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Sunday, July 14, 2024

U.S. Hosts Copa América: A Milestone in Soccer’s Oldest Tournament

  • The U.S. hosting of the tournament follows a larger partnership between two major soccer federations.
  • The American team faces a tough competitive battle, including the presence of the World Cup champion Argentina.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Copa América is the oldest continental soccer competition in the world, at 108 years old. It’s also been dominated heavily by South American teams, with North American teams not participating until 1990, and 47 of 48 prior tournaments were previously held in South America.

Much of that is now changing as the U.S. is hosting the tournament, starting Thursday and running through July 14, and the American national team is aiming for a strong showing against some of the world’s best teams. 

The placement of this year’s tournament in the U.S. is the result of a strategic partnership struck early last year between CONMEBOL, the South American federation, and Concacaf, its North American counterpart, that was aimed at building the sport in both regions. The deal included not only putting this year’s event in the U.S. but also the participation of CONMEBOL women’s teams in the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup held earlier this year, and a new joint club competition.

As a result of the broader geographic focus, the Copa América is something of a dress rehearsal for the 2026 World Cup, which will also be held in the U.S., along with cohosts Canada and Mexico. While that preparation certainly relates to the competition and to stadiums, many of which will also be World Cup venues, that’s also true for Fox Sports, which holds English-language U.S. rights, and TelevisaUnivision, which has the Spanish-language rights domestically. 

It’s also part of a big summer for both networks in soccer as they manage separate coverage of UEFA’s Euro 2024, which began earlier this month and will run along a similar schedule as Copa América. Though for Fox, some matches from the Euros have been shifted to the subscription-based streamer FuboTV.  

Tough Test

In 2016, the U.S. team made a surprise run on home soil to the Copa América semifinals. This time, though, the home squad will face arguably a steeper climb. The Americans are currently ranked No. 11 in the world by FIFA, and is up significantly from its No. 30 slot five years ago. But also in the competition are No. 1 overall and defending World Cup champion Argentina, No. 5 Brazil, No. 12 Colombia, and No. 14 Mexico. 

The Copa América “feels big,” USMNT captain and midfielder Tyler Adams (above, far right) said earlier this month. “It’s not quite the World Cup, but I think it’s the next best thing.”

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