Copa America may have more quality than 'diluted' Euro field - Klinsmann
DALLAS - U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann thinks that next month's Copa America Centenario will be every bit as competitive, and perhaps even better, than the expanded European Championship.
"If you compare this Copa America with these 16 nations, compared to the 24 going into the Euros, then I almost think you have more quality in this Copa America than you have in this diluted, 24-team version of the European Championship," Klinsmann said on Tuesday.
The coach and his team are in Dallas, where the Americans are preparing for Wednesday's penultimate pre-Copa tuneup against Ecuador (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN).
The Copa America Centenario, which kicks off June 3 in the U.S. when the Americans meet Colombia, is a special one-off tournament to commemorate the 100th anniversary of South America's regional championship. It will be hosted outside of that continent for the first time and includes the 10 CONMEBOL national plus six from CONCACAF, the region that includes North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The event will overlap with the Euros, which starts across France a week after Copa begins. Euro 2016 will mark the first edition of that event to include 24 teams, up from 16 four years ago.
Klinsmann believes expanding the field waters down a tournament that was long regarded as the most competitive in all of international soccer, even better than the World Cup.
Now the German coach, who as a player captained his country to the Euro title in 1996, thinks this Copa is second only to the sport's signature event.
"The six CONCACAF nations are very good, very strong. And obviously the South Americans are all powerhouses. If you look at the World Cup qualifying campaign in South America and who is fighting for spot four, five, six, it's impressive," Klinsmann said.
Uruguay currently leads CONMEBOL qualifying, followed by Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and five-time world champion Brazil. Only the top four will automatically qualify for Russia 2018.
"It's not easy to go to Argentina and Brazil," Klinsmann said. "So what we're going to see in this Copa America is very special, and it can easily compete with the European Championship."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.