Until this upcoming summer, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF have operated their own summer tournaments every few years to determine their respective regional champions.
CONMEBOL's Copa America includes its ten member federations, as well as two additional guest invitations. CONCACAF's version is the Gold Cup and is held every two years. While CONCACAF has 41 member federations, only twelve make the tournament, most via qualification.
This summer's Copa America will introduce an entirely new variety, and it's one which should stick around. The larger field of sixteen teams includes all ten from CONMEBOL as well as six from CONCACAF. A true "Americas" tournament with talented teams to rival those of the European Championship, it's a format which should be made permanent.
In regards to quality of competition, the Euros do offer a much stronger field of teams when compared to the Copa America, despite recently expanding to 24 squads. For those saying a larger field would water down the competition, the FIFA rankings don't quite agree. Let's dig a little deeper.
All rankings referenced are the most updated FIFA rankings, as of April 7, 2016. While the FIFA rankings should often be taken with a grain of salt, they do at least give us some indication of the quality of teams involved.
This year's 24 Euro contestants are all ranked within the top 50 in the world, with all but five ranked in the top 30.
In contrast, the Copa America will field five teams ranked outside of the top 50. Barely half of its teams (nine of the sixteen) are currently ranked in the top 30. It does this all while fielding a smaller field of only sixteen teams, compared to the Euro's 24.
The powers of world soccer are almost entirely encompassed by those in Europe in addition to North, Central, and South America. The Euros will offer a better product overall, but the time is now to offer a grand stage for American teams to play in besides the World Cup. The qualified European teams currently play a major tournament every other year. CONMEBOL regularly offers a decent Copa America, albeit, a much smaller field of teams. CONCACAF offers a mid range level of competition in the Gold Cup that neither challenges its teams, nor excites its fans.
The perfect solution awaits us this summer. Unfortunately, it's only staged as a celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of CONMEBOL. Going forward, a modified Copa America would provide the perfect level of competition and excitement to rival that of the Euros.
A proposed solution could require qualification like the Euros, save for automatic qualification as the host nation. All of CONMEBOL's ten member nations currently receive automatic qualification to Copa America. Similarly, some countries (including the United States and Mexico) are guaranteed a spot in the Gold Cup. These countries are not challenged enough in order to reach their respective summer tournaments.
Given that this summer's edition is more ceremonial than anything, it remains to be seen which stars will play. It has already been indicated that Neymar will be allowed by Barcelona to play in only one tournament, likely the Olympics, and not both. However, should this be a regularly scheduled tournament on the level of the Euros, clubs will be more apt to release players. CONMEBOL and CONCACAF surely aren't short on superstars and the likes of Neymar, Messi, Bradley, Chicharito, Suarez, Sanchez, and Rodriguez would offer enough talent to dazzle audiences. It would surely be must see television.
Regarding the upcoming Centenario edition, Michael Bradley offered these comments in reference to the crowd and level of competition.
"I think it will be a 'World Cup-like' atmosphere. Everybody has a good team, there are so many good players. Regardless of who you step on the field against any given day, it's going to be a hard game."
While it appears that this summer's Copa America will only tease a bigger and better product, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF officials will take note of the success the tournament brings at both the ticket gate, as well as on television. And hey, these are the same guys who seem to routinely get caught up in scandals, so isn't money their end game? Perhaps we will see a permanent CONMEBOL and CONCACAF Copa America sooner after all?