Copa Centenario to be biggest ever

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MIAMI: The special edition of the Copa America to be staged across US cities in June will be the biggest in the tournament’s 100-year history, Forbes magazine reported on Friday.

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Marketing officials connected with the Copa America Centenario — a one-off edition featuring 16 teams from North and South America to celebrate the tournament’s 100th anniversary — project ticket sales of between 1.5 million and 2 million, Forbes reported.

Last year’s Copa America in Chile — which involved only 12 teams — attracted around 656,000 fans.

“The scale of the 2016 Copa America Centenario will be, at a minimum, twice the size of Copa America 2015, from both in-stadium attendance, global television reach and US market awareness,” Kathy Carter, President of Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer’s commercial arm, told Forbes.

“This will be the single biggest soccer event since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and we expect that to start with the launch of ticket sales.”

This year’s tournament, set to feature some of the biggest names in world football including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, is being staged outside South America for the first time.

Ticket sales begin next month for the June 3-26 spectacle.

There was concern the event might not happen in the wake of the US Justice Department probe into FIFA that has rocked the global football governing body and regional operations CONCACAF (North America) and CONMEBOL (South America).

But backers are ready and stars will line up in five months, including three of the world’s six top teams in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, plus seven other South American sides and North American teams Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti and Panama.

Matches will be played in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, suburban New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, Phoenix, Seattle and the Super Bowl 50 host venue at Santa Clara, California.

A successful staging by the Americans could boost their hopes as they ponder bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup after losing out to Qatar for the 2022 tournament.

“We see Copa Centenario as a key part of the continued successful growth of Soccer in the US and a huge energy moment for the sport,” said Andrea Perez, Nike NA Soccer general manager. “It’s going to be a huge moment for the game of soccer and for sport in America in general.”

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