Newspaper article International New York Times

Messi in Doubt, but Argentina Enters Copa Overflowing with Talent

Newspaper article International New York Times

Messi in Doubt, but Argentina Enters Copa Overflowing with Talent

Article excerpt

The tournament, South America's continental championship, kicks off Friday night when the United States faces Colombia in California.

The Copa America Centenario, born in scandal and saved only by the promise of better behavior (and the presence of some pretty good soccer teams), kicks off Friday night when the United States faces Colombia in Santa Clara, Calif. The 16-team event is being played outside South America for the first time as a celebration of its 100th anniversary, and while a few top players have been left out or ruled out by injury, there is plenty left in the cupboard, including four of the eight quarterfinalists from the last World Cup. Here's what you need to know before the tournament begins.

Who's in the field?

The Copa America is South America's continental championship, and as it celebrates its centenary, it is the oldest international soccer tournament in the world. As the continental championship, it always includes the 10 members of the South American confederation, Conmebol: traditional soccer powers like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Chile and the (relatively) less-accomplished sides Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. But since 1993, the event has also invited guest teams from outside South America: Mexico (nine appearances) has finished second twice, and the United States (three appearances) was fourth in 1995.

This year's event has 16 teams. In addition to the 10 countries from South America, the guests are the United States and Mexico, as well as four nations that earned their spots through regional qualifying: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama and Haiti.

How does it work?

The tournament is made up of four groups of four teams. Everyone plays three group-stage games, and the top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals, where the Copa becomes a straight knockout tournament. Friday's kickoff match -- the United States vs. Colombia -- is the only game on the first day. Brazil opens Saturday (against Ecuador), and then Mexico-Uruguay (Sunday) and Argentina- Chile (Monday) should spice things up nicely. The final is June 26 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Did you mention a scandal?

The United States Department of Justice nearly put an end to the Copa America Centenario before it was played. The tournament figured prominently in the arrests of dozens of soccer officials and television executives last year, and at times it seemed it was created less as a soccer celebration than as a way for television and marketing companies to funnel bribes to soccer officials in the Americas. Those accusations and the various business agreements underlying the event nearly led the United States to withdraw as the host country last fall, but assurances were made and uncomfortable contracts were torn up, and the event will go ahead.

Still, even though the trophy avoided spending the summer in an evidence locker, notoriety and the specter of arrest still hang over the Copa, and the continuing Justice Department investigation could produce a few sleepless nights for visiting officials. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.