Lionel Messi, Neymar and Marta could soon be coming to a city near you.
The United States will host the next men’s Copa America, the South American championship, in 2024. The tournament will include all 10 South American men’s teams as well as the six best teams from the North, Central American and Caribbean federation.
Sites for Copa America weren’t announced Friday, but they will likely be in cities already chosen as hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2026. The United States, Canada and Mexico are co-hosting that tournament.
The Copa America announcement was part of a larger agreement between Conmebol, the South American federation, and Concacaf, which is comprised of teams from Central and North America and the Caribbean. The confederations also will stage a 12-team women’s tournament in 2024 in the United States, and a club competition featuring the top two teams from each confederation.
Who will be at Copa America?
All 10 South American teams as well as the top six teams in the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League tournament. So Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela, and likely the USMNT, Canada and Mexico.
Though Messi said the most recent World Cup was his last, he said after Argentina won in Qatar that he will continue playing for the Albiceleste for a bit longer so he can enjoy their status as world champions. Argentina is the reigning Copa America champion, so expect Messi to stick around for it.
Why is it important?
Copa America is one of the most prestigious tournaments in men’s soccer after the World Cup, featuring some of the world’s best players. For the USMNT, which is almost certain of being one of the six Concacaf teams, this is badly needed competition.
The USMNT doesn’t have to go through qualifying as a co-host of the 2026 World Cup, but that also takes more than a dozen games off its schedule. Games that are critical for preparation and development. Copa America replaces some of those, and it does so with top-level opponents. If the USMNT is ever going to have a realistic chance at winning a World Cup it needs to test itself against the world's best, and there aren’t many teams better than Argentina and Brazil right now.
Copa America will also serve as a rehearsal for 2026 organizers, giving them a chance to identify any potential problems in plenty of time to address them.
When and where will all these tournaments take place?
No specifics were given other than to say all three will take place in 2024, and Copa America and the women’s Gold Cup will be in the United States.
What are these other tournaments?
Concacaf is expanding its women’s Gold Cup to include the top four South American teams. FIFA is trying to encourage countries to invest in their women’s programs outside the World Cup, and a high-profile tournament featuring some of the world’s best players is a good start.
The USWNT are already in, having won last year’s Gold Cup. Concacaf’s other Olympic team, which will be either Canada or Jamaica, also will get an automatic spot. The remaining six Concacaf teams will be decided in a tournament later this summer.
South America will send its top four from last year’s Copa America: Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay.
The club tournament will be a "final four"-style event, with the top two teams from each region. No details on how those will be determined, other than "existing … competitions" will be used.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Messi, Neymar likely to play in Copa America in United States in 2024