Here’s a compliment sandwich. The 2024 Copa America, South America’s premier international soccer tournament, will again be played in the United States after America hosted the showcase for the first time in 2016. Despite being the host nation, the USMNT hasn’t directly qualified to play in the event. However, six CONCACAF teams will participate. With the USA’s talent pool, that’s a safety net that assuredly makes them the top North American nation, much less in the best half-dozen. The official host of the 2024 edition is CONCACAF as a federation, so U.S. Soccer won’t get the $80 million in profit as it did from the 2016 event.
The 2023-34 CONCACAF Nations League, and not the competitive matchups the USMNT will play this spring and summer, will determine which six teams will join the 10 CONMEBOL nations in the tournament. The United States took fourth as hosts in 2016, getting blasted 4-0 in the semifinals to a Lionel Messi-led Argentina squad. No host cities have been announced for the showcase. Yet, as U.S. Soccer is without a permanent sporting director, general manager, or men’s national team head coach, today’s announcement makes getting those personnel decisions correct even more paramount.
Not to be lost in the latest CONCACAF-CONMEBOL media release is the addition of the top four South American women’s national teams to the inaugural Women’s Gold Cup in 2024. So, Brazil and three other countries, obviously. Also qualifying are Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay. It’s huge to add international competition to typical regional tournaments. If there’s one thing the USWNT needs between the Olympics and World Cups is more competitive games with non-North American teams. Only Canada in recent years has provided any amount of a sufficient challenge from the region. And those games can only get you so far with how much talent there is around the globe. The USWNT has already qualified for the Gold Cup by qualifying for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Pairs.
The North American and South American federations will also organize a “final four style club competition” that will include the best clubs from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. Two teams from each continent will be involved. It would make the most sense for those teams to be the participants in the Copa Libertadores Final and the CONCACAF Champions League Final. The first edition of the tournament will take place in 2024, per the release.
All roads for the USMNT are pointed toward hosting the 2026 World Cup. Without a tangible yield to better American soccer in every facet, all the lead-up to the event and domestic progress for the sport will be seen as a failure. The United States doesn’t have to win the first 48-team global event. A tiny shift in American expectations happened in Qatar with the performance against England. But the same usual end result happened — a Round of 16 exit. With Copa America likely on the US Soccer schedule come next summer, the chances rise that the USMNT can leverage hosting the World Cup.