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Copa América rankings: Which MLS players are most likely to win? | MLSSoccer.com

Copa América rankings: Which MLS players are most likely to win? | MLSSoccer.com

If you’re an MLS fan hoping to dive head-first into all of this summer’s Copa América action, you won’t be short on entry points.

Between Lionel Messi and Argentina, a trio of MLSers on the US squad, and Canada’s 14 MLS-based players, there are plenty of paths into enjoying the cross-continental tournament.

To help set the stage for Copa América 2024, I’m ranking all 11 competing nations with MLS representation based on who’s most likely to lift the trophy on July 14.

These rankings couldn’t start any other way, could they?

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi and Argentina are the bookmakers’ favorites to win the whole thing. They’re on the easy side of the bracket, opposite of Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia, and have a roster stacked with players who helped claim the 2022 World Cup trophy just 18 months ago.

Messi is the best player at the tournament, Argentina’s midfielders are experts at doing the dirty work, and there’s no shortage of talent in every line of the field. They’re favorites for a reason.

Messi isn’t the only Inter Miami player suiting up for his country this summer. Luis Suárez cracked Marcelo Bielsa’s final Copa América squad and will bring his absurdly skillful mixture of technical precision and off-ball movement to an already stacked attacking group.

Sticking in the forward ranks, LAFC’s Cristian Olivera will be a super-sub option off the bench. The 22-year-old is in the early stages of his international career, but will gather valuable experience over the next few weeks.

They’re stuck on the noticeably more difficult side of the bracket, but the USMNT just showed in their final pre-Copa América friendly that they have the potential to hang around with Brazil.

FC Cincinnati’s Miles Robinson could help by joining as an extra center back late in matches, Nashville SC’s Shaq Moore will serve as Joe Scally’s backup at right back, and Toronto FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson will bring a veteran voice to the locker room.

Placed in a group with a struggling Mexico team, Venezuela and Jamaica, it’s easy to see San Jose’s Carlos Gruezo and Ecuador finishing atop of Group B and making a run to the knockout rounds. If Argentina finish atop of Group A, Ecuador would then enjoy a winnable game against one of Canada, Chile, or Peru.

A semifinal, then, could be in the cards for Ecuador. At that point, anything can happen.

In charge of the nation with the most MLS players at Copa América, new manager Jesse Marsch is still getting to know his Canadian players. That didn’t seem to be an issue in their recent 0-0 draw with France, however.

Watch out for Colorado Rapids center back Moise Bombito, who will add blazing speed to the middle of Marsch’s back four. Also, watch for former CF Montréal starlet Ismaël Koné, who looks ready to take the next step for Watford in England. Oh, and then there’s the little-known Alphonso Davies, who’s one of the five most dangerous attacking threats at this entire tournament.

Canada can cause problems, folks.

The two MLS players in Venezuela’s squad are both defensive midfielders, but it’s hard to think of two more opposite No. 6s.

José Martínez, of the Philadelphia Union, is a hard-nosed destroyer in front of the backline. He’s rangy, aggressive and down to scrap. Dani Pereira, of Austin FC, puts a more tranquil spin on the same role. Playing at the back point of Josh Wolff’s midfield, Pereira distributes where Martínez destroys. He’s precise, clean in tight spots and keeps the ball moving.

If you’re Venezuela, it’s good to have options.

Along with Messi and Suárez, Inter Miami’s Matías Rojas could be a game-changer for his country at Copa América.

Rojas is part of a Paraguayan attacking group that includes former Atlanta United star Miguel Almirón. Rojas’ teammate, Diego Gómez, would likely have been part of coach Daniel Garnero’s squad, if not for a lingering injury.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC‘s all-action defensive midfielder Andrés Cubas and New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel fill out the MLSers for Paraguay.

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake was named to Jamaica’s squad, but reportedly won’t be healthy and available. It does seem, though, like Union center back Damion Lowe will get in on the fun.

Lowe often has more license to roam into the attack for his country than he does for Jim Curtin and will add real physicality to Jamaica’s spine. Seattle Sounders FC center back Jon Bell and Real Salt Lake’s Kevon Lambert, who’s currently on loan with San Antonio FC in the USL Championship, round out the MLS representatives.

Just one year removed from their run to the Gold Cup final, Thomas Christiansen’s Panama team won’t be a pushover in Group C. While they’re unlikely to push past either Uruguay or the United States, a clipped assist from Coco Carrasquilla could change everything for Panama in the same way it’s changed things for the Houston Dynamo this season.

Minnesota United’s Carlos Harvey earns minutes as a rotation piece, but Nashville SC’s Aníbal Godoy misses out after suffering a muscular injury in a pre-tournament friendly.

The weakest Concacaf team entering Copa América and stuck on the tricky side of the bracket, it’s hard to imagine Costa Rica making a run into the knockout stages.

CF Montréal wide player Ariel Lassiter, Minnesota United midfielder Alejandro Bran and Austin FC center back Julio Cascante will do their best to keep Costa Rica in games against Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay in group play.

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