Jurgen Klinsmann: Copa America shows how U.S. could host World Cup
HOUSTON -- Jurgen Klinsmann lauded the high quality of play at the ongoing Copa America Centenario, and he believes that the tournament is a glimpse of what another World Cup in the United States might look like.
"The matches are at a very good level, both from a footballing and physical point of view," the U.S. coach said Sunday on a conference call with reporters in Germany.
"The tournament has been well received. It's also a fantastic showcase for hosting the 2026 World Cup in the United States."
Klinsmann was speaking from Texas' largest city, where the U.S. will meet Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday for a spot in next week's final in the New York area.
The U.S. lost its first match of the competition to Colombia before reeling off three straight wins, beating Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador to reach the semis. Klinsmann had targeted a place in the final four before the event began.
But he found himself under pressure from fans, media and even his boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, following the disappointing start. Klinsmann didn't take it as criticism.
"He said before the second match that every coach is measured by results," Klinsmann said. "We've set ourselves high goals with the last four, and that's what I wanted."
Speaking to journalists in Houston later in the day, Klinsmann insisted that he did not feel vindicated by his team's run.
"You know me five years now, I'm not that person," said Klinsmann, who took the U.S. job in 2011. "I think over time we always said we want to move this program to another level -- I think we did that over time. There will be some setbacks."
Regarding the possibility of another World Cup in the U.S., Gulati told reporters earlier this month that the U.S. would only bid if the rules are fair and transparent.
The Americans were beaten out by tiny Qatar for the right to host the 2022 event, a controversial decision that led to allegations that Qatari officials had paid FIFA executive committee members more than $200,000 for their votes.
The bid came under further scrutiny after the U.S. Department of Justice changed top soccer officials with widespread corruption last year.
"We are going to bid for a World Cup if we think we are going to be successful," Gulati said.
Matches at this Copa America have averaged almost 43,000 spectators -- more than the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan. The 1994 World Cup, hosted by the United States, remains the best attended of all time; it averaged 68,991 fans, 18,000 more than any other Word Cup.
The Americans will be without suspended starters Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood against Argentina. On Sunday, the Copa America disciplinary committee rejected U.S. Soccer's protest of a red card issued to Jones and a yellow to Wood in last week's quarterfinals.
While that potentially opens up a starting spot for 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic, Klinsmann has been patient with the youngster, who has made just one 25-minute appearance off the bench during the Copa.
"Christian Pulisic is a jewel with a great future," Klinsmann said. "But when we throw him in, we have to make sure we know how cold the water is, because the South Americans here are incredibly physical."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.