The Copa America always serves as a chance for South America's top teams to make a statement and add some silverware to their trophy cabinet, but for next summer's expanded edition taking place in the U.S., a few more teams will aim to make the opportunity a meaningful one.
For South American heavyweights Argentina and Brazil, the incentive to perform is as obvious as it gets. The former are the reigning champions and followed that up with a World Cup title a year ago, and hope to continue a winning streak at a tournament that could be Lionel Messi's last for his national team. Brazil will eye their first Copa America title since 2019, as well as attempt to put recent struggles behind them. The team is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and a major injury crisis, but could have Carlo Ancelotti in as the new coach by the time play begins.
The U.S. men's national team and Mexico, meanwhile, received a rare invite to showcase their talents on a bigger stage. The Copa America will serve as crucial preparation and a status update of each team ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which the two countries are co-hosting alongside Canada. Both USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and Mexico counterpart Jaime Lozano are under pressure to perform ahead of a World Cup in which big things are expected from the hosts, and a less-than-ideal performance could force both federations to correct course with two years left on the clock.
As the top seeded teams in the tournament, all four teams will like their chances against the other 12 teams in the field and likely aim for at least a semifinal berth. That said, there are a handful of high-quality sides in Pots 2, 3, and 4 that could cause trouble in the group stage and might eye deep runs of their own.Here's a look at the teams in each pot that each of the top seeds will want to avoid. Here's who to keep an eye on ahead of Thursday's draw.
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Pot 2: Uruguay
Since their fourth place finish at the 2010 World Cup and their 2011 Copa America win, it has been an insignificant few years for Uruguay, but a resurgent team is starting to make a name for themselves. They currently sit second in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying and notched wins against Brazil and Argentina in recent months, with Darwin Nunez getting on the scoresheet on both occasions.They are dominant against unmatched opposition but are perfectly fine to play without the ball in bigger matches, and successfully did just that in their 2-0 wins over Argentina and Brazil. Uruguay is also full of players who play for some of Europe's top clubs -- their midfield options alone include Real Madrid's Federico Valverde, Paris Saint-Germain's Manuel Ugarte, and Tottenham Hotspur's Rodrigo Bentancur.If there's any dark horse candidate to make a deep run at the Copa America, it's Uruguay, but the title "dark horse" might also undersell their attributes a little bit
Pot 3: Venezuela
The teams in Pot 3 are fairly evenly matched, but do not sleep on Venezuela. The team has quietly enjoyed a solid start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying this fall -- they currently sit fourth with nine points after six games, including a commanding 3-0 win over Chile and 1-1 draw against Brazil.Having the lion's share of possession is not a requirement for Venezuela, nor do they generate a high shot volume but they have found a way to perform in various circumstances in recent months. They also spread out the goalscoring responsibilities -- former Everton forward Salomon Rondon leads their goalscoring charts in World Cup qualifying, but he has just two of the team's six goals so far.
Pot 4: Jamaica
While the last two members of this pot have to go through the qualifying playoff first, Jamaica has already booked their spot at the Copa America and has long boasted a reputation of playing spoiler in North America. They most recently continued the trend last month, when they overcame a 2-1 deficit in the first leg to advance to the Concacaf Nations League semifinals over Canada.Clermont forward Shamar Nicholson scored twice during that tie, while the Reggae Boyz also count Aston Villa attacker Leon Bailly and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake as members of a team that can make a dent in an opponent's plans on any given day.
There might be another tricky team in this pot once all is settled, though. Canada is one of four teams that will play in the qualifying playoff, and though they have faltered since finishing atop the World Cup qualifying table ahead of the 2022 tournament and are under new management, they pose their own threats, chiefly through Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies.