Miami: Lionel Messi and Argentina will get the chance to avenge their defeats to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals after being grouped with their old rivals in the draw for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
Reigning Copa America champions Argentina will defend their title in the United States next summer in an expanded 16-team tournament which features 10 South American teams and six qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.
Argentina, winners of last year’s World Cup, will kick off the tournament on June 20 in Atlanta against either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago, who meet in a playoff next year to determine one of two remaining CONCACAF slots.
Repeat of final
The Argentines will then face Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 in a repeat of the 2016 Copa America Centenario final held at the same venue.
Argentina, beaten by Chile in Santiago on penalties a year earlier in 2015, also lost the 2016 final on spot-kicks, with Messi blazing his penalty over the bar.
The Argentine captain later announced a shortlived retirement from international football after the defeat, before reversing the move and continuing his career.
The world champions will wrap up their Group A campaign in familiar territory for Inter Miami’ Messi, facing Peru in Miami on June 29 in their final first-round game.
Test run for World Cup 2026
Elsewhere, Mexico were drawn in a Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the United States face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C.
Five-time world champions Brazil, beaten in the 2021 final on home soil by Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, have a potentially tricky group containing Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Next year’s Copa America is being seen as an effective test run for the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said at Thursday’s draw that the tournament would be a “Copa America of the World.”
“The world champion team (Argentina), the only five-time world champion team (Brazil), the first world champion team (Uruguay) will take part, along with the best players in the world, who are Latin Americans,” Dominguez said.
Large capacity stadiums
Brazil open their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the futuristic home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, against either Costa Rica or Honduras on June 24.
They face Paraguay in Las Vegas on June 28 before concluding their group play against Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
A total of 14 stadiums will be used for the tournament, most of them large capacity venues that belong to NFL teams.
Last eight venues
If Argentina win Group A, they will face the runner-up of from Group B in the quarter-finals on July 4 at Houston’s NRG Stadium — where they defeated the United States in the semi-final in 2016.
The Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys will host another quarter-final on July 5, with Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, rounding out the last eight venues.
The semi-finals will take place at East Rutherford on July 9, and in Charlotte on July 10, with the final taking place at Miami on July 14.