Copa America 2024—back in the USA

Copa America 2024 official ball
Copa America 2024 official ball

After playing two nearly back-to-back Copa Americas in 2015 and 2016 and then again in 2019 and 2021, we are, allegedly, back on track to playing the CONMEBOL (South American nations) championship every four years. Once again, the 10-team competition will feature guest teams from outside their confederation—always a risk, as crowning a non-South American (CONMEBOL) champion of the oldest soccer tourney in the world would be a continental embarrassment. This year’s iteration comes with a doubly strong CONCACAF dosage—aside from the continent’s traditional ten nations, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and the USA will participate, and the latter will host.

We will be treated to seeing the likes of Lionel Messi, Fede Valverde, Cristian Pulisic, and James Rodriguez. We will greet the new and returning coaches who will be tasked with attempting to get the best out of a golden generation (USA’s Gregg Berhalter), rebuild a soiled legacy (Brazil’s Dorival Junior), or polish one once again on the rise (Marcelo Bielsa manager of Uruguay).

Pre-tournament favorites Argentina will return with their 2022 World Cup team nearly intact while all the other continental teams will be either building or rebuilding, playing without key players (due to injury, retirement, legal issues, or not being chosen by new coaches at the helm), or simply participating because there is no qualifying stage to get through. On the CONCACAF side, the traditionally stronger teams, who did have to qualify, will all be present, and the USA is, deservedly, the cream of that crop.

As always in Copa America, the brackets leading up to the final are set up to bring about an Argentina-Brazil final and little else seems possible this time around as no other team is at the level of the two nations who have cumulatively won eight World Cups. But as is the case for most of the globe’s confederation competitions, this is a dress rehearsal for the big show, two years hence, on the same soil—the 2026 World Cup in the USA.    

That said, this promises to be a spirited tourney as Brazil is dealing with a triple threat, a rebuild, a new coach, and a depleted team (no Neymar, Casemiro, Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Alex Telles, or Antony, to name the top ones that come readily to mind). This means the remaining players, all vying for a shot at Brazil’s World Cup roster, will have something to prove.

Argentina, of course, will have to contend with playing on somewhat neutral ground after winning two back-to-back FIFA-pre-conferred coronations in the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup. They too will feel a special challenge as their double-edged sword will see them with something to prove but no one to blame if they fail, as their main rival is not intact.

Under those circumstances, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and the USA have a chance to shine and advance beyond their normal stages. Thus, ample opportunities will present themselves for some teams to play spoiler or dark horse. Ironically, with the tournament starting just three weeks after the end of the European club season, many of the top players from the Americas will be depleted and results might reasonably hinge on who is freshest when.

Finally, among the players to watch, aside from the usual suspects, will be the forgotten few—Colombia’s James Rodriguez, now playing for Sao Paolo, or David Ospina at Al Nassr, Chile’s Arturo Vidal and Edu Vargas playing at Colo-Colo and Atletico Mineiro respectively, and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, at Inter Miami and Boca Juniors respectively.

There will be more coverage of the Copa America 2024—stay tuned.

Shutterstock Photo ID: 2460122405, by oasisamuel

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