Copa América mostly features teams from South America, as it is the regional championship for that continent. But they occasionally invite guest teams, and the United States of America has played in the competition before. How has the USA done in Copa America, and have they ever won?

The USA at Copa America: A History

Copa America, originally known as the South American Championship until 1975, has a very long history. It dates all the way back to 1916. But from that first year through 1991, the USA was never invited to play in the competition.

It wasn’t until 1993, the year before they first hosted the World Cup, that the United States participated in the top international tournament in the Western Hemisphere.

Overall, the USA has played in four editions of the Copa América. The most recent was the 2016 Copa América Centenario. That tournament was played entirely in the US and was a celebration of the competition’s 100th anniversary.

Here’s a breakdown of every United States appearance at the Copa.

Ecuador 1993

This was the very first time any guest nations were invited to take part in Copa América. The two sides joining CONMEBOL’s ten nations were the USA and Mexico. It was a big tune-up event for the USA, which would be hosting the World Cup the following year. Placed in Group A with hosts Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela, the USMNT was fairly competitive. They narrowly lost 1-0 to Uruguay in the opener, then fell 2-0 to Ecuador. But in the third group match, they drew 3-3 with Venezuela, with a late tying goal from the Vinotinto stealing a win away from the Yanks. With just one point, the US finished last in their group and did not advance.

Uruguay 1995

Once again the US and Mexico rounded out the twelve-team field, but this time the Americans were the surprise side of the tournament. They won their first game 2-1 over Chile but lost the second 1-0 to Bolivia (with D.C. United legend Marco Etcheverry scoring the lone goal). In the third match though, the USA blanked defending champs Argentina in a shocking 3-0 result. It put the United States on top of the group standings and into the knockout round.

In the quarterfinals, they would draw rivals Mexico 0-0, and advance via a 4-1 penalty shootout win. The Cinderella run was stopped however by a narrow 1-0 defeat to Brazil in the semifinal round. In the third-place match, Colombia easily handled the US by a score of 4-1, sending the Americans home with a fourth-place finish.

Venezuela 2007

Mexico and the US were again the invitees in this tournament – but the USA almost did not play. Initially, they declined the invitation due to the tournament overlapping with the Major League Soccer season. But eventually, the USMNT decided to play after all.

As it turns out, maybe the US should have stayed home on this occasion.

Losses to Argentina (4-1), Paraguay (3-1), and Colombia (1-0) left the Americans with zero points and a last-place finish in Group C.

USA 2016

This special centennial edition of the Copa América was the first ever to be held outside of South America. As the host nation, the United States had a much better showing than in their previous appearance.

The opening match did not go well, though, as Colombia came away with a 2-0 win. But everything turned around when the USA beat Costa Rica 4-0 in the second game, and then Paraguay 1-0 in the final group match. The big win vs the Ticos helped make the USA the group winner via goal difference.

The Stars & Stripes went on to defeat Ecuador 2-1 in the quarterfinal round. But Argentina was a brick wall in the semis, beating the US 4-0 in Houston and ending the dream for a home-soil victory. In the third-place match, it was a repeat of the first game of the tournament, with Colombia keeping a clean sheet, this time winning 2-0.

And so, fourth place remains the best-ever performance by the United States at Copa América.

2024 now beckons, with another chance for the USA to shake things up with a strong performance on home soil.

Photo: Imago.

Copa América 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Copa!
Copa América Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
Key Dates: Learn All the important dates to mark on your calendar
Copa (United States of) América: South America's biggest tournament comes back to the USA
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer