Our Copa America Soccer Summer
I’ve been hesitant to blog about my travels last summer. I had originally planned a long couples trip for Hubby and me to Portugal (all on award tickets and award hotel rooms, of course). The kids would all be away at summer camp during the whole trip. He loves Port, I love new places, win..win, right? WRONG.
Hubby and the two youngest boys are avid soccer fans and LUCKY for me, the Copa America soccer tournament was being held in the United States for the first time ever! Woo Hoo! It was the 100th anniversary of the tournament, some iconic players would be representing their countries in the USA, blah..blah…blah. I know, first world problems. I caved and cancelled Portugal, but planned to use my generosity to my advantage for travel negotiations in 2017.
So, in short, we spent 3 weeks in June traversing the United States attending 6 soccer games, while getting 3 kids off to summer camp for a month and 1 on an international school trip, and the oldest getting his drivers license and first car! Here are the highlights:
Santa Clara (Columbia vs. USA, 2-0)
Hubby and I flew into San Francisco, stayed and attended the game with friends from college that live in San Jose. They were instrumental in using train transport to get to and fro Levi Stadium to avoid parking and crazy traffic. Levi stadium was severely understaffed, with horrible concession lines so the game was a little less fun cuz we were hungry and thirsty but unwilling to miss half the game to solve the issue. It was so bad I’d think twice before attending an event there again. Santa Clara was experiencing record heat and being in the sun for at least half of the game was rough. The fact that there were more Columbia fans than US, was definitely interesting. We had a great time catching up with friends, even if it was a 24 hour trip, and managed have In n’ Out for lunch. We used points and the companion pass on Southwest for our flights and stayed with friends who graciously handled transportation, so our only out of pocket expenses on this game were the tickets.
Los Angeles (Brazil vs. Ecuador, 0-0)
This game was the day after the game in Santa Clara, so Hubby flew to LA to meet other friends, while I flew home to get Duke off to Costa Rica on a school trip. In truth I’m not a huge soccer fan, so missing a game that had no score was great. To me, it’s like watching grown men play keep away for 3 hours, ugh. Hubby met up with 3 friends at the Rose Bowl (a fantastic venue), and while they enjoyed the game, it was kind of a let down. He used points for his flight to LA and back home to us. He stayed at the same hotel as friends so they could share transportation, so with tickets and lodging it was about the same cost as the Santa Clara game since I had already gone home and he was a party of one.
Chicago (Argentina vs. Panama, 5-0)
A few days later, Hubby and Bo (age 12) flew to Chicago in anxious anticipation for this game. Argentina’s world famous player, Messi was the big draw for this game, and it was Messi’s first game back after an injury. Hubby had purchased seats on the first row of the upper deck. Since we purchased from Ticketmaster, again, we decided that at Bo’s age, we didn’t need to spend big bucks to be up closer. We thought he might do better being up a little higher to see plays develop, etc. Messi was on fire and scored 3 times on their end of the field, once directly in front of their line of sight on a penalty kick. It was an incredible night for Bo. They spent 2 nights in Chicago and got to do a little sightseeing too. Southwest points got them both to Chicago, and we chose the Marriott on the Magnificent Mile for the hotel when I found a great rate. They were upgraded to a spacious room with an amazing view at check in. Although their 2 tickets for this game were the cheapest we purchased during the tournament, it ended up being the best game. It just goes to show you that it’s minimally about where you sit, it’s more about the game itself.
Seattle (USA vs. Ecuador, 2-1)
With all of our kids off to camp it was an opportunity to continue to support team USA in the Copa America tournament out west. We hadn’t been to Seattle in several years, so we decided to extend the trip for this game to 3 nights. Seattle is a soccer town and did not disappoint. As we made our way to the game, on foot from our hotel, we ran into the American Outlaws. They have a meeting spot where they cheer, get geared up, and march to the stadium together. It was a lot of fun chanting and yelling with great fans. CenturyLink stadium hosts the Seahawks and the Sounders (soccer team) in the heart of downtown. The concessions were spot on, and it was fun to try local beers during the game. I felt like I had finally found my rhythm at this game. A little local beer, an amazing atmosphere with great fans and a win for team USA!
Our Seattle trip was much like the others with expenses. Southwest points and companion pass to fly to Seattle. We stayed 2 nights at the Hilton Arctic Club on points due to it’s location within walking distance to the stadium. But it was too pricey for a 3rd night using cash ($400+), so we stayed at the Best Western one night to conserve costs. That allowed us to take a food tour of Pike’s Market (highly recommend), visit the space needle, Chiluly Museum, Pacific Science Center and the original Nordstrom. Trust me, a visit to the mother ship (Nordstrom) is an important stop when visiting Seattle, and they ship your purchases home for free! You’re welcome!
Houston (Argentina vs. USA, 4-0)
Houston in the summer is pretty hot, so the idea of watching the USA
lose to play Argentina was not appealing to me. However, hubby is not a fair weather fan, and wanted to support team USA and get another chance to see Messi in action. Hubby and a friend took off for Houston, this time with plans to meet up with the fun American Outlaws group on purpose. They stayed at the Holiday Inn within walking distance of NRG Stadium. Don’t forget, when you stay close enough to walk, you save on that expensive event parking. While the USA lost, they had a great time. Hubby and his friend split the hotel room (we got the points for the stay), flew on Southwest points both ways, and purchased tickets on Ticketmaster.
New York City/New Jersey THE FINALS!! (Chile vs. Argentina, 0-0, 4-2 in shootout)
We saved the best for last!! While we had arranged our flights into New York City and our of New Jersey on Southwest using points again, we were a little conflicted. This was my third trip to New York City in as many months, so we were stuck on whether to stay in New York City or New Jersey and what to do while we were there and how much $$ to spend on tickets. Just in the nick of time, we got an offer from a corporate sponsor of the tournament that included tickets to the game, and a 2 night group rate at a hotel in NYC that included transportation to the game. With any offers like this, we just say yes without a lot of details and hope for the best.
How glad we are that we just rolled with it! While our room at the Intercontinental Barclays NYC was small, it included breakfast (at $44pp/day), and a good location that we wouldn’t have picked on our own. We also got a welcome amenity from the company with hats, coozies, bags, phone chargers and soccer scarves. On game day, after a small bus ride with 20 other people right up to the front of the stadium, we were escorted to a fabulous suite at mid-field!! We grabbed 2 seats in the front row of the outdoor seating of the suite while everyone else was grabbing food and drink from the buffet. I had one happy husband during that final game, and I kind of enjoy shootouts, so it was a fun for us both!! The local beers they offered might have played a role in it too…
In the end, Hubby got to see about as many games as he could during the 2016 Copa America Soccer Tournament. I know that without points an miles, we couldn’t have afforded the travel, a lot of it last minute as teams advanced through the tournament, let alone paying for tickets to the games as well. We used Ticketmaster for the tickets just so we wouldn’t get scammed. We didn’t want a repeat of the time I almost got kicked out of a World Cup stadium in France for buying a stolen ticket, but that’s another story.
So there you have it, how we spent the majority of our 2016 summer. It wasn’t what I had originally planned, but Hubby had a lot of fun along the way. He definitely appreciates my travel planning and hacking skills even more than he already did. Our corporate connection did not come through this blog, Hubby just isn’t shy about sharing his
obsessions passions with friends, family, or coworkers and in this case it paid off. And we’ve already got travel plans in 2017 that he night not have planned on either. Turn about is fair play, right?