Why does Copa America go straight to penalty kicks? What to know about tournament format

Copa America has reached the business end of the tournament — which means one or two different rules than you might be used to.

The United States is playing host this time around with Lionel Messi’s Argentina the defending champions after winning last time out in 2021.

Uruguay are equal-record holders, with Argentina, with 15 triumphs with both sides still in with a chance of lifting the title to hold the record outright.

The knockout phase is under way with teams battling to reach the final in Miami on Sunday, July 14.

What are Copa America extra-time rules?

Unlike the European Championship, which is being played concurrently in Germany, Copa America does not use extra time.

Not until the final anyway.

Tournament rules dictate that if the teams are level after 90 minutes of play, the game will go straight to penalties.

The regulations detail this as follows:

  • Article 26 – In the knockout phase, if there is a tie at the end of regular time in the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, or the Third-Place match, the winner will be determined by a penalty shootout in accordance with the rules stipulated by IFAB/FIFA.

This format will be used all the way through the knockout rounds of the tournament (quarterfinals and semifinals) until the final, where a deadlocked game would see an extra 30 minutes used to decide a winner before a shootout.

This has long been the format with the final also using the same rules between 1995 and 2004. The only tournament where extra-time was used for each knockout round was 2011 before returned to previous rules at the next edition in 2015.

Has this happened in 2024?


The opening game of the knockout round saw Argentina and Ecuador forced to be separated on penalty kicks.

Argentina thought they had the game won only for Jordy Caicedo’s 91st-minute equaliser to send the game to a shootout.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar from 12 yards but goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez bailed his captain out with two saves as Argentina advanced.

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Martinez saved Argentina in the quarterfinals (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

What else is different?

Accumulated yellow cards are reset after the group stage — a more forgiving rule than the Euros, where the yellow card tally includes the last-16 and quarterfinal stages too.

This means a player can receive two bookings over the course of Copa America but not receive a suspension if one caution is during the group stages and the other is during the knockout stages.

Who is still in?

Argentina are the first team through to the last four.

Their win over Ecuador means they will line up in the semifinals against one of Venezuela or Canada.

In the other half of the draw, Colombia takes on Panama and Brazil and Uruguay face off for the right to meet each other in the other semi.



Copa America 2024: A beginner’s guide

(Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images)

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