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Copa America is the perfect launching pad for young stars

You don't know some of the stars of Copa America yet, but you will soon, and so will big European clubs.,

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The Copa America is a fantastic tournament with high profile teams and a few superstars thrown in for good measure. The likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, and Edinson Cavani will take a lot of headlines over the next month, but they're not the only ones involved in this tournament.

There's a host of young players looking to make a name for themselves in Chile over the next month, and highly-talented players on the fringe of recognition trying to find a way to break through to stardom. The Copa America has long served as a wonderful place to do just that, giving these players a stage to show off from and a worldwide audience to stand up and take notice.

Just look at the last time this tournament was held, back in 2011 in Argentina. Sure, the big guns of Argentina and Brazil largely disappointed in the Copa that year, but that just gave a much better chance for the guys wanting to make some noise to do exactly that. Given the way a number of careers have gone in the four years since, it seems to have worked tremendously well.

Take Arturo Vidal. The Chilean already been a solid performer for Bayer Leverkusen for several years by then, making over 100 performances for the German side and scoring a few nice goals in the process. But for all his quality, he was largely unknown outside his home country and Germany. At 24 years old, he needed to find a way to make a statement and get himself more on the radar, and he used the Copa America to do exactly that.

Chile lost in the quarter-final round, but for the four matches they were alive, Vidal was a dominant force in midfield. Up and down the pitch he ran, driving the attack, and then surging back in defense. It was hard to track Vidal at times because he was a constant blur of motion, popping up all over the pitch to assert his authority on the match. He even scored his third career international goal, the winning strike against Mexico that got Chile started off in the Copa with a big win.

That show put a whole lot of eyeballs on Vidal, and it cinched the deal on Italian giants Juventus making their move to add him to their midfield. The transfer was almost certainly in the works before the Copa America began, but the performance Vidal had in Argentina helped make Juventus want him all the more, and let Leverkusen drive up the transfer fee a little bit. Juventus and Vidal have had no regrets over the move, winning four straight Serie A titles since he joined, with him as a major focal point in the side.

One of Vidal's countrymen, forward Alexis Sanchez, also opened a lot of eyes in that 2011 Copa. Plying his trade with Udinese in Serie A, the then 22 year old was a promising talent that many teams were interested in, but weren't completely sure about just yet. Teams knew he was for sale when the Copa began, but by the time it ended, Sanchez had some of the biggest teams in the world desperately vying for his signature.

Sanchez had spent his time in the Copa running rings around defenders, showing ludicrous skills and a thirst for the ball in attack that could not be slated. He scored a goal against a then-mighty Uruguay defense, and was constantly involved in Chile's best attacks. That performance sealed a move to Barcelona that was the richest ever for a Chilean player, but only after being pursued by the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Juventus as well.

Want more success stories from that tournament? Try Joel Campbell, who wowed for Costa Rica as a teenager and was snapped up by Arsenal. Campbell has yet to make a significant impact for the Gunners yet, but has impressed in several developmental loans since then while he improves enough to force his way into their rotation. Or how about Adrian Ramos, the Colombian forward who used his performance to springboard his career with German side Hertha BSC, forcing his way to more playing time, scoring buckets of goals, and eventually earning a transfer to German giants Borussia Dortmund.

Of course, things don't always go quite according to plan. Luis Suarez won the player of the tournament award after leading Uruguay to a title win, and has played extremely well since then for Liverpool and Barcelona. But his career has also been marred by three separate scandals since 2011 for on-pitch behavior that can only be described as loathsome. Radamel Falcao went from a player doing interesting things at Porto to Colombia's leading star at the Copa to a superstar with Atletico Madrid, but injuries have plagued him over the last two years and left him a shell of what he was.

Then there's a player like Sebastian Coates, who won Best Young Player while anchoring Uruguay's defense. That earned him a transfer to Liverpool, where he impressed when he played in his first season, but a managerial change and a serie of injuries, including an ACL tear that cost him a full season, left him out of favor at Anfield. Coates fared decently on loan with Sunderland this past season, but enters his second Copa America hoping to reboot his career, an unfortunate state of affairs after everything looked so promising for him four years ago.

There's bad to balance out the good in nearly every situation in life, and the way the Copa America affects careers is no different. But when the good is this good, as Vidal, Sanchez, Ramos, Campbell, and so many others over the years can attest to, it's well worth the risk for the sake of the opportunity a tournament like this affords.

Who's going to be the next player to step forward thanks to the 2015 Copa America? Will it be another Chilean, like Edu Vargas? One of the younger talents Uruguay is bringing, like Gaston Silva or Diego Rolan? Perhaps even one of the players from a CONCACAF side, like Jamaica's Darren Mattocks? Or maybe someone else entirely? There's only one way to find out, and seeing who opens the eyes of the world in this edition of the Copa America will be an experience to enjoy.


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