As the group stages begin coming to a conclusion in the European Championships, another tournament is working its way to a conclusion. The Centenary Copa America hosts the United States defeated Ecuador 2-1 in the Quarter final thanks to a first half goal from Clint Dempsey (remember him?). The result and tournament as a whole has brought about a range of questions about the development of the sport in the states and also their standing in the Americas as not everyone has been positive regarding allowing the centenary of the Copa America to be hosted there.
Despite there being a Copa America tournament only last year in which Chile were successful, the tournament is again underway to celebrate the centenary with the addition of six teams from the CONCACF. The United States was chosen to host the iconic tournament due to the finance, the stadiums and based on the peak in interest the sport has developed over the last few years. However, the decision to award America the event has not been met with unanimous support. One of the most critical voices is the President of the Uruguayan Football Association. Wilmar Valdez criticised the decision to take the historic centenary out of South America and stated America is “a country where they don’t feel Football”. The anger towards America hosting the tournament was probably not improved from Mr Valdez when the wrong national anthem was incorrectly played at a Uruguay group stage game.
This leads on to the next point, does America feel Football or is the view by Mr Valdez correct? Well Attendances have certainly improved over the last few seasons, In 2015 the average attendance at a regular MLS game improved from 19,147 to 21,574. 10 of the clubs had an average attendance of 20,000 or above. Seattle Sounders lead the way with an average attendance of 44,247 which impressive by anyone’s standards.
Over the last few years, the MLS and the sport in America has been an object of derision seeing over the hill players from around the world look for one more pay-cheque in the sun but slowly that is changing. Whilst the league still does have high profile players such as Pirlo and Kaka but there is a generation of home-grown players who are also making a name for themselves such as Gyasi Zardes who also scored in the quarter final win. The MLS is becoming less reliant on high profile foreign signings which therefore gives American players more chance to flourish in their own league which is having a positive effect on the national team.
In terms of support, America is a nation that loves Sporting heroes and the decision to take the Copa America there with the most iconic player on the planet involved can only help to improve the interest in the sport and by a quirk of fate it is the United States who will face Argentina and Messi on Tuesday night for a place in the final. The upcoming semi final should be an intriguing contest on the pitch and also the hosts passionate patriotism matched against the majestic talents of Messi. A player who has had every superlative wrote about him and a man who is on a mission to rid himself of the doubters who claim he cannot be considered a true great until he leads Argentina to glory and amazingly Argentina have not won the Copa America since 1993. Whatever happens on Tuesday night, it will allow a nation or an individual to go one step further to cement their legacy.
I believe that the legacy of this tournament has a great chance to consolidate the sports place in the mainstream of America and to also consolidate the United States place as an up and coming footballing nation but if the United States are able to pull off a shock and go on to win the Copa America the players would surely take their place in sporting immortality and cement the legacy of ‘soccer’ forever.