’s 16 best teams?

It’s an idea whose time has come. CONCACAF nations to improve and make COMNEBOL’s marquee tournament could finally be a competition to rival the European Championships.

The new Copa America will have 16 teams instead of 12 and now will be played in the same year as the European Championships rather than the year before.

The six guest nations will be the top teams from North America. The 2016 edition showed the CONCACAF nations can compete with their South American counterparts, and made the competition more entertaining to watch.

The Copa America Centenario in 2016 hosted in the United States was the most successful edition of the tournament based on viewership, television revenue and fan attendance.

Internationally, the 2016 tournament was televised in more than 160 countries, reaching more than a reported 1.5 billion households. The Copa America Centenario also had higher average TV viewership than Euro 2016 per game by a difference of 4,834 viewers.

However, this year’s European Championship gained almost 2 million viewers for every game from the quarterfinal to the final, while the Copa America managed slightly over a million-per-game on average until bringing over 3 million for the final.

The Euro Final between Italy and England was the most watched in history with more than 6 million viewers in the United States, while the 2021 Copa America Final was seen in more than 1 million households.

The benefits of a new Copa America for countries like Mexico and USA, the two giants of North America, is the ability to match up against the South American powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina.

In 2016, Leonel Messi and Co. ran riot against the United States in the semifinal while Mexico got annihilated by Chile in similar fashion in the quarterfinals. It’s unlikely that these results happen every time, but the top CONCACAF nations will learn where flaws by taking on better opponents and help them prepare for the FIFA World Cups.

The United States’ talented generation of players need to play against the best players in the world to help them improve, while Mexico may finally be able to break its World Cup Round of 16 curse.

The downside for the U.S. and Mexico is that as long as Argentina, Brazil and the other COMNEBOL nations remain strong, the challenge may prove insurmountable.

For the big COMNEBOL nations it may not be as advantageous. Argentina and Brazil facing off against similar teams with similar styles doesn’t have that competitive spark, and it remains unlikely that Mexico, the U.S. or any other CONCACAF nation will be able to go toe-to-toe against them for years to come.

For smaller South American nations, however it provides different opposition and increased exposure for players.

Additionally, the whole organization of COMNEBOL will benefit with the inclusion of North American nations into a new Copa America. The increased number of teams would allow for a proper tournament, one that is fun, entertaining and doesn’t run second place to the European Champions.

If the Copa America Centenario was able to rival a big competition like Euro 2016, then surely CONCACAF and COMNEBOL must come together and form this tournament every four years.

Recenlty, COMNEBOL has flirted with the idea of inviting European nations but organizers should offer four spots for CONCACAF nations a spot and two for the best European teams that didn’t qualify for the corresponding European Championship. 

Imagine a Copa America featuring Brazil, Argentia, Chile, Mexico, the United States, Honduras, Costa Rica and Serbia and Norway!

That would be a tournament worth watching.