Next Up: Five Things to Know About Ecuador

The U.S. Men's National Team opens the knockout stage of Copa America Centenario against Ecuador on Thursday, June 16th at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (6:30 p.m. PT, FS1, UniMas, UDN). Here are five things to know about La Tri.

La Tri  Soccer History

This is Ecuador's first trip to a Copa America quarterfinal since 1997 when they lost to Mexico on penalties. Nineteen years later and back in the knockout stages, La Tri is hoping to make the final for the first time in team history. They have twice finished in fourth place in the competition (1959, 1993).

Most of Ecuador international success has come in recent years. They have only qualified for three World Cups (2002, 2006, 2014), and in their second trip they advanced to the Round of 16, finishing second in their group behind hosts Germany.

Ecuador vs. MNT

Dating back to 1984, the U.S. MNT has faced Ecuador 13 times, and the USA's record against La Tri is 3-5-5 (9 GF, 11 GA). On May 25 of this year, a Darlington Nagbe goal in the 90th minute gave the MNT their first win against Ecuador since 2007 when the U.S. won 3-1 in Tampa, Fla. The quarterfinal will be the first meeting in official competition between the sides since the 1993 Copa America. As hosts, Ecuador knocked out the U.S. following a 2-0 win in the second game of group play. La Tri would win all of its three group games en route to a fourth-place finish.

Looking Ahead To Russia

Ecuador are currently six games into their quest to qualify for back-to-back World Cups for only the second time in federation history. After a shocking upset against Argentina on Matchday 1 in Buenos Aires, Ecuador are sitting in second place behind Uruguay on goal differential. Their Copa America Centenario performance comes at a good time ahead of crucial games in CONMEBOL qualifying in September against very familiar foes. Ecuador will open in Quito against Brazil, and then travel to Lima face a Peru team that topped Group B in the Copa America Centenario. Ecuador drew with both teams this summer: 0-0 against Brazil in Pasadena, Calif., and 2-2 against Peru in Glendale, Ariz.

Who to Watch

Four Barclays Premier League players - Enner Valencia, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero and Juan Carlos Paredes - and a strong contingent of domestic league players compose Ecuador’s roster. Both the Valencia’s have led a powerful Ecuador attack and have combined for half of its six goals in Copa America Centenario. Antonio was unavailable for the friendly match against the MNT in May after winning the FA Cup with Manchester United.

Two others to watch are captain Walter Ayovi and goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez. Like Valencia, Ayovi missed the May friendly against the U.S. while Dominguez was subbed off at halftime after picking up an injury that caused him to miss their opening game in Copa against Brazil.

The Country and Culture

With a population of nearly 16,000,000 people, Ecuador is located in the northwestern region of South America. Named for its location on the equator, it was part of the Inca Empire until the Spanish arrived and claimed it as a colony in the 1530’s. For nearly 300 years, the Spanish controlled the area until 1822, when Ecuador earned its independence.

Quito, the capital, in the Andes Mountains, sits 9,350 feet above sea level making it the highest official capital city in the world.

Ecuador is known for its fruits, superb seafood and Andean potatoes. The country’s official language is Spanish, but Quichua, an Inca language, is spoken frequently as well.

Arguably the most famous part of Ecuador is the Galapagos Islands, which inspired Charles Darwin to pen his book “On the Origin of Species” about the theory of evolution. In total, the country is home to nearly 25,000 plant species and more than 1,600 known bird species.