I don’t often like to talk about my rather lengthy soccer bucket list. The reason for that is that — barring a sudden explosion in popularity of WSOTP, a major network picking me up as a pundit or me hitting lottery — being able to check off most of the items on the list is not really financially viable.
So when fate occasionally re-adjusts circumstances in a way that might allow for a slim chance to actually cross one-off, I get a rush of hopeful euphoria similar to one that most might experience when they find out that they’re expecting their first child.
And yesterday’s news “confirming” that a special 100th anniversary edition of South America’s premier international competition, the Copa América, would be coming to the United States in 2016 gave me those warm fuzzy feelings of expectation.
Alongside such lofty goals of attending a Champions League final, a Spanish Clásico, a Boca-River match and other similarly influential events, attending a Copa América match is easily one of the most important soccer-related events that I have on my bucket list. Admittedly, attending one in South America was the original goal. But given that it will be far easier — not to mention significantly cheaper — I’m willing to bend the rules.
This isn’t exactly that new of news, though. The rumor has been doing the rounds now for quite some time, with CONMEBOL even going so far as to prematurely announcing the event last year, much to the dismay of US Soccer and CONCACAF. But as with all rumors, nothing is official until it’s actually been announced as official by all of the parties involved. And while beIN Sports’ Phil Schoen seems rather confident in the tournament actually being hosted in the States, USSF President Sunil Gulati has already rebuffed the rumor as not “yet” agreed to. Key word being “yet”.
My guess? It’s going to happen, at least once all of the wrinkles in the planning are ironed out, even it’s not the best scenario for all parties involved.
Regardless, the fan in me is still ecstatic just over the prospect of it. The Centenario edition of the Copa América will easily be the most prestigious tournament the US has hosted since the 1994 World Cup. And make no mistake about it: while MLS has come on leaps and bounds and we’ve hosted a fair share of quote “elite” friendlies over the last few years, this should promise the finest football that’s played out on our shores in over two decades.
Just think of the names alone. Scores of those top players will be hitting their primes in two years’ time, too: Neymar and James Rodriguez will be 24, Alexis Sánchez 27, Messi will be 28, Suárez 29, and Antonio Valencia will be 30. Toss in a couple of the premier CONCACAF sides too, and you’ve got yourself an incredible spectacle. Trust that if I can’t swing press passes for it (crosses fingers), I’ll be ordering tickets the minute they go on sale.
But just because a tournament of this magnitude is great for the fan, that doesn’t necessarily mean hosting a Copa América here in 2016 is the best thing for US Soccer, CONCACAF or the players being shipped in to entertain us.
Firstly, holding it here will throw an entire toolbox worth of wrenches into the schedules for a number of other entities. I’m not just talking about international friendlies and summer tours either, but matches of real significance. Firstly and most obviously, it will directly conflict with the regular seasons of both MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX. A multitude of players from both continents take part in both of those competitions, meaning that those clubs and leagues will be none to pleased about being robbed of their stars. That’s not to mention the increased competition for attention for viewers. Coupled with the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Gold Cup, that means both leagues would face these issues three straight summers.
Also, if the leaked dates hold true, the Centenario Copa América will clash with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA generally frowns upon anything conflicting with their international dates ever, and even a special edition of a continental championship being played on another continent might prove too much for FIFA to stomach.
Plus, we can’t forget the real motivation for holding the tournament here in the first place: the financial windfall for the participating national associations and confederations playing in the comparatively rich US market. Otherwise, would it really be worth holding a second edition of the tournament in back to back years (the normal 2015 Copa América will be held in Chile)? Probably not.
So do the positives outweigh the negatives? The answer to that question likely depends on who you ask.
But nine times out of ten, money wins out. So I’d feel more than comfortable predicting that all of the constituents will figure out a way to pacify one another, and we’ll get to see South America’s biggest tournament migrate to North America in 2016.
And whether it’s the best thing for everyone involved or not, I’m certainly not going to let the opportunity pass me by to check an item off my bucket list… even if it is on a technicality.