Jurgen Klinsmann sets knockout stage as goal for USMNT at Copa America

USA's national team coach Juergen Klinsmann

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This summer’s Copa America Centenario is a gigantic opportunity for the United States, whose manager Jurgen Klinsmann has stressed the importance of growing the fan base with big tournaments and also testing his side against top quality competition. They will have the chance to do both when the best teams from South America, North America, Central America and Caribbean converge on the U.S. for the tournament, but with the Americans drawn into a tough group, what are Klinsmann’s expectations?

"Our goal is definitely coming through the group stage and then taking one knockout game at a time," Klinsmann said in a Facebook Live chat.

Klinsmann’s side has struggled since the 2014 World Cup, with disappointing play in friendlies and a shock exit at the hands of Jamaica in last year’s Gold Cup raising questions about the direction of the team. With Copa America coming up, expectations were not especially high and being drawn with Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay did not help things. But Klinsmann isn’t letting the team’s recent form or the stiff competition scale back his goals.

In most any tournament aside from the Gold Cup – World Cup, Confederations Cup or, in this case, Copa America – the U.S. aims to qualify from their group and go from there. That will still be the case this summer, and with Klinsmann laying down a spot in the knockout stages as a benchmark, the pressure will be on the Americans to make that happen in the biggest men’s soccer tournament hosted by the U.S. since the 1994 World Cup. If they fall short, the heat on Klinsmann could be hotter than ever.