Tuesday 31 May 2016

Copa America 2016 Guide: The Centenary Edition

Yes that right there is a Copa America this summer and it is the Copa America Centenario. Below is everything you need to know about it

Why Is It Called The Copa America Centenario?
This is the 100th anniversary of the world’s oldest international football competition, the first edition of which took place in 1916, in Argentina. Just four teams took part: the hosts, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, who won it on enemy territory. There have been 44 Copas so far, the Centenario is the 45th.

Why They're Having Another One So Soon After The Last?
Yep. The Copa America is held every four years (it used to be every two), with Argentina hosting it in 2011 then Chile in 2015. La Roja won on home soil last summer but won't stay champions for long unless they can pull off another success in the States.

It's A South American Tournament, So Why Is It Being Hosted In The US?
This is the first time the Copa America has not been held in South America, and it’s mainly for the money. The plan was always to have the US and Mexico feature in the tournament, which usually features 12 teams but on this occasion has 16. The usual 10 of those come from CONMEBOL (South America's version of UEFA), and the extra six from CONCACAF (North, Central American and Caribbean football governing body). Back in 2012, then-acting CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit pointed out that, of the two places put forward to hold the tournament, the US and Mexico, the former made much more sense. They had the stadia infrastructure set up already, and the marketing potential was far greater than in Mexico, along with bigger potential crowds. It has been decided that the hosts for regular Copa Americas will rotate by alphabetical order, although Chile skipped the queue in 2015 because Brazil did not want to host it while having just held the World Cup and before the Olympics. They are taking charge of the next one, in 2019. The Centenario is a one-off edition of the Copa, so there’s an argument it shouldn’t be involved in the hosting rotation cycle.

How Were The Guest Teams Chosen?
In the past, teams as far flung as Japan have featured in the tournament. This year, as a celebration of America, it's six teams from CONCACAF on top of the 10 South American countries. The US and Mexico qualified automatically, while Haiti and Panama won play-off matches between the four highest finishers in the 2015 Gold Cup not already qualified. Finally Costa Rica qualified as 2014 Copa Centroamericana winners, Jamaica as 2014 Caribbean Cup winners.

What's The Format?
It's very sensible, for once. Sometimes the third placed teams in groups can squeeze through, but because there are 16 teams it's simply the top two from each group that go through to the quarter finals. Unlike last year, when drawn knock-out games went straight to penalties bar the final, there will be 30 minutes of extra-time before spot-kicks.

What Are The Key Dates And Time?
Well, it kicks off on Friday June 3 late at night - technically Saturday June 4 at 2.30am UK time. The earliest any game kicks off is at 11.30pm here, with most around 1-2am. So prepare for some late nights. The tournament clashes with Euro 2016, which starts on June 10, but thanks to the time differences none of the games clash. The quarter-finals start on June 17, the semis are on June 22 and 23, with the final in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on the night of Sunday June 26, at 1am.

Where Are Games Being Held?
Los Angeles, New Jersey, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando, Phoenix and Seattle are the host cities. Most of the stadiums are usually occupied by NFL teams, showing there is a lot of interest in selling as many tickets as possible.

Group A: USA, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica
Group B: Brazil, Peru, Haiti, Ecuador
Group C: Uruguay, Mexico, Jamaica, Venezuela
Group D: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama

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