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Changes For Copa Libertadores On The Horizon?

By Juan Arango



Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo is the president of CONMEBOL for only a week and he's already generating a great deal of controversy. On Tuesday, he announced that the region's marquee tournament might be in need of a makeover.  This would be more of a Champions League type format from an elimination standpoint. It is speculated that the tournament might have the initial elimination rounds be played between teams from the same country.  

Figueredo would like to be able to tweak a bit the fixtures as well as the teams that are playing in an effort to have the best possible teams playing in this tournament as well as raise the stakes even more.  In other words, he wants to cut back on the amount of teams that are participating in Copa LIbertadores.  

“We have to make this a more competitive product and for there to be more money paid out. I believe that there is a need to have certain teams from the same country face off, so when we get to the group stage, the best two or three teams from each country do so instead of or ever en five like we do now," said Figueredo today in a press conference. 

This format is reminiscent of the Copa Libertadores that was being played back in the 1970's and 80's.  During this time there were only the champion and runner-up from each country that qualified into the group stage.  What Figueredo would like to do is to meld that old format with the new one that includes a qualification round.  The qualification round would have the other sides play each other in order to earn qulaification.  

His idea for this change sounds extremely radical if you think about it.  Currently there are 38 teams in the tournament.  There are 32 teams in the group stage and that would mean some major shifting of teams and less moneys for several teams in various countries.  The two that would be affected most are Brazil and Argentina. These two nations have six and five in this year's edition.  There would also be other question marks to his plan as there are teams that earn a spot because of winning cups such as the Copa Do Brasil as well as the Copa Sudamericana.  Many might want to know what happens there.  

On top of searching for better competition on the pitch, he is also looking to find ways to improve refereeing in South America.  "Currently there are 150 matches in the tournament, therefore, 150 crews have to be assigned.  We have very few individuals that are qualified.  This is why people talk about bad officiating when aren't qualified and there is no time to find the best," said Figueredo. 

Amid all the talk of the inclusion of there being even more teams being added (Major League Soccer currently being wooed by the by CONMEBOL), this could be the initial specualtion of a proverbial U-turn in that prospect.