Two major tournaments and the Olympics will keep soccer fans busy all summer.
This is the Summer of Soccer thanks to two significant tournaments taking place: the Copa America 2016 and Euro Cup 2016.
The Copa America, which begins today, is a biennial event to determine the best national team in South America, although since there are only 10 countries in South America, outsiders are always welcomed. This year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Copa America, to increase interest in the event and to spur American interest in soccer, the tournament is being held in the United States, with games taking place at 10 different venues around the country.
The nations invited are the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama,Jamaica and Haiti, arguably the six best teams from the North American and Central American soccer region known as CONCACAF.
The championship game will be held June 26 in East Rutherford, N.J. The event takes place over three weeks. Soccer fans in the United States are going nuts over tickets, with a chance to see some of the world’s best soccer players play for their native countries.
Meanwhile, from June 10 to July 10, the best 24 teams (a first-time increase from 16) from Europe compete for the continent title. This tournament is held every four years, in between the World Cup. Spain won the title in 2012. This year’s tournament is being held in France, with games at a variety of sites prior to the final in Paris.
When all of that soccer competition is over, the 2016 Olympics begin. Olympic soccer teams are built differently than national teams, with most players under the age of 25 and only a trio of veterans allowed on each squad. The Olympic title can be seen as a precursor of World Cup success in two years.
And, while all of that is going on, Major League Soccer continues to hold its season. For the uninitiated or those just not paying attention, there are now 20 teams in MLS, two cities with official expansion plans in place and half a dozen more with serious expansion committees trying to attract the attention of the senior circuit of the United States.
At the same time, the North American Soccer League (13 teams, including two from Canada and one from Puerto Rico) serves as the top minor league, and the United Soccer Leagues have 14 teams, and five of those teams have official ties with MLS teams. The top tier women’s pro league, the National Women’s Soccer League, is hosting its fourth season of existence, the longest a women’s pro league has sustained itself in the U.S.
In honor of the Summer of Soccer, the website WalletHub created a list of the best cities to be a soccer fan in the United States. This is a ranking of the 295 most populated cities with at least one college or professional soccer team across the top six divisions, with 51 metrics involved. The WalletHub metric does not take into account international team support, however.
The top 10 cities in the United States for soccer fans are Orlando, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Houston, Rochester, New York City and Salt Lake City.
Soccer definitely delineates the American population. There are those who love it, and those who love to hate it. But if you are an occasional fan of the game, or you want to get involved in something that will NEVER go away, this is your time to hop onto the soccer bandwagon.
In America, there is still room.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.