Copa America 2024: Everything we (don’t) know
As of Monday, November 20, it will be exactly seven months — 213 days — until the 2024 Copa America.
Next summer’s tournament is the latest iteration of the quadrennial competition that usually sees the likes of Brazil and Argentina go head-to-head in South America for a prestigious trophy, while displaying the continent’s richness and depth of talent.
This time around, things are slightly different, and the build-up has been marred by so many basic questions remaining unanswered: What stadiums will host matches? How much will tickets cost for fans? And why the delay?
The Athletic is on hand to explain what we know and what we don’t ahead of next year.
When will the tournament be?
The only dates to have been announced are those of the first game and the final.
The 2024 Copa America kicks off with the opening match on Thursday, June 20 and it concludes 25 days later on Sunday, July 14.
Other than that? It’s a mystery for now.
Which country is hosting it?
Perhaps surprisingly, the United States is the host country, despite the tournament typically being made up of South American sides and hosted on the continent.
The USMNT, however, are one of six teams from CONCACAF (the governing body for Central American, North American and Caribbean football) who can qualify for the 16-team tournament via the 2023-24 CONCACAF Nations League.
Despite being hosts, they do not qualify automatically, unlike they did at the U.S.-hosted Copa America Centenario — a special edition in 2016 that marked 100 years of the tournament. That was also the first and only previous time a non-South American country hosted the tournament.
The other 10 sides will be the 10 represented by CONMEBOL (South American football’s governing body).
They are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.
*Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are in South America but are affiliated with CONCACAF.
Why is the U.S. hosting a tournament for South American teams?
From 1916 to 1975, the Copa America was known as the Campeonato Sudamericano de Futbol (South American Football Championship) and is a tournament organised by CONMEBOL.
Why can North America’s most populous country host and play in that tournament, I hear you ask. And it’s a valid question. The answer is best broken down into a few parts.
Despite one of CONMEBOL’s member federations, Argentina, being World Cup holders, off-field governance in South America has caused problems. A myriad of political issues across the continent makes it a challenge to select a suitable host.
The Copa America has been rotated across its 10 member federations since 1984 and it was identified that next year’s tournament would be in Ecuador. But, last November, they declined the option.
The U.S. and Peru were the two nations to express interest in replacing them and, in January, CONMEBOL announced that the U.S. would host it as part of the freshly signed strategic collaboration between them and CONCACAF.
The ability to host a major tournament at short notice and the responsibilities of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico were key considerations.
Fortunately, the U.S. is starting from a stronger base than most other countries as they have known for five years that they will be co-hosting the 2026 World Cup and have an array of large-capacity stadiums to choose from.
Has the U.S. competed in the tournament before?
Yes, they have experience of playing in, and hosting, Copa America.
They have competed in four editions: 1993, 1995, 2007 and 2016, hosting the latter and finishing fourth.
The involvement of guest countries has been a common theme of the last 30 years, with only 10 member nations making up CONMEBOL.
Mexico has been invited to participate the most, with 10 Copa America appearances under their belts, then Costa Rica (5), the U.S. (4), Jamaica and Japan (twice each), then Honduras, Haiti, Panama and Qatar (all once each).
In which cities will matches be played?
Who knows? The host cities and venues have not been announced despite the above dates being publicly confirmed more than three months ago.
At the time, CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani outlined plans for more information, including host cities, to be announced this fall. Technically, it’s not winter until December 21, but time is ticking.
That said, there is likely to be significant crossover with the stadiums being used for the 2026 World Cup.
The 11 U.S. venues announced for that are:
AT&T Stadium (Dallas) MetLife Stadium (New York/New Jersey) Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City) Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta) NRG Stadium (Houston) Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco Bay Area) SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles) Gillette Stadium (Boston) Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) Lumen Field (Seattle) Hard Rock Stadium (Miami) How will the tournament work?
All we have at the moment are broad brushstrokes rather than specifics.
The 16 teams will be split into four groups of four, with one team from each of the four pots in each group.
The top two sides in each group will then progress to the knockout stages, starting with the quarter-finals.
When are we going to find out more?
That is the million-dollar question as fans wanting to go to matches and sort their travel arrangements lose patience.
The group-stage draw is currently set to happen at the James L. Knight Center in Miami on Thursday, December 7, at 7.30pm ET/4.30pm PT/12.30am GMT in the early hours of Friday morning for those in the UK.
Teams will be seeded according to the FIFA rankings as of November/December 2023.
How does qualification work?
The six CONCACAF teams will have to earn their place.
The 2023-24 CONCACAF Nations League has reached the quarter-final stage with two teams left to be confirmed.
Due to their ranking positions, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S. were given byes to the last eight where they have been joined by Jamaica, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.
The four quarter-final winners will secure qualification to Copa America. The four losing teams will drop into a play-in round which will follow the knockout format. The winners of the two play-off ties will qualify for Copa America.
The quarter-finals are:
Costa Rica vs Panama (first leg Nov. 16, second leg Nov. 20) Jamaica vs Canada (first leg Nov. 17, second leg Nov. 21) United States vs Trinidad and Tobago (first leg Nov. 16, second leg Nov. 20) Honduras vs Mexico (first leg Nov. 17, second leg Nov. 21) So why the delay?
It’s a good question without a clear answer. The World Cup may be diverting attention, but that tournament is two and a half years away, so planning is surely not yet in the urgent stages or requiring a huge amount of resources or attention at the moment.
The fact the footballing infrastructure is already in place also means it is puzzling why things have taken so long so far.
What about the women’s competition?
There will be a new tournament, called the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, the inaugural 2024 version played from February 20-March 10 next year.
12 teams will contest the competition, with eight from CONCACAF and the top four from CONMEBOL invited to join them. Again, the United States will host it.
The two CONCACAF teams who will compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris (USWNT and Canada or Jamaica) qualify for the W Gold Cup, with the other six CONCACAF teams decided via the 2023 Road to CONCACAF W Gold Cup.
And the four guest CONMEBOL teams have already been chosen according to the 2022 Women’s Copa America results: champions Brazil, runner-up Colombia, plus Argentina and Paraguay, who finished third and fourth respectively.
Yes. The winners of the men’s Copa America tournament will face the winners of the 2024 European Championship in the 2025 CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions.
Intriguingly, it has also been reported that the two federations are organising a ‘final four’-type tournament with two clubs from each federation, qualifying via existing CONCACAF and CONMEBOL competitions.
That could see sides like Inter Miami, Los Angeles FC, Boca Juniors and Palmeiras facing off for the (unofficial) title ‘King of the Americas’.
The first such competition could be played in 2024, though probably in the latter stages of the calendar year.
Who are the most recent winners of the Copa America?
Argentina are the reigning Copa America champions – having won the tournament in 2021 before then going on to World Cup glory in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup.
Led by Lionel Messi, they beat Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final thanks to a brilliant goal from Angel Di Maria, ending their 28-year wait for a major trophy.
As a result of winning Copa America, they faced European champions Italy in the 2022 Finalissima at Wembley and won 3-0; Lautaro Martinez, Di Maria and Paulo Dybala were the scorers.
Here are the teams that have won Copa America most:
Argentina – 15 (1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993, 2021) Uruguay – 15 (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011) Brazil – 9 (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2019) Paraguay – 2 (1953, 1979) Chile – 2 (2015, 2016) Peru – 2 (1939, 1975) Bolivia – 1 (1963) Colombia – 1 (2001)
(Top photo: Gustavo Ortiz/Jam Media/Getty Images)