U.S. soccer fans will make history this summer. In a nod to the sport’s growing popularity among yanquis, Copa América is marking its centennial year by holding the region’s most important soccer tournament in the U.S. for the first time. The Copa América Centenario will be staged in 10 U.S. cities from June 3 to June 26.
Adding to the attraction, the region’s top players — Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior — are expected to join their teams for this year’s matches. Both played at last year’s Copa in Chile. The games have been on a quad-rennial schedule since 2007, but the 2016 tournament was added as an expanded champion-ship in honor of the 100th anniversary, bringing together the 10 national teams of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and six teams from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). “This is as close to a World Cup as you can get in international soccer,” said Neil Buethe, director of communications for U.S. Soccer Federation, a partner on the event.
Soccer has been perennially eclipsed at home by American football and baseball. But this summer’s Copa could change the playing field. According to Buethe, an estimated 565 million fútbol fans in over 200 countries are expected to watch the broadcast of the 2016 games — a 50 percent increase from last year — and he predicts that coverage of the tournament in the top U.S. media markets will continue to increase soccer’s U.S. fan base. The final Copa match is scheduled for the MetLife stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey — site of the 2014 Super Bowl. Just a coincidence?
Bons is an editor for AQ.