Copa America Spotlight:Mexico

It's finally here: the Copa America Centenario, also known as "the tournament Mexico fans have been waiting for for years." This is the month that El Tri fans have had circled on their calendars for ages — their team's chance to prove just how good they can be against top-shelf competition with a full squad.

At last year's Copa America, Mexico had to come in with a weakened team, focused on CONCACAF's Gold Cup. They came in last in their group despite an impressive performance against eventual champions Chile, then their A-squad limped their way to a Gold Cup title and beat the United States in a Confederations Cup playoff. Now, after getting through that and the awkward transition phase they were in during the World Cup two years ago, Mexico and their fans are hoping to take a big step forward toward cementing true elite status in world soccer.

They're going to have an incredible test to face, too. Even with Luis Suarez out injured for the group stage, Uruguay are going to be a brutally tough opponent, and CONCACAF rising stars Jamaica are going to do everything they can to get one over on Mexico as vengeance for the Gold Cup final a year ago. Throw in the potential of a talented-but-underperforming Venezuela side, and Mexico is going to have a heck of a fight on their hands just to get through the group stage.

Even if they do, they're going to have to keep fighting to advance. Because of the brackets in the knockout rounds, Mexico will likely face either Argentina or defending Copa champions Chile in the first knockout round, both difficult matches that, should Mexico win over either opponent, would prove that Mexico belongs at a higher level of the game.

The task is daunting, but expectations are high. New manager Juan Carlos Osorio has led his side to a handful of impressive wins — they've yet to give up a single goal in his tenure, outscoring their opponents 12-0 over the five matches he's been in charge since being hired last October. Mexico's success hasn't just been about the scoreline though — they've been incredibly dominant and assured in a way that North American sides rarely are.

Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, "Chicharito" Javier Hernandez and Hector Moreno have all found excellent form with the national team under Osorio, but El Tri's play has been just as much about the contributions of the younger generation of Mexican stars as their veteran leaders. "Tecatito" Jesus Corona has shined brightest, but Diego Reyes has also been excellent since Osorio took over.

Those are the stars, but they're not the only talented youngsters in this team — Mexico has depth too. Winger Hirving Lozano and defender Nestor Araujo can give El Tri a boost off the bench. While it may not be obvious at first glance, this is a very strong, very well-balanced and very deep Mexico side, all the attributes you want to look for in a potential tournament favorite.

Of course, that's not to say that they will end the tournament as champions, nor even that they will go deep into the tournament. They're far from a guarantee, but the entire point of this Copa America for Mexico is to prove that they can compete with the best. They've already conquered CONCACAF — now it's time to see how they fare at their best against the elite of CONMEBOL.

There are a lot of reasons to think things will go well for Mexico, especially given how good they've been over the last eight months. Should they topple some of the giants of South America, they won't just be the kings of North America any more — they'll be a power in world soccer, a team worthy of respect and perhaps even fear. The Copa America could be the beginning of something great for Mexico, but they have to perform as well as they are capable of first. No pressure.

Schedule & Results

Sunday, Jun. 5
Thursday, Jun. 9
Monday, Jun. 13
Saturday, Jun. 18