The 2024 Copa America Could Be a Much-Needed Game Changer for the USMNT
Despite the disappointing ending, the USMNT’s run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup is officially over. While there are still some loose ends to tie up, like Gregg Berhalter’s future, it’s time to turn the page and look toward the future. Despite all the “It’s called soccer” talk, the American squad does feature some talented, young players. Now, the question is how they grow, both individually and as a team, to take the next step forward. The 2024 Copa America could be a perfect opportunity for that.
Ordinarily, that statement would create a very real logistical problem. The Copa America is traditionally a tournament for CONMEBOL teams; think of the Euros for South America. The 2024 edition, however, could feature a surprise inclusion: a handful of North American teams, including the United States Men’s National Team.
Let’s break it down.
The 2024 Copa America is rumored to take place in the United States and feature some North American teams
On paper, the 2024 Copa America was supposed to take place in Ecuador. When the tournament actually arrives, though, things will be a bit different.
As Diego Montalvan noted on Twitter, the South American nation has passed on the hosting duties. As of now, it seems the event will head north to the United States. Since that creates a logistic change — the tournament has featured teams from outside CONMEBOL, but it’s primarily a South American event — some additional CONCACAF teams will make the cut.
Montalvan indicated that Canada and Mexico will also take part in the 2024 Copa America. Three additional CONCACAF squads will also make the cut, but it’s unclear who those will be.
The USMNT could reap the rewards of facing tougher competition in the 2024 Copa America
While there are still plenty of logistics to shake out, the 2024 Copa America news seems pretty positive for the USMNT.
At this point, the American squad has a core of young, talented players. That’s great from a potential perspective, but that group needs to grow into a squad capable of pushing beyond the World Cup Round of 16. While some of that can happen at the club level — if someone like Weston McKennie secures a Premier League move and takes a leap forward, one player can win an individual match — the most effective way to chart an upward trajectory is to grow as an entire national team.
That happens by regularly facing a higher level of competition. And while CONCACAF contains some tough tests, like facing Mexico in Estadio Azteca, the federation doesn’t exactly boast the same level of top-end talent as CONMEBOL. If you’re hoping to hang with the likes of Argentina and Brazil, the only way you’ll reach that point is by meeting them head-to-head and learning about what it takes to win. You can’t do that in the Gold Cup.
It’s also worth considering that hosting the 2026 World Cup shifts the USMNT’s focus for the next four years. Under ordinary circumstances, the squad would be focused on punching their ticket to the big dance. With qualification already secured, though, there’s more room to focus on the bigger picture. Getting collectively undressed by Lionel Messi, for example, might sting, but that experience will probably be more helpful than cruising through CONCACAF play.
Playing in the 2024 Copa America will also provide whoever’s in charge of the American squad, whether it’s Berhalter or not, a different sort of laboratory to test out new players and tactics. At the risk of invoking some soccer stereotypes, Brazil and Uruguay play vastly different styles of football. While we’ll have to see how the groups shake out, it will be valuable for both the manager and players to become familiar with different game plans. No matter how much the USMNT grows by 2026, they probably won’t be able to dominate the ball in every situation.
So, if you’re a United States soccer fan, the next four years are going to be something special. Not only will you see both a Copa America and a World Cup on home soil, but the USMNT will have the perfect chance to grow ahead of 2026.