For soccer fans, especially ones from South America, the COPA America Tournament in a very big deal. And tonight, it arrives in the United States for the first time ever, with Match 1 being played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara between the US Men's team and Columbia. And not only is this the first time that the US is hosting, and the tournament's first time ever being played outside South America, but it's the Centenario, or centennial of this oldest international continental football competition, formerly known as the South American Football Championship (Campeonato Sudamericano de Fútbol).
This is an off year for the typically quadrennial competition (just like the World Cup), and the 45th time it will have been played since its inception in 1916. This tournament will be played between the ten member teams of the CONMEBOL, the South American federation (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile [the current Copa América title holders], Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela), and six teams from the CONCACAF, which includes North and Central America and the Caribbean (US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti, and Panama). And, because Chile already won the qualifying championship in 2015, the team that wins here will not advance to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. It's more just for fun and rivalry.
The opening ceremony starts at 6 p.m. at Levi's, and all your South American friends are probably headed there as we speak. And if you haven't left yet but plan to, Uber and Sprint are offering a discount to get rides to and from the stadium from the city, using the promo code SPRINT50SF. That will get you 50 percent off your rides today, and for all the other matches at Levi's on June 6, 13, and 18.
One reason why you may not have heard much about this tournament is that it almost didn't happen. As ESPN FC discusses, scandals involving both the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF almost derailed the whole thing and they talked about maybe just doing a one-off match to celebrate the centennial. But they banded together and will playing 32 matches across 10 US cities, all in stadiums that seat more than 50,000 people banking on America's relatively new love for soccer to fill them.
Next up at Levi's, Argentina plays Chile at 7 p.m. on June 6, followed on June 13 with Uraguay vs. Jamaica. Then the quarterfinals will be played there as well on June 18 at 7 p.m.
Here in SF, you can watch all the matches, which all conveniently happen in the evening after work, at Bar San Pancho (3198 16th Street), and San Francisco Athletic Club (1750 Divisadero) will be showing every match live as well.
You can bet the games will all get aired on a few of the many screens at Hi Tops (2247 Market Street), and soccer loving Maggie McGarry's (1353 Grant Avenue) in North Beach will be showing all the matches too.
Also, there's a party tomorrow at Cigar Bar to watch the Brazil v. Equador match starting at 4:30 p.m.