CenturyLink Field was selected as one of 10 U.S. venues to host the Centennial Copa America June 3-26, 2016. The 100th edition of the tournament will be staged outside of South America for the first time and will feature six teams from CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) and all 10 from CONMEBO (South American Football Confederation). Each venue will host a minimum of three matches.
From CONCACAF, host United States and Mexico are automatic qualifiers, while Costa Rica (2014 Central American Cup winner) and Jamaica (2014 CFU Caribbean Cup winner) qualified with regional championships last year.
The South American field for the tournament includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Uruguay has been champion of the Copa America a record 15 times, while Chile won its first title last year.
Other stadiums selected included Chicago’s Soldier Field, Boston’s Gillette Stadium, Houston’s NRG Stadium, Los Angeles’s Rose Bowl, New York’s MetLife Stadium, Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, Phoenix’s University of Phoenix Stadium, Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, and the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in the eponymous city. While all the cities hosting save for Phoenix and San Francisco are home to an MLS team, only Seattle and Orlando will use the stadiums in which their MLS teams play.
While the stadiums have clearly been selected with capacity in mind (the smallest capacity for any venue is 63,400 in Phoenix), grumbling will likely ensue regarding the playing surfaces. Of the 10, only four use grass (San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles). Five use artificial turf (Seattle, Boston, New York, Houston, Orlando), with the final venue (Philadelphia) using a turf-grass blend.
International soccer officials are usually wary of playing important matches on artificial surfaces, due to the way the ball plays as well as greater impact on players’ legs, which increases the likelihood of injury.
This could mean that the turf venues may be quietly blacklisted from hosting later rounds of the competition, to appease pressure from international organizers. Another option would be the use of temporary grass installations, though this produced farcical results when attempted at the Clink and other venues as part of the International Champions Cup the past two years.
Either way, Seattle and the other four artificial venues, regardless of the soccer culture in their respective cities, will be at a natural disadvantage to host the most important matches when the tournament comes to town in June.
“On behalf of Seattle Sounders FC, we are honored to welcome Copa America Centenario to Seattle next summer,” said Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer. “This tournament is the most significant international soccer event to be hosted in our country since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and we’re thrilled for fans in the Pacific Northwest that will be able to take part at CenturyLink Field in 2016.
“Seattle has a proud history of hosting high-profile soccer events – both domestic and international – and we’re excited to continue that tradition next year with Copa America.”
Dates of the CenturyLink matches are undetermined.