South America’s soccer governing body is looking to expand the field for the 2019 Copa América, and — according to one rumour — Canada may be one of the countries invited to fill out the tournament. This comes from a report by ESPN Deportes Radio's Alejandro Etcheverry, who tweeted on Friday that Canada, the United States, and Mexico are likely to be North America's entrants, while three of Qatar, South Korea, China, Japan and Australia will join from the Asian Football Confederation.
El comité organizador de la Copa América 2019 confirmó que no habrán selecciones europeas. Ahora las negociaciones apuntan a que participen 3 de Concacaf y 3 de Asia.— Alejandro Etcheverry (@UruAlejandro) March 16, 2018
Concacaf: México, Estados y Canadá.
AFC: Catar, Corea del Sur, China, Japón o Australia. pic.twitter.com/R1VfJsqU78
The tournament has typically been played with 12 teams, although 2016's Copa América Centenario featured 16 (including the U.S. and Mexico). Canada was not one of the CONCACAF teams invited to the 2016 tournament, although four other North American sides (Jamaica, Costa Rica, Haiti and Panama) were.
The USMNT and Mexico already seem to be confirmed for a return to the tournament in 2019. This is huge news for Canada, though, who would be playing in arguably the most prestigious international tournament they've competed at since the 1986 World Cup or the 2001 Confederations Cup.
Canada was actually invited to the 2001 Copa América after winning the Gold Cup in 2000, but didn’t take part after disbanding their camp when the tournament was originally cancelled. Costa Rica took their place instead when the Canadians declined an invitation to participate in the revived competition.
An article from ESPN confirms that the 2019 tournament, to be hosted in Brazil, will feature 16 teams. The largest South American country, Brazil should be able to host the expanded tournament, particularly with the stadium renovations lasting from the 2014 World Cup.
Although Canada’s inclusion in the tournament may be primarily an attempt at expanding the television market for the competition, this could be huge for the men’s national team program. With new coach John Herdman seemingly leaning toward developing his young, promising talent, this could be a chance for the team’s top prospects to play competitive games against some of the world’s top international teams — and against players like Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez.
Herdman’s side will take a step toward that development this weekend when they play a friendly against New Zealand on Saturday in Murcia, Spain.