Yesterday's announcement that Orlando will be a host city for the 2016 Copa América Centenario is big news, but it should hardly come as a surprise.
One of the country's fastest growing soccer markets, and the "Soccer Capital of the South," Orlando provides the tournament with a host city just a short plane ride away for many Caribbean and South American soccer fans. Not to mention, the Citrus Bowl has a proven track record of hosting major international soccer matches (including the 1994 World Cup). So this seems like a pretty easy decision on paper.
And it's an absolute coup for Orlando.
The only host city that's not already a regular on the USMNT and USWNT circuit, Orlando could soon become one of the country's most unique locations for big-time international soccer matches. When the Lions' spectacular new stadium is completed next year, the city will have two venues capable of hosting these kinds of matches.
Orlando City's new digs could be perfect for national teams seeking a smaller (yet state-of-the-art) venue, while the Citrus Bowl will always be available for huge international matches. Hosting Copa América games will only grow Orlando's brand as a promising soccer market.
This season alone, Orlando has hosted a friendly between Mexico and Costa Rica (attendance: 53,629) and a USWNT matchup with Brazil (attendance: 32,869). Those are the kinds of numbers that national federations can't resist when they're looking to schedule international friendlies or pick out tournament host venues.
But with the Copa América in the bag, what teams would be the biggest draws for a match in Orlando?
Well, the USMNT would obviously pack the house, along with any of the other CONMEBOL heavyweights like Colombia or Argentina. But Mexico could also be a nice get for Orlando, with El Tri having a strong contingent at their friendly in Orlando this year. And don't forget, they also drew 60,000 for a World Cup game back in the '90s.
But it would also be interesting to see how well Caribbean or Central American teams would draw for a tournament game in Florida. With plenty of countries represented throughout the state, don't be surprised if a team like Jamaica creates a strong home-field advantage in Orlando.
The biggest draw of all could be Brazil, as hundreds of thousands of Brazilians make Orlando a destination every year, not to mention the club's strong Brazilian ties, thanks to owner Flávio Augusto da Silva and superstar captain, Kaká.
At the end of the day, who's playing at the Citrus Bowl isn't nearly as important as the fact that at least three major international matches are going to bring the soccer spotlight to Orlando. It looks set to be one of the more exciting sporting events to hit Central Florida in some time.
But the question remains: which teams would you like to see descend upon Orlando for the Copa América Centenario? Let us know below.