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Copa America preview: United States

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The Americans face some stiff competition

Bolivia v United States Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Copa America kicks off on Friday and the United States men's national team is under a lot of pressure to perform following last year's poor showing at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Last summer also saw the team's female counterparts dominate the World Cup in Canada while drawing huge TV audiences back home. Another flop at Copa America could cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job as manager of the men.

The Gold Cup, which the US was favored to do well in, was won by bitter rivals Mexico. The Americans finished in fourth after a loss to Jamaica in the semi-final and to Panama in the third-place match. Jamaica? Panama? Losing to those teams any time is going to be viewed as unacceptable.

This summer, they play host of the Copa America Centario. It is a special case this year as there are 16 competing nations when the tournament normally maxes out at 12.

The field is made up of all 10 members of CONMEBOL: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. And then six CONCACAF teams that had to fight it out to make it in: United States (hosts), Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti and Panama.

The team

Klinsmann released his 23-man team a few weeks ago. Here is what he is going with:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Ethan Horvath (Molde IK)

Defense: Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfield/Attack: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)

What to keep an eye on

-Guzan has been named the first-choice goalkeeper. The only reason for this is because Guzan is up to game speed. Howard sat on the bench for much of the second-half of Everton's Premier League campaign. Whereas Guzan started most of Villa's nightmare season, but was pretty bad himself. This is a position that could see some movement depending on Guzan's opening performance.

-The striker position is up in the air. Jozy Altidore is out with an injury. Youngster Jordan Morris was cut. Dempsey is the proven threat and brings a needed intensity to the lineup, but Wood has been the hot hand (or foot, if you will) lately. And of course you have Zardes who can be the most exciting player in the side.

-Pulisic is only 17 years old and is the latest to be anointed as the "savior of American soccer". He is young, but he is talented and may do more than just take up space on the bench during this tournament. It is his first with the big boys, and we shouldn't expect to see him starting right away, but he could be a key body off the bench.

-Johnson remains the best American player right now, but there is still no clear answer on what position the man plays. Back at the 2014 World Cup he was at right back. With his club he makes more appearances on the wing.

-The entire defense has been a question mark for team USA for quite a while now. Klinsmann went with a proven group for this competition. Cameron is the anchor and Besler adds a solid veteran presence. Not to mention Yedlin improved during his loan spell with Sunderland this year and Brooks can be looked at as a goal scoring threat on set plays. But there is always an uneasiness about the back line. The opening game with Colombia will be a big test.

Their group

Group A

USA (29th in FIFA rankings), Colombia (4th), Costa Rica (25th), Paraguay (39th)

The Americans open up the tournament with a match against Colombia in Santa Clara on Friday, June 3. Four days later they take on Costa Rica in Chicago. And then they finish up group play with Paraguay in Philadelphia the following Saturday.

This is not an easy group for the United States. If they can squeak a point out of the opener with Colombia, they are in good shape. A win is pretty unlikely there. The other two matches seem like coin flips.

Expectations

Let's just put it out there, the Americans won't win this tournament. Even if they get out of the group, they will eventually run into someone like Chile, Uruguay or the buzzsaw that is Argentina.

Few USA supporters truly view the Yanks as favorites, but emerging from the group has become expected in major competitions. A run to, and past, the semi-finals would be the icing on top.

Finishing second in the group sets them up to face the Neymar-less Brazil in the quarterfinals. Winning the group would likely have them see Ecuador that round; another tough, but slightly more winnable, matchup.

After that, the opposition is going to be all of the powerhouse squads. The US national team has not shown enough in the last year to indicate they have a chance in those games.

Final Prediction: Second place in Group A, eliminated in the quarterfinals by Brazil

Thanks for reading! What are your expectations for the United States at Copa America? Let us know in the comments down below, on our Facebook or our Twitter. You can even let the writer know. He is @_TyYoung on Twitter.