By Mike Woitalla
In the start of this soccer-crazy summer with simultaneous continental national team tournaments, the Western Hemisphere has been delivering the most entertaining soccer, by a good stretch, compared to the European Championship.
The USA-hosted Copa America Centenario has hands down provided more attacking, more skillful, more delightful soccer than Euro 2016. It'd be unfair to include the drama factor in the equation because the Euro hasn’t had must-win games yet.
After 24 games, the Copa Centenario is averaging 2.87 goals per game. Euro 2016, after 14 games, is averaging 1.92 (that’s a goal only every 47 minutes).
Yes, of course, it’s very early to judge the Euro and the Copa scoring jumped after the opening games. But the Euro format is one that doesn't promise more attack-minded soccer soon. With the field of teams expanded to 24 teams this year, four of the third-place group finishers advance to the knockout stage. That delays do-or-die match-ups and encourages cautious play.
For its part, the Copa America’s expansion created the perfect number of 16 teams. With half the teams facing group-stage elimination, the value of a tie diminishes quickly.
The larger Euro has also diluted the quality of the field and created a greater proportion of snooze-inducing “survival soccer” teams that are happy to defend all game in hopes of a lucky counterattack.
FIFA World Rankings Top 10 teams represent nearly one third of the Copa field but only a fifth of the Euro lineup. Eight -- exactly half of the teams at the Copa -- reached the second round of the 2014 World Cup. Only four teams at Euro 2016 reached the round of 16 at the last World Cup.
The Copa also serves a spicy buffet, thanks to a great diversity of styles of play from its teams, which have an array of Latin, Caribbean and European influences.
On Thursday, the Copa enters the quarterfinal stage, which includes Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Colombia, teams that have been dazzling unlike anything we’ve yet to see at the Euro. After the Copa final on June 27, the action in France continues for another two weeks.
And then we’ll see if the European Championship can reach the high bar for soccer entertainment set by the Copa Centenario.