While France prepares to host Euro 2016 and Europe’s elite players focus on the summer tournament, the footballing world’s other eye should be firmly fixed on the far side of the Atlantic.
The United States are ready to stage the Copa America Centenario and the competition is in football news as it will be the first time in it’s 100 years of existence that the tournament will be played outside of South America.
France are the favourites on home soil for the Euros but what of the US? What are their chances of making a real mark on the global football landscape, while simultaneously crushing the hopes of Argentina, Brazil and co?
The United States, who are joint fourth favourites with most bookmakers, open the tournament against the very side with whom they are deemed to have a equal chance, Colombia.
Only traditional heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, plus holders Chile, are more fancied.
That first clash in Santa Clara, California should set the tone and give fans an indication of what to expect.
If the home side can gain some momentum early on, it should help stir the passion in a nation which has historically had an ambivalent approach to the round ball.
While the more fancied teams in the competition look to have a routine path to knockout football in front of them, Jurgen Klinsmann’s men have a tricky group.
Along with the talented Colombians, they also face Costa Rica who surprised at the last World Cup and Paraguay. Group A should be pretty tight but with talent in the squad, home advantage and a vastly experienced manager, they should progress to the business end.
The 1994 World Cup was supposed to kickstart a rise to the top of the global game for the Stars and Stripes but in a country where other sports have always taken priority, progress has been far more gradual than predicted.
In recent years though, performances from the national side have been more than solid and they can welcome the best of Latin America this summer with little to fear. Pre-tournament form has also been encouraging, with Ecuador and Bolivia both dispatched comfortably in warm-up friendlies.
Klinsmann’s team were tough to beat at the last World Cup – expect that trait to continue.
They do not concede many goals, work hard for each other and have strength in depth in the goalkeeping department.
The midfield also has plenty to offer with the searing pace of Jermaine Jones and the composure of Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley just a couple of it’s better features.
Up front the craft of Clint Dempsey remains a key asset while Gyasi Zardes’ recent form for LA Galaxy has attracted the attention of the likes of Galatasaray.
To clinch the Copa Centenario for the first time would represent a massive achievement and the crowning glory of Klinsmann’s five-year reign.
Winning the tournament might just be a stretch too far but the USA should be expected to make a strong showing and it is very possible they could equal their previous Copa best, where they suffered a narrow semi-final defeat to Brazil in 1995.
Any encouraging showing though will only add fuel to the engine of a train that has been slowly gathering steam for over two decades.