Which cities and stadiums could host Copa America 2016?
Which cities and stadiums could host Copa America 2016?
Copa America 2016 is going to be a monster tournament, bringing together the best teams and players from North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Best of all, it is going to be hosted by the United States, making it the biggest and best competition the country has hosted since the 1994 World Cup.
With such a big tournament coming to the U.S., the nation's biggest cities with giant, immaculate stadiums are lining up to bid for hosting rights. On Thursday, the tournament organizers narrowed the list down to 24 metropolitan areas, all of whom are planning on bidding to host. But the organizers only said which 24 metropolitan areas are being considered, not which stadiums.
Which stadiums in all 24 metropolitan areas meet the 50,000-seat capacity criteria and can host? Which are most likely to host?
Before we dive into that, let's note a few things:
- Miami did not make the final cut of 24 because they will not have a suitable stadium in the summer of 2016. Normally, they would put forth SunLife Stadium, but it will be undergoing renovations that summer.
- As many as 10 of the stadiums that the 24 cities put forward have an artificial turf surface. U.S. Soccer doesn't like to play on turf and doesn't really like temporary grass laid over turf either. CONCACAF doesn't mind turf, although it prefers temporary grass laid over turf. What are the Copa America organizers' views on turf? We have no idea. They can't leave out stadiums with turf altogether, because that means New York, Dallas and others are out, but will they hold turf against cities on the bubble? Will they require temporary grass? Nobody has any clue yet.
- The organizers have not said a word on host city spread. The U.S. is a big country and cross-country flights could take its toll on teams. They could use a pod system to help limit travel, they could leave out cities in some corners of the country like the Pacific Northwest or they could not care at all. They may try to spread the tournament out as much as possible or they may just chase the biggest cities or biggest paydays. They haven't said anything about their criteria or what they're considering.
- This is 4,000 words so feel free to use CTRL+F and find the cities you're interested in.
So with that out of the way, let's get to the cities:
The city has two stadiums that meet the 50,000-seat criteria, and only one of them is realistic. The Georgia Dome is the home of the Atlanta Falcons, is loaded with luxury seating, has a roof and seats 74,228. It has played host to Super Bowls, Final Fours and is the home to the SEC Championship Game, as well as welcoming Mexico for a few friendlies in recent years. The only downside is that it is a turf stadium.
The other stadium in the city that is big enough is Bobby Dodd Stadium, home to Georgia Tech football, but while it does seat 55,000, it is on a small footprint and lacks amenities. It's too bad that the new Atlanta Falcons Stadium, which will also host the expansion MLS team, won't be completed until 2017 because the retractable roof would almost assuredly host matches for Copa America if it could.
We're going to assume that no baseball stadiums will host matches in any cities for two reasons: soccer in baseball stadiums is terrible and MLB teams probably won't go on a three-week road trip to free up the stadium to host.
With Camden Yards eliminated for that reason, Baltimore has one stadium that could host: M&T Bank Stadium. It's a gorgeous building in a great part of the city and it holds 71,008, making it more than big enough. It is the home to the Baltimore Ravens, but has also hosted friendlies between Chelsea and A.C. Milan, as well as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, in addition to hosting two Gold Cup quarterfinals in 2013 that drew over 70,000 fans.
Like Atlanta, it has artificial turf, but as big of an issue for Baltimore is that Washington, D.C. will also bid and it's tough to imagine both cities hosting because they are so close to each other. The competition for that host spot between the two will be tough.
The city of Boston doesn't have a stadium that will host Copa America matches, but the Boston suburb of Foxborough has 68,756-seat Gillette Stadium. The venue serves as the home stadium of the New England Patriots, as well as the New England Revolution. With 6,000 club seats and 87 suites, amenities aren't an issue and, while it is more than 20 minutes from Boston, they would presumably run the train to the stadium on game days to alleviate some of the distance and transportation concerns. Like the Georgia Dome and M&T Bank Stadium, Gillette also has turf so that will be taken into consideration.
Boston has long been a stronghold for American soccer and old Foxborough Stadium used to be a regular venue for matches. It's gone down some since Gillette Stadium switched from grass to turf, but owner Bob Kraft has long carried a lot of power in American soccer circles so he should give them some capital.
The third-biggest city in the U.S. only has one stadium that could host, and if it does, it may be the smallest stadium to in the Copa America field. Soldier Field has been the city's primary stadium since it was built in 1924, but while a 2003 renovation modernized it and gave it every amenity and luxury seat anyone could want, it also lowered capacity to 61,500. It is the smallest stadium in the NFL.
When 61,500 seats is small, you have an overabundance of stadiums, and the U.S. certainly has that. Even with it's "small" capacity, Soldier Field is a near lock to host matches. It is modern, has a grass field, is in a great part of the city and has soccer history, having hosted the Chicago Fire for seven years, international friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup finals and the opening match of the 1994 World Cup. But what really locks up the stadium as a host is that is it in the country's third-biggest city that just so happens to be the headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Cleveland doesn't have the greatest reputation, so they are facing a bit of an uphill battle, but they have the advantage of being the only bidder from the country's seventh biggest state. They also have 67,407-seat FirstEnergy Stadium.
FirstEnergy Stadium is the Cleveland Browns' stadium and has some soccer history, having hosted U.S. friendlies against Venezuela, Germany and Belgium in 2006, 2010 and 2013 respectively. Like most NFL stadiums, it is perfectly nice with plenty of luxury seating, plus on-going renovations only makes it nicer. There isn't another city over 50,000 in the city or anywhere near it, so FirstEnergy is it for Cleveland's bid.
There is one stadium in Dallas, and it just so happens to be the biggest, most opulent one in the running to host. AT&T Stadium, which is in the suburb of Arlington, seats 80,000 people comfortably and can reach 105,000 with standing room. It has a massive hanging video board, retractable roof, giant glass walls, 342 suites, a critically acclaimed art collection and pretty much anything incredible you can imagine in a stadium. It has also hosted matches in each Gold Cup since it opened, club friendlies including Chelsea, Barcelona and Club America, as well as several Mexico friendlies.
The downside with AT&T Stadium is that it has turf, but that is the only downside. The place is the country's greatest events center, hosting Super Bowls, Final Fours, College Football National Championship Games, NBA All-Star Games, mega fights, concerts and anything else you can think of. It essentially prints money. That it happens to be in the nation's fourth-biggest metropolitan area is just another bonus. While turf may hold a couple venues back, it's nearly impossible to imagine Copa America organizers letting that get in the way of AT&T Stadium. It's as much of a lock to host as locks get.
Denver is the biggest city in the Mountain Time Zone, and it is also home to Sports Authority Field. The 76,125-seat venue is home to the Denver Broncos, used to host the Colorado Rapids and has hosted a Mexico friendly, as well as one between Manchester United and A.S. Roma. It has a natural grass field that has been lauded and is right on the edge of downtown, making it incredible accessible. That Denver International Airport is one of the country's biggest probably doesn't hurt either, nor does the fact that it is the only city in the Mountain Time Zone bidding.
Detroit used to be one of the country's biggest cities and it still is, but now it comes with a bit of a stigma. The economic downturn that hit the city caused major issues and those issues changed the perception of the city, but it has begun a bit of a comeback. It also has Ford Field.
The 70,000-seat home of the Detroit Lions is a cool building, built into an old warehouse and stacks nearly all of the 130 suites built on one side of the stadium to bring the rest of the seats closer to the field. It has a fixed roof and is located right in the heart of downtown, but it does have turf. Ford Field has a bit of soccer history, having hosted 2011 Gold Cup matches, while the city hosted matches at the 1994 World Cup in the Old Pontiac Silverdome. Detroit isn't too far from Cleveland so the two may end up battling for one northern host spot, if the organizers want to ensure there is one host city in the north.
Texas is such a big state that it could very well host matches in two cities so while Dallas looks to be a lock, Houston could still get in. One option is 70,000-seat Rice Stadium, but it's an old venue and very unlikely. That leaves NRG Stadium, which seats 71,054 and is home to the Houston Texans.
NRG Stadium has a very European feel, with steep seating that can look like its split into four stands. It also has a retractable roof, 196 suites and a grass surface. The venue is a regular home to big events, being in the Super Bowl and Final Four rotations. It hosted matches in the 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 Gold Cups, as well as a MLS All-Star Game and regular international friendlies for the U.S. and Mexico.
There is only one place in Indianapolis that can host matches, and that's Lucas Oil Stadium. The home of the Colts seats 62,431, but can be expanded to 70,000 and has 137 suites. The city and stadium are used to hosting big events, as it was the site of the Super Bowl in 2013, is a regular Final Four host and is the home to the Big 10 Championship Game. The venue is right in the middle of downtown, near the convention center and adjacent to a slew of hotels that make big events easy to put on.
Lucas Oil Stadium has only hosted one soccer match before, a friendly between Chelsea and Inter Milan in 2013, but expansion NASL club Indy Eleven sold out every match and led the league in attendance with 10,465 fans at every match in 2014.