Maybe you’ve noticed people in Uruguay shirts strolling around University City. Or U.S. national team players running up and down the Rocky steps. Or more traffic than usual in South Philly.
That’s because the Copa America Centenario -- a large, fun and occasionally bizarre international soccer tournament -- has arrived in Philadelphia.
And after Venezuela upset Uruguay at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night -- complete with a temper tantrum from one of the world’s most notorious players -- it’s now time for the United States to take the field at the Linc with a spot to the quarterfinals of the tournament pitting the top teams from North America, Central America and South America and the Caribbean on the line.
Thinking about going to the game? Or just need a reason to get excited about the USMNT playing in Philly? Here are five of them:
1) This is a big-time tournament game
The Copa America Centenario (a special edition of the tourney held in the United States in honor of its 100-year anniversary) may have gotten off to somewhat of a slow start, despite its billing as the biggest men’s soccer tournament on American soil since the 1994 World Cup. But it’s been picking up steam over the past few days and should only get better now that we’re heading into the knockout rounds.
When the USMNT takes on Paraguay the Linc on Saturday night (7 p.m., FS1), it technically won’t be a knockout-round game. But as the final game in Group A, the USMNT need a result to move on to the quarterfinals. A draw may do the trick but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said from practice at Penn’s Rhodes Field on Thursday that it’s not the team’s nature to play for anything but a win.
2) Homecoming for local teenage prodigy
Christian Pulisic is a 17-year-old kid from Hershey.
Somehow, he’s also already scored goals in one of the top leagues in the world (Germany’s Bundesliga) and for the U.S. national team.
And the teenage wunderkind, who already made a Copa appearance in the Americans’ opening loss to Colombia, now hopes to take the field in Philly in front of what he called “too many [supporters] to count.”
As he told reporters Thursday from Penn, though, he won’t have any jitters. He doesn’t even consider himself a 17-year-old anymore.
3) There are more fun youngsters to watch
Pulisic isn’t the only player that represents the future of U.S. Soccer. When he entered the game against Colombia, he did so with another newcomer that people are high on in Darlington Nagbe.
And then there’s 23-year-old Bobby Wood, who recently signed a big Bundesliga deal and is quickly emerging as one of the top American attacking players.
Wood struggled at times on the wing in the USMNT's 4-0 drubbing of Costa Rica on Tuesday but showed his quality with a very nice turn and goal. Check it out:
4) The old guard is still around too
Yes, Landon Donovan has retired and Tim Howard is now the backup goalie. But World Cup veterans like Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley still make up the core of this team.
And it was Dempsey and Jones, especially, who helped carry the USMNT to their big win over Costa Rica with Dempsey scoring his 50th USMNT goal (second only to Donovan) and assisting on goals for Jones and Wood.
Both Dempsey and Jones will be 35 or older by the time the next World Cup rolls around, and we all know Klinsmann doesn’t mind unceremoniously cutting ties with anyone nearing the end of their career (see: Donovan, Landon). So this very well could be their last major tournament. If it is, we should enjoy it -- especially in the case of Dempsey, one of the all-time greats who’s scored goals at three different World Cups and provided us with GIF-worthy moments like these:
5) Soccer games at the Linc have been pretty memorable
Last year’s Gold Cup final in Philly was a letdown with the US losing in the semifinals and ending up playing a lifeless third-place game at Talen Energy Stadium.
But the team has enjoyed other good moments at the Linc, including Klinsmann’s debut as head coach that featured a late tying goal from Robbie Rogers.
The Union, too, have played a couple of memorable games there, including their inaugural MLS home game best known for a hat trick from everyone’s favorite Frenchman (Sebastien Le Touuuuuuuuux) and this cheeky goal from Michael Farfan in a friendly against mighty Real Madrid:
It’s probably fair to say a goal like that would bring down the house this weekend.