New era of soccer in the United States
Thursday’s Copa América draw at the James L. Knight Center will mark the start of an exciting period for American soccer fans.
Miami breaths soccer. The arrival of Lionel Messi brought the eyes of the world to MLS and now the United States is ready to capture that attention.
Pelé's Cosmos, the 1994 World Cup, the Copa América Centenario; all are now in the past. The focus turns to the future, where a more profound change is expected.
Between the summers of 2024 and 2026 the US will host a Club World Cup, a World Cup and a Copa América. The latter is the first up, bringing together the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in a quest for glory in the world’s greatest sporting market. The mystique of South American soccer has the chance to follow in the footsteps of Messi, arriving to enchant sports lovers across the United States.
The ball will roll from coast to coast, challenging the narrative that soccer does not matter. For the 62.1 million Hispanics living in the US, roughly 19% of the population, it will be a chance to reconnect with their Latin American roots through the sport.
Copa América arrives in America
In addition to the 10 CONMEBOL teams (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Paraguay), Mexico, the United States, Panama, and Jamaica have also qualified for the expanded 2024 tournament. The final two entrants will be confirmed in March with the CONCACAF playoffs.
The tournament will run from 20 June to 14 July, 24 days of soccer covering East Rutherford (New Jersey), Charlotte (North Carolina), Atlanta (Georgia), Orlando (Florida), Miami (Florida), Arlington (Texas), Houston (Texas), Austin (Texas) ), Kansas City, Glendale (Arizona), Inglewood (California), Las Vegas (Nevada) and Santa Clara (California).
“Expectations are very high. It’s going to be the best tournament in the world,” said Alejandro Domínguez, president of CONMEBOL in advance of the Copa América draw. “It is going to be a Copa América of the elite, of the best football. The 2016 [Copa América] was a good experience and based on that we think next year’s will be even better and the final here in Miami is going to be a tremendous party.”
The tournament will begin with a 16-team group stage, with the entrants divided into four groups of four teams. From there eight teams will emerge and embark on a straight-knockout format with quarter-finals and semi-finals before the final in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.
There is no better venue for for the grand final than Miami, where Messi has already begun to exert his over-sized influence on the sports-obsessed nation. It is a city where the Americas mix, cultures are exchanged, and the two confederations will soon be united by their shared love of the game.