10 Soccer Players to Watch During the Copa America Centenario

10 Soccer Players to Watch During the Copa America Centenario
United States forward Clint Dempsey (8) controls the ball during the World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala held at MAPFRE Stadium. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportwire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

There’s excitement afoot: The Copa America Centenario will celebrate 100 years of world-class soccer by bringing the international tournament to the U.S. for the first time ever. The South American national squads will be facing off against countries from North and Central America, giving fans of “the Beautiful Game” plenty to root for at stadiums from coast to coast this June.

Watch the tournament like a true fútbol fanatíco, and take a look at our list of the best soccer players to follow on social media leading up to the tournament – and then get ready for the Final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on June 26.

James Rodriguez, Colombia

Colombian striker James Rodriguez is one of the fastest rising stars in international soccer. Following his coming out party at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 – where he took home the Golden Boot and led his team to the quarter finals – he’s hoping to have another impressive showing in the Centenario.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay

This goal-scoring maestro was another sensation that made a big splash at the 2014 World Cup, and recently he impressed FC Barcelona fans by scoring 53 goals during the club’s 2015 – 16 season. Now, he’s leading the Uruguayan national team in their attempt to clinch a 16th Copa America championship – that’s right: 16.

Javier Hernández, Mexico

Mexico’s soccer pride sits on the shoulders of their national team’s number two all-time scorer, Javier Hernandez. Chicharito is coming in hot after receiving Player of the Year from CONCACAF (the North American continental soccer league), and he’ll definitely show why it was well deserved on this massive international stage.

Willian Borges da Silva, Brazil

Star attacking midfielder Willian is hoping to lead Brazil’s prestigious national team to a ninth Copa America victory at the tournament’s centennial edition. Brazilian soccer fans are always excited to cheer on the Green and Yellow, but Willian has them extra pumped after being named the Chelsea F.C. Player of the Year – and he’s hoping to keep his hot streak going against rival teams.

Alexis Sánchez, Chile

7️⃣…. ⚽️👌🏽

A photo posted by Alexis Sanchez (@alexis_officia1) on

With the second most all-time caps of any player on the Chilean team, Alexis Sanchez was a huge part of La Roja’s first Copa America championship last year. The combination forward/winger has scored 31 goals in international play, a total which he intends to add to when he leads his team into this tournament’s centennial celebration.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

He is arguably the best striker of all time and a huge reason that FIFA has ranked Argentina number one in the world heading into this tournament. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner has yet to lead his national squad to victory in the Copa America, though, and you can bet that he’s set his sights on making it happen at the historic Centenario.

Clint Dempsey, USA

Clint Dempsey is the first American to score in three World Cups, and he’ll be doing the host country proud when he reps the Red, White, and Blue on their home turf at the Copa America. After being the top scorer at last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, he’s ready to whip U.S. fans into a frenzy once again with another stellar performance.

Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

Ruiz helped Costa Rica clinch the Central American Cup in 2014 and now he plans to unleash his left-footed skills on opposing countries at the Copa America. The national team captain is hoping to improve their FIFA ranking by taking down some of the most established teams.

Blas Perez, Panama

Striker Blas Perez has been taking the pitch for Panama since 2001, helping him land in the team’s record books as the second all-time in scoring and third all-time in national caps. Fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to catch Super Raton (Mighty Mouse) in the twilight of his career, leading Panama to a strong showing and always gunning for some record-breaking goals.

Antonio Valencia, Ecuador

When he’s not lining up for Manchester United in the English Premier League, this two-way playing offensive forward and defensive back is bringing pride to his national team. One of the two CONMEBOL teams that has yet to win the Copa America, Ecuador hopes the defensive mentality that Valencia and team captain Walter Ayovi bring to the pitch helps them clamp down on all-star strikers.