Recent reports state the US Men’s National Team has been invited to participate in the 2019 Copa America. The tournament is set to be hosted by Brazil. The 2019 competition will feature all ten CONMEBOL teams, three teams from CONCACAF and three teams from Asia.

The US Soccer Federation has yet to make a decision on whether to participate.

Here’s why the US should accept the invite

The biggest reason why playing in the Copa America should be a no-brainer is that it would offer a huge opportunity. US players can test themselves against high quality opposition in games that matter. The US need to be in this competition because the US won’t be playing many games against higher-level opposition this year and moving forward due to its participation in the CONCACAF Nations League.

It is imperative that the US accept CONMEBOL’s invite

Since failing to qualify for the World Cup, US Soccer has done a decent job of scheduling games against quality teams. The friendlies featured three from Europe and three from South America. But they are not tournament games that matter.

Nothing can really replicate the experience and stakes of playing in a major international tournament. It is the reason why the US has missed out on the last two Olympics. The players in the player pool need more games against quality opposition. That’s a fact. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Teams like Argentina, Colombia and Brazil are clearly among the best in the world.

If US Soccer wants the MNT to become a premier international side, then they need to play in Copa America.

Another big reason is not so much concerned with the on-field product but more the fans of the team. After the disaster down in Trinidad & Tobago, US fans will have to go 19 months without their team playing a competitive game. In international soccer, that is an eternity.

Furthermore, US Soccer has already lost a number of fans and those that are still around are checked out on many levels. Should they accept the invite to the Copa America, the summer of 2019 will generate excitement for US Soccer.

In addition to playing in a premier international tournament, there is also the Gold Cup on home soil the following month. Always worth mentioning, should they win the Gold Cup that would qualify them for the 2021 Confederations Cup. Also, the USWNT are playing in the Women’s World Cup at the same time. There would be millions of people watching US Soccer teams for a solid two months.

At this point in time, with no World Cup to look forward to this summer, it’s an opportunity that US Soccer cannot afford to miss.

Several questions and issues

Apparently, there is a provision requiring clubs to release their players to the ten CONMEBOL teams and not to the six invited teams. That brings up an interesting dilemma: would the US send an “A” team or a “B” team?

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In their two recent forays into Copa America, the US has had mixed results. Jurgen Klinsmann took a full squad and finished fourth in 2016. Bob Bradley prioritized the Gold Cup in 2007 (which the US won) and took a “B” team to Venezuela. They lost all three group stage games by a combined 8-2. Without a doubt, the poor performances in future tournaments have to be remedied.

The decision about playing at Copa America 2019 is compounded by the fact that the Men’s National Team does not have a full-time manager. The new coach will have a better idea of whether or not to play in both competitions. Many suspect US Soccer is waiting for the conclusion of the World Cup this summer to name the full-time manager. The recent extension of interim manager Dave Sarachan’s contract would seem to back that up.

However, this creates a potential issue. How long is CONMEBOL going to wait for US Soccer to make up its mind?

In conclusion, US Soccer desperately needs to send the MNT to the 2019 Copa America. The players need more games against high quality opposition and the federation needs to give fans something to get on board with after missing the World Cup. And a summer consisting of the US playing in the Copa America, the Gold Cup and the Women’s World Cup would go a long way towards bringing the fans back.