America must fix issues before co-hosting 2026 World Cup

Copa America 2024 has kicked off the knockout stages with plenty of goals and drama on the pitch, but that has quickly been overshadowed by low attendances, poor pitch quality and sky high ticket prices leaving many fans, players and coaches stranded and confused.

In what can be seen as a prelude to a landmark 2026 FIFA World Cup, the USA have already shown signs of failing to host a major football event in a country where grassroots participation and attendances for the sport desperately need a revival.

These have been the main issues so far at the event that are in the spotlight if the US want to correctly co-host the biggest tournament with Mexico and Canada in the sport.

Attendance numbers

If the sweltering heat and embarrassing broadcast camera angles weren’t already bad enough, the US Men’s national team failed to sell out any of their three group stage matches, with a controversial 47,873 crowd for the opener against Bolivia in an 80,000 seat AT&T Stadium.

The comparison is to put it side-by-side with the Euros currently in Germany, where there have been no issues packing out stadiums with capacities of up to 75,000 and tickets selling out months in advance.

Fan culture is rife with many fan zones and packed watching venues keeping the streets busy with football fandom which is just completely non-existent in the US.

But there is a reason for all of this, and it can’t be for a lack of interest after Fox Sports confirmed that the must-win USA-Uruguay contest attracted an average of 3.78 million viewers on FS1.

According to Fox Sports, that was the largest audience to see a a match that isn’t a World Cup on FS1 and the highest-ever English-language viewership total in the United States for a Copa America match.

It smashed previous Copa America games so far, but it never translated to support in the stadium which gives the hosts slight encouragement on finding a solution to fix this problem.

Ticket Prices

Fans at the event are consistently being priced out, leading directly to the poor attendance numbers and lack of atmosphere.

The lowest ticket price for the quarterfinal matches of the Euros were as low as $96 to watch world-class teams such as Spain, Germany and France whilst in the Copa America, Ticketmaster and Seat Geek in the US had fans pay minimum of $163 for quarterfinal tickets.

This is without factoring in the travel expenses going from state to state versus the easily accessible matches in Germany that can be travelled via affordable public transport.

The NFL and NBA have some of the highest average ticket prices in all of domestic sporting leagues across the world, but the demand and entertainment offered gives fans a reason to accept its value. A sport like soccer in the US would thrive from its affordability and encourage any sports fan to give it a go.

Pitch Quality

Players and coaches have come out in the media to criticise the pitch quality in the Copa America so far, claiming the inconsistencies have negatively affected team performance and the way teams prepare for matches.

Emi Martinez and Weston McKennie’s harsh words after matchday 1 forced a statement out of CONMEBOL who defended the state of the pitches, too much controversy.

It simply has to change for 2026 if it wants to remain fit to host football’s grandest event.

With the 2026 World Cup set to be played in many of the same venues across the United States, each new controversy over pitch conditions at Copa América accentuates the ongoing concerns about the quality of the venues and the difficulty of using NFL stadiums for football.

Conclusion

Affordability is the biggest issue needing to change going into the 2026 World Cup.

Ticket prices must be affordable to account for the hike in prices across the country for travel and accommodation.

With the 2026 World Cup held in three geographically large countries, fans will be forked to shell out thousands on travel if scheduled to play in differing countries and states.

However, overall, this World Cup has real potential to live up to the success of 1994 that saw the sport boom in popularity in North America and that surge in popularity is definitely required for the future of the sport in the US.

Newcastle Jets’ new owners add key pieces for upcoming season

Newcastle Jets’ new owners, Maverick Sports Partners, have hired Ken Schembri as General Manager of Football and Ben Hawes as General Manager of Commercial, Digital and Marketing for this upcoming season.

The appointment of Schembri and Hawes reaffirms Maverick Sports Partners’ intent to invest in high-quality resources, which should excite Newcastle fans for this upcoming season.

Schembri had previously worked with the reigning champions, the Central Coast Mariners, being an essential part of establishing the Central Coast Mariners Football Academy and their Centre of Excellence when he joined in 2014.

Schembri will manage the A-League Men’s roster, oversee player performance and development, and handle recruitment for all football departments.

The Mariner’s Academy has produced many young and exciting Australian talent including Garang Kuol and Max Balard who have all gone to join clubs in Europe after their time in Gosford. Schembri has most recently played a key role in Central Coast’s recent success as Head of Football.

Maverick Sports Partners Director Maurice Bisetto commented about the new additions.

“We are excited to have both Ken and Ben join the Newcastle Jets team. They will be integral to the strategy and direction of the Club’s New Era, providing expertise and support, on and off the pitch,” said Bisetto in a club statement.

These two joined the Jets after the club were bought by the Australian company only last month.

Hawes has prior experience in Sponsorship, Marketing and Content roles at the National Rugby League, Sportsbet, BlueBet and Sydney FC.

Hawes will focus on expanding and diversifying the clubs commercial revenue streams which includes growing the sponsorship portfolio. He will also deal with commercialising the club’s digital channels as well as implementing new marketing and fan engagement strategies.

Due to these recent moves, Newcastle have the potential to produce exciting Australian talent and grow its brand across the league which will help the club continue to improve both on and off the pitch and ultimately strengthen their stability for future seasons.

Football Australia bolsters leadership with key new appointments

Football Australia has confirmed the appointments of Briana Harvey as General Manager of the Women’s National Teams and David Mason for the role of General Manager of the Men’s National Teams.

These strategic appointments are part of Football Australia’s ongoing efforts to strengthen and enhance the leadership and management of its national teams, ensuring both the women’s and men’s programs benefit from experienced and dedicated leadership.

Harvey has an extensive background in sports management, having held key roles at prominent organizations such as Hockey Victoria, the Australian Football League, Hawthorn Football Club, and, most recently, at the GWS GIANTS Football Club. Her diverse experience across these major sporting bodies highlights her expertise and leadership capabilities in the field.

Mason’s deep involvement with Australian football stretches back to 1998. Throughout his career, he has held numerous management positions in media and communications, football operations, and club administration at Northern Spirit, Parramatta Power, Sydney FC, and Football Australia.

His extensive experience across these diverse roles has equipped him with a comprehensive understanding of the sport’s landscape, making him a valuable asset in his new role.

For the last seven years, Mason has served as CEO of Manly Warringah Football Association and Manly United FC, one of Australia’s largest football associations. Returning to Football Australia, Mason brings with him a vast reservoir of knowledge in local, regional, and global football.

His experience is complemented by a deep familiarity with Australia’s National Football Teams, positioning him to make significant contributions in his new role.

Beginning on August 12, both Harvey and Mason will take charge of the strategic, operational, and administrative aspects of Football Australia’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Their responsibilities will include planning and managing budgets, as well as coordinating overall annual match schedules.

In their roles, they will ensure that all logistical and operational needs are met, driving the success and efficiency of the national teams’ programs.

Their leadership will be pivotal in shaping the future of Australian football on both the national and international stages.

Head of National Teams Gary Moretti expressed his excitement of the designation via press release.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of both Briana and David who as individuals and collectively bring a wealth of industry knowledge to Football Australia,” he said.

“Briana has a strong corporate pedigree with extensive experience within elite level sport. Her background and passion for women’s sport will be an invaluable asset to our National Teams both now and in the future.

“David is a football person and has contributed to the sport at all levels for almost three decades. In addition to his strong football acumen, David brings significant business and operational experience from his highly successful tenure as a CEO within the football industry.

“Along with Andrew McKenzie (General Manager – High Performance), the appointments of Briana and David will strengthen the management and future prospects of our National Teams as we look to create an elite performance and operational environment featuring a world’s best-practice focus.”

CEO of Football Australia James Johnson added how their experience and wealth of knowledge will ensure operation excellence via press release.

“The appointments of Briana and David are strategic moves that align with our vision to enhance the performance and success of our National Teams. Their combined experience and leadership will play a crucial role in ensuring operational excellence, so we remain competitive on the global stage and continue to inspire the next generation of football talent in Australia.”

Football Australia – National Teams Senior Management

Head of National Teams: Gary Moretti
General Manager – Women’s National Teams: Briana Harvey (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – Men’s National Teams: David Mason (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – High Performance: Andrew McKenzie (commenced 10 July)
General Manager – Football Analysis, Data and Insights (to be appointed)

The creation of four new leadership positions within the National Teams underscores Football Australia’s commitment and investment in its Senior and Youth National Teams, as outlined in the XI Principles for the future of Australian Football. Every position plays a critical role in advancing, overseeing, and ensuring the sustained success of all High Performance and National Team programs and initiatives.

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