Copa América Versus the Euros

Copa América vs Euros

This summer has been action-packed for football fans, as the two biggest continental competitions, Copa América and Euros, take place simultaneously. Besides the constant entertainment for fans, this presents a tough situation for the organizations as they are directly compared with what occurs on the other side of the Atlantic.

There is no point going over the constant discussion of which competition produces the better football or the better show. At the end of the day, everyone likes his type of football – some enjoy the more tactical European style, and some the more passionate South American. The only thing there is no doubt about is that these two regions have ruled the world of football since the start, winning all the World Cups played to date with 12 for Europe and 10 for South America.

However, there is one aspect of these competitions that can present a fair and direct comparison, the format.

Copa América Format

The Copa América format has faced quite a few changes in the last editions. In 2019 we saw three groups of four teams with the two guest invites of Qatar and Japan. That meant the top two in each group and the two best third places qualified for the quarterfinals. The 2021 edition took place during the pandemic with just the 10 CONMEBOL nations. This format had two groups of five teams each, with the top 4 going through to the quarter-finals.

This year’s Copa América has once again a different format. This time around the competition includes the usual 10 from CONMEBOL side, plus six teams from CONCACAF. Four groups of four teams with the top two qualify for the quarterfinals is a fairly simple and attractive format. However, the knockout stages do not provide the greatest spectacle since the draw separates Groups A and B on one side and C and D on the other, making the tournament feel like two completely unrelated competitions until they meet in the final.

The reason behind this is the “2-in-1” venue choice. The USA is a massive country and faces this tournament as a test before the World Cup 2026. Nonetheless, having stadiums all over the country mean huge travelling distances for teams that can cause crucial disadvantages in a competition with so many games in a short period. That is why they chose to split the tournaments by regions with the risk of game repetition rather than complaints about travelling disadvantages.

Euros Format

The UEFA Euro’s last format change came after the 2012 edition. The competition used to have 16 teams divided into four groups of four with the top two qualifying for the quarterfinals. Since the 2016 edition, the tournament has 24 teams divided into six groups of four, with the the top two of each group plus the best four third-places qualifying for the round of 16.

The changes made sit well with all the countries, increasing their chances of qualifying for the competition and of making it through to the knockout stage. Some fans may also agree due to an extra round of 16 game to attend but there is no doubt this compromises the quality and thrill of the group stage.

The current format means only eight out of the initial 24 teams are eliminated after the three group stage games. Added to that is the fact that the best four third-places qualify is not only unattractive to watch, with teams waiting days to know if they qualify, but it is also strongly unfair for the teams playing in the first groups.

Take Italy as an example. They were 1-0 down against Croatia and had to take huge risks to draw the game in the dying minutes not knowing if three points would be enough to qualify in third. The following day Group C plays the third and final game with a bizarre advantage as Denmark and Slovenia know a draw is enough to qualify with the results of groups A and B.


Whether it is due to venue inconveniences, an increase in games played or both, it is clear the quality of games and fairness of the format are way down on the organization’s lists. Copa América and Euros are just the start, as FIFA confirmed the World Cup 2026 will have a new 48-team format coming to a tournament that never raised any concerns in this area.

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