Copa América 2024 preview: contenders, dark horses, breakout stars and more!

The world’s oldest international football tournament, the Copa América, kicks off Thursday in Atlanta. Founded in 1916, the tournament is generally held every four years for South American nations with occasional guests from other continents. Hosted by the United States, the 2024 edition combines both North and South America as part of the Concacaf and Conmebol’s new strategic partnership.

The tournament includes all 10 of Conmebol’s nations and six Concacaf nations qualifying through the Nations League. Copa América will be hosted by 14 stadiums across the United States, with Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia hosting the opening game. The final will be held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Shop MLS Jerseys at MLSStore.com

Ben Wright and Valair Shabilla break down all 16 teams, previewing the group stages, predicting starting XIs for each team, and picking which teams will advance to the quarterfinals. After you’re done reading, make your picks in our Copa América 2024 Predictor Challenge to compete with over 400 readers to pick the perfect bracket.

Format

Copa América 2024 will have four groups with four teams each. After round robin play, the top two teams from each group will qualify to the quarterfinal. The knockout stage will be single elimination with the winner advancing and the loser exiting the tournament.


Group A

ARGENTINA 🇦🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 1)

The outlook: Argentina are the defending Copa América champions, 2022 World Cup champions and they have Lionel Messi. If you haven’t figured it out yet, they are the number one favorites to win this tournament.

Interim-manager-turned-national-hero Lionel Scaloni, has a lot of roster decisions to make and he’s under immense pressure. Despite winning two international tournaments back to back, the expectation in Argentina is to win again.

Other than Messi, the squad is full of talented individuals playing at the highest level. However, Argentina have shown some vulnerabilities, especially in defense. At times they’ve struggled defensively and to keep leads, a good example of that being the 2022 World Cup final. It’s hard, though, not to feel that this is their tournament to lose.

Key players: Emiliano Martinez (goalkeeper, Aston Villa), Enzo Fernández (midfielder, Chelsea), Alexis Mac Allister (midfielder, Liverpool), Julián Álvarez (forward, Manchester City), Lionel Messi (forward, Inter Miami)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Martinez, Acuna; De Paul, Mac Allister, Fernandez; Alvarez, Di Maria, Messi

Predicted group finish: 1st

Odds to win Copa América: +175

CHILE 🇨🇱 (FIFA Ranking: 42)

The outlook: Like Peru, Chile also went through a managerial change before the tournament. After a disappointing start to their World Cup qualifying campaign in January of this year, Chile appointed Ricardo Gareca as manager. Chile are hoping to use his experience and impressive resume in South America to get back to their glory days of the mid 2010s.

Some members of Chile’s “golden generation” who won back-to-back Copa América trophies in 2015 and 2016 still play an important part in this squad. While their experience is invaluable, their age is certainly starting to show on the pitch.

Gareca has already started to move away from the aging group – midfielders Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel were not included in the tournament’s squad – all while trying to integrate younger players like Dario Osorio and Marcelino Nunez into the squad.

Key players: Claudio Bravo (goalkeeper, Real Betis), Mauricio Isla (defender, Independiente), Alexis Sanchez (Forward, Inter Milan), Dario Osorio (forward, Midtjylland), Eduardo Vargas (forward, Atletico MG)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Isla, Catalan, Lichnovsky, Suazo; Nunez, Pulgar; Osario, Sanchez, Davilla; Vargas

Predicted group finish: 2nd

Odds to win Copa América: +3300

CANADA 🇨🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 49)

The outlook: New managers seem to be a theme in this group, and Canada have the newest manager of them all. Jesse Marsch was appointed just last month to lead the Canadians in their Copa América debut.

Unlike Peru and Chile, Canada have a core of young players whose best years seem to be ahead of them. Though they are the lowest ranked team in this group, the Canucks are hungry and want to make a name for themselves in world soccer.

Marsch is a product of the Red Bulls system, Canada are expected to be energetic, physical and press teams relentlessly. Handing Alphonso Davies the captaincy was an added sign of their movement towards youth, and they won’t be a pushover in 2024.

Key players: Alistair Johnston (defender, Celtic), Alphonso Davies (defender, Bayern Munich), Tajon Buchanan (midfielder, Inter Milan), Ismael Kone (midfielder, Watford), Jonathan David (forward, Lille)

Predicted XI (4-4-2): Crepeau; Johnston, Bombito, Cornelius, Davies; Buchanan, Kone, Estaquio, Miller, David, Larin

Predicted group finish: 3rd

Odds to win Copa América: +8000

PERU 🇵🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 32)

The outlook: Peru are dead last in the Conmebol World Cup qualifications. Times are grim for La Blanquirroja, with an aging squad, no true stars and morale at an all-time low. That said, things seem to be on an upward trajectory since hiring Uruguayan manager Jorge Fossati.

Under Fossati, Peru have yet to lose a match, they have three wins and a draw. Though all the matches were friendlies and their wins came against inferior opestion, Fossati has restored hope that was otherwise lost.

Key players: Pedro Gallese (goalkeeper, Orlando City), Marcos Lopez (midfielder, Feyenoord), Luis Advincula (midfielder, Boca Juniors), Gianluca Lapadula (forward, Cagliari), José Paolo Guerrero (forward, Universidad Cesar Vallejo) 

Predicted XI (3-5-2): Gallese; Araujo, Zambrano, Abram; Advincula, Pena, Cartagena, Quispe, Lopez; Lapadula, Guerrero

Predicted group finish: 4th

Odds to win Copa América: +6600


Group B

ECUADOR 🇪🇨 (FIFA Ranking: 31)

The outlook: This Ecuador team is sneakily talented, and on track for a spot in the 2026 World Cup (they’re currently fifth in Conmebol, and would be in fourth if it weren’t for their deducted points from the prior cycle).

Three players from the Belgian top flight, five from Brazil, two from the Bundesliga, and two from England make up a really strong roster. Enner Valencia is a serial goalscorer at the international level. Jeremy Sarmiento is a candidate for breakout player of the year after helping Ipswich Town earn promotion to the Premier League. Moisés Caicedo is one of the more exciting young midfielders in the Premier League.

None, though, are as exciting as Kendry Páez. The 17-year-old not only wears the No. 10 shirt for Ecuador, but runs the attack from the No. 10 role. He made his international debut in September, becoming the second youngest South American to ever appear at the international level, behind only Diego Maradona. He’s already signed a deal with Chelsea that will see him move to England once he turns 18. He’s one of the most exciting young talents in international soccer, and could be set for a breakout. 

Against a Mexico side on the downswing and two relatively unstable teams in Venezuela and Jamaica, this feels like Ecuador’s group to lose.

Key players: Alexander Domínguez (goalkeeper, LDU Quito), Piero Hincapié (defender, Bayer Leverkusen), Willian Pacho (defender, Eintracht Frankfurt), Kendry Páez (midfielder, Independiente del Valle), Enner Valencia (forward, Internacional), Jeremy Sarmiento (midfielder, Brighton & Hove Albion), Moisés Caicedo (midfielder, Chelsea)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Domínguez; Hincapié, Pacho, Torres, Preciado; Franco, M.Caicedo; Yeboah, Páez, Sarmiento; Valencia

Predicted group finish: 1st

Odds to win Copa América: +1600

VENEZUELA 🇻🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 54)

The outlook: Venezuela are currently in fourth in Conmebol World Cup qualifying, with nine points from their first six matches. Manager Fernando Batista took over in 2023, and he’s made this side much more defensive-focused. They’ve switched to a back three, utilizing their impressive depth at center back, and it’s worked – they’ve allowed just three goals in World Cup qualifying so far.

Salomón Rondón is still the focal point of the team. The 34-year-old Pachuca striker is Venezuela’s all-time leading scorer, but has been pushed a bit by former Nashville SC striker Jhonder Cádiz, who’s excellent form in Portugal has moved him up the depth chart.

Venezuela have an exciting mix of veteran leadership and young emerging talent. They should feel good about their chances to advance.

Key players: Jon Aramburu (defender, Real Sociedad), Yangel Herrera (midfielder, Girona), Tomás Rincón (midfielder, Santos), Darwin Machís (forward, Cádiz), Salmón Rondón (forward, Pachuca)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Romo; Ferrareso, Ángel, Osorio; Navarro, Herrera, Rincón, Aramburu; Machís, Rondón, Savarino

Predicted group finish: 2nd

Odds to win Copa América: +10000

MEXICO 🇲🇽 (FIFA Ranking: 14)

The outlook: This is a Mexico in the midst of change, much of it forced. Long time core players like Guillermo Ochoa, Héctor Herrera, Chuky Lozano, Henry Martín and Raúl Jiménez have been left out of the squad as Mexico tries to get younger. 

The result is an inexperienced and struggling squad with no real leaders, a struggling attack, and a string of bad results. They head into Copa América with three losses in their last four, including a Nations League final loss to the United States and an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Uruguay in a pre-tournament friendly. Manager Jaime Lozano was never the most popular choice to lead El Tri (is any manager, really?), but heads into the tournament under a tremendous amount of pressure. 

In a group that could prove to be quite tricky, Mexico badly need a confidence-inducing display in their last real competitive matches before their turn to host the World Cup in 2026. There’s not a team in this group that Mexico are clearly ahead of. Things seem primed to go quite poorly, and I’m predicting a third-place finish and a chaotic exit, with their sole win coming over Jamaica.

Key players: Edson Álvarez (midfielder, West Ham United), Luis Romo (midfielder, Monterrey), Santiago Jiménez (forward, Feyenoord), Uriel Antuna (winger, Cruz Azul), Luis Chávez (midfielder, Dynamo Moscow)

Predicted XI (4-3-3):  González; Arteaga, Vásquez, Álvarez, Sánchez; Chávez, Romo, Rodríguez; Quiñones, Giménez, Antuna

Predicted group finish: 3rd

Odds to win Copa América: +1200

JAMAICA 🇯🇲 (FIFA Ranking: 55)

The outlook: Did you know that Jamaica is the only country that currently doesn’t have red, white or blue on their flag? Now you do. #themoreyouknow

This Jamaica team and federation comes into the tournament in a bit of turmoil. Several of the England-based players have publicly complained about the lack of professionalism and accommodations from the federation. Leon Bailey, their best player, is the most public. He was banned from their March qualifiers after breaking curfew, and then publicly called out the federation on the Let’s Be Honest podcast.

“They’re very unprofessional. You get your flight details sent to you at 11 pm for a flight the next day. The Jamaica national team doesn’t pay you. At all. I don’t remember the last time I received a dollar from the Jamaica national team. All of this time, coming with the national team is very unprofessional.”

So, Bailey publicly said he would decline a call up. Jamaica named him to their squad anyway. Head coach Heimar Hallgrímson also named Damion Lowe and Andre Blake to the squad, despite knowing that both are injured and won’t be able to play.

It’s an interesting tactic. Let’s see if it pays off for them.

Key players: Michael Hector (defender, Charlton Athletic), Ethan Pinnock (defender, Brentford), Michail Antonio (forward, West Ham United), Bobby Decordova-Reid (midfielder, Fulham), Shamar Nicholson (forward, Clermont)

Predicted XI (5-3-2): Davis; A.Bell, Pinnock, Hector, Bernard, Lembikisa; Cephas, Palmer, Decordova-Reid; Nicholson, Antonio

Predicted group finish: 4th

Odds to win Copa América: +20000


Group C

URUGUAY 🇺🇾 (FIFA Ranking: 15)

The outlook: Uruguay are completely flying under legendary manager Marcelo Bielsa. They’ve won the  World Cup twice and Copa América 15 times. It’s even more impressive when you consider their 3.4 million population, which is less than half of Tennessee’s population.

Thanks to recent wins over Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay are second in the Conmebol World Cup qualifiers. With a squad balanced full of both experience and young talents, Uruguay enters the tournament as one of the favorites. 

Key players: Ronald Araujo (defender, Barcelona), Rodrigo Bentancur (midfielder, Tottenham), Federico Valverde (midfielder, Real Madrid), Darwin Nunez (forward, Liverpool), Luiz Suarez (forward, Inter Miami)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Rochet; Araujo, Gimenez, Caceres, Vina; Centancur, Valverde; Pellestri, de la Cru, Rodriguez; Nunez 

Predicted group finish: 1st

Odds to win Copa América: +500

UNITED STATES 🇺🇸 (FIFA Ranking: 11)

The outlook: Hope, drama and divided opinions sum up Gregg Berhalter’s United States reign. The Americans have lately dominated Concacaf and their southern neighbors Mexico. However, that no longer seems sufficient to keep fans happy.

Many believe that this is the most talented US squad in history, but until they achieve further success, the doubts will continue to grow. Copa América on home soil looks to be the perfect opportunity for this young squad to rid those doubts and prove their quality.

After an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Colombia, the US earned a 1-1 draw against Brazil. There’s no telling which version of the US will appear in Copa América.

With the World Cup coming to the States in 2026, this is the USMNT’s last chance at competitive matches before the biggest moment the sport has seen in this country. A deep run will build optimism, but failure will raise even more questions heading towards the World Cup.

Key players: Matt Turner (goalkeeper, Nottingham Forest), Weston McKennie (midfielder, Juventus), Tyler Adams (midfielder, Bournemouth), Yunus Musah (midfielder, AC Milan), Christian Pulisic (forward, AC Milan)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Turner; Scally, Richards, Ream, Robinson; McKennie, Adams, Musah; Weah, Pulisic, Balogun

Predicted group finish: 2nd

Odds to win Copa América: +1200

PANAMA 🇵🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 45)

The outlook: Panama enter Copa América as one of the weaker sides in the tournament. However, they have impressed lately under manager Thomas Christiansen, finishing as runner-ups in the 2023 Gold Cup and fourth place in the 2023/24 Nations League.

Their mild success in Concacaf doesn’t generally translate outside of the confederation. But while Panama may lack the superstars, they play with heart and will have a good amount of supporters throughout the tournament. They’re a nation that consistently punches above their weight, and will look to do it again in tournament play.

Key players: Jose Córdoba (defender, Norwich City), Michael Murillo (defender, Marseille), Aníbal Godoy (midfielder, Nashville SC), Alberto “Coco” Carrasquilla (midfielder, Houston Dynamo), Jose Luis Rodríguez (forward, Famalicão)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Mosquera; Farina, Cordoba, Miller; Murillo, Godoy Carrasquilla, Barcenas; Fajardo, Diaz, Rodriguez

Predicted group finish: 3rd

Odds to win Copa América: +50000

BOLIVIA 🇧🇴 (FIFA Ranking: 85)

The outlook: If Panama are one of the weaker sides of the tournament, then Bolivia is the weakest on paper. While there’s some success in Bolivia’s soccer history, you’d have to go 25 years or longer to find it.

Bolivia are generally the lowest ranked South American team and their results prove that. If they can somehow find a couple of good results or make the knockout round, it would be a major achievement. 

Key players: Guillermo Viscarra (goalkeeper, The Strongest), Leonel Justiniano (midfielder, Bolivar), Romiro Vaca (midfielder, Bolivar), Fernando Saucedo (midfielder, Bolivar), Miguel Terceros (forward, Santos)

Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Viscarra; Medin, Jusio, Segredo, Suarez; Justiniano; Caellar, Saucedo, Vaca, Terceros, Algaranaz

Predicted group finish: 4th

Odds to win Copa América: +12500


Group D

COLOMBIA 🇨🇴 (FIFA Ranking: 12)

The outlook: Colombia head into the tournament in exceptional form. They’ve won their last seven, including a qualifying win over Brazil and friendly wins over Spain and the United States. They haven’t lost in their last 22, with their last defeat coming away to Argentina in World Cup qualifying back in February 2022. This team is really, really sound.

Argentine manager Néstor Lorenzo took over in the summer of 2022, and his tenure has coincided with Colombia’s resurgent form. He’s been able to revitalize James Rodríguez, who is towards the latter stages of his career, but is still the maestro of this attack. Liverpool winger Luis Díaz will look to defend his Golden Boot title from last Copa América, and their stout defense gives them a strong foundation.

Colombia will surprise a lot of people at this tournament, but if you’ve been paying attention to them over the last two years, you should see it coming.

Key players: Camilo Vargas (goalkeeper, Atlas), Jhon Lucumí (defender, Bologna), Luis Díaz (winger, Liverpool), James Rodríguez (midfielder, São Paulo), Jefferson Lerma (midfielder, Crystal Palace), Davinson Sánchez (defender, Galatasaray)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Vargas; Mojica, Sánchez, Lucumí, Muñoz; Lerma, Uribe; Luis Díaz, Rodríguez, Arias; Santos Borré

Predicted group finish: 1st

Odds to win Copa América: +1200

BRAZIL 🇧🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 5)

The outlook: Argentina are the favorites. Brazil are close second. It’s impossible to look at their squad and think they’ll make a run all the way to the final. I mean… this is Brazil we’re talking about!

There are some concerns, though. As good as they’ve been in recent friendlies, their competitive record has been shocking lately. They’ve taken just seven points from their first six World Cup qualifiers, and are in sixth place in Conmebol.

They have a much more gritty edge than past Brazil sides, perhaps at the expense of the traditional flair that has made them such an iconic side in world football. Bruno Guimarães, Lucas Paquetá, Douglas Luiz and João Gomes make this a hard-nosed midfield, and even their star Vinicis Junior is more direct than past superstars, albeit with an expected penchant for flair.

17-year-old forward Endrick is the most exciting part of the team. The young striker broke out at Palmeiras, but will join Real Madrid once the tournament is over, and has already scored three goals in his six international appearances. He genuinely seems like one of the next global superstars, and has all the physical characteristics you’d expect from a Brazilian No. 9. 

Despite all the stars in this team, Brazil feel more beatable than ever. Their defense is shaky, with several players just returning from injury or towards the end of their careers at the top level, and there’s not a proven goalscorer leading the line. They drew against the United States and needed a 96th minute goal to beat Mexico. They have a lot to prove in this tournament.

Key players: Alisson (goalkeeper, Liverpool), Danilo (fullback, Juventus), Édér Militão (defender, Real Madrid), Bruno Guimarães (midfielder, Newcastle United), Vinicíus Júnior (winger, Real Madrid), Luquas Paquetá (midfielder, West Ham United), Enrick (forward, Palmeiras), Rodrygo (forward, Real Madrid), Raphinha (winger, Barcelona), João Gomes (midfielder, Wolverhampton Wanderers), Gabriel Martinelli (forward, Arsenal)

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Alisson, Wendell, Militão, Marquinhos, Danilo; Paquetá, Guimarães, Gomes; Vinícius Jr., Rodrygo, Raphinha

Predicted group finish: 2nd

Odds to win Copa América: +225

PARAGUAY 🇵🇾 (FIFA Ranking: 56)

The outlook: Argentine manager Daniel Garnero took over in 2023 and isn’t an especially popular figure in Paraguay. They’ve won just once since he took charge, a home World Cup qualifier against Bolivia. They’ve only scored three goals in their last seven matches, and they play a very reactive style, preferring to set up against the ball rather than controlling it.

There are some intriguing names in this squad, such as Miguel Almirón, Julio Enciso, and Ramón Sosa. However, Paraguay don’t have a reliable option at the No. 9 position, and their defense has grown consistently shaky. It’s hard to see them posing any real threat to Brazil or Colombia.

Key players: Carlos Coronel (goalkeeper, New York Red Bulls), Omar Alderete (defender, Getafe), Miguel Almirón (midfielder, Newcastle United), Andrés Cubas (midfielder, Vancouver Whitecaps), Gustavo Gómez (defender, Palmeiras), Matías Rojas (midfielder, Inter Miami), Julio Enciso (midfielder, Brighton & Hove Albion), Ramón Sosa (midfielder, Talleres)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Coronel; Alonso, Gómez, Alderete, Velázquez; Cubas, Villasanti; Rojas, Enciso, Almirón; Bereiro

Predicted group finish: 3rd

Odds to win Copa América: +6600

COSTA RICA 🇨🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 52)

The outlook: There’s been a concerted move towards youth since Argentine manager Gustavo Alfaro took over in 2023, and as a result this side is in a bit of a generational shift. Keylor Navas, the most successful player in Concacaf history, has retired, though, closing the door on the most successful period for this team. 

There is more young talent to be excited about than the Ticos have had in quite a while. Nottingham Forest midfielder Brandon Aguilera broke out on loan this season and forward Manfred Ugalde has been a moderately successful No. 9 in the middle tiers of Europe. Young players like Andy Rojas, Warren Madrigal and Josimar Alcócer are just breaking into the national team, and have potential to be key players down the road. It feels like this tournament has come maybe a cycle too early, and they should use this as a building block for success in the 2026 World Cup.

Key players: Juan Pablo Vargas (defender, Milionarios), Julio Cascante (defender, Austin FC), Manfred Ugalde (forward, Spartak Moscow), Brandon Aguilera (midfielder, Nottingham Forest), Ariel Lassiter (midfielder, CF Montréal), Fransisco Calvo (defender, Juárez), Kenneth Vargas (forward, Heart of Midlothian)

Predicted XI (3-4-3): Sequeria; Calvo, Cascante, Mitchell; Lassiter, Galo, Aguilera, Quirós; Zamora, Ugalde, Madrigal

Predicted group finish: 4th

Odds to win Copa América: +15000


Broadway Sports Media predicts

Chris Ivey

Semifinalists: United States🇺🇸 vs Brazil🇧🇷, Argentina🇦🇷 vs Ecuador🇪🇨
Winner: Argentina🇦🇷
Dark horse: Ecuador🇪🇨
Golden Boot: Lionel Messi🇦🇷
Breakout player: Jeremy Sarmiento🇪🇨

Valair Shabilla

Semifinalists: Uruguay🇺🇾 vs United States🇺🇸, Argentina🇦🇷 vs Ecuador🇪🇨
Winner: Argentina🇦🇷
Dark horse: United States🇺🇸
Golden Boot: Lionel Messi🇦🇷
Breakout player: Facundo Pellistri🇺🇾

Ronan Briscoe

Semifinalists: Brazil🇧🇷 vs Uruguay🇺🇾, Argentina🇦🇷 vs Chile🇨🇱
Winner: Argentina🇦🇷
Dark horse: Uruguay🇺🇾
Golden Boot: Julian Álvarez🇦🇷
Breakout player: Endrick🇧🇷

Jeff Remlinger

Semifinalists: Brazil🇧🇷 vs Colombia🇨🇴, Argentina🇦🇷 vs Chile🇨🇱
Winner: Brazil🇧🇷
Dark horse: Colombia🇨🇴
Golden Boot: Darwin Nuñez🇺🇾
Breakout player: Endrick🇧🇷

Ben Wright

Semifinalists: Colombia🇨🇴 vs United States🇺🇸, Argentina🇦🇷 vs Ecuador🇪🇨
Winner: Argentina🇦🇷
Dark horse: Ecuador🇪🇨
Golden Boot: Enner Valencia 🇪🇨
Breakout player: Kendry Páez🇪🇨

How to watch

Similarly to Euro 2024, FOX has the English rights to Copa América 2024, with Univision and TUDN showing matches in Spanish. However, all matches will be broadcast on FOX, FS1 or FS2, with none shown exclusively on FUBO as has been the case with the Euros.

Predictor challenge

Make your own picks in our FotMob Predictor challenge. Sign up for our Euro 2024 and Copa América groups here!

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

Leave a Reply