Soccer

Michelle Kaufman: South Florida sadly not part of Copa America Centenario

Chile's players hold up the Copa America trophy after the final soccer match against Argentina at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Chile's Bravo made a save and striker Alexis Sanchez converted the winning penalty as host Chile defeated Argentina 4-1 in a shootout after a 0-0 draw in the Copa America final on Saturday, finally winning its first major title.
Chile's players hold up the Copa America trophy after the final soccer match against Argentina at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Chile's Bravo made a save and striker Alexis Sanchez converted the winning penalty as host Chile defeated Argentina 4-1 in a shootout after a 0-0 draw in the Copa America final on Saturday, finally winning its first major title. AP

Despite South Florida’s passion for international soccer and huge Latin American population, Sun Life Stadium is not among the 10 venues for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the biggest soccer tournament to be hosted on U.S. soil since the 1994 World Cup.

Because of renovations, Sun Life Stadium is not available June 3-26 for the 100th anniversary edition of the Copa America, which is being held outside South America for the first time.

Ten South American national teams, including traditional powers Brazil and Argentina, plus six teams from CONCACAF, will compete for the regional championship. Colombia, Uruguay and defending champion Chile are among the other favorites from South America.

The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica have already qualified. The remaining two CONCACAF teams will be determined via playoff games Jan. 8 in Panama City. Cuba plays Panama in one game, and Trinidad and Tobago plays Haiti in the other.

Copa matches will be held in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York, Orlando, Seattle and San Francisco. The final is scheduled to be held at the Rose Bowl, and one semifinal will be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The feasibility of the tournament was in doubt after the May indictments of CONCACAF officials by the U.S. Justice Department, which found that more than $110 million in bribes were connected to the TV and marketing rights to the Copa America Centenario.

But CONCACAF worked hard to rectify the situation and created a new committee to oversee the event.

In a joint statement, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL said: “We are extremely happy for our fans, our teams and our partners, that we were able to find a way to host the Copa America Centenario celebration in the United States under an entirely new structure for managing the tournament’s operations and finances … and provide a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle for fans in the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL regions.”

Sadly, South Florida won’t be part of this party.

▪ Nagbe making impact: The Portland Timbers are 90 minutes away from their first Major League Soccer Cup appearance, and a big reason is midfielder Darlington Nagbe.

You can bet U.S. national coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be watching Nagbe closely as the Timbers face FC Dallas at 5 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) for the second leg of the Western Conference finals. Nagbe, a 25-year-old native of Liberia, became a U.S. citizen in September and made his first two national-team appearances in recent World Cup qualifying matches — a 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and a 0-0 tie with Trinidad and Tobago.

Nagbe’s father, Joe, played for the Liberian national team. The family left Liberia when Darlington was an infant and lived in France, Greece and Switzerland while Joe played professionally. They moved to Cleveland when Darlington was 11, and he wound up becoming a star for the University of Akron. He was drafted in the first round by Portland in 2011.

Klinsmann is delighted to have Nagbe in the national team mix.

“We found a player that is really good handling the ball in both directions,” Klinsmann said. “He is responsible defensively, to always go behind the ball and to defend, and help out. When we go forward, he knows when to pass, when to dribble, when to keep things racing forward, and also when to take some risks in a certain moment. He has a change of pace in one-on-one situations when he goes at defensive midfielders. He has the confidence to get past them and to get closer to the box. Darlington is a real nice option now going forward. He had to wait a long time, and we’ve been waiting for him as well, but it’s a great fit and we are glad to have him on board.”

▪ Deng, Bedoya team up: Miami Heat player Luol Deng and Alejandro Bedoya, a Weston native and midfielder on the U.S. national soccer team and French club Nantes, are coinvestors in a soccer fantasy game called Fury90.

The game, being developed by a company called Soccer Without Limits, will allow fans to play against each other and against professional athletes. Other soccer players involved in the project include Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa) and Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg). More NBA players are also expected to join the group. Deng and Soccer Without Limits founder Adam Davis will be discussing the project on a panel Tuesday in Miami at SIME, a networking convention for technology, media and the arts.

“Soccer was my first love, and as a lifelong fan of the sport, the opportunity to invest in a next generation mobile gaming startup alongside some of the world’s biggest soccer players made perfect sense to me,” Deng said.

Said Bedoya: “We were very excited for Luol to join the Board of Ballers as the first NBA Player investor. As a South Florida native, I was especially happy to add a player from Heat Nation and Luol is the perfect person to lead our efforts as we continue to add more NBA players who are fans of the beautiful game.”

Who’s leading

EPL: Leicester City (28), Manchester United (27), Manchester City and Arsenal (26), Tottenham (24).

La Liga: Barcelona (30), Atletico Madrid (26), Real Madrid (24), Celta Vigo and Villarreal (21).

Serie A: Inter (30), Napoli and Fiorentina (28), Roma (27), Sassuolo (22).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (37), Dortmund (29), Wolfsburg (24), Hertha Berlin (23), Monchengladbach (22).

Ligue 1: PSG (38), Lyon and Caen (25), Nice (24), Angers (23).

On the tube

Sunday: Eibar vs. Real Madrid (9:55 a.m., BeINSport USA), Liverpool vs. Swansea City (10:55 a.m., NBCSN), Pumas vs. Veracruz (1 p.m., Univision), Dallas vs. Portland (5 p.m., ESPN), N.Y. Red Bulls vs. Columbus (7:30 p.m., FS1).

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