Even if you don’t watch much soccer, you’ve probably heard of the World Cup. But you may not have heard of the Copa América. For the first time, this prestigious tournament will take place in the United States. Whether you’re a casual fan or a fanatic, here’s some background information and all you need to know about the home team’s chances in the competition, which runs from June 3 through June 26.
What is the Copa América?
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Copa, the oldest international soccer tournament in the world. In honor of that, the 2016 edition will be called the Copa América Centenario, and it will be played in 10 cities across the U.S.
The competition features South American national teams, including Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. Two or three teams, from North and Central America, have also been invited to compete for the past 23 years.
This year the U.S. Men’s National Team will compete, along with 10 South American teams, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Who will the USMNT face in the Copa?
The U.S. is in Group A, which looks like a challenging first-round group that includes Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay. The first game for the USMNT will be against Colombia on June 3 in Santa Clara, California. Four days after that, the Americans will face Costa Rica in Chicago. The third U.S. game is against Paraguay on June 11 in Philadelphia.
Who are the players to watch on the USMNT?
On Friday, USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced the final 23-man roster for the Copa. The team is a mix of veterans from the 2014 World Cup team and less-experienced younger players. The youngest player on the team is a 17-year old from Hershey, Pennsylvania. His name is Christian Pulisic, and he plays as a midfielder for the German team Borussia Dortmund.
The big news for the team so far is that Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore, who you may remember was injured in the first game of the 2014 World Cup, is injured again. It’s another hamstring injury, and he has been ruled out of the Copa. Altidore is the leading striker on the USMNT, so his injury puts the team in a challenging situation.
Other players to keep an eye out for on the USMNT are left winger Fabian Johnson, who just finished a six-goal season in the German Bundesliga, and Deandre Yedlin, who plays right back for English Premier League team Sunderland. Since February, Yedlin has started every game at Sunderland and is hoping that a strong Copa tournament can improve his position in the Premier League.
How will the USMNT prepare?
A temporary roster of USMNT players, whose international seasons have already ended, trained at a “transition camp” last week. These men played the first of three U.S. warm-up friendlies on Sunday, when they faced Puerto Rico for the first time ever. The U.S. dominated the match and won 3–1.
The final-roster MLS players joined the final roster of U.S. international players on Monday.
The USMNT will play friendlies against Ecuador on May 25 in Frisco, Texas, and Bolivia on May 28 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Photographs: Xavier Garcia/LatinContent/Getty Images (top); Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images