On June 3 begins a special edition of the Copa América soccer tournament. What makes it special is the fact that this year marks 100 years since the first time that the cup – called the South American Championship in those days – was contested. It is also special because it is being played one year after the last. The cup is usually played every 4 years.
The Conmebol, the South American soccer authorities, still shaken by the FIFA scandal, reached an agreement with the Concacaf to hold the cup in the U.S. and to include six teams from that country, not just Mexico and a few other guest teams. The project is ambitious and appealing.
After an enormous effort on the part of organizers, especially from the U.S. team directors, the Copa América Centenario is ready to kick off and promises to be a magnificent event despite the absence of a number of star players who are currently injured, such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Keylor Navas.
The Copa América Centenario aims to be the closest thing to a World Cup for the continent. Stadiums are expected to sell out, and TV ratings are likely to confirm the event’s success. This could help the chances of the U.S. to become the host country of another FIFA World Cup.
The 1994 World Cup was held here at a time when no real professional soccer league existed in the country, there was no appropriate infrastructure and the stadiums that were used were old and obsolete. However, succeeding in organizing the grand-scale event gave way to the birth of the Major League Soccer (MLS) and promoted soccer practice and its development across the country.
While the road since 1994 has been full of challenges, the effort has borne fruit, as demonstratedby the growth of the MLS, the rise of young U.S.-born soccer players – some of which have even been exported to European leagues – and the number of stadiums that have been built specifically for soccer since then.
It remains to be seen if the World Cup will return to the U.S. anytime soon, but the development of soccer and the fact that it was the U.S. justice system that brought down Sepp Blatter’s corrupt empire give us reason to believe that there is a chance that it might happen, possibly in 2026.
For the time being, the eyes of the whole continent are on the U.S. once again.