Copa America Centenario is coming to the United States in 2016. After months of drama that threatened to have the tournament canceled, and hesitation on the part of the U.S. to host it just a month ago, some hurdles to the Americans' hosting have been overcome and U.S. Soccer has announced that they will serve as the hosts of the event.
The tournament will be played from June 3-26 at venues across the U.S. All 10 countries from South America will compete, along with the U.S. and Mexico, who qualified automatically. Costa Rica made the tournament as winners as Copa Centroamericana and Jamaica did so as well by winning the Caribbean Cup. The final two spots in the 16-team tournament will come from a playoff of CONCACAF teams.
Copa America will be the biggest men's soccer tournament in North America since the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994. It will feature some of the world's biggest stars, including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, in a competitive event that is on the FIFA calendar. It should put a spotlight on the sport in this country, drawing huge crowds and ratings. With Euro 2016 matches in the mornings and Copa America in the afternoons and evenings, it will make for a month of soccer never before seen in the U.S.
For the U.S. team in particular, it is especially vital as Jurgen Klinsmann continues to push the team and emphasize playing top teams in competitive environments. This will be just that -- as huge and difficult a tournament as there is outside of the World Cup.
The tournament was originally going to be played in the U.S., a giant Tournament of the Americas, unlike one ever held before. But the FIFA corruption scandals, which resulted several officials from both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, put it all on hold. U.S. Soccer had concerns about the tournament and, in particular, the legality of some of the contracts signed. The biggest concern was around Datista, a company which bought the commercial rights to the tournament, but had its assets frozen. U.S. Soccer even refused to attend a planning meeting on the tournament as recently as last month. But earlier this week, Datista and the organizers agreed to terminate that deal, clearing the way for the tournament to be played.
To ensure that the tournament will be above board, an executive committee will be put together to run the event. It will be comprised of two CONCACAF members, two CONMEBOL members and one from U.S. Soccer. They are promising transparency, especially with regards to the revenue from the tournament.
When Copa America was first being planned, 24 venues submitted bids to host matches. U.S. Soccer will choose from those venues - originally said to be 10-12 of them. Earlier reports claimed that the final will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA,, with one semifinal at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. All stadiums that host matches will seat a minimum of 50,000.