Fans pour in to fill up the University of Phoenix Stadium. The national anthem begins to play, a whistle blows and the football game begins.  But this isn’t the typical football game an Arizona Cardinals fan maybe familiar with, its the Copa America soccer match between Ecuador and Peru.

This years’ tournament marks the tournament’s 100-year anniversary and for the very first time it is being played outside of South America. Arizona residents have already begun to embrace the tournament with two games already played in Glendale, Mexico versus Uruguay and Ecuador versus Peru.

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Photos by Jesse Canales

Glendale will host the third place match on June 25.

Copa America is one of the oldest sports tournaments in history. The first initial tournament took place in 1916, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

To celebrate with the fans, the Westgate Entertainment District hosted a Fan Fest for for the games, where fans with or without tickets can participate in the tournament’s centennial anniversary. The events offered attendees’ games, beer gardens and music. Of course they can also shop, dine and drink at the various merchants in the mall. Los Cuates De Sinaloa, a regionally known Hispanic band, played a live on-stage concert for fan goers, for the Mexico versus Uruguay event.

“We’ll have giant Jenga, cornhole, photo booths, inflatable soccer and we’ll have six different beer selling stations within our open air beer garden,” said Westgate Entertainment District Director of Marketing Jessica Kubicki, about the upcoming final event for the third place match.

The beer garden is open to all ages not only those who are 21 and over.

Several companies like Red Bull, Jeep, Ram Trucks, Body Armor and 7-Up are sponsoring the event hoping to reach out to Fan Fest attendees. “When partners reach out to us, they really want to interface with the fans that are coming to our property. They want to get their brand in front of these faces so they’ll come out and they’ll bring something of value to our events. For instance, Body Armor has the inflatable football and 7-Up has the green screen chroma-key technology photo booth and Bud Light brought the band [Sunday] and they’ll bring the band June 25th, the third place match,” said Kubicki.

Merchants can expect a nice influx in sales during this international event. Kubicki said the events are great for the tenants, especially during the slower summer months.

“The Mexico game was insane. It was actually busier than a lot of our football games, a lot of our home Cardinal’s games,” said McFadden’s Saloon General Manager, Scott McIntire. “It was a great crowd. They partied and drank. We didn’t have any issues. It was one of the better events I have seen here in the last five years.”

Several fans traveled hundreds of miles and drove hours just to support their national teams, while displaying their team’s colors. Matthew and Cynthia Webb made the trip to Glendale all the way from Lobos, Texas to cheer on Cynthia’s Ecuador.

“Lobos, Texas is like 11 to 12 hours from here,” Cynthia said. “We drove out just for this game. My wife called in sick to attend this game,” Matthew chuckled.

Ronnie and Mayra Rodriguez also drove out from a neighboring state just to attend the event and support Ronnie’s Peru.

“We are coming out from Montclair California,” Ronnie said. This was the Rodriguez family’s first time setting foot in Arizona.

“We’ve driven by many times. But to actually step-in [Arizona] and experience it, it’s the first time. We are having a blast,” Mayra added.

The final game in Glendale, Arizona will take place Saturday, June 25th, which will be the third place match. The local merchants already have a preference for what team they would like to see play in the third place match.

“As a bias business owner, I would love USA versus Mexico because that will be the busiest,” said McIntire. “We would love to have Mexico back. They were awesome on Sunday and USA versus Mexico would just be insane. It would be like a Super Bowl if they played.”