Late last week, it was made official. CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation that was the first to organize a national team level competition, will pay homage to its considerable history by commemorating the Copa America Centenario with a tournament… in the USA.
It goes without saying that after all the indictments that the FBI handed out like a gangsta dropping hundies at the titty bar, this tournament was in serious jeopardy of even being played at all. But in the end, profit always wins, and CONMEBOL and its marketing partners are set to make a pile of cash with their tournament next June.
The Stadiums will be packed, the temporary grass-fields in field-turf stadiums will try and stay alive, and for the weeks that this tournament coincides with Euro 2016, there will be wall to wall footy from 7am to midnight. Sound great, don’t it?
But how excited will fans really be when slowly, but surely, South American sides will announce that they will be playing with alternate sides, or U23 teams? Lionel Messi will obviously be a huge draw, but how excited is Barcelona going to be watching his Messiness dig up Texas-size divots on the less than ideal surface at AT&T Stadium? Not very. And coming off a knee injury, less so. Chances of playing CAC – less than 50%
And what of his Barça buddy, Neymar? Well, he has a score to settle this summer. But at the Olympics in Rio. So, don’t expect to see him either.
How many of Chile’s Copa America heroes will be State side? What about James and his band of Cafeteros? Remember, they will be in the throes of their insanely long and emotionally draining World Cup qualifying.
Some National teams, like Mexico, will playing a Summer tournament every year this World Cup cycle. And some players did the same last cycle.
Venue selection will be interesting. The most logical host city, Miami, the unofficial Capital of South America in the US, will not be available because the Dolphins Stadium will be undergoing a renovation. Too bad. It would seem like Miami would be be the epicenter of such a tournament. For it to not even be involved is really unfortunate. A long list of attractive cities have great stadiums, but will need temporary fields. Ugh!
But those gate receipts will be so appealing, so the show must go on.
It is a great idea, one that a lot of folks had been advocating for years, but greed has been at the heart of the execution and organization. It is a cynical way to celebrate 100 years of soccer.