This year's Copa America will be like nothing the tournament has ever seen. This will be the 45th edition of the tournament and also marks 100 years since the original Copa America, then called the South American Championship, took place in Argentina in 1916.
Uruguay won that year, in which only it, Chile, Brazil and Argentina were the only teams in the competition. This year 16 teams will gather in the United States for the competition and the USMNT will participate for the first-time ever.
Jurgen Klinsmann has picked a unique squad for this special occasion and three former MAC stars have been chosen to represent the U.S.
Perry Kitchen, Darlington Nagbe and DeAndre Yedlin — all of whom attended the University of Akron during Caleb Porter's tenure — will have the chance to impress during the tournament and it could be an especially important one for many different reasons.
For Kitchen, this is a chance to show that his move to Scotland to play for Hearts of Medlothian was a wise move. Kitchen spurned D.C. United, the team that he'd spent the majority of his career wth and the one that gave him a chance after the Chicago Fire drafted him in 2010.
Kitchen's move to Hearts before the 2016 MLS season caught many by surprise, as he was a key figure in United's starting eleven and a move to Hearts wasn't billed as being high profile. But Kitchen has impressed during his time in Scotland and to a national team coach who prioritizes European experience over almost everything, his move is likely what kept him on Klinsmann's radar.
Kitchen will have to fight for playing time with other defensive midfielders such as Michael Bradley, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones on the roster, but the experience will do well for him at this juncture of his career.
It will help Nagbe as well, who only recently received U.S. citizenship and eligibility to play for the USMNT. He will add a bit of flair to the Americans' midfield with his superior control of the ball and ability to play on the flanks and through the middle.
Nagbe only recently joined the USMNT, earning his first cap against St. Vincent and the Grenadines last year. But if his play for the Portland Timbers is any indication, he will be a valuable member of the 23 for Klinsmann.
That leaves Yedlin, who after failing to break into the Tottenham squad was loaned to Sunderland for the 2015-16 season. And it is in the red and white vertical stripes of the Black Cats that Yedlin has made a massive impression in the EPL.
While he has been a part of Klinsmann's plans for quite some time, Yedlin's time at Sunderland has done much to refine his defensive game and helped him identify when to utilize his speed for more than just bombing up the flank. Now he knows when to make those runs into the offensive third and when to sit back and anticipate the counterattack.
That factors well for Klinsmann, as the right-back position for the US has been a problem spot for quite some time. With Fabian Johnson now well-established in the left-back slot and Timmy Chandler often disappointing when Yedlin is pushed into the midfield.
Fresh off his loan stint, Yedlin looks primed to thrive during the summer tournament and it will likely be a crucible to see if he can be Klinsmann's right-back of the future.
So it will be a very important tournament for all parties involved, including the three former Zips that have been chosen to help lead the USMNT.