On Friday June 3rd at 9 PM EST in Santa Clara CA, the USA and Columbia men's football teams will kick off the 2016 Copa America, called the Centenario because it is celebrating the 100th year of the tournament. The tournament, which is formally the championship of South American national teams, features all 10 South American teams and 6 North American teams. The tournament will be played in 10 cities across the US from June 3-26th and the final will be played at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The Copa America is a historic tournament and is taken very seriously by Latin American nations and is followed around the world. Given South America's preeminence in world football, the tournament usually involves many of the world's best players. First played in 1916 in Argentina, the tournament pre-dates the World Cup by 14 years.
While it is the first time the tournament is being held outside South America, it has involved teams from outside the continent in the past. This is in part because there are 10 South American teams, and that's an odd number for a tournament. In recent years the tournament has consisted of 12 teams with two invitees, usually Mexico and another country--often one that is a major media market like the USA or Japan. (In the world of international football, Mexico is a very rich media market btw). The US has gone three times in the past and in 1995 took 4th place.
Three matches will be played at Metlife Stadium. First on June 12th there is a group match between Ecuador and Haiti. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster and the cheapest seats are going for $223(!). The next match at Metlife will be a quarterfinal on June 17th, which will possibly involve the US if they finish second in their group. (Their most likely opponent would be Brazil). Then on 26th of June the final will take place at Metlife. Metlife stadium, which of course is home to the New York Giants and New York Jets in that other kind of football, is easily accessible by train from Penn Station in Manhattan as well as by car.
Besides physically attending the matches, it will be possible to take part in the Copa atmosphere in many places around the city. New York City has significant populations of each nation that is taking part in the tournament, and fans will be packing bars and restaurants around the city that show the games or gathering together at people's homes. The matches will all be shown live on US tv--a few will be on Fox's main broadcast network and the remaining will be on their affiliated cable channels. Also, all the matches will be broadcast in Spanish on Univision which is available free-to-air in much of the city via antenna. (Full details on tv and streaming options here). And with the European football championship starting a week later (I'll be blogging on that next week), New York will be experiencing soccer-mania for most of June.
The favorite to win the tournament is Argentina, given roughly 2-1 odds in the betting markets. Their attack will be led by Barcelona star Lionel Messi and will feature players from top clubs in Europe. The 2nd favorite is Brazil at 5-1. Brazil's superstar Neymar is unfortunately not taking part--Brazil's team appears to be focusing on the Olympic soccer tournament later in the summer. But Brazil's team will still feature many top players. Columbia, the USA (with home field advantage) and Uruguay (which features former Liverpool and current Barcelona star Luis Suarez) all have an outside chance.. Chile is the defending champion and previous host, and Mexico will also be a strong contender and some pundits are predicting that El Tri, which in the US is practically a home team with the large Mexican-American population, will win the trophy.
The USA will be led by veterans Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. Dempsey, now 33, is perhaps making his final hurrah with US team, while Bradley is looking to establish himself and the team's leader and star player. A preview of the USA-Columbia match is here. Sports Illustrated's Planet Futbol site has a thorough preview of the whole tournament. A good English journalist to follow who is an established expert on South American football is Tim Vickery.
This weekend I'll put up post on places in the city to watch the matches.