Sports fans are pouring into stadiums across the United States to watch a century-old football competition that, for the first time, is being held on U.S. soil.
Dubbed the championship of the Americas, the Copa América is the world’s oldest international soccer tournament, and typically held in South America.
But for its 100th anniversary, the Copa América is being held in the U.S. from June 3 to June 26. The tournament is the biggest soccer showcase in the United States since the World Cup in 1994.
“From what I have seen on brief visits, there is nothing like the U.S.,” said Lionel Messi, superstar forward for Argentina, one of the tournament favorites. “The stadiums are incredible, and I can’t imagine a better place to host a special Copa América.”
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 10, 2016
Stadiums like the Rose Bowl — the Pasadena, California, arena built in 1922 — often host a different kind of football. But recently more than 83,000 Copa América fans packed the famous venue for a group-stage match between Mexico and Jamaica, a rematch of a 2015 Gold Cup final that saw Mexico end Jamaica’s stunning run through the knockout stages.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) June 15, 2016
The tournament has long been a favorite competition in South America, but the Copa isn’t as familiar to audiences in the U.S. To help bolster the tournament in the U.S., supporters turned to social media, including a video from Kobe Bryant, a just-retired U.S. professional basketball star.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. head coach and a former World Cup champion with Germany, said he can feel soccer’s popularity growing in the U.S. “The learning curve is now coming through,” he said.
“This is big time.”