International soccer tournaments help to expand interest and grow sport in America

We may call it soccer here in America but to the rest of the world it is known as "futbol."   

On Saturday, two top national teams from South America will be playing at Levi’s Stadium. The game will feature the national teams of Ecuador and Venezuela.   

It is part of the group stage of the Copa América tournament, which features 10 teams from South America and six from Central and North America, including Canada, Mexico and the United States.

At Levi’s Stadium, fans gathered early to support their teams. 

"I think it is going to be a tough game. Venezuela has very good players playing in Europe and Brazil. I think it is going to be a draw," said Leonardo Ruete.

He arrived here in the Bay Area on Thursday from Ecuador.

There are currently two soccer tournaments underway that are grabbing the world’s attention. The European championship has been played for the past week with midday games broadcast here in the United States.  

But despite all the attention, soccer is still a growing sport here in the United States.   Bay FC head coach Albertin Montoya says all the highly visible tournaments can only be helpful to spark both fan and player interest and grow the game.

 "So we are getting so close. And it is just the identity that the fans have with their team, with their national team, their club teams all over the world.  And the fact that here in the US we can watch games now from Europe, and South America, Copa América, so I am in heaven as a coach," Montoya said.  

Back at Levi’s, Venezuelan fan Elvis Ollaga says his team is also a source of national hope. 

"We all know the situation, we live in Venezuela, but with the national team it’s a separate situation, the national team always brings us joy. We forget a little bit about what is happening in Venezuela when they play, and we want them to bring us joy," Ollaga said in Spanish. 

Santa Clara police have issued a traffic advisory for the game here on Saturday, which starts at 3 p.m.