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Copa America Centenario Helps U.S. Cities Score

13 Jul, 2016

By: Michael Popke

The dust is settling after last month’s Copa America Centenario, during which new records were set for total and average attendance, television viewership, and digital and social media engagement.

Want some numbers? Here are the earliest you’ll find:

According to U.S. Soccer, nearly 1.5 million fans attended the 32 Copa America Centenario games at 10 venues in the United States, where average crowds totaled more than 46,000 fans per game and made this the most attended Copa America in the tournament’s 100-year history. Put into historical context, the event as a whole is now the second highest-attended official single-game soccer tournament in the United States, behind only the 1994 FIFA World Cup (in which 20 more games were played). 

Tourism and economic development officials in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Levi’s Stadium hosted three games, were anticipating a $139 million economic impact. In Philadelphia, which hosted three games at Lincoln Financial Field, officials were similarly excited about an estimated economic impact of $41 million.

On the other hand, disappointment colored Orlando’s Copa America Centenario experience. Despite expectations of a $30 million economic boost for central Florida, attendance could have been stronger at Camping World Stadium, which hosted less popular draws such as Haiti vs. Brazil.

International soccer analyst John Siner told WESH-TV in Orlando that the tournament kicked off on the wrong foot when the FIFA scandal broke last year and Copa America was almost canceled.

Nevertheless, the worldwide exposure the 10 U.S. host cities received is worth the risk to officials in San Antonio, who hope to be part of the mix the next time the U.S. hosts the tournament — whenever that might be — or even sooner.

“Anything we can do to raise the profile of soccer, we want to be involved in,” Mike Sawaya, San Antonio’s executive director of convention and sports facilities, told KENS-TV, adding that his city — home to the San Antonio FC ­— was unable to bid on Copa America games because the Alamodome was already booked. “Look at the fan support, the people, the population. It’s a soccer population. They want to support soccer.”

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