Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Future of the Euros

Scotland and Wales yesterday announced plans to scrap their joint bid for Euro 2016. The news underscores one of the two drawbacks to UEFA's recent decision to expand the tournament to 24 teams. First, the pool of potential hosts is greatly diminished. As Poland and Ukraine are showing, the task of two nations hosting 16 teams under the current economic climate is proving quite difficult. Now, with the field increasing by 50 percent in 2016, few nations have the infrastructure to serve as hosts. Only England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany could do it on their own. Maybe someday Russia will join the list, but a 24 team set-up forces everyone else to find a dancing partner for a bid.

The 24 team set-up also effectively kills any drama in the year-long qualifying process. In 2007, the battle between Russia and England and an inspired run by Scotland against Italy and France provided some compelling games in qualifying. Once the shift is made to 24 teams, the heavyweights will have fewer concerns, and some have suggested removing top teams from the qualifying all together. While 24 teams makes Euro 2016 a bigger event, the residual effects may not be change for the better.

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