For an offseason that doesn't include a World Cup, this is a pretty darned exciting summer of international football. Not only do footy fans have the European Championships in France to look forward to in June, but there's another major international tournament going on at roughly the same time: the Copa America Centenario.
While a tournament of the Americas may not have the same draw power for fans of European club teams as the Euros, there are still plenty of reasons why you might want to cast your gaze across the Atlantic to what's happening in the United States starting this Friday.
What is the Copa America?
Put in its most simple terms, the Copa America is South America's equivalent to the Euros. In its modern incarnation, the ten member nations of CONMEBOL – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela – have come together (almost) every other year in a host country to play a tournament to determine which is the best team in South America. But because CONMEBOL only has ten member nations, there are usually two countries from other federations that are invited to participate. Past invited nations include the United States, Japan, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Jamaica.
This year is different. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the tournament (which started in 1916), the Copa America Centenario has been expanded to 16 teams (including USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Haiti, and Panama) and is being hosted not in South America, but by the United States. That not only gives it more exposure to the burgeoning soccer fan base in the USA, but the addition of six CONCACAF teams gives it a bit more gravitas and makes it more of a "Tournament of the Americas" rather than just South America.
Like in the Euros, the teams are divided into four groups of four teams each. The top two from each group will progress to a single-elimination knock-out stage. Differentiating it from other tournaments, in the quarter and semi-final rounds, there will be no extra time: if the match ends with the score level, the teams will go straight to a penalty shootout. Extra time will be added in the finals if needed.
I'm a Tottenham fan. Why should I care?
True, the Euros have a lot more Spurs players involved, because it's a European tournament. However, there are two Tottenham players in the Copa America this summer, and a lot of star power from across the two continents.
DeAndre Yedlin (United States)
DeAndre Yedlin didn't play for Tottenham last season – he spent the year on loan at Sunderland – but Spurs still own his contract, at least for now. Yedlin is still considered one of the stars of Team USA. A product of the Seattle Sounders academy, he made his big break to Tottenham in 2014 when Spurs bought him (and then loaned him back to Seattle). Since then he's been quietly learning how to play in one of the biggest leagues in Europe and has, by all accounts, improved his game.
Spurs fans will be hoping he has a good tournament: if he can show that he's a player worth watching this summer, it could indicate that he's ready to challenge Kieran Trippier as Kyle Walker's primary back-up next season. A strong showing could also mean another solid Premier League loan next year, or, if the club's determined to dump him this summer, an inflated transfer fee.
United States (Group A: Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay)
- vs. Colombia, Fri. June 3, 9:30 p.m. ET (Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.)
- vs. Costa Rica, Tues. June 7, 8 p.m. ET (Soldier Field, Chicago)
- vs. Paraguay, Sat. June 11, 7 p.m. ET (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia)
Erik Lamela (Argentina)
Are you surprised to see Erik Lamela on the Argentina squad for the Copa America? You shouldn't be. While Lamela hasn't seen much international action with Argentina the past few years – he's been named to several squads but has been limited to impact substitute duty for the most part – he's coming off of his best ever season in England and his star is on the rise. However, Argentina is still stupid talented so it's quite likely that Lamela won't be a starter for Argentina. He could get some minutes in midfield, though.
Watching Lamela do good things for his country would be neat, but more important is that he doesn't get injured, considering his importance to Tottenham hotspur.
Argentina (Group D: Chile, Panama, Bolivia)
- vs. Chile, Mon. June 6, 10 p.m. ET (Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.)
- vs. Panama, Fri. June 10, 9:30 p.m. ET (Soldier Field, Chicago)
- vs. Bolivia, Tues. June 14, 10 p.m. ET (CenturyLink Field, Seattle)
The full listing of teams and groups is available here.
What other Premier League players are participating?
A fair number! Here's the full list.
Argentina: Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero (both Manchester City), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Erik Lamela (Tottenham), Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo (both Manchester United)
Brazil: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea)
Chile: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Colombia: David Ospina (Arsenal)
Costa Rica: Joel Campbell (Arsenal), Cristian Gamboa (West Bromwich Albion), Bryan Oviedo (Everton)
Ecuador: Jefferson Montero (Swansea City), Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Enner Valencia (West Ham)
Jamaica: Michael Hector (Chelsea), Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace), Wes Morgan (Leicester City)
Uruguay: Cristhian Stuani (Boro), Gaston Ramirez (free agent)
USA: Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham)
Venezuela: Solomon Rondon (West Bromwich Albion)
Also, going beyond the Premier League, there are those guys named Messi and Suarez. You remember them.
OK, fine. When does it take place?
The competition kicks off this Friday, June 3 when USA takes on Colombia at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Matches will take place all across the country including Pasadena, Orlando, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Glendale (Ariz.), and Foxboro (Mass.) The final will be held on Sunday, June 26 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Where can I watch it?
If you're in USA, the matches will be covered by the FOX family of networks: FOX, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2. Spanish language coverage will be provided by Univision. Here's the full USA TV schedule.
If you're in the UK, Premier Sports has the broadcast rights, but it's (apparently) a premium cable channel, so if you don't already get it you might have to pay for it.
Other countries can find their television listings at livesoccertv.com