All across the world people worship the sport of soccer. The world cup is the single most popular sporting event known to man, yet in the United States, we tend to overlook this age-old passion, even when it comes knocking on our door. The Copa America tournament is to be held in the U.S. this year in the cities and stadiums we know and love. To get you ready, consider this your comprehensive guide to what many are calling The Summer of Soccer.
What you may not know is that the Copa America is not a new sporting event. In fact, it is the oldest continental sporting event in the Americas, and this summer sees the tournament come to the shores of the United States for the first time in the tournament’s storied past. The current format pits 12 teams from different countries of the Americas against one another. The tournament's governing body, aptly named CONMEBOL, consists of representatives from of the South American national teams including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The two additional teams are invited to the tournament from the pool of other American teams.
The way this tournament itself works is simple: The group stage of the tournament will take place from June 3rd to 14th across 10 U.S. cities. Each group will compete in a round-robin format, with each team playing each other one time. A win earns a team 3 points, a draw (or tie) gets both teams 1 point, and a loss will earn a team 0 points. The top two teams from each group move on to the quarterfinals.
Soccer in South America goes all the way back to Argentina in 1867 when the British railway workers played the first recorded match. Twenty years later the first team was founded in Argentina and the conception of the Argentine Football Association followed closely in 1893. It’s hard to imagine that the soccer spectacle of today had such humble beginnings. Even though this is only the second time the U.S. has competed in the Copa America, the selection as the host country came for a few big reasons. First and possibly most important, the U.S. is littered with arenas that make fandom in other countries look sad. USSF president Sunil Gulati noted, "One benefit we have in a country like the U.S. is that we have many, many venues that can host this." I know it’s hard to imagine MetLife stadium transforming into a soccer arena full of screaming fans, but on June 26th it will hold the final match. The following stadiums will also be put to good use, hosting both tournament and round robin games:
For a full match schedule visit the Copa America website at here.
To watch any of these matches on television or the web visit here.
Unlike many international sports tournaments, soccer is one sport that generally does not favor the United States. Reminiscent of the 2014 World Cup, the USMNT was placed into what many refer to as the “Group of Death”, meaning they have been dealt yet another group of ferocious competition. The head coach of the US team, Jurgen Klinsmann, had this to say about their situation following the draw: "Obviously it's a difficult group, no doubt about it, but it's doable. We had a similar kind of scenario in Brazil and we went through, so now we start with Colombia right away instead of Ghana. Colombia is one of the top teams in South America, no doubt about it. Paraguay is a strong team. Costa Rica we know," he added. "We start right on our toes with the opening whistle in Santa Clara. It's exciting." With their loss to Columbia and their triumphant win vs. Costa Rica, it is still unclear whether this team will become a triumphant underdog or remain in the shadows.
The Euro Cup
Across the pond on June 10th, the 15th UEFA European Championship (Euro Cup for short) will take place in the country of France. This month is going to be an exciting one filled with even more soccer than you could have hoped for. Instead of the league starting with 16 teams as has been custom since 1996, they will be expanding to a 24 team pool. The way it works is similar to the Copa America format, with six groups of four teams competing with each other in a round robin format until a leader, runner-up, and third-place team is selected. Following that, the teams will compete in a bracket-style single elimination tournament. The structure of this single elimination portion is where it gets a little confusing, yet it is somewhat similar to our college March Madness. The teams are sorted and organized based on ranking. For example,
Match 1: Runner-up of Group A vs. Runner-up of Group C
Match 2: Winner of Group D vs. 3rd Place in Group B/E/F
Match 3: Winner of Group B vs. 3rd Place in Group A/C/D
Match 4: Winner of Group F vs. Runner-up of Group E
Match 5: Winner of Group C vs 3rd Place in Group A/B/F
Match 6: Winner of Group E vs. Runner-up of Group D
Match 7: Winner of Group A vs. 3rd Place in Group C/D/E
Match 8: Runner-up of Group B vs. Runner-up of Group F
For live streaming and television showtime's of any of these matches visit here.
Only 10 countries have tasted victory in the Euro Cup tournament, with Germany and Spain touting the highest championship count with three cup victories each. The tournament has grown significantly considering the inaugural tournament of 1954 only consisted of 17 teams and the first actual championship match wasn’t held until 4 years later on the September 28, 1958. It was in Moscow's Central Stadium when the USSR claimed a victory over Hungary with a final score of 3-1 and were crowned the first European Champions. But this year, the famous tournament returns home in many ways to France where Henry Delaunay first submitted the proposal for a massive European tournament in 1927. Be sure to watch for a passionate run from the French National team who have been picked as an early favorite but have not won the Cup in some time.
With the passion of the Copa America equally matched by the technical skill of the Euro Cup, this promises to be an entertaining few weeks of the beautiful game. If you haven’t ‘bought in’ on the soccer movement, we promise you can find something in either (or both) tournament(s) to admire and love. Our recommendation is to pick a team, literally any team, and follow their run throughout the tournament. You will be surprised at how much you find yourself rooting for a nation of fans. Happy Summer of Soccer!