Qatar to return for 2020 Copa America. US and Mexico snubbed by Conmebol

April 11 – Qatar will participate in the 2020 Copa America that is set to be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia. China is reportedly going to be the second team invited from outside Conmebol to the 12-team tournament. 

The hosts of the 2022 World Cup are one of the key sponsors of the South American governing body through its national carrier Qatar Airways and will this summer participate alongside fellow invitees Japan at the Copa America 2019 in Brazil.

The 2020 invitation marks a snub for Conmebol’s North American neighbours and in particular the US and Mexico. The US had invited Conmebol nations to play in an expanded tournament in 2020 in the US (though the US had also said they would be prepared to play in South America) along the lines of the Copa America Centenario that they had hosted in 2016.

That conversation was part of an attempt at a wider dialogue, with Concacaf, to create a longer running and sustainable tournament addition to the global calendar that would be played every four years, and not necessarily impacting on the Copa America. The US had guaranteed $200 million to underwrite the competition as part of a $400 million+ organisational requirement.

By choosing to invite Qatar in 2020 to the 12-team competition it appears that conversation between the two confederations over the creation of a new tournament slot in the calendae has effectively been ended. It was a conversation that Conmebol had appeared reluctant to pursue with short term reasons for that perhaps now becoming clearer.

For 2019 Qatar have been drawn in Group B alongside Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay and will enter the tournament in confident mood on the back of their maiden Asian Cup triumph in February when they toppled Japan 3-1 in the final in Abu Dhabi.

In the new 2020 Copa America format Qatar will be guaranteed to play at least five matches in the group stages, which would represent another valuable run of matches into the next World Cup where they have qualified as hosts.

Qatar will join one of two groups which have been divided into the south and the north zone group. The South Zone group will comprise Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia while the North Zone group will include Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru. The group line-ups will be completed by a guest team and Brazilian media reports have suggested that China is being considered as the other invitee for the 2020 Copa America.

The Chinese national team’s participation would present a lucrative avenue for Conmebol to tap into a major market.

Earlier this week the South American governing body confirmed that the 2020 iteration would be co-hosted, but that move didn’t come without its controversies: the inflated group stages will see 30 matches played to eliminate just four teams and the distance and different climates between the two hosts will be a considerable hurdle for the tournament’s logistics once past the group stages.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1721799624labto1721799624ofdlr1721799624owedi1721799624sni@o1721799624fni1721799624. Additional reporting by Paul Nicholson.