CONMEBOL to change Copa Sudamericana format in 2021

FILE PHOTO: Football Soccer - 2017 Copa Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana draw - CONMEBOL headquarters, Luque, Paraguay - june 14, 2017 New Logo of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

(Reuters) - South America’s second-most prestigious club tournament will change format next year to introduce a group phase and increase the number of participants from 44 to 56, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Friday.

The Copa Sudamericana, the equivalent of the Europa League, will have a qualifying round followed by eight groups of four teams.

The change is designed to ensure that each of CONMEBOL’s 10 member nations will have at least one team in the group stage.

“It will be more competitive and more representative,” the organization said in a statement announcing the changes.

Currently, the Copa Sudamericana is played on a knock-out basis.

This year’s tournament is due to restart later this month following a hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Himani Sarkar