If U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF leaders are smart, they will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the proposed 2016 Copa America is, indeed, played on U.S. soil.
Apparently, CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, jumped the gun Wednesday when it announced that a special anniversary edition of the Copa America would be hosted by the United States in July 2016. The tournament would include the 10 South American national teams, along with the U.S. team, Mexico and four other CONCACAF teams.
How wonderful would that be?
Lionel Messi, Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Oscar, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Javier “Chicharito’’ Hernandez playing in front of full 80,000-seat venues in front of an American audience that is more soccer-savvy every year. U.S. TV ratings for the World Cup, Champions League and the European Championships are impressive. Fans are warming up to Major League Soccer.
Heading into this final weekend of the MLS regular season, the average attendance was 18,792, which is best in league history. The Seattle Sounders drew an average of 43,144, higher than all but two Major League Baseball teams and all but five English Premier League clubs.
It would be great for the sport to see a true championship of the Americas, on par with the Euro Cup, rather than a separate tournament for South America (Copa America) and North and Central America and the Caribbean (Gold Cup). The summer of 2016 would be one to remember, with the Euros in France in June and July, this proposed Copa America in July, and the Olympics in Brazil in August.
Of course, staging a tournament of this magnitude is easier said than done. FIFA has to get involved. The federations have to be in agreement on the terms. Club teams have to be on board. TV and stadium deals have to be worked out. U.S. Soccer Federation officials and CONCACAF leaders said despite the reports, the United States has not yet agreed to host the event. Everything is still in the talking stage.
“While the idea of a centennial tournament with some of the best teams in the hemisphere is certainly intriguing, it is not something we have agreed to host or participate in at this time,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said.
“As CONCACAF stated, there are still a number of discussions that need to take place with CONMEBOL. U.S. Soccer would also need to be involved in discussions about hosting the tournament. We’re looking forward to those discussions in the near future.”
Said Enrique Sanz, CONCACAF’s general secretary: “Even though playing the 2016 Copa America in the CONCACAF region with our teams and those from CONMEBOL would be a wonderful experience for all fans, we are still in the midst of talks and negotiations between all parties involved in this decision. This is an idea we are hoping to materialize, but we are still evaluating and discussing before it becomes official, but the intention is definitely there.”
Here’s hoping they can work it out, for Miami’s Sun Life Stadium surely would be a perfect venue, and I want to be there.
• Forlan’s star fallen: Two years ago, Diego Forlan was on top of the world. The Uruguayan forward won the Golden Ball award for Best Player at the 2010 World Cup. His team was a surprise semifinalist in South Africa, and Forlan was on many a wish list in Europe. He moved from Atletico de Madrid to Inter Milan, but wound up scoring just two goals in 18 matches for Inter. He hasn’t been doing much for the national team, either. He has four goals in his past 17 matches with Uruguay.
In July, he left Inter and arrived at Brazil’s Internacional with much fanfare. Forlan is one of the most high-profile signings in the Brazilian league in recent years. But he got off to a slow start, and Internacional fans were getting restless based on the hisses and posters in the stands. He helped his cause last week with two goals against Vasco da Gama. Is the 33-year-old past his prime, or could he regain his form? Time will tell.
• Match of the day: Manchester United at Chelsea (noon, Fox Soccer Channel). The Blues (6-0-1) are in first place in the English Premier League, and ManU (5-2-0) is tied with Manchester City in second place. Manchester United hasn’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2002. It has lost six and tied four in its past 10 matches there. Chelsea is without Frank Lampard (calf) and John Terry (suspended). ManU lost Shinji Kagawa to a knee injury for four weeks.
Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie vs. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. Should be fun.