The brightest stars in world soccer are headed to the US this summer, and they'll be playing for keeps.
Traditionally contested by the 10 CONMEBOL nations and two outside invitees, the 2016 Copa America will be hosted by US Soccer, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF as a one-off tournament in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of South America's most prestigious international competition. Some of the sport's biggest names will be in the US for the tournament, including Lionel Messi of Argentina and James Rodriguez of Colombia.
How is the Centenario different from Copa America?
As mentioned above, the Copa America is South America's premier international tournament. The longest running international soccer tournament in the world, it's the continent's equivalent of the UEFA European Championship or the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The tournament has had many iterations in its 100-year history, with the current format coming into play in 2007. That was the year CONMEBOL shifted to holding the tournament once every four years, with all 10 members of the South American confederation joined by two other countries for a 12-team tournament.
The 12 teams are usually divided into three groups of four, with 8 advancing to the knockout round. Chile hosted the tournament in June 2015, with the hosts winning the title – their first – by beating Argentina in penalties in the final.
Uruguay have won the most Copa America titles, taking home the trophy 15 times. Argentina are second with 14 titles and Brazil round out the top three with eight championships. Ecuador and Venezuela are the only two CONMEBOL countries that have never won the tournament.
The 2016 Centenario, of course, will be a little different. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the tournament, CONMEBOL partnered with US Soccer and CONCACAF to stage a juiced-up version of the event in the States. The tournament, which has never before been hosted outside of South America, should captivate the attention of the entire Western Hemisphere, with big teams and big stars set to face off for the first trophy of its kind.
Which countries are participating?
Sixteen teams will compete in the Copa America Centenario, with all 10 CONMEBOL federations joined by six CONCACAF countries.
The US and Mexico automatically qualified for the tournament, and Jamaica and Costa Rica made the field as winners of the 2014 Caribbean Cup and 2014 Copa Centroamericana, respectively.
By virtue of their finishes at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, four teams – Cuba, Haiti, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago – qualified for the Copa America Centenario qualifying playoffs. The teams were seeded based on their Gold Cup results, with top-seeded Panama beating fourth-seeded Cuba, while third-seeded Haiti knocked off second-seeded Trinidad and Tobago in one-off matches held Jan. 8.
When and where will the tournament be played?
The Copa America Centenario will kick off on June 3 and will conclude with the final on June 26. A total of 10 stadiums were selected from of a group of 24 bidders to host tournament matches, with the minimum stadium capacity for the tournament set at 60,219.
Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California will host the tournament opener on Friday, June 3, when the USA will take on Colombia. The final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The complete group-stage matchups were determined by the Copa America Centenario draw, held in New York City on February 21. In addition to the opener, the USMNT will play group stage games at Soldier Field vs. Costa Rica (June 7) and Lincoln Financial Field vs. Paraguay (June 11); Brazil is at the Rose Bowl (June 4), Citrus Bowl (June 8), and Gillette Stadium (June 12); Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium (June 5), the Rose Bowl (June 9), and NRG Stadium (June 13); and Argentina at Levi's Stadium (June 6), Soldier Field (June 10), and CenturyLink Field (June 14)
List of host stadiums:
- CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
- Camping World Stadium – Orlando, Fla.
- Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass
- Levi's Stadium – Santa Clara, Calif.
- Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pa.
- MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford, N.J.
- NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas
- Rose Bowl – Pasadena, Calif.
- Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
- University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.
What's the format?
The tournament format is relatively straightforward. The 16 teams will be drawn into four groups of four teams each, with each team set to play the other teams in their group once. The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout round, with the eight remaining teams then playing a single-elimination, advance-or-go-home tournament culminating in the June 26 final.
If tied at the end of regulation, group stage matches will end as a draw, while knockout round games will move directly to a penalty shootout. If the final finishes tied, the teams will play two 15-minute periods of extra time and, if still tied, will decide the title in a penalty shootout.
Unlike other regional championships, the Copa America Centenario winner will not earn a berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have already determined their representatives for the Confederations Cup, with Mexico beating the US in the CONCACAF Cup in October to earn a spot in Russia and Chile qualifying for the tournament by virtue of their 2015 Copa America title.