As of today, the betting odds have the US as the sixth favorite (+1400) to win the Copa America out of the 16 teams competing this summer. While we’re clearly a level below the main contenders, it also appears we’re just outside of darkhorse territory too. It would seem that the US has an uphill battle to win the tournament this summer, even on home soil.

Argentina (+175) and Brazil (+200) are the clear favorites this summer, with Uruguay as the dark horse contender (+600). The next few teams, Colombia, Mexico, and the US, are all at similar odds. 

Let’s run through the key factors to assess if the US really has a chance to compete for the Copa America title this summer. Or if the expectation should be making it to the knockout rounds, without suffering too heavy of a defeat to one of the favorites.

Home Field Advantage?

For most countries, home field is a huge advantage. And the US participating, yet alone hosting, the Copa America is a pretty rare occasion. Typically this event takes place in South America and is limited to South American teams, with the exception of a couple of invitees outside of the continent to make up the numbers. 

This year the US is hosting, as it did in 2016, and the field includes North American teams as well. While this brings more attention and revenue into the tournament, does the home field advantage really help the US?

Historically it has. In the 2016 tournament, the US team made it to the semifinals. Although that team didn’t get an upset win that year, they beat who they were expected to beat to make it to the semifinals, losing to a much superior Argentina squad (boasting Messi around his peak). 

We can also point to the World Cup in 1994 as a key data point to assess home field advantage. Although the US team at the time was not expected to advance, they were able to pull off a key upset against Colombia to take them to the second round against the odds. They lost the second round game 1-0 to a superior Brazil squad who ended up taking home the trophy that year. 

US soccer has grown quite a bit since then, and the fan base has expanded and become more knowledgeable in this time. We’ve organized a vocal cheering section for each game, Sam’s Army, that has fueled numerous key results at various locations across the US, including many “dos a cero” games (games that we’ve won 2-0) against our fierce rivals Mexico.

So yes, we should have a decent home field advantage. The fans are excited to see us compete in a high-profile international tournament against some of the world’s best players. 

But it’s not a clear home field advantage. A game against Mexico, Brazil, or Argentina would not feel like a pure home game. The away teams would have a significant amount of fans (and even some US fans would probably be sporting Messi jerseys), giving any venue a more neutral feel. Since we’ll have to beat one of these teams to win it, home field will not give us as big of an advantage as we might hope.

Form of Key Players

The form of your best players is always a huge factor going into any international tournament. While the US doesn’t have any players that you would call undoubtedly “world class”, we have a deeper talent pool than ever of very high quality players. But the form of our key players has been a mixed bag.

The Good

Christian Pulisic, arguably our best player, is having one of the best seasons of his career at AC Milan. As of this article, he has 16 goals and 9 assists this season, playing mostly out of position at right attacking midfield (he’s better on the left or through the middle). Statistically it’s been his most productive season as a professional. He’s also avoided serious injuries (knock on wood!) that have plagued his past few seasons.

Weston McKennie is putting together a solid season at midfield for Juventus as a consistent starter. He has tallyed 7 assists so far to complement his industrious all-around play. 

Antonee Robinson has taken his play to another level, arguably competing for the Premier League’s best left back this season at Fulham. He has also contributed 6 assists this season.

Chris Richards has carved out a starting spot at center back for mid-table Crystal Palace in the Premier League, while Josh Sargent and Haji Wright have put up very solid scoring numbers in the second-tier Championship in England (still a very strong league).

The Bad

While a few of our key players have hit their stride at the right time, others have found themselves on the bench or with less playing time than expected.

After the World Cup saga, Gio Reyna has had an up and down time at club level. He was showing glimpses of brilliance at Borussia Dortmund, but he’s rarely had a good chance to get a consistent run in the team. His loan move to Nottingham Forest has not really worked out either, as he has not seen consistent playing time.

Even though an out of form Reyna still gets in our best 11 and has performed excellently when called upon, we’d all prefer if one of our most talented players had some rhythm at club level to bring into the tournament this summer. 

Although they’re having ok seasons, Tim Weah has been in and out of the team at Juventus, as has Yunus Musah at AC Milan. Neither has really taken a big leap after key moves to big clubs this past summer. Not the worst situations given their age and club profiles – it can take time to adjust – but they won’t have great form coming into the Copa America this summer.

Our normal starting number 9 Folarin Balogun has run hot and cold at Monaco this season. Ricardo Pepi has produced goals in his role off the bench for club team PSV, but hasn’t gotten into the starting lineup much. 

The goalkeeper situation, traditionally a position of strength, isn’t looking great. Matt Turner has been benched at Nottingham Forest after some mistake-laden performances. No one else has really stood out enough to take his spot, so we’ll be relying on Turner to regain his World Cup form on the back of very little action. 

The Injured

As for the injury situation, unfortunately Sergino Dest is set to miss the tournament through injury. Captain Tyler Adams has been in and out of his club team’s lineup recently due to some setbacks after a long-term injury, so his inclusion is in jeopardy. Even if he does play, he may struggle for match fitness and rhythm.  

We may need some relatively untested players at this level (likely Joe Scally at right back and Johnny Cardoso at defensive midfield) to step up if we are to have any chance of making a deep run. We’ll also need some guys to turn it up a notch from their club seasons. 


The biggest question mark. While Gregg Berhalter has overseen a decent period for the national team, we haven’t produced any signature wins (more on that below) except against Mexico. 

He doesn’t have any pedigree of winning as a coach, other than a few good seasons in the MLS (no trophies, however). And although the players seem to like him, the Gio Reyna incident doesn’t reflect well on his man management. Fortunately, it looks like everyone has put that ugly situation behind them.

Berhalter has mostly reached the level expected given the talent of this program, but the questions about making the whole better than its parts still persist. 

Can we overperform our talent level? Does he have the tactical nous to outfox a superior team? Can he motivate this group to break the glass ceiling against truly elite opponents? We will have to if we want to give ourselves any chance of making a deep run this summer. So far, he hasn’t proven he can, as the match against Holland in the last World Cup really laid bare these shortcomings.

My main gripe is that we play a little too relaxed and loose against the top sides. It seems that we feel like we are too talented to scrap it out like US teams of the past, but not talented enough to outplay the best teams. We still need a little of that dog in us. This deficiency falls squarely on the coach.

At home in a major tournament – he’ll never have better circumstances to prove his doubters wrong. I hope he does.

Talent Level

The quality and depth of the program has never been stronger. But we are still a notch below teams like Argentina and Brazil, and we lack the 1-2 world class players that Colombia and Uruguay boast. 

Even our best players probably wouldn’t get into a combined 11 with either Argentina or Brazil, and you could argue only a couple would contest for a combined 11 with Uruguay. Otherwise we generally boast more talent than the rest of the field. 

That doesn’t mean our best players can’t step up and outplay their counterparts from these elite squads. We have enough talent to do that. But historic performances over the last couple of years show that our players are not quite at the very top level. Hopefully this can change before the World Cup in 2026, as it will keep us firmly as underdogs

Lack of a signature win

We’ve touched on this point, so we’ll keep it short here. The US hasn’t won a game it wasn’t supposed to (outside of Mexico) since Berhalter has been in charge. 

We’ve had some chances too. Holland and England in World Cup 2022. Germany in a home friendly. We have not pulled off an upset yet.

Will this glass ceiling affect the players? It seems like a confident bunch, with plenty of individuals who perform at the highest level on a weekly basis. But the doubt will linger until they can pull off an upset. 

Can Berhalter instill the mental toughness, scrappiness, and tactical discipline necessary to beat a Brazil or an Argentina? We’ll have an early test against a favored Uruguay side in group play. Not only would the winner likely avoid Brazil in the second round, but it would also instill a boost of confidence if the US can get a result. 

The Draw

The US (# 11 in the latest FIFA rankings) didn’t get a bad draw. Our group has Uruguay (#15), Panama (#45), and Bolivia (#85). The top two teams advance. If we don’t get out of our group, it would be a major disappointment. 

The game against Uruguay is key. Although we have the higher ranking, they are the better team on paper. They have a great mix of experience, a few players contributing at the best clubs in the world (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, PSG), and a historical pedigree matched by few other nations (2 World Cups, 15 Copa Americas). 

The winner of our group will face the second place team from the group containing Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, and Costa Rica (with our second place team facing their group winner). Obviously avoiding Brazil would be an ideal outcome, which will likely require winning the group. 

Either way, to win it all you can’t avoid either Brazil or Argentina, or whatever team took them down. But facing those teams later will hopefully give us more momentum as we get deeper in the tournament.


I’d love to say the US has a good chance to win the Copa America this summer, but it would require at least two signature wins against superior opposition. We have yet to prove we can do this. 

Playing at home is an advantage, although this will be somewhat mitigated against certain teams that will bring a large and vocal fanbase.

Advancing out of the group is the bare minimum. A semi-final appearance with one signature win would be great. Getting to the final seems like a stretch but is within the realm of possibility. And once you get there anything can happen…

Realistically, the odds makers might be right on the money. I’d say home field gets us an upset. After that, we get to the semi-finals, where we bow out to Brazil after a hard-fought match. 

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