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U.S. MNT To Participate in 2007 Copa America in Venezuela

CHICAGO (October 30, 2006) — The United States Men's National Team has accepted an invitation to compete in the 2007 Copa America, the regional championship of South America. The 12-team tournament will run from June 26 to July 15 in nine cities across Venezuela. For the United States, the appearance will mark their third entrance into CONMEBOL’s signature event. The draw to determine the groupings is expected to be held early next year.

“We are delighted to be able to accept the offer to play in Copa America,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “The tournament offers the dual advantage of quality opponents and a challenging environment that will provide long-term benefits for our team. In order to continue our progress at the international level, it is critical that we are able to expose our team to competition at the highest level.”

The U.S. is competing in the biennial event for the first time since 1995, when a 3-0 defeat of defending champion Argentina and a quarterfinal victory against Mexico helped lift the USA to an impressive fourth-place finish in Uruguay. Despite falling 1-0 to Brazil in the semifinals, U.S. midfielder John Harkes joined Uruguay captain Enzo Francescoli as co-MVP of the tournament. The USA’s only other appearance in the competition came in 1993 in Ecuador.

The first phase of the tournament consists of three groups of four teams each that compete in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group, along with the two best third-place teams, advance to the knockout phase. Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela have been designated to head the three groups.

Copa America is the second international tournament in which the U.S. will compete next summer, and will begin just a few days after the USA tries to defend their title against 11 other teams at the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, scheduled from June 6-24 in several cities across the United States.

In 2005, the USA became the first team in history to reach the Gold Cup finals five times, capturing their third regional crown by defeating Panama in penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in regulation. Along the route to their third Gold Cup championship, the U.S. extended their record-setting 19-match unbeaten run in group play, while DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu were named to the All-Tournament Team.