The United States and Mexico will be staying north of the equator next summer. In news that was reported Saturday, CONMEBOL announced the field for the 2019 Copa America, and the USMNT and El Tri opted to decline an invitation to join the 12-team tournament. Instead, Japan and Qatar will round out the field that will compete in Brazil next summer.
With the CONCACAF Gold Cup scheduled to take place next summer at the same time as Copa America, the USMNT and Mexico decided to focus their efforts on that biennial tournament and not employ split squads between the Gold Cup and Copa. The Gold Cup is undergoing an expansion next summer to 16 teams, with the 6 teams from the last Hexagonal (USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago) automatically qualifying and 10 more teams from the region joining the field by qualifying through the newly created CONCACAF Nations League.
While many fans may be disappointed that the USMNT will be missing out on competing against some of the best teams in the world at Copa America, this is the right call. You want your best team, whatever that may be, ready to go to compete in the Gold Cup and win that to qualify for what could be the final Confederations Cup (if it actually happens).
The road to redemption and a berth in the 2022 World Cup should begin by re-establishing some street cred here at home within the region. And with what will assuredly be a new-look squad representing the United States next summer, the Gold Cup will be the first step in that process. Whether a victory there will mean an invite to the Confederations Cup in 2021 or the proposed Global Nations League remains to be seen. But, focusing efforts on the 2019 Gold Cup is the correct move for the USMNT.
What will all this ultimately mean for U.S. fans? Well, the Gold Cup and Copa America are both tentatively scheduled to take place June 14-July 7, which is within the window for the Women’s World Cup, the biggest tournament of the year. So, clear your calendars, because we will have plenty of international soccer to watch next summer on those late nights in Paris or Nice.