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What to watch for when the 2024 Copa America (with the USMNT) comes to Kansas City

If you’re interested in the 2026 World Cup coming to Kansas City, how about an international soccer appetizer?

The Copa America brings the oldest non-Olympic international soccer tournament stateside from June 20 to July 14.

Like the 2026 World Cup, Kansas City is a host city for Copa America games, hosting two group-stage matches. Canada and Peru will face off on June 25 at Children’s Mercy Park for their second match in Group A. Then, the United States Men’s National Team will host Uruguay at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on July 1 for the final group play match in Group C.

The Copa America has been held regularly since 1916. This edition is the second time the tournament has been held in the United States, following the 2016 Copa America Centenario. This edition of the tournament brings together the 16 best national soccer teams in the Western Hemisphere.

Here’s a preview of each of the teams coming to Kansas City this summer:

Canada | Group A | FIFA World Ranking No. 49

  • First Copa America appearance

  • Coach: Jesse Marsch

Expectations: Canada will make its first Copa America appearance in this tournament and is also coming off its second World Cup appearance in 2022. Getting out of the group stage would be a momentous step forward as the northern nation prepares to host its part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Canada midfielder Alphonso Davies (19) celebrates after scoring a goal against Jamaica in the first half at BMO Field on Nov. 21, 2023.
Canada midfielder Alphonso Davies (19) celebrates after scoring a goal against Jamaica in the first half at BMO Field on Nov. 21, 2023.

Three key players: Alphonso Davies is a global superstar playing at Bayern Munich in Germany, with rumors he’s headed to Real Madrid, soccer’s equivalent to the New York Yankees. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the field. Jonathan David is a do-it-all type of striker with the speed to burn defenses. Canada’s prospects of getting out of the group increase heavily if he’s in form. Ismaël Koné is another talented midfielder who has enjoyed a quick rise. He’s fast, skilled and can put out fires all over the midfield with his workmanlike ability.

Peru | Group A | FIFA World Ranking No. 32

  • Copa America winners: 1939, 1975

  • Coach: Jorge Fossati

Expectations: Peru is nearing a generational turnover, as a significant portion of its international roster is filled with players in their mid-30s. After making the World Cup in 2018 and narrowly missing out on qualification for 2022, this might be the last swan song for Peru’s most recent golden generation.

Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese (1) looks up field during the second half against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2024.
Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese (1) looks up field during the second half against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2024.

Three key players: Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, nicknamed “El Pulpo” or the octopus, is arguably Peru’s best defensive player. Gallese spent the last few years playing in MLS with Orlando City and was one of the league’s best shot-stoppers annually. He’s somewhat eccentric and has a flair for the dramatic. Christian Cueva is a bit of a club journeyman but has been routinely important to Peru’s hopes. He holds the No. 10 jersey for this tournament. Paolo Guerrero is a South American legend. He’s the active leading goalscorer at the Copa America and has still found the back of the net for club and country even as he turned 40 this January.

United States | Group C | FIFA World Ranking No. 11

  • 2016 Copa America semifinalist

  • Coach: Gregg Berhalter

Expectations: Getting out of the group is a bare minimum. For the first time ever, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) fileds a team comprised entirely of players who play their club trade in the top five European leagues. The USMNT talent is starting to come into its collective prime, which means expectations are raised. The bar for success has surpassed just getting out of the group.

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Brazil in the first half during the Continental Clasico at Camping World Stadium on June 12, 2024.
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Brazil in the first half during the Continental Clasico at Camping World Stadium on June 12, 2024.

Key Players: Christian Pulisic scored 15 goals and provided eight assists in his first season with AC Milan, and had the best season of any American attacker. If Pulisic isn’t at his best, the USMNT will struggle in the attack. Tyler Adams brings intensity and bite into the midfield when he’s there, and the USMNT looks better for it. Adams is still returning from injury, so the more he can play for the USMNT, the better. Timothy Weah plays a more attacking role with the USMNT than he does with Juventus. The USMNT needs a secondary option for the attack to flow through, and Weah has the game-changing speed to bring it.

Uruguay | Group C | FIFA World Ranking No. 15

  • 15 time Copa America winners

  • Coach: Marcelo Bielsa

Expectations: Uruguay has been phenomenal in World Cup Qualifying, defeating Argentina and Brazil in the last calendar year. With its pedigree in this tournament, getting out of the group is also a bare minimum. Uruguay is tied with Argentina for the most Copa America championships ever.

Uruguay forward Darwin Gabriel Nunez (9) celebrates after his goal in the first half against Mexico at Empower Field on June 5, 2024.
Uruguay forward Darwin Gabriel Nunez (9) celebrates after his goal in the first half against Mexico at Empower Field on June 5, 2024.

Key Players: While Darwin Nuñez doesn’t finish with consistency at Liverpool, he has done so recently for his country. The minutes load over the days will limit Luis Suarez to super-sub minutes, so Nuñez will be the guy for Uruguay up top. Federico Valverde is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world right now. He’s a workhorse with pace, power and a nose for the spectacular strike from distance. Ronald Araujo has been one of the best center backs in the world with Barcelona and is just as good as the right back for Uruguay. He’s a stabilizing presence defensively and on set pieces.

Daniel Sperry covers soccer for The Star. He can be reached at sperry.danielkc@gmail.com.