Top Stories

A closer look at the Copa America Centenario draw the USMNT could land

Photo by Brad Mills/USA Today Sports
Photo by Brad Mills/USA Today Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team just got a better idea as to what road it will have to take at the Copa America Centenario, and chances are it will not be easy.

The remaining three team pots for the commemorative tournament in the U.S. were announced on Wednesday morning ahead of Sunday’s draw in New York City, and there was no need to begin toying with draw simulators to see just how challenging it might be for the Americans to reach the knockout phase this summer.

Truth be told, Jurgen Klinsmann and his players are almost assured of having a difficult group. There is a chance that they could earn a favorable draw, but it is a slim one that would require the soccer heavens to smile down on the U.S. and pair it with the traditional welterweights of each confederation, Haiti and Bolivia.

What is more realistic is the seeded U.S. being paired with a stronger CONCACAF nation and a more talented but still beatable CONMEBOL country. The other three CONCACAF teams in Pot 3 are Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica, and the remaining CONMEBOL sides that comprise Pot 4 are Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Pot 2 is where the Americans should get their stiffest challenge of the group stage. There is no sure-fire victory – if there is such a thing – against any of Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Ecuador. In fact, drawing Ecuador, who is historically the weakest of the bunch, would be extremely tough.

La Tricolor is currently perfect at 4-0 and in first place in CONMEBOL’s World Cup Qualifying campaign, and has done more than just beat up on the poorer teams of its region. Using the goal-scoring prowess of Espanyol striker Felipe Caicedo and its other players’ combination of athleticism, speed and power, Ecuador has knocked off Argentina on the road and Uruguay at home in addition to topping Bolivia and Venezuela.

Chile, despite its recent change at head coach, would also present a steep challenge for the Americans. The reigning Copa America champion is currently in the midst of playing with its deep golden generation, one that includes players like Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Claudio Bravo.

Colombia and Uruguay also have great individual talents like James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez, but the two nations have not always been consistently solid since the end of the 2014 World Cup. They are still, of course, capable of turning it up and producing quality play, but the U.S. should have a better shot at grabbing a result against one of them than it does vs. either Ecuador or Chile.

As for Pot 3, it is crystal clear that the Americans will want to avoid drawing Costa Rica. Haiti would be the preferred choice here, but even improved nations Jamaica and Panama should be beatable so long as Klinsmann’s side avoids a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup repeat and plays to its potential.

In Pot 4, the U.S. will want to steer clear of Peru. Some observers might think it is Paraguay that is the side worth avoiding given where the nation sits in the World Cup Qualifying table in contrast to Peru, but that fails to take into consideration the significantly easier schedule the Guaranies have had and that their sputtering attacking has only scored three goals in four games.

In fact, the Peruvians – who are an enigmatic bunch equally as capable of producing moments of brilliance as they are of embarrassment – beat Paraguay in both their World Cup qualifier in November and in the third-placed match at last summer’s Copa America. Yes, Peru has lost three times in four qualifiers, but those defeats came at the hands of Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

That leaves Venezuela and Bolivia for the U.S. to hope for, and the Americans should want the latter. Bolivia has the history of previously reaching World Cups, but Venezuela has leapfrogged La Verde by finishing above it in each of the past three qualifying cycles.

So what might be the absolute best draw that the U.S. could land on Sunday? Uruguay, Haiti and Bolivia would be pretty ideal. Uruguay is the most defensive-minded team in Pot 2, and Haiti and Bolivia’s squads are nowhere near as deep or talented as the one the Americans currently boast.

As for the worst? A nightmare scenario would include Chile, Costa Rica and Peru. Chile showed last year that it has what it takes to make a deep run in tournaments, and Costa Rica and Peru both have enough skilled players to trouble the U.S.

Anything in between those two scenarios would still present a pretty challenging group, meaning the Americans will likely have to play to their best in order to secure a top-two finish that would push them into the quarterfinals of the tournament. There are no best third-place teams that advance in the Copa America Centenaro, so starting the competition by performing well and picking up points is vital.

It will not be easy by any stretch. Well, not unless Lady Luck chooses to be more than kind to the U.S. on Sunday.


  1. The US should get out of it’s group, maybe (a big maybe) win it’s group. How far we go is dependent of collective ability of the coaching staff to put together a cohesive collective of players and a cogent strategic and tactical plan for each opponent. In other words, not very far.

  2. I followed this team closely from 1990 until sometime last year. Klinsmann used to really piss me off, but now I find that I really don’t care anymore. Why does it matter what draw Klinsmann’s team gets? They will be lucky to finish third in their group regardless.

  3. For me I don’t really care. You play who you play. I swear American soccer journalists are the weakest and most scared USMNT fans in this country. Have a bit of a backbone and start believing in your teams!

  4. Franco, judging by results from past World Cups, its not the technical sides that have troubled us, but the teams that were more physical and athletic than the US. When our athleticism and physicality are stunted, we have little to offer technically. But when we can use our athleticism and physicality to offset technical skill, we hang in there and on a good day, get a result. Why do you think we have been able to hang with and even dominate Mexico all of these years? When we run into teams that are both technically superior but also physically superior, think Brazil, we have been absolutely toothless.

  5. My question is: how many consecutive difficult games can the US win. No doubt they can beat most of these teams in one-off games, but will they be able to handle Brazil or Chile right after Peru or Venezuela wear them down. In the past two WC we showed the ability to match up vs anyone but by that 4th game we were running on our last bit of energy. Can’t wait for this tournament!

    • Whatever group we’re in will be challenging, if our current form holds true, but favorable, because we tend to rise up in global events and we’re at home. We have played most of the Conmebol teams in friendlies of late so we’ll have an idea of how these teams play but it comes down to getting the roster right. I think the lack of roster depth hurt us at WC’14, thus a fatigued US team in the knockout round vs Belgium. If JK gets the roster right, I think US fans will be pleased with what they see

      • Maybe this is a nitpick, but I see some unrealistic comments time and again about the Belgium game. Belgium, currently rated #1 in the whole world, beat us in the World Cup because they are a lot better. They had better players than we do at almost every position. We could have and maybe should have lost by about 4-1 or 5-1.

      • definitely a nitpick, reread my post and tell me where I said we should have beat Belgium. What I am saying is that JK didn’t bring a deep roster and the team suffered because of it. Anyone that’s knowledgable about the sport knows Belgium outclassed us but ironically we had a chance to win it late.

  6. Some crazy negative posts here. We should be able to get out of the group, especially being at home. The pot 2 teams are good but it’s not as though the US would have no chance. And any of the eight teams in pots 3 or 4 should be beatable at home.

    That said, after the pathetic Gold Cup performances last year and the fact that JK is still running the show, nothing can be ruled out. A team full of players “outside of their comfort zone” can probably lose to anyone.

  7. Uruguay easier than Peru or Costa Rica? Is Suarez staying home? Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile are all better than two of the pot 1 teams. If we’re not hosting, US is a pot 3 or 4 team. There is no easy ride here. Despite home field advantage, and unless they get lucky with the draw, it’s hard for US to get out of the group.

  8. Typical Franco article. His distaste for the USMNT is so evident, it’s crazy. There is a difference between being objective, and being biased. Venezuela is mediocre at best, Peru has talent but rarely puts it all together, and Paraguay has either old or unproven players. Their best player, Derlis, is unproven and can’t do it on his own. Paraguay’s midfield is mediocre, and their defense is not much better. Makes me wonder if Franco even watches these teams play.

      • That was last year, a lot can change in a year. Example: The Dutch – 3rd place at the 2014 WC, miss out on an expanded Euro 2016 field in 2015.

      • Yeah, but also remember that we beat Peru less than a year ago. I know it was a friendly, but Peru didn’t impress that much and I think they are over rated here. So, I think we should beat any S. American team in that pot. I fear Costa Rica more than Peru.

    • And there is also a difference between someone being biased and someone just disagreeing with you. To put it plainly, just because someone sees it differently than you doesn’t mean that they are biased or hold an agenda.

      The jury is still out on how good or bad this USMNT is. Which team will we see? The good/decent team we saw before the 2014 World Cup, or the horrible team we saw in 2015??

      • Thank you for the lecture, but i’m not basing my opinion solely on this article. Franco typically has an extremely pessimistic attitude towards the USMNT. Hell, every time there is a pre-game prediction involving the US, he chooses the opponent to grab the W.

      • @Francois
        You need to understand the difference between being “negative” and merely offering a fairly accurate, but critical assessment of the state of the USMNT.

        Being a cheerleader, and consequently, overly optimistic about the USMNT’s current form is not helpful. That’s what Klinsmann tends to do, after the squad has played poorly.

        From what I’ve seen on this site, Franco is the only one who consistently offers solid analysis of how and where the US has fallen short. Results over the course of the last year + have proven him right more times than not.

  9. Giving way to much credit to the potential opponents. No matter the draw the US should not finish below 2nd place. They are the home nation first of all so they should be able to beat any of the CONCACAF teams. Any of Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela should also see US favored as the home side. Even if you assume a loss to the Pot 2 CONMEBOL team (which shouldnt be a given as US should be able to hang with those teams) then there’s no reason to get below 4 points, 6 should be attainable.


Leave a Comment