The 2012 European Championships were perfect. The tournament had numerous memorable moments, many of the top players in the world shined and, most importantly, the level of play between the 16 teams involved was of the utmost quality.
Will we have the same quality of play when the tournament extends to 24 teams in 2016?
I don't think so.
Before I get into why I think this will weaken a tournament that needed no fixing, there will be benefits from adding eight teams. For one, more money will be made. Duh.
And on a more sentimental note, allowing eight more countries to compete will ensure that more fans across Europe can express national pride while supporting their countrymen. That's pretty cool.
But that's where the positives end, at least in my book.
For one, the new format just stinks. Now, we'll have six groups, with the top two teams advancing from each group. Oh, and then the four best third-place finishers will advance as well.
So instead of half the field advancing out of the group stage, two-thirds of the field will move on. To me, that cheapens the dire circumstances of the group stage.
Plus, are there eight more teams in Europe that will be truly competitive in this tournament moving forward? Will we get an improved tournament, or merely a diluted group stage and Round of 16 that eventually dwindles to the usual suspects in the quarterfinals?
With 24 teams, will there be one group worthy of being considered a Group of Death?
I know things change, and traditionalists resist change for the sake of resisting change, and nothing I say here is going to keep this tournament from advancing to 24 teams. I get all of that.
But it really annoys me that the world's most competitive and quality international tournament (save the World Cup) will now be weakened by this new structure.
Personally, I would preferred a 20-team tournament. That would have involved some sort of bye for the top qualifiers after the group stage—and I understand why some folks would have reservations about moving in that direction—but it would have been better than a system where the tournament is diluted and two-thirds of the teams advance past the group stage.
Some things need to change. The sport needs widespread goal-line technology, for one. But some things are just fine the way they are.
The Euro Cup was one of those things. I hope we do not lament its new format in 2016.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets want Dwight Howard to just get traded already, too.
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