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US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

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US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup
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US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

2024-06-14 01:17 Last Updated At:01:21

NEW YORK (AP) — In a region that provides few tests, the United States views the Copa America as its last significant challenge ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

“A World Cup on home soil is the biggest thing that you know we’ll probably do in our career,” star attacker Christian Pulisic said. “It’s a special time for this sport in America.”

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Brazil forward Rodrygo, left, moves the ball past U.S. forward Brenden Aaronson during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NEW YORK (AP) — In a region that provides few tests, the United States views the Copa America as its last significant challenge ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner gives up a goal to Colombia forward Luis Díaz during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner gives up a goal to Colombia forward Luis Díaz during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

FILE - Christian Pulisic of the United States controls the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Pulisic just had one of his best seasons in Europe, scoring 12 goals with nine assists in Italy for AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

FILE - Christian Pulisic of the United States controls the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Pulisic just had one of his best seasons in Europe, scoring 12 goals with nine assists in Italy for AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

Eighteen players from the 2026 World Cup roster were in training camp ahead of the tournament. The U.S. opens against Bolivia on June 23 at Arlington, Texas, plays Panama four days later at Atlanta and closes the group stage vs. Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri.

The U.S. could meet Brazil in the quarterfinals. But players and staff view this as another step toward June 12, 2026, when the Americans play their World Cup opener at Inglewood, California.

“Copa America is essential to the growth of this group, and I believe this is a very important tournament for us as a team. This is the last major tournament before the World Cup. We’ll have Gold Cup, but the caliber of teams does not match Copa America,” coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It is a building block in which to to go into the World Cup confident.”

Berhalter was let go when his contract expired at the end of 2022 in the messy fallout of a feud with the Reyna family, then brought back and returned behind the bench last September. His core is the same as during the 2022 World Cup, where the U.S. lost to the Netherlands 3-1 in the round of 16.

Pulisic, 25, comes into the tournament following his best season. He scored 12 Serie A goals in his first season with AC Milan plus one in the Champions League and two in the Europa League. His equalizer gave the Americans a 1-1 draw against Brazil Tuesday night in their last pre-tournament warmup, his 29th international goal in 68 appearances.

“He’s had some unfortunate injuries along his path and he's been at some places where maybe he hasn’t gotten the best look and wasn’t really the number one option, but I think everyone in this country knows how talented he is,” said American forward Haji Wright, Pulisic's teammate now and at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup. “He's really finding his goal-scoring form. He’s able to affect the game by actually scoring and contributing in front of the goal. And that’s something he always used to do when we were children.”

Tyler Adams, the U.S. World Cup captain and another member of that 2015 team, is regaining fitness following a frustrating 15 months. A 25-year-old defensive midfielder, Adams played just one club match from March 2023 until this past March 13 because of a torn right hamstring that needed surgery. After returning to play two matches for Bournemouth in March, the midfielder was limited by back spasms to one game over the rest of the season, an 11-minute appearance on May 11. He entered the June 12 friendly against Brazil in the 76th minute.

Right back Sergiño Dest will miss the tournament because of a torn ACL, opening the spot for 21-year-old Joe Scally. Chris Richards appears to have gained a starting spot in central defense alongside Tim Ream on a back line that has Antonee Robinson on the left.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner is a cause for concern. He lost the starting job at Nottingham Forest this season after poor play and was at fault for some of the goals in the 5-1 loss to Colombia and this week's game against Brazil.

"He’s getting his rhythm. He’s going to be fine come tournament time,” Berhalter said. “You can see that he didn’t have a regular slate of games and it’s going to take him a little bit to get into it.”

This will be the fifth Copa America appearance for the U.S., which was eliminated in the group stage in 1993 and 2007, and finished fourth in 1995 and 2016.

“What you’re seeing on the pitch is now we’re clicking even more than ever,” midfielder Brenden Aaronson said, “and I think it’s just going to continue to get better and better.”

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Brazil forward Rodrygo, left, moves the ball past U.S. forward Brenden Aaronson during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Brazil forward Rodrygo, left, moves the ball past U.S. forward Brenden Aaronson during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner gives up a goal to Colombia forward Luis Díaz during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner gives up a goal to Colombia forward Luis Díaz during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

US views Copa America as last big challenge before hosting 2026 World Cup

FILE - Christian Pulisic of the United States controls the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Pulisic just had one of his best seasons in Europe, scoring 12 goals with nine assists in Italy for AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

FILE - Christian Pulisic of the United States controls the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Pulisic just had one of his best seasons in Europe, scoring 12 goals with nine assists in Italy for AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Luis Suárez still has a knack for big plays.

The 37-year-old Suárez, Uruguay’s career scoring leader, tied the score two minutes into second-half stoppage time, and Uruguay beat Canada 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw on Saturday night to finish third in the Copa America.

Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet saved Ismaël Koné’s weak penalty kick after the shooter's stutter step on Canada’s third attempt, and Alphonso Davies put Canada’s fifth and final kick off the crossbar.

Federico Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur, Giorgian de Arrascaeta and Suárez converted Uruguay’s attempts past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair while Jonathan David, Moïse Bombito and Mathieu Choinière made their kicks for Canada, which went first in the shootout.

“Uruguay is one of the three best teams of this tournament and taking into consideration that the tournament included Central, North and South America, and we finished third, allows us to be optimistic,” Uruguay coach Marcelo Bielsa said through an interpreter.

But Bielsa clearly wasn't happy with his team's effort, and added that he may have misjudged how tired his team was after playing on just two days rest.

“The draw was barely deserved,” Bielsa said.

Bielsa praised Suárez's "physical skills and mental aptitude" after the match following his 69th international goal on a quick attack following a centering pass from José María Giménez.

“It is very well known what he has done throughout his career and having shared this time with him, I believe he is a top-notch player and a great teammate,” Bielsa said of Suárez.

Canada, which hired American Jesse Marsch as coach in May, will consider the tournament one of its best performances since winning the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Canadians reached the World Cup for the second time in 2022, the first since 1986.

Canada made six changes for its starting semifinal lineup and Uruguay made two. Davies, Canada’s top player, entered in the 62nd minute after leaving the semifinal with a leg injury.

Marsch said his players made a “statement” and are well ahead of where he thought they'd be at this time.

“The players are disappointed in the way that we gave the match away,” Marsch said. “But I was very positive with them. We have been together for about six weeks and to play against one of the best teams in the world and dominate the match — we were too much for them for most of the match — is pretty good.”

He said his team simply gave the ball away too often in the final minutes.

“We should have be able to shut that game down,” Marsch said. “But that savviness of how to handle those situations, we need to develop that — and we will.”

Bentancur put Uruguay ahead in the eighth minute but Canada built a 2-1 lead on goals by Koné in the 22nd and David in the 80th.

St. Clair was given an unusual yellow card as Rochet was preparing for Bombito’s penalty kick, possibly for trying to distract the goalkeeper.

The game was played on the same field where Uruguay players entered the stands and fought with Colombia fans following a 1-0 semifinal loss on Wednesday night.

This game was much more subdued than the heated semifinal, with an announced attendance of 24,386, compared to more than 70,000 — the overwhelming majority rooting for Colombia — on Wednesday night.

Defending champion Argentina and Lionel Messi play Colombia for the title on Sunday night at Miami Gardens, Florida. Argentina and Uruguay are tied for the most Copa titles with 15 each.

Uruguay took the lead when Sebastián Cáceres headed a corner kick to Bentancur, who took a touch and spun as Luc de Fougerolles reacted slowly, then kicked the ball over St. Clair for his third international goal and his second of the tournament.

Canada tied the score 14 minutes later when Bombito won a header duel with Giménez and the ball popped up toward goal, and Koné‘s bicycle kick went over Rochet for his third international goal.

Facundo Pellistri slid the ball past St. Clair in the 23rd minute but was ruled offside.

Canada went ahead when Rochet parried Koné’s initial shot and the rebound went to David, who tucked a right-foot shot shot just inside a post for his 28th international goal. David had entered in the 67th minute.

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Uruguay's goalkeeper Sergio Rochet stops a penalty shot by Canada's Ismael Kone during a penalty shootout at the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's goalkeeper Sergio Rochet stops a penalty shot by Canada's Ismael Kone during a penalty shootout at the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's Ismael Kone, right. celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Uruguay during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's Ismael Kone, right. celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Uruguay during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair makes a save during the Copa America third place soccer match against Uruguay in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair makes a save during the Copa America third place soccer match against Uruguay in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair catches the ball challenged by Uruguay's Cristian Olivera during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair catches the ball challenged by Uruguay's Cristian Olivera during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's Alphonso Davies grimaces in pain during a Copa America semifinal soccer match against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J., Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

Canada's Alphonso Davies grimaces in pain during a Copa America semifinal soccer match against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J., Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Pamela Smith)

Uruguay players pose with their medals after beating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay players pose with their medals after beating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Maximiliano Araujo waves to fans after beating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Maximiliano Araujo waves to fans after beating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair blocks a goal attempt by Uruguay's Luis Suarez during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Canada's goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair blocks a goal attempt by Uruguay's Luis Suarez during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's 2nd goal against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's 2nd goal against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Rodrigo Bentancur, left, and Canada's Theo Bair fight for the ball during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Rodrigo Bentancur, left, and Canada's Theo Bair fight for the ball during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's 2nd goal against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's 2nd goal against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez (9), and teammates celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez (9), and teammates celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay players celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay players celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match against Canada in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match against Canada in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, right, and goalkeeper Sergio Rochet celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, right, and goalkeeper Sergio Rochet celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's goalkeeper Sergio Rochet celebrates with teammates after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's goalkeeper Sergio Rochet celebrates with teammates after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez scores in a penalty shootout against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez scores in a penalty shootout against Canada during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Players of Uruguay celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Players of Uruguay celebrate after defeating Canada in a penalty shootout during the Copa America third place soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

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