The UP 2024 Copa America Preview, Pt. 4: Can the USMNT Shock the World?

Rounding out our four-part 2024 Copa America preview, we take a look at the United States, who aren’t quite top contenders, but have an outside shot at making a deep run in the tournament. 

The time for talking is over. We’ve all heard the questions about the United States men’s national team many times before: “Is Gregg Berhalter the right man to lead the team?” “How will the team look against competition outside of CONCACAF?” “When will this ‘golden generation’ fully reach its peak form?”

All of these points and possibly more will finally be answered in the 2024 Copa America.

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The 2024 Copa America ups the playing field for a program that pundits and YouTube vloggers alike have fancied as a team and nation on the rise. The USMNT will have in front of it a huge chance to finally say to the world, “We are different, we are a golden generation.”

For Berhalter, the much maligned American manager, a good Copa America will silence his harshest critics once and for all, and for the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, and Ricardo Pepi, it could make them household names to the rest of the world.

Make no mistake about it, the USMNT, who by the Copa America will be two years away from hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, needs a tournament of the ages to have its breakout party and once and for all be the team of today and not an imaginary team of the future.

The USMNT Vibes Entering Copa America

The USMNT will enter Copa America fresh off of defeating Mexico, yet again, in the CONCACAF Nations League final, the team’s third straight crown in the competition. The program will also get a chance to present a squad made up entirely by players on European clubs.

Players not only playing in Europe, but being significant contributors for some very important clubs including Juventus, AC Milan, PSV, and Real Betis.

The national team will also enter Copa America with a lot of Jekyll-and-Hyde performances. A lack of consistency has been American soccer’s Achilles’ heel, and Berhalter’s side has mixed in some good with a lot of bad.

Gregg Berhalter’s Chance

gregg berhalter usmnt

Berhalter invokes a lot of mixed emotions from the USMNT faithful. A stubborn tactician, the manager is often overwhelmed when his original game plan does not work out, and in many instances must change his game plan dramatically.

Under Berhalter, the U.S. Soccer Federation has been sold a kind of “trust the process” era, yet Berhalter has never delivered a style of soccer in his system that indicates the USMNT should play fluid, attacking, and pretty soccer.

For the exception of a handful of games, Berhalter’s U.S. side has often played sleepy, incoherent, and uninspiring soccer. Although it must be said, its best version was visible in flashes during the 2022 World Cup, where the youthful team as a whole was alert, fluid, and attacking, before being eliminated by a more mature and frankly better Netherlands side in the round of 16.

Despite all his issues, and the fallout of Reyna-gate, Berhalter can claim to be the USMNT’s all-time winningest manager when it comes to titles, as he is tied with three along with Bruce Arena. Two Nations Leagues and one Gold Cup, and a two-stint record that is a combined 43-14-12, Berhalter on paper has a pretty sterling CV. He’s built a bridge with the U.S. national team program, from being in his players’ ears constantly to doing a magnificent job on recruiting dual nationals.

With questions if Berhalter’s era is up, all indications presented seem to be that he is the man to lead the USMNT in 2026. Barring a monumental catastrophe, Berhalter’s position seems secure.

If Berhalter were to lead the USMNT to a Copa America title, without question he would automatically become the greatest coach the program has ever had.

Star Player: Christian Pulisic

If you blindly followed what USMNT X pundits say, you’d believe Gio Reyna is the team’s most talented player — and while a case can be made that Reyna has the talent to elevate the USMNT —without question the best player on the roster is AC Milan winger Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic is having a fantastic season at AC Milan, with 13 goals in 41 games. He is playing the best soccer of his career, and with 28 goals in 66 caps, he is the leading scorer amongst the team’s current roster.

The American could be a player of the tournament and an inspired and in-form Pulisic will be paramount if the USMNT wants to get far in the Copa America.

A Forgiving Group

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As the tournament’s host, the United States got the luck of the draw. Bolivia is a team the golden generation of American soccer players, playing in a tournament they are hosting, should make short work of.

Panama could produce a better fight, but the U.S. should be able to defeat a much improved but past its prime Panama side.

Then there is Uruguay. Marcelo Bielsa’s side is the dark horse of the tournament with world-class players like Darwin Núñez, Federico Valverde, Manuel Ugarte, Ronald Araújo, and don’t forget a certain Luis Suarez.

Bielsa has been able to keep the traits of Uruguay’s conservative style and hard-nosed defending, while mixing in a more compact and organized Bielsa ball, a much better version of what the manager did with Leeds United.

Uruguay, who was missing key players for a pair of uninspiring games against Basque Country and Ivory Coast in March, at full strength produced back-to-back victories against Brazil and Argentina, being the better side in both matches.

When it comes to Uruguay, Berhalter managed two draws in two games against La Celeste, with the second encounter prior to Qatar 2022 being a bit more heated. If the United States can pull off a win against Uruguay, it would send a massive shockwave in the tournament.


The time is now for the U.S. national neam. While 2026 is meant to be the official coming out party for American soccer, the 2024 Copa America could be that first huge step. A semifinal run will be enough to calm fans’ anxieties and would indicate that the team is on the right track.

However, reaching the semis is far from guaranteed. A likely quarterfinal matchup with either Brazil or Colombia will be no easy task.

If, and this is a huge if, the USMNT does the unthinkable and wins the Copa America, then the world and many pundits will have no choice but to admit that the Americans are the real deal, and that the team truly has players that are ready for the big time.

As for a concrete prediction (maybe with our hearts more than our heads), the USMNT should have enough in the tank to make a run to the semifinals. Just enough to show that this team means business, but not enough yet to position itself as the next Belgium or Croatia of world soccer. It will be a coming out party to prove that there is some steak beneath all of the sizzle, but not quite a coming out party in the sense that the U.S. will change the landscape forever.

There is still the possibility that the unimaginable happens, and that would mean that the USMNT has finally arrived. That is how important this Copa America should be.

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