No CONCACAF team – not the U.S., nor Mexico – will participate in the 2019 Copa America, despite reports to the contrary two months ago.
CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, announced its lineup for next summer’s tournament in Brazil, and there are 12 nations included: its 10 members, plus Japan and Qatar.
“The presence of both teams is due to the high interest of the Asian Football Confederation in participating in CONMEBOL competitions and the commitment of the South American Football Confederation to contribute to the development of football worldwide,” CONMEBOL said in a news release.
There was no mention of the U.S. or Mexico. The possible reasons for the lack of North American involvement are plentiful.
For one, Copa America conflicts with CONCACAF’s Gold Cup, which will also run during the summer of 2019 – likely immediately following the conclusion of Copa America, or perhaps overlapping with it.
With roster rules only compelling clubs to release their South American players for Copa America, and not North or Central American players, the U.S. likely would have sent an A-team to the Gold Cup, leaving a B-team to take fields opposite South American A-teams in Brazil.
But that rule has been in place before, and it didn’t prevent Mexico’s participation. El Tri had appeared at every Copa America since 1991. (The U.S. last played at a Copa America on South American soil in 2007.)
Mexico’s exclusion has invited speculation that a replica of 2016’s Copa America Centenario – held in the U.S., featuring teams from throughout the Americas – could be in the works for 2020. The 2016 tournament was immensely profitable.
In place of Mexico and the U.S. will be two Asian nations. Why? And why, specifically, Qatar?
Nobody is quite sure. There are, however, some links between Qatar and CONMEBOL. CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez visited Qatar last week. CONMEBOL also recently asked FIFA to expand the 2022 World Cup – which will be held in Qatar – to 48 teams. And one South American soccer federation, that of Ecuador, recently entered into a partnership with Qatar’s federation.
Qatar will also be in need of top-level competition as it prepares for its first World Cup in 2022.
The 12-team Copa America field, in full, will be: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Japan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Uruguay and Venezuela.
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