Copa America

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Copa America preview: Can Messi’s men stop the hosts?

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Several massive names in CONMEBOL are looking at what could well be their final Copa America, beginning tonight in Brazil (Watch live on Telemundo Deportes).

And whereas Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez enter the competition knowing they’ve mastered it once or twice, the window is closing for Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, and a man with the last name Messi.

[ STREAM: Copa America on Telemundo Deportes ]

That’s also true for most of the Brazil players aside from captain Dani Alves. The Selecao have not won the Copa America since 2007, and will be the favorites to lift the trophy on home soil.

Yes, even without Neymar, though his absence certainly allows Colombia and Argentina to claim somewhat equal footing in the favorites’ category.

Brazil’s status as hosts means winning Group A would allow them to avoid the Group B and C winners until the final. Group C, however, is a top-to-bottom bunch and it wouldn’t be surprise for it to sort itself in any permutation.

Group A

  1. Brazil
  2. Venezuela
  3. Peru
  4. Bolivia

This one is a battle for second, even without Neymar, and Venezuela’s showing against the United States was not simply a function of American dysfunction. Peru’s question remains in defense, and not being able to handle Salomon Rondon has us putting them third.

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Colombia
  3. Paraguay*
  4. Qatar

Messi and Co. will enjoy this draw, though both Paraguay and Colombia have the chance to give them fits. The Argentine megastar has the spotlight and the burden, though, as he’s yet to supply international honors to his nation and is coming off a disappointing end to his club season (team-wise, not player-wise, it should be noted).

Group C

  1. Uruguay
  2. Japan
  3. Chile*
  4. Ecuador

Where do you go here? Every country in this group is within 22 spots on the ELO ratings, from Uruguay’s 10th to Ecuador’s 32. Japan can tempt the heights of the group and tournament, but how quickly will it adjust to Brazil? The Asian nation finished fourth in manageable Group C at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, hammered 4-1 by Colombia in a must-win finale.

Knockout Rounds

Quarterfinals
Brazil defeats Chile
Colombia defeats Venezuela
Argentina defeats Japan
Uruguay defeats Paraguay

Semifinals
Brazil defeats Colombia
Argentina defeats Uruguay

Final
Brazil defeats Argentina

Neymar injures ankle, taken to hospital for scans

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Neymar left the field in tears and was taken to the hospital for scans after suffering a right ankle injury on Brazil duty.

The Paris Saint-Germain star produced 23 goals and 13 assists in 28 matches, but missed three months with a right foot injury. He was also suspended for hitting a fan following a cup loss.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Neymar has had a horrible few months both on- and off-the-field. This week’s been dominated by rape allegations and the player’s posting of explicit photos to defend himself. Most recently, his team denied asking for a settlement meeting.

Brazil beat Qatar 2-0 on goals by Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus. It begins its Copa America on June 14, and has not placed in its last three tournaments.

No Mexico, USMNT at next Copa America; Japan, Qatar invited

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The USMNT and its next full-time coach will only have to worry about the Gold Cup in the summer of 2019.

That’s because CONMEBOL decided against inviting CONCACAF teams for next summer’s tournament in Brazil, opting to include Qatar and Japan.

[ MORE: Mourinho rips forwards ]

The USMNT hosted and reached the semifinal round of the 2016 Copa America Centenario, but will not get the chance to repeat its strong showing.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela will complete the field.

The United States won the 2016 Gold Cup and will clinch a berth in the 2021 Confederations Cup if it wins the 2019 edition. Should the USMNT lose, it would face the 2019 Gold Cup winner in the second CONCACAF Cup for the right to go to Qatar one summer before the 2022 World Cup.

Report: USMNT to participate in 2019 Copa America

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South America’s premier tournament — Copa America — has expanded beyond its roots in recent years, inviting outside countries to participate, and the 2019 edition of the tournament will continue that trend.

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Globoesporte is reporting that the U.S. Men’s National Team will be one of six non-South American nations to participate in next summer’s Copa America — the 46th edition of the competition.

Mexico is also rumored to be included in the 2019 Copa America, along with a third CONCACAF nation.

Meanwhile, three teams from Asia are also being tabbed to join. The Globoesporte report suggests that Qatar (2022 World Cup hosts), South Korea, Japan, Australia and China are all in the running to be included.

Since 1993, the USMNT has entered Copa America on four separate occasions, and made it out of the group stage twice.

During the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the Americans finished fourth with the tournament on home soil to mark the 100-year anniversary of the event.

There is no confirmation yet to any outside nations playing in the 2019 edition of Copa America, though, particularly from any of the CONCACAF countries — who will all likely be participating in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Witness: Soccer officials agreed to accept $1M in bribes

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NEW YORK (AP) The former president of Colombia’s soccer federation has testified that he and five other heads of South American governing bodies agreed to accept $1 million bribes to sign a marketing and broadcast rights contract in 2010 for future Copa Americas.

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Luis Bedoya implicated Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay’s soccer federation, and Manuel Burga, the former head of Peru’s soccer federation. Napout, Burga and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation, are on trial in federal court in New York for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Testifying Monday in Spanish through a translator, Bedoya said the contract with Full Play Group was signed during the 2010 FIFA Congress in South Africa. He said in conversations before that, Napout indicated he was concerned that he “not be exposed” and Burga said “he didn’t know how to receive money of this type.”

Bedoya said one of the owners of Full Play set up a “paper” company in Uruguay that benefited Bedoya.

Bedoya, a former member of FIFA’s executive committee, pleaded guilty in 2015 to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.