Houston (CBS Houston) – With a win over Ecuador on Thursday, the United States men’s national team is headed to Houston for Tuesday’s Copa America Centenario semifinal.
Adding the U.S. to the mix, along with the prestige of the event, means that tickets are going fast. Texans and Lone Star Sports and Entertainment president, Jamey Rootes, expects every seat to be full on Tuesday.
“We’ve sold 66 thousand seats to date, we have a 71 thousand capacity seat stadium, the balance of those seats will go very fast,” Rootes said.
The addition of the host nation helped ticket sales to Tuesday’s semifinal with nearly 10 thousand being sold since last night’s U.S. victory.
“We were in the high 50’s prior to the game last night,” Rootes said, “it really took off this morning.”
Tuesday’s match will have a winner, and whatever country does will advance to the finals, but the city of Houston wins by hosting another high caliber event as well. Along with the Copa semifinal, the city will have hosted the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl in less than a 12-month span.
“You’re only as good as your last event, but to the extent that you can produce events like this that handle a mass of people and do it in an exceptional way, you continue to get those opportunities and hopefully better opportunities,” Rootes said.
One event Rootes would love the opportunity to host is the World Cup. 2026 would be the earliest that the United Stats could host the World Cup. The 2018 World Cup will be hosted by Russia and the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar.
“At the end of the tournament we’ll be above 60 thousand in average attendance, which will place Houston as one of the best-attended venues in America for Copa America,” Rootes added, “once again furthering Houston’s reputation as one of the top soccer markets in the U.S. and hopefully setting up Houston for a chance to be a part of the World Cup at some point in time.
On the pitch it’s the furthest the U.S. has advanced in the Copa America tournament since 1995, and a win would give them their first ever appearance in a Copa America final.
“It’s the first time the men’s national team has played in the Copa America semifinals in the last 20 years so it’s really a very important development for our country and I couldn’t think of a better place for it to happen than Houston, Texas,” Rootes said.
One concern, as has always been the case at NRG Stadium, is the playing field. During the two group stage matches brown spots and seams were visible on the pitch, but there wasn’t a complaint from players about the stadium’s surface.
“The conversations that we’ve had with the technical side of the teams is that the field played great,” Rootes said. “We anticipate the same type of result on Tuesday night. We anticipate a world class playing surface.”
The Americans will play the winner of Saturday’s match between Argentina and Venezuela. Argentina was widely considered the favorite to win the Copa America Centenario at the beginning of the event, and feature Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world.
In addition to the potential long odds, the USMNT will have three starters suspended for Tuesday’s semifinal. Jermaine Jones was issued a red card that will force him to miss the remainder of Copa America. Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya also will be suspended a game per tournament rules after being assessed their second yellow card during the Copa America.