RABAT, Morocco (AP) African soccer’s biggest tournament could be moved from the start of the year to the European summer months of June and July, with the number of teams being increased from 16 to 24.
The proposals for the future of the African Cup of Nations were made at a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Rabat, Morocco, hosted by the Confederation of African Football. The changes appear to have widespread support.
New CAF president Ahmad, who was elected in March to replace long-standing leader Issa Hayatou, promised a review of the Cup of Nations in his election campaign.
The move from January-February to June-July would be especially important for CAF’s flagship tournament – its major money earner – which has been troubled for years by the fact that it clashes with a crucial time for European leagues.
That’s led to club vs. country dilemmas for many of Africa’s Europe-based players, underlined at this year’s Cup of Nations in Gabon when seven of Cameroon’s top players decided to miss the three-week tournament to remain with their clubs.
The increase from 16 to 24 teams would follow the lead of the European Championship, which increased from 16 to 24 teams in 2016, and the World Cup, which will go to 48 teams from 2026. The reasoning behind the expansion for the African Cup is simple: More teams mean more games, and more television and marketing revenue for CAF.
The proposals, made at the meeting of leading soccer figures from across Africa, would need to be formally approved by CAF’s executive committee. The executive committee is expected to meet before CAF’s special general assembly is held in Rabat on Friday.