How Houston Became a Star Player in the Copa America

The Bayou City is one of nine others in the U.S. hosting the international tournament.

By Caroline Covington & Rhonda FanningJune 21, 2016 11:11 am

Chances are you’ve heard of the World Cup and may have even picked up on the phrase Euro 2016. But have you heard about the Copa America?

This year is the centennial of the biggest soccer championship in the Western Hemisphere – a huge event in Central and South America. Now, the U.S. is playing a big part by hosting the entire tournament with matches in 10 cities across the country.

What’s more, they’re winning – Team U.S.A. has advanced to the semifinals. Tonight they play Argentina, led by international superstar Lionel Messi, at NRG Stadium in Houston. It could be a major boon to the city and U.S. soccer in general.

Scott Rosner, professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says that it isn’t surprising that Houston would want to be in on hosting the event.

“Houston makes quite a bit of sense when you think about the size of the market,” Rosner says. “It is one of the bigger cities in the U.S., particular demographics of Houston, sizable Hispanic population from soccer primary countries … the avidity to the sport in the city is quite high.”

The Copa America isn’t as well known, especially to the fans in the U.S., because the men’s national team has not historically competed in the tournament. But that appears to be changing – Rosner says that this is the most-attended tournament in Copa America’s history.

Houston gets a double dose of the good fortune, with a headlining game tonight between U.S.A. and Argentina.

“Other than hosting the final, there’s no game more glamorous for soccer fans to see than the United States playing Argentina tonight,” Rosner says.

He says it’s one of the most exciting games of the tournament, with the United States hoping to pull off a major upset against Argentina and their star player, Messi. This star game will bring extra revenue into the Bayou City.

“You think of U.S. fans outside of Houston who would come into the city – or Argentina fans by the same token, who would spend a night or two at a hotel, go out to dinner, do whatever they’re gonna do in the city during the day leading up to the game,” Rosner says.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Web post by Alexandra Hart.