Men’s football, soccer if you are so inclined, in the United States has recently taken a back seat to the world champion women’s team.
The top question for the women this summer has been: Will they win the Olympics? For the men: Are they going to fire their coach?
The men playing well in a major regional tournament has boosted the side’s profile and the confidence of fans.
It’s important to remember the United States doesn’t often get to play in Copa America. It’s a tournament for the big boys of South America and the Yanks have only been invited guests four times.
But this is a special Copa America, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the event, and it is the first held outside South America.
On Tuesday night, the Americans get a chance at what could be one of their biggest wins, taking on top-ranked Argentina in Houston at 9 p.m. ET.
Here are some reasons you should watch:
Taking on soccer Goliaths: The U.S. 11 is up against the FIFA World No. 1 and the man regarded as the best player in world. If you’re unfamiliar with the work of No.10 Lionel Messi, he’ll show you some amazing skill around the penalty area, and watch out when he takes a free kick. The United States will keep a man constantly close to Messi, who has four goals in the tournament.
Possible glimpse at the future: Three U.S. players are forced to sit this one out, due to suspensions for various reasons. So we could see Christian Pulisic, a teenager who plays in Germany’s Bundesliga and has been hyped as the future of U.S. Soccer. The 17-year-old forward could take Bobby Wood’s lineup spot or slot in as a second-half sub. Another player with not much U.S. national team experience, 25-year-old Darlington Nagbe, could get minutes in the midfield.
Redemption for tournament trouble: The U.S. men’s team has had nowhere close to the tournament success the women’s team has had. It’s uncommon to get a semifinal outside of CONCACAF, the tournament featuring the North American, Central American and Caribbean teams. The United States made it to the semis in the first World Cup in 1930 (and lost to Argentina). Tuesday night also offers an opportunity to redeem the team for its Gold Cup — its regional tournament — loss last year that exacerbated the questions about the future of the program. In this case, the United States hopes to repeat the 2009 Confederations Cup and a shocking win over then No. 1 Spain.
Regional pride: Yes, it’s South America’s tournament, but the United States is making a statement for the lightly regarded CONCACAF. After Mexico’s 7-0 drubbing from Chile, a good performance from the lone remaining North American team is important.
Chance to beat a traditional powerhouse: The United States tends to up the quality of its play against top teams. It’s just that the Americans haven’t had much success against the White and Sky Blue. Only twice has the United States defeated Argentina (there have been two draws and six losses). One of those was in the 1995 Copa when the Yanks won 3-0 in group play but in 2007 Argentina won 4-1 in group play. The two sides haven’t played since 2011 when they drew 1-1 in a frigid friendly played in New Jersey.