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Japan, Qatar to dispute 2019 Copa America, no North American squads

SAO PAULO -- The 2019 Copa America in Brazil will feature Japan and Qatar and no teams from North America.

South America football body CONMEBOL said in a statement on Friday the two guest sides were included in the 12-nation tournament because of close links with the Asian Football Confederation.

"The 2019 Copa America in Brazil will be an emotional competition, in which anyone can win the title," said CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez. 

"In addition to the national teams of our member associations, we'd like to welcome again Japan [...] and for the first time we will count on the participation of Qatar, which will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022." 

Japan played in the 1999 Copa America. Qatar is the host of the 2022 World Cup.

Reports in Brazil had suggested that the event would feature 16 teams, including some from North America.

However, CONMEBOL vice president Ramon Jesurun told ESPN that CONCACAF declined CONMEBOL's invitation for the United States and Mexico to participate as the Copa will be overlapping the 2019 edition of the Gold Cup.

"The Mexican National Team was invited '300 times' but they have said they have the Gold Cup and that's why they can't go," Jesurun said.

"Mexico and United States were invited, there are formal invitation given to the federations of each of those countries. We followed all the protocols, also sending a personal invitation to each football federation president."

Sources from the Mexican Football Federation confirmed to ESPN that CONCACAF could not reach an agreement with CONMEBOL to avoid a schedule conflict with the 2019 Gold Cup in the United States.

"We are obliged to send our A team to the Gold Cup because we belong to CONCACAF. They did not agree with the dates so with both tournaments to be played at the same time, our only option will be to send a B team without our main coaching staff to play Copa America," said a source from the Mexican Federation to ESPN.

"You can imagine, if with our best players it's difficult to face Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, etc., with a B team without even being able to take the coach, that will be much more difficult. Also neither Liga MX, MLS nor the European leagues will lend us their players for two international tournaments in the summer. And I said it again, we are obliged to participate in the tournaments organised by our confederation with our best team".

The most recent Copa, in 2016, was a 16-team tournament played in the United States. It featured the host nation, Mexico, Costa Rica, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama from CONCACAF.

There had been at least one CONCACAF representative in every Copa America since 1993, when invites began.

Mexico has taken part in every Copa since that time, while the United States has participated in four editions, Costa Rica in five, Jamaica twice and Honduras surprisingly finished third as an invitee in 2001.

Brazil was supposed to host the 2015 Copa but swapped its organization rights with Chile, which won the trophy that year.

Brazil's Copa America organising committee is still working on host stadia.

The Copa America will be played in June and July next year.

The Associated Press was used in this report.


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