Soccer

Historic Copa America in U.S. approaches

Lionel Messi es la gran interrogante de Argentina para su debut el lunes antes Chile en la Copa América Centenario.
Messi se incorporó a la concentración albiceleste en California apenas el viernes, tras declarar el jueves en Barcelona en su juicio por fraude fiscal.
Lionel Messi es la gran interrogante de Argentina para su debut el lunes antes Chile en la Copa América Centenario. Messi se incorporó a la concentración albiceleste en California apenas el viernes, tras declarar el jueves en Barcelona en su juicio por fraude fiscal. AP

With all the excitement about Leicester City’s historic English Premier League title and the upcoming Champions League final between Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, it’s easy to forget that the Copa America Centenario is less than a month away.

The special-edition 100th anniversary of the Copa America — the most important tournament in the Americas other than the World Cup — is being held June 3-26 in the United States. It is the first time it is being held outside South America. The field features the top 10 South American teams and six from CONCACAF.

Among the players named to their countries’ provisional rosters are Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Colombia’s James Rodriguez, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, Brazil’s Dani Alves and Rafinha, Chile’s Alexis Sanchez and Claudio Bravo; Real Madrid’s Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas, and Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

Colombia’s Radamel Falcao is out with a knee injury. Brazilian star Neymar will not be participating because Barcelona requested that he choose between the Copa and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, so he and Brazil coach Dunga opted for the Olympics.

Other well-known players on the Brazilian squad include Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Willian (Chelsea), Hulk (Zenit), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) and Casemiro (Real Madrid).

The U.S. team begins training in Miami on May 16 and opens the tournament June 3 against Colombia in Santa Clara, California. The U.S. provisional roster includes veteran goalkeepers Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Weston midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Boca Raton’s Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), and 17-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund).

Rosters must be cut to 23 players by May 20.

The United States will play warmup matches May 22 at Puerto Rico, May 25 against Ecuador in Frisco, Texas, and May 28 against Bolivia in Kansas City. After the opener against Colombia, Team USA plays Costa Rica in Chicago on June 7 and Paraguay in Philadelphia on June 11.

The closest the Copa will get to South Florida is Orlando, where three first-round matches will be held. Costa Rica plays Paraguay on June 4, Panama plays Bolivia on June 6 and Brazil plays Haiti on June 8.

Brazilian fans in Florida hoping to see Orlando City’s Kaká with the Brazil national team won’t get their wish. He was one of the well-known players left off the roster (Dunga already cut the list to 23). Others missing are PSG’s Lucas Moura, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Manchester City’s Fernandinho, Chelsea’s Oscar and Arsenal’s Gabriel Paulista. Dunga chose seven young players who will also be eligible for the Olympic team.

Argentina has a very strong team. In addition to Messi, the roster includes Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta and Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain. The Argentines are hoping for a trophy after losing the 2015 Copa America final to Chile and the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

The Copa America final is June 26 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

▪ Man City, Arsenal battle for third: Leicester wrapped up the EPL title with two games to spare, and spent all week celebrating. It remains to be seen if the 5,000-to-1 underdog of this season can have another magical run next year. It isn’t easy to repeat. Just ask defending-champion Chelsea, which sits in ninth place despite its star-studded roster.

In the meantime, Manchester City and Arsenal have plenty on the line when they play Sunday. They both are trying to secure a top-four finish and a spot in the Champions League. The team that finishes third gets automatic entry, and the fourth-place team has to enter a playoff.

▪ Madrid Derby in Champions League final: One thing is certain about the Champions League final. The streets of Madrid will be rocking no matter who wins. Crosstown rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will battle for European clubs’ top prize on May 28 in Milan, Italy.

Atletico has a few scores to settle after losing to Real Madrid in the 2014 final and also in the 2015 quarterfinal. Atletico, tied with first-place Barcelona, is just one point ahead of Real Madrid in the La Liga standings.

The match offers an interesting coaching matchup between Atletico’s Diego Simeone and Real’s rookie coach, French legend Zinedine Zidane. Real had an easier road to the final, having beaten Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City while Atletico had to get past Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But none of that will matter on May 28. Atletico’s stingy defense will try to corral Real’s high-octane offense, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

▪ Local friendles: Colombia plays Haiti at Marlins Park at 5 p.m. on May 29. Colombia is warming up for the Copa America and is expected to bring most of its top players. Tickets are on sale at marlins.com/soccer.

Venezuela plays Guatemala on June 1 at Lockhart Stadium to prepare for the Copa America. The “Vinotinto” are under new coach Rafael Dudamel, the former national team goalkeeper. The match is at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at compreboletos.com or at 877-737-3376.

Who’s leading

MLS: East — Montreal (14), Philadelphia (13), Toronto and Orlando City (11), D.C., New England, N.Y. City and N.Y. Red Bulls (10). West — Dallas, Colorado and Real Salt Lake (17), Los Angeles and San Jose (15), Kansas City (14).

NASL: Carolina (12), Minnesota and New York (9), Indy and Tampa Bay (8).

NWSL: Washington (9), Portland (7), Seattle and Chicago (6), Houston and Sky Blue (4).

EPL: Leicester City (80), Tottenham (70), Arsenal (67), Manchester City (64), Manchester United (63).

La Liga: Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (85), Real Madrid (84), Villarreal (64), Bilbao (58).

Serie A: Juventus (88), Napoli (76), Roma (74), Inter (67), Fiorentina (60).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (85), Dortmund (77), Bayer (57), Monchengladbach (52), Mainz, Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04 (49).

Ligue 1: PSG (92), Lyon (65), Monaco (62), Nice (60), St Etienne (58).

On the tube

Sunday: Real Madrid vs. Valencia (10:55 a.m., BEIN), Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Liverpool vs. Watford (11 a.m., NBCSN Live Extra), L.A. vs. New England (3:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPND), D.C. vs. N.Y. (7:30 p.m., FS1, FOXD).

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