Copa America Centenario kicks off Friday night in Santa Clara when the host United States takes on Colombia. The soccer tournament features 10 nations from CONMEBOL (South America) and six from CONCACAF (North America, Central America and the Caribbean). In theory, it should crown the champion of the Americas. Like the FIFA World Cup, Copa America features groups of four for the round-robin stage. If you cannot catch every match during group play in the next week and a half, these are the seven to watch:
United States vs. Colombia (June 3, 9:30 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara)
American fans would like the U.S. to start with a cupcake match. That is not the case. The U.S. is in the group of death. The Yanks get Colombia, the highest-ranked nation in Group A and the second-highest ranked team in the tournament. Colombia is No. 3 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and Argentina is No. 1. The U.S. is No. 31. Colombia is bringing its stars, with 2014 World Cup sensation James Rodriguez, 64-time capped goalkeeper David Ospina and Juventus midfielder Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. The U.S. will need a energetic crowd at Levi's Stadium to hang with the favored Colombians.
Brazil vs. Ecuador (June 4, 10 p.m. ET, Rose Bowl, Pasadena)
Brazil's most legitimate challenger comes on Day 2 of the tournament. Ecuador, a nation that did not make its first World Cup until 2002, peaked at No. 11 in the world in 2013. Ecuador is now No. 13, just six spots behind Brazil. Ecuador has only beaten Brazil twice in 29 tries, the latest victory coming in 2004 during World Cup qualifying. Brazil is in a transitional phase right now, with manager Dunga leaving veterans David Luiz, Marcelo and Thiago Silva off the roster, favoring a younger core. On top of that, the nation's best player, Neymar, opted to play in the Olympics later this summer in Brazil, rather than put his body in harm's way in Copa America. (Olympic soccer teams are only allowed three players outside of U-23.) The stars could align for a massive Ecuadorian upset.
Mexico vs. Uruguay (June 5, 8 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)
This is another heavyweight bout on opening weekend as either of these squads can win the whole thing. Uruguay brings stalwart strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, while Mexico's veteran roster features Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Guillermo Ochoa and 37-year-old defender Rafael Marquez. Uruguay is ninth in the world rankings and Mexico is 16th. Both made the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup.
Argentina vs. Chile (June 6, 10 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara)
This is the highest-ranked matchup of the group stage with No. 1 Argentina and No. 5 Chile. Argentina is bringing the big boys, with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Romero. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore both suffered injuries in training and are likely out for this game, but Argentina has more than enough star power to make up for their absence. Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Bravo and Chile are still riding on their high of forcing Brazil to penalty kicks during the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. Chile is evolving into a world power and can prove it by knocking off its neighbors to the East.
United States vs. Costa Rica (June 7, 8 p.m., Soldier Field, Chicago)
Life does not get much easier for the U.S. in the team's second match. Costa Rica came out of nowhere in the 2014 World Cup, winning a group with three former World Cup champions: Uruguay, Italy and England. La Sele then beat Greece in penalty kicks and lost in penalty kicks to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. Costa Rica peaked at No. 13 in the world rankings last year, and the squad is currently at No. 23. The United States has lost two straight matches to Costa Rica, and this could be a scary match to watch for American fans if the U.S. does not at least draw Colombia.
Mexico vs. Jamaica (June 9, 10 p.m. ET, Rose Bowl, Pasadena)
Jamaica, which has only played in one World Cup (1998), catapulted itself to legitimacy with a 2-1 upset of the United States in the Gold Cup semifinals last summer in Atlanta. This will be a rematch of the Gold Cup final, a 3-1 Mexico victory. Leicester City captain Wes Morgan will look to bring some of that Premier League champion magic back across the Atlantic Ocean. Mexico has only lost to Jamaica once in its past 12 meetings, and the Los Angeles setting will make this seem like a home game for El Tri, but the Jamaicans will play like they have nothing to lose, mon.
United States vs. Paraguay (June 11, 7 p.m. ET, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia)
Assuming the United States has something to play for in its last match of the group stage, it should feed off a raucous Philadelphia crowd. This is the one match the U.S. should be comfortably favored in, but Paraguay is a seasoned squad that reached the World Cup quarterfinals just six years ago. Defender and captain Paulo da Silva and goalkeeper Justo Villar each have more than 100 caps, although most of the roster features raw, youthful talent. If the youngsters mesh stronger than Paraguay's No. 44 ranking suggests, the Americans could be in for a early exit in the City of Brotherly Love.
Soccer fan Stephen Curry says he is eager to watch the tournament, even as the Warriors will be competing in the NBA Finals:
Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.