Next Up: Five Things to Know About Bolivia

As the U.S. and Bolivia prepare to face each other for the first time since 1999, here are five things you need to know about La Verde.

Bolivia vs. MNT
No player from either team had earned a cap for his country the last time the U.S. and Bolivia met back in 1999, a 0-0 draw at Stadio de Tahuichi in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The United States has never beaten the visitors, holding a 0-4-2 record overall against La Verde in a series that began with another scoreless friendly in 1993 at Fullerton Stadium in California.

The teams have played once in official competition, in Uruguay during the 1995 Copa America. Although Bolivia won the match 1-0, the United States would go on to win Group C and reach the semifinals for its best finish at the tournament.

Cobi Jones became the first American to score against Bolivia in a 1-1 draw at the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Robbie Cup in February 1994. Barely more than two months later, Hugo Perez scored twice against Bolivia in Dallas for a 2-2 draw.

Bolivian Soccer History
Success has never been easy for Bolivia in CONMEBOL, South America’s ultra-competitive FIFA confederation. A group featuring longtime D.C. United stars Jaime Moreno and Bolivian legend Marco “El Diablo” Etcheverry traveled to the United States in 1994 for their country’s only World Cup appearance since 1950.

Bolivia’s “Golden Generation” of the 1990s also featured midfielders Erwin Sánchez, Carlos Borja and current manager Julio César Baldivieso before it came to an end with a Copa America runner-up finish in 1997. La Verde wouldn’t get out of the first round again until a surprise run to the quarterfinals in Chile a year ago. Bolivia has won the tournament only once, as hosts in 1963.

Its most formidable weapon is one it won’t be able to use against the United States, the being one of the world’s most significant (and controversial) home-field advantages. Brazil’s first World Cup Qualifying loss in two decades and a 6-1 rout of Argentina stand as the two most notable of Bolivia’s many positive results at Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz, where FIFA briefly banned most matches in 2007 due to its high altitude of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level.

Copa America Outlook
It would be tough to find a bigger underdog than Bolivia in this summer’s Copa America Centenario thanks in large part to the tournament’s difficult schedule. Group D features two of the world’s top three teams, No. 1-ranked Argentina and 2015 Copa America champion Chile.

Bolivia opens June 6 in Orlando against fellow long-shots Panama at the newly renamed Camping World Stadium. Chile will be the opponent at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on June, 10 before Bolivia makes a cross-country trip to face Argentina and Lionel Messi in the final group stage match June 14 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Notable Names
Bolivia would love to see 23-year-old goalkeeper Romel Quiñónez return to the form he showed during a remarkable Copa America run last summer. He missed five months after surgery on a broken wrist before finally returning to start in a 3-2 World Cup Qualifying loss to Colombia last March.

Forward Juan Carlos Arce owns 44 caps for Bolivia and scored two penalty kicks in Qualifying matches. One player on the Bolivia roster who will be familiar to New York Cosmos fans is forward Yasmani Duk, who scored in Qualifying and may see an opportunity.

Indigenous people make up two thirds of the population of 10.6 million in the country known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, a large part of which formerly belonged to the vast Incan Empire. Although Bolivia has more than 20 major languages, Quechua and Aymara are spoken as the major languages in the mountainous, landlocked country along with Spanish.

The ruins of the ancient city of Tiahuanaco, which was colonized about 2,200 years ago, provides a popular attraction for tourists seeking to learn more about the country’s history. Historical evidence shows the Incas and Aymaras rose up to dominate the region after the disappearance of the Tiahuanacotas around 1200 A.D.

Natives in eastern Bolivia never came under complete control of the advanced Incan Empire, and even today many still live much like they did hundreds of years ago. Deep ethnic and regional divides continue to present challenges for Bolivia’s political leaders, including the first indigenous president, Evo Morales.