2024 Copa América team previews: USMNT, Argentina, more

It’s time for the 2024 Copa América. With the United States as the host, the next few weeks will be jam-packed with soccer as North American sides take on Central and South America teams in a bid to become the best team in the region. The USMNT boasts plenty of talent with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah, among others, but can they upset international heavyweights Brazil or current World Cup titleholders Argentina?

It might also be Lionel Messi‘s last major tournament as the 36-year-old enters the twilight of a sparkling career. Could he help his nation to back-to-back Copa América titles? Can striker Santiago Giménez lead Mexico to a deep run in the tournament? Meanwhile, Brazil’s Vinícius Júnior, arguably the best winger in the world, will attract plenty of attention as he looks to become the main man for his nation.

It’s all up for grabs, and though there are clear favorites, shock results are bound to happen in international soccer. ESPN previews each of the Copa América’s 16 teams in the tournament, with everything you need to know about the sides, split into their groups.


Group A

Nickname: La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue)
FIFA rank: 1
Manager: Lionel Scaloni
Record in past 12 months: 12W-0D-0L
Group stage fixtures: Canada (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET); Chile (June 25, 9 p.m. ET); Peru (June 29, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +175

Can’t-miss star: Ángel Di María. Lionel Messi would be too obvious — so it is time to pay tribute to Di Maria, who retires from international football after this tournament. The 36-year-old will be badly missed. Di Maria is that rarest of things — a genuine world-class player who seems without ego, consistently doing what is needed to improve the team. He has been key to all Argentina’s recent triumphs.

Breakout candidate: Valentin Carboni. The 19-year-old seems most likely to emerge as the Di Maria replacement. Alejandro Garnacho has more pace, but the lanky left-footed Carboni has enchanted the coaching staff with his elegant quality, sufficiently versatile to cover a number of attacking positions. Born in Buenos Aires, but used to play for Italy at under-17 level.

Why they won’t win it all: It is hardly a surprise that Argentina are at the top of the World Cup qualification table. They were the only team that went into the competition as a consolidated unit. The Copa gives the others a chance to catch up. Argentina, meanwhile, might have been treading water. Their friendlies this year have been too easy, teaching them little. And the big question remains unresolved: how long can the team go on with its model of Messi plus 10? Scaloni flirted with resignation last November, almost certainly provoked, at least in part, by a glimpse of the end of the Messi era. Much of the past 18 months have felt like a prolonged lap of honor after the triumph in Qatar.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Placed in by far the easiest half of the draw, it will take a major shock for Argentina not to reach the final. As the games become more competitive, an interesting dilemma emerges. Does the status of world and Copa champions mean that the pressure is off? Or might the fact of having something to lose prove nerve-wracking? Argentina go into the tournament as justified favorites, and there will be moments when their possession-based football delights fans, with the rhythm suddenly switching as they bear down on goal. And whatever happens, they should emerge from the Copa with one aspect of their 2026 World Cup challenge enhanced. A collapse at the heart of the defense so nearly cost them the title in Qatar. The Copa is a clear opportunity to consolidate Lisandro Martínez in the back four. — Tim Vickery

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Messi: There’s not a lot of time left in my career

Lionel Messi says he’s enjoying playing football more because he knows “there’s not a lot of time left” in his career.


Nickname: Canucks
FIFA rank: 49
Manager: Jesse Marsch
Record in past 12 months: 4W-3D-5L
Group stage fixtures: Argentina (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET); Peru (June 25, 6 p.m. ET); Chile (June 29, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +6600

Can’t-miss star: Jonathan David. Alphonso Davies is typically penciled in here, but David had the better club season, scoring 26 goals in all competitions for Ligue 1 side Lille. Davies is also slated to play left-back, which means his influence might be muted against the tough trio of South American teams — starting with Argentina — that comprise Group A. If Canada is to get out of the group stage, David will need to be banging in the goals.

Breakout candidate: Moise Bombito. The back line has long been one of Canada’s biggest weaknesses, but Bombito showed well in two recent friendlies against the Netherlands and France with his passing and speed. The Colorado Rapids defender has an opportunity to stake his claim to a starting spot and could prove to be an unlikely catalyst for Canada getting out of the group.

Why they won’t win it all: There just hasn’t been enough time for new manager Jesse Marsch — who was hired last month — to have implemented his high-pressing system and generate some cohesion. Granted, Canada did record a credible 0-0 draw against France, this after a 4-0 defeat to the Netherlands in which the Reds played well for stretches but ultimately ran out of gas. Whether that effort against France can be replicated while generating a consistent attack remains to be seen. All told, the demands of Marsch’s style, as well as a talent gap when compared to the hemisphere’s best teams, make it too big of an ask for Canada to come close to being a contender.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Getting out of the group ought to be the primary goal here. On paper that’s certainly doable, especially given the pace of players such as Davies and Tajon Buchanan. While Argentina are heavy favorites to top Group A, Chile and Peru are beatable. Both teams have struggled in South American World Cup qualifying, occupying eighth and 10th place respectively, but they won’t be pushovers either. That will require limiting the damage in the group stage opener against the reigning World Cup and Copa America champions, and then grinding out results in the last two games. This tournament will be mostly about laying foundations ahead of the 2026 World Cup. — Jeff Carlisle


Nickname: La Roja (The Red One)
FIFA rank: 42
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Record in past 12 months: 5W-3D-4L
Group stage fixtures: Peru (Friday, 8 p.m. ET); Argentina (June 25, 9 p.m. ET); Canada (June 29, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +3300

Can’t-miss star: Alexis Sánchez. With more caps (163) and goals (51) for Chile than any other player, Sanchez is keen to point out that at 35 years old he is not a spent force. Enthused by the project of coach Ricardo Gareca, Sanchez is buzzing around behind the centre-forward, more involved these days in setting up the play than finishing off the moves.

Breakout candidate: Darío Osorio. After a long wait for another superstar, there is a cautious sense of optimism around the 20-year-old, a leggy left-footed winger who likes to cut in from the right. He had a fine season in Denmark and scored a splendid debut international goal against France in March, but is fighting to shake off a late season injury.

Why they won’t win it all: Chile’s second game is against Argentina in New Jersey — same venue and same opponents as the 2016 Copa final win, the greatest moment in the history of the national team. Eight years ago seems like light years ago. Chile did not make it to either of the two subsequent World Cups and have made a bad start on the way to 2026 — hence the recent change of coach. Theirs has been a typical South American problem: a drought of talent following a golden generation. The process of renewing the team has been extremely weak.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Chile have pinned their faith in the “Gareca factor” — the hope that Argentine coach Gareca can reproduce what he did with Peru and build a team that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. The new man has certainly made a promising start, with goals and good performances in his first three friendlies. Can this be continued now that the competitive games have come? The group looks easy enough, so Chile can expect a quarterfinal, although a semifinal would seem to be the limit of their chances. The main aim is to build momentum for the coming six rounds of World Cup qualifiers. — Vickery


Nickname: La Blanquirroja (The White and Red)
FIFA rank: 32
Manager: Jorge Fossati
Record in past 12 months: 4W-3D-5L
Group stage fixtures: Chile (Friday, 8 p.m. ET); Canada (June 25, 6 p.m. ET); Argentina (June 29, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +5000

Can’t-miss star: Pedro Gallese. Peru is not known for producing goalkeepers, but they can be proud of Gallese. Over a decade in the national team and with more than 100 caps, the Orlando City keeper has been reliable and occasionally outstanding. He would walk into a best all-time Peru XI.

Breakout candidate: Piero Quispe. He’s is a little, skipping, give-and-go midfielder who was Peru’s player of the year in 2023 and has since made an encouraging start in Mexico. Some say that he is too much of a lightweight for the top level. The Copa is a chance for him to prove them wrong and launch his international career.

Why they won’t win it all: For a few years, former coach Ricardo Gareca performed a minor miracle with Peru, building a team that added up to more than the sum of its parts. Post-Gareca, things returned to normal for a country that has gone 11 years without one of its clubs reaching the knockout stage of the Copa Libertadores, and which is not producing many successful exports. Peru lie bottom of the 2026 World Cup qualification table with just one goal scored in six games. And midfielder Renato Tapia, probably the team’s best outfield player, walked out following a row with the local federation. Everything seems stacked against the Peruvians.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: After a few gentle friendlies, these will be the first competitive games in the reign of the new coach, Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, who has immediately implanted his trademark three centre-back system. Fossati will probably try to focus on defensive solidity, and trust that clever attacking midfielder Edison Flores can buzz effectively around the centre-forward. The opening game with neighbors and bitter rivals Chile is crucial. In a perfect world, this Copa will be to Fossati what the 2016 version in the USA was to Gareca. Eight years ago, Peru travelled north in apparent disarray, but in the course of the competition found the group and the momentum that took them to Russia 2018 and very nearly to Qatar. — Vickery


Group B

Nickname: La Tricolor (The Tricolors)
FIFA rank: 31
Manager: Félix Sánchez Bas
Record in past 12 months: 8W-2D-3L
Group stage fixtures: Venezuela (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET); Jamaica (June 26, 6 p.m. ET); Mexico (June 30, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +1800

Can’t-miss star: Moisés Caicedo. He has been bestriding the Ecuador midfield like a prince since he was a teenager, and at 22 he already has more than 40 caps to his name. He is at the heart of everything that Ecuador do, winning the ball, driving forward, linking the play with quick passes and running beyond the strikers to shoot at goal.

Breakout candidate: Kendry Paez. He was making and scoring goals in World Cup qualification months before his 17th birthday. A left-footed attacking midfielder with the air of an Ecuadorian Phil Foden, he is full of surprise shots and passes at clever angles. This is an eagerly awaited first senior tournament for the Chelsea-bound wonderkid.

Why they won’t win it all: Despite a solid start to their 2026 qualification campaign, pressure is mounting on Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, who was in charge of Qatar in the last World Cup. Some even speculate that this tournament might serve as a referendum on his job security. One of his problems is that the wealth of resources at centre-back is not matched by those at centre-forward. The team are highly dependent on all-time top scorer Enner Valencia, who was overplayed during 2022 and 2023, and has since been paying the price.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Expectations in Ecuador are fluctuating wildly, from hopes of a semifinal to fears of group stage elimination. Both are possible, and plenty hangs on the opening clash with Venezuela. Pick up the points there, avoid Argentina in the quarters and a place in the last four is within the grasp of a young, physically imposing team who are not easy to play against. The key question is whether they can score enough goals, given their lack of depth at centre-forward and the absence of the strong, quick and direct wingers who have typically been a feature of recent Ecuador sides. — Vickery


Nickname: Reggae Boyz
FIFA rank: 55
Manager: Heimir Hallgrímsson
Record in past 12 months: 12W-4D-5L
Group stage fixtures: Mexico (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET); Ecuador (June 26, 6 p.m. ET); Venezuela (June 30, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +15000

Can’t-miss star: Michail Antonio. With Leon Bailey out of the picture, on paper, Antonio is the star. When healthy, the West Ham United striker is brilliant in the air and a clever dribbler. So why just on paper? That’s because the England native hasn’t solidified himself as a reliable big-game goal scorer for Jamaica since his 2021 debut, but that could change this summer.

Breakout candidate: Shamar Nicholson. A fully fit and available Jamaica roster likely wouldn’t have Nicholson in the XI, but that doesn’t deny the fact that he’s been an invaluable striker. Soon to be heading back to Spartak Moscow after a loan with Clermont, the 27-year-old has been lights out for Jamaica with eight goals in his past seven games.

Why they won’t win it all: Injuries have seriously hurt their chances, as seen in recent World Cup qualifiers where they narrowly sneaked past Concacaf minnows such as the Dominican Republic and Dominica through one-goal margins. As arguably the weakest team in their group — and with a worrisome Copa América past that features six losses in six games — one can argue that Jamaica may not have enough to even get out of the group stage.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Sure, Jamaica could be seen as the worst in their group, but on the other hand, the reality is that there isn’t a significant difference between all four teams. If they can at least steal a point from Mexico in their first game, and if Nicholson continues his impressive form, there’s no reason they can’t qualify for the knockout round. That said, there are plenty of questions regarding their roster, likely leaving them at third or fourth in Group B. — Cesar Hernandez


Nickname: El Tri (The Tricolor)
FIFA rank: 14
Manager: Jaime Lozano
Record in past 12 months: 11W-4D-8L
Group stage fixtures: Jamaica (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET); Venezuela (June 26, 9 p.m. ET); Ecuador (June 30, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +1200

Can’t-miss star: Edson Álvarez. To quote West Ham supporters: “Midfield maestro, from Mexico, Edson ole ole ole.” For club and country, Alvarez is a rock in the heart of the XI, often doing the dirty work with crucial interventions and crunching tackles that stop opposition. At his best, the player is capable of producing defensive midfield masterclasses with his aggressive work rate and stamina.

Breakout candidate: Santiago Giménez. Recently finishing the Eredivisie season with 23 goals, the young Feyenoord striker is a dark horse candidate for Copa América’s Golden Boot award. More than just a sturdy goal scorer with surprising acceleration, the 23-year-old is also an excellent passer in the final third. Could a performance lead to a summer move to a bigger club?

Why they won’t win it all: With an eye toward the 2026 World Cup, Mexico are currently in the middle of a generational change. When the tournament kicks off, many fans will be surprised to learn that high-profile veterans such as Hirving Lozano, Guillermo Ochoa and Raúl Jiménez were left off of the roster. During part of that process, the latest losses against Uruguay and Brazil have further strengthened the notion that head coach Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano and his men are still a work in progress.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Mexico should finish in the top two of their group, especially with their status as the (slight) favorites among the four. Assuming no early hiccups and that a backup goalkeeper is able to fill the immense gloves left by Ochoa, Mexico’s knockout round fate probably will be decided by if/when they potentially meet Argentina. If they meet in the quarters or semis, that’s likely where they’ll exit. No Argentina matchup? It then wouldn’t be a stretch to see them as finalists. If Alvarez and Gimenez live up to their expectations, Mexico could make a deep run. — Hernandez


Nickname: La Vinotinto (The Wine Red)
FIFA rank: 54
Manager: Fernando Batista
Record in past 12 months: 4W-4D-3L
Group stage fixtures: Ecuador (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET); Mexico (June 26, 9 p.m. ET); Jamaica (June 30, 8 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +6600

Can’t-miss star: Salomón Rondón. The tragedy of the Qatar World Cup qualifiers was that Rondon was either in China or England, and regulations stopped him going home during the COVID pandemic. Now their big centre-forward and the reference point of the attack is available, and he will want to use this Copa to show that he is not in physical decline.

Breakout candidate: Kervin Andrade. There are high hopes of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Andrade, a squat little figure with close control and a rocket shot who is making a good impression in Brazil with Fortaleza. He was called up this year to the Venezuela squad and is likely to be gently introduced during the course of the tournament.

Why they won’t win it all: Venezuela can cause problems to stronger sides, but they run into the problem of the underdog — if they charge forward, their defensive unit can look vulnerable, but hanging back can leave them too timid and passive. It is not an easy balance for them to strike, and there would seem to be almost no chance of them finding the right blend over the course of six games. They are the only side in the competition who have yet to play in a World Cup, and a Venezuelan triumph on July 14 would be one of the biggest shocks in Copa history.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: For Venezuela, everything is geared around qualifying for the 2026 World Cup and making their World Cup debut. The 1-1 draw away to Brazil last October was a massive morale boost, and Argentine coach Fernando Batista will be delighted that his side have conceded just three goals in the six qualifying rounds. The priority in this Copa, then, is to emerge with faith intact. There are no real hopes of winning, and even a repeat of 2011’s semifinal would be seen as a bonus. A quarterfinal would be nice, but the most important thing is that Venezuela emerge from the competition confident that they will be back in North America two years from now. — Vickery


Group C

Nickname: La Verde (The Green)
FIFA rank: 85
Manager: Antônio Carlos Zago
Record in past 12 months: 2W-1D-11L
Group stage fixtures: U.S. (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET); Uruguay (June 27, 9 p.m. ET); Panama (July 1, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +15000

Can’t-miss star: Ramiro Vaca. He moved back home after failing to make much of an impression in Belgium with Beerschot, but he is an important player in the national team, bringing quality to the midfield with his range of passes, his well-struck shots and his set pieces. Vaca turns 25 during the competition.

Breakout candidate: Diego Medina. He made a good impression at the start of the year in the South American Under-23 championships as an aggressive and athletic right-back. He is happy in the wing-back role if Bolívia go with a back three, and will look to consolidate his place in the side during the Copa.

Why they won’t win it all: Thirty years ago, Bolívia went to the U.S. for the World Cup with a generation of talent that they have been utterly unable to replace. The recent retirement from international football of all-time top scorer Marcelo Martins Moreno has worsened matters still further. After last week’s 3-1 defeat to Ecuador, a local newspaper delivered a damning verdict, pointing out three areas where the team urgently needs to improve: defending, retaining possession and setting up chances.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Bolívia are frequently offered up to the hosts in the opening game in a move aimed to get the tournament off to a good start. Often they have refused to follow the script, rising to the occasion and holding out for a draw. But hopes are not high this time. There was optimism a year back, after some good results in friendlies, but all that was instantly swept away when World Cup qualification got underway. Following a disastrous start, Argentine coach Gustavo Costas gave way to Brazil’s Antonio Carlos Zago, without much improvement. Qualification for the 2026 World Cup, however, is still possible — Bolívia always look to pick up points at the extreme altitude of La Paz. Priority in this Copa is for a young side to emerge from the competition with self-esteem intact. — Vickery


Nickname: La Marea Roja (The Red Tide)
FIFA rank: 45
Manager: Thomas Christiansen
Record in past 12 months: 14W-2D-6L
Group stage fixtures: Uruguay (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET); USA (June 27, 6 p.m. ET); Bolívia (July 1, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +15000

Can’t-miss star: Aníbal Godoy. He’s a tenacious midfielder from Nashville SC who was influential in Panama’s past two wins in World Cup qualifiers. In a national team career that has now stretched to 14 years, the captain with excellent distribution will be set to lead his side in yet another major tournament.

Breakout candidate: Adalberto Carrasquilla. After earning the MVP award for 2023’s Concacaf Gold Cup, can Carrasquilla gain even higher praise at the Copa América? Well-rounded in the midfield but also a threat when carrying the ball forward, the Houston Dynamo player will easily be one to watch. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a European team took a chance on the 25-year-old after the tournament.

Why they won’t win it all: Credit should be given to the gradual improvements made by manager Thomas Christiansen. The coach and his players punched above their weight with a spot at the 2023 Gold Cup final and earned a respectable place within the top four of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League. But against CONMEBOL opponents? That’s a tough ask, and Christiansen doesn’t have the depth of talent needed to go far — let alone possibly making it out of the group stage.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Stranger things have happened in tournament soccer, but there aren’t very many scenarios in which the U.S. and Uruguay aren’t in the top two of Group C. Due to the luck of the draw, Panama just happen to be in a group with two teams that are in the conversation of dark horses.

Third or fourth in their group is the expectation, but if they can get at least one surprise result vs the U.S. or Uruguay, Panama might have an unexpected fighting chance to continue their run when they close out the group stage vs. a questionable Bolívia. — Hernandez


Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue)
FIFA rank: 15
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
Record in past 12 months: 8W-3D-2L
Group stage fixtures: Panama (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET); Bolívia (June 27, 9 p.m. ET); USA (July 1, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +500

Can’t-miss star: Federico Valverde. He is the often overlooked quiet force of the Real Madrid team, balancing out the side with his spirit of sacrifice and extraordinary lung power. With Uruguay, he is free to shout louder. His midfield dynamism is at the heart of the side, working box to box and unleashing his ferocious shots.

Breakout candidate: Facundo Pellistri. Loaned out first to Alaves and then to Granada, Pellistri has been strangely neglected by Manchester United but has enjoyed a fine time with Uruguay. The 22-year-old might have been their most effective attacking player in the Qatar World Cup as a pacy right winger with the vision of a playmaker.

Why they won’t win it all: Bielsa’s football is notoriously high tempo and high energy. Can the team maintain the required intensity at the end of the European season? This could be especially difficult in the intense summer heat of some of the Copa venues. As Leeds United fans will recall, when the plan goes wrong, a Bielsa team can leave itself extremely open, and in the toughest half of the draw, where there is less margin for error, this could be a problem.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: It is easy to see why Bielsa was attracted to the Uruguay job. With the old generation leaving the scene after Qatar, he had a dynamic new generation to work with; an impressive spine of Ronald Araújo, Jose Gimenez, Manuel Ugarte, Valverde and Darwin Núñez, plus the wingers Uruguay usually produces and Bielsa loves so much. They ended last year as South America’s in-form side, comfortably beating Brazil and winning away to Argentina, and the recent destruction of Mexico has merely confirmed that impression. No one will relish facing them — and 100 years after Uruguay’s historic Olympic gold medal, they are candidates for a title once more. –– Vickery


Nickname: Stars & Stripes
FIFA rank: 11
Manager: Gregg Berhalter
Record in past 12 months: 11W-2D-5L
Group stage fixtures: Bolívia (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET); Panama (June 27, 6 p.m. ET); Uruguay (July 1, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +1200

Can’t-miss star: Christian Pulisic. Pulisic has long been the face of the USMNT, and he largely delivered at the 2022 World Cup, scoring the game winner against Iran that put the U.S. through to the knockout stages. Now he is coming off arguably his best club season, having scored 12 goals and added eight assists for AC Milan.

Breakout candidate: Giovanni Reyna. Reyna is a known commodity among U.S. fans, but his club career has stalled due to a combination of injury and poor form. He has shined in recent competitions with the U.S., however, and was the Player of the Tournament at the Concacaf Nations League this past March. The Copa is a big step up, though. If the U.S. do make a deep run, they’ll need Reyna at his best playing in an attacking midfield role and providing the chance creation the team needs.

Why they won’t win it all: The 2022 World Cup revealed that the U.S. struggled mightily with chance creation, finishing in the bottom half in xG both among teams that reached the knockout rounds (tied for 12th) and for the tournament as a whole (23rd out of 32). Have the U.S. improved since then? Tough to say. Their only match since then against a non-Concacaf team ranked 50th or higher was a 3-1 home loss to Germany in which the visitors were far superior. Until the U.S. deliver against a top opponent, there will be doubts that their attack is good enough to push the tournament hosts into the elite.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: The U.S. have gone about managing expectations for the Copa in an odd way, talking about the opportunity in front of them while at the same time speaking of how the World Cup is the bigger priority. In a group featuring Bolívia, Panama and Uruguay, the U.S. will be expected to progress. Elimination in the group stage would be looked upon — justifiably — as a colossal failure, and put manager Berhalter’s status under threat. If the U.S. do progress, a likely matchup with Brazil or Colombia awaits in the quarterfinals, where the USMNT would be an underdog against either side. The U.S. recently were thrashed 5-1 by Colombia before securing a credible 1-1 draw against Brazil. Getting past either of those teams seems beyond the U.S. at the moment. The play of Reyna and oft-injured holding midfielder Tyler Adams will be critical to the U.S. team’s chances. — Carlisle

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Why Gomez is preaching caution for USMNT against South American teams

Herculez Gomez warns the USMNT not to expect easy games against South American teams going into Copa America.


Group D

Nickname: Seleção Canarinha (Canary Squad)
FIFA rank: 5
Manager: Dorival Júnior
Record in past 12 months: 5W-3D-4L
Group stage fixtures: Costa Rica (Monday, 9 p.m. ET); Paraguay (June 28, 9 p.m. ET); Colombia (July 2, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +225

Can’t-miss star: Vinícius Júnior. In the Qatar World Cup, Vinicius was the newcomer who had only recently forced his way into the team. Things have changed. He is now Brazil’s most dangerous attacking player, and to his stunning wing play he has added the capacity to operate more centrally. A good tournament could seal the Ballon D’Or this year.

Breakout candidate: Endrick. The stocky, left-footed Endrick, who turns 18 in July, came off the bench in three consecutive games this year to score three goals, all of them important, all of them in different styles. The talent of the Real Madrid-bound prodigy is such that everyone will want to see how he gets on in his debut tournament.

Why they won’t win it all: After a disastrous 2023 for the team, new coach Dorival Junior is attempting to steady the ship. The Copa is his competitive debut, and on the evidence of the first four friendlies, the team have yet to recover the defensive solidity that was a hallmark of the 2016-2022 Tite era. With Brazil in by far the most difficult half of the draw, they will surely be tested as they go through the competition, and it will be fascinating to find out how a young side responds under pressure.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: After winning four Copas in five between 1997 and 2007, Brazil have won only one of the past five — and that was on home soil. Even so, they are contenders for this title. In full flow they can be an exhilarating sight, and if Vini Junior, Rodrygo and company can be well backed up by the likes of Alisson, Marquinhos and Bruno Guimarães, then they will take some stopping. The prospect of a semifinal against Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay is deliciously enticing. Whatever happens, Brazil should emerge from the tournament having put 2023 behind them and ready to put a swift end to any doubts about their presence in the next World Cup. — Vickery


Nickname: Los Cafeteros (The Coffeemakers)
FIFA rank: 12
Manager: Néstor Lorenzo
Record in past 12 months: 11W-3D-0L
Group stage fixtures: Paraguay (Monday, 6 p.m. ET); Costa Rica (June 28, 6 p.m. ET); Brazil (July 2, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +1000

Can’t-miss star: Luis Díaz. The Liverpool winger is now the undisputed king of the team, especially after those two goals that brought a first ever World Cup qualification win over Brazil last November, just days after his father had been freed from a kidnap. He’ll cut in from the left and occasionally wander across the attacking line.

Breakout candidate: Richard Ríos. He was an unknown playing futsal in Brazil where he was discovered and transformed into a dynamic part of the Palmeiras midfield that won last year’s league title. The 24-year-old was successfully introduced to the national team this year and highlighted his value with a first goal for Colombia in the 5-1 rout of the USA.

Why they won’t win it all: The long unbeaten run under coach Nestor Lorenzo is a cause for concern for anyone who has followed the history of the Colombian national team. Their fans will be out in force, and expectations are high, but dealing with euphoria is vital in tournament football, and this has often been a problem. Older supporters will recall that 30 years ago Colombia went to the World Cup in the USA on a run of one defeat in 33 games — and that story ended in tragedy with a group stage exit. In by far the more difficult half of the draw, there are plenty of opportunities for their Copa campaign to go wrong.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: Lorenzo was an inspired choice to coach the side. The Argentine was a long-term assistant to Jose Pekerman, who took Colombia to the World Cups of 2014 and ’18, and has an undoubted flair for the top job. Lorenzo’s teams is well constructed, with attacker James Rodríguez free to float in a side that is otherwise highly structured. They know where they seek to win the ball, either sitting deep with their lines compact or pressing high. A possible problem — and here the 5-1 win over the USA can be deceptive — is a lack of goals. It was the reason they missed the Qatar World Cup, and although they are off to a sound start in the 2026 qualifiers they have only six goals in six games. But the semifinals certainly look like a realistic target. — Vickery


Nickname: Los Ticos (The Ticos)
FIFA rank: 52
Manager: Gustavo Alfaro
Record in past 12 months: 7W-2D-8L
Group stage fixtures: Brazil (Monday, 9 p.m. ET); Colombia (June 28, 6 p.m. ET); Paraguay (July 2, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +8000

Can’t-miss star: Francisco Calvo. No Keylor Navas? No problem. Following the retirement of the iconic goalkeeper, the captain’s armband has been in safe hands with Calvo in June’s wins in World Cup qualifiers. Forceful in his defensive abilities but also with an eye for long passes, the presence of the FC Juarez defender will be highly significant this summer.

Breakout candidate: Brandon Aguilera. Costa Rica’s latest No. 10 wasn’t a veteran superstar, but instead, a versatile 20-year-old Nottingham Forest player who just wrapped up a short League One loan. Earning an assist in his last Costa Rica appearance, the midfielder still has much to prove and isn’t a guaranteed starter, but there’s a reason he made his Premier League debut in January.

Why they won’t win it all: Aguilera is a young player to keep an eye on, as is Manfred Ugalde up top, but it’s difficult to see the two players and their teammates going far without the insurance plan of Navas in net. The goalkeeper was a literal savior between the sticks, and while Costa Rica’s roster can likely hold their own without Navas against Concacaf opposition, the same can’t be said when you throw CONMEBOL into the mix as well.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: World Cup qualifying is off to a great start and they have some future stars to look forward to, and yet, at the Copa América, Costa Rica face the unenviable task of trying to halt Brazil and Colombia in Group D. To make matters more difficult, those will be their first two opponents, possibly leaving them with a consolation match against Paraguay to close out the group stage. The consensus is that Costa Rica will suffer an early exit, although this is a good time to remind everyone that we just surpassed the 10-year anniversary of a similar Group D conversation at the 2014 World Cup when Costa Rica finished first ahead of Uruguay, Italy and England. — Hernandez


Nickname: Albirroja (The White and Red)
FIFA rank: 56
Manager: Daniel Garnero
Record in past 12 months: 3W-4D-4L
Group stage fixtures: Colombia (Monday, 6 p.m. ET); Brazil (June 28, 9 p.m. ET); Costa Rica (July 2, 9 p.m. ET)
ESPN BET odds to win Copa 2024: +6600

Can’t-miss star: Miguel Almiron. With league titles in Paraguay, Argentina and the USA plus more than five seasons in the Premier League, Almiron is Paraguay’s main star. But at age 30, just two goals in competitive games for his country is a disappointing return. Might this be the moment when his speed and left foot make an impression?

Breakout candidate: Julio Enciso. He made his Paraguay debut in the last Copa shortly after his 17th birthday, but has yet to make much of an impact. The Brighton striker picked up an injury and missed all of last year’s World Cup qualifiers. Paraguay are desperate for him to return and kick start his international career.

Why they won’t win it all: Morale is on the floor, as coach Garnero confessed after last week’s 3-0 loss to Chile. Garnero replaced fellow Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto after a poor start to the World Cup qualification campaign, but things have yet to improve. In the six rounds, Paraguay have managed just one goal. The heyday of Roque Santa Cruz aside, a lack of firepower has been a frequent Paraguayan problem — made worse by the impression that the current defensive unit is not as solid as some in the country’s past.

Realistic chances at Copa 2024: With Colombia first up followed by Brazil, the fixtures have not been kind to Paraguay. Coach Garnero came in full of attacking intentions, but it could be that his team’s best bet is to defend deep and rely on traditional virtues of resilience. This is an approach better suited to tournaments than to the league format of World Cup qualification. Back in 2011, for example, Paraguay made it all the way to the final of the Copa without winning a single game and going through on penalties. Paraguay’s dogged tradition means that they should never be underestimated, but it would be a surprise if they get out of the group. — Vickery