GLENDALE — In the middle of a three-year run that includes the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, the Greater Phoenix area has established itself as a major player in the battle to host the biggest national and international sporting events. Arizona lost bids for next year’s Republican and Democratic national conventions, but the MLB All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Game and Wrestlemania have all come to the Valley in the last 10 years.
Event organizers and local officials believe these events open the eyes of the world to an Arizona that is far more than just resorts, cacti and picturesque sunsets.
“There’s a lot of appeal in bringing events to Phoenix,” said Mike Nealy, executive director of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. “I think you’re exposing people to Phoenix that maybe have not seen what Phoenix is.”
Less than five months after the College Football Playoff National Championship game is played in Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium in January, the Valley will be back in the sports spotlight as one of 10 metropolitan areas in the United States to host games in the 2016 Copa América Centenario. Sixteen countries from across the Americas will play in the international soccer tournament from June 3 through June 26.
The longest-running international soccer tournament, the cup has never been played outside of South America, but is doing so now to mark its 100th year. The U.S. men’s national team, which gets an automatic bid for hosting, will be making its third appearance in the tournament.