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The Future of Football in South America: 10 Players Who Will Be Stars

The Copa América is the oldest continental competition. This year, eight cities in Chile will host its 44th edition and, even though the tournament has much tradition, experts, fans and, specially, coaches and presidents of teams will cast an eye to the competition this summer expecting to discover up-and-coming football stars that will burn brightest in years to come.

Playing in the Copa América will be teams from 12 countries: 10 out of South America and two guests. The competition begins on June 4th and ends on July 11th. 

Chile hasn’t ever won this competition at home. They’ll be looking to make good on this in 2015, as national squads from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia have all taken advantage of playing in front of their people to claim the Copa América trophy. 

With kickoff so close, it’s time to review the rosters of each team and – even though they will be cut from 30 men to 23 – it will be interesting to find out which faces from these teams will be included in the so-called next generation of football.

Uruguay is the reigning champ. Even though they showcase young players like Mathias Corujo and Camilo Mayada, it’s impossible to overlook 20 year-old defender José María Giménez, who played a key role in the Brazil World Cup a year ago. He has been a tough wall against every team that has faced Atlético de Madrid this season.

Atletico Madrid Defence Atletico Madrid defender Jose Maria Gimenez clears the ball during a match. Photo: @JoseMaGimenez13 | Twitter

Atletico Madrid defender Jose Maria Gimenez clears the ball during a match. Photo: @JoseMaGimenez13 | Twitter

Meanwhile, runner up in the last World Cup, Argentina, will bring to Chile 26-year old midfielder Federico Mancuello. He is Independiente’s captain and he plays excellently when the team needs organization offensively or defensively. This Reconquista native has attack instincts too.

Messi shows of his new sleeve tattoo

Leo Messi and Federico Mancuello pose for a photo while travelling with Argentina. Photo: @leomessi | Instagram

Brazil is looking forward to redemption after failing in the semis at home last year. Everyone seems to agree that Copa América will provide 23-year-old Roberto Firminho a big opportunity. He has four national caps and, while some would suggest this is reason to sit him in the tournament, he has proven himself playing the Bundesliga in the offensive midfield and looks ready for stardom this summer.

Roberto Firminho playing with Brasil

Roberto Firminho celebrating during celebrating during one of his early appearances for Brazil. Photo: @robertofirminho9 | Twitter 

When you take a look at Colombia’s roster for Copa América in 2015, you will easily recognize Juan Fernando Quintero, 22 years old, whose experiences in Italy and Portugal have made him one of the most coveted young players in European Football, as highlighted by Mirror of London

Quintero with the Columbian squad during the World Cup

Quintero's success in Europe has earned him a spot in the Columbian national team. Photo: Gabriel Rossi | SBNation

Paraguay will add to this party of young talent a striker named Derlis Gonzalez, who loves to play as a winger. He has shown his ability to score in both Portugal and Brazil, as well as his home country. Later, he went to Swiss football where he wore the FC Basel uniform. However, he couldn’t keep his goal pace up in Switzerland and he needs to add more goals to his stats to live up to his reputation. Don’t forget, he is only 21.

Basel striker Derlis Gonzalez celebrates a goal

Gonzalez's dip in form at Basel could hinder an early transfer for the young striker Photo: Patrick Straub | EFE

Chile, the home team, will feature Angelo Henriquez. He is well recognized since the U17 World Cup. In fact, FourFourTwo magazine included him on Top 5 players in that tournament. He depends on speed and finding open spaces to perform. Manchester United paid four millions euros for him, but later sent him on loan to Dinamo Zagreb.

Henriquez's early impact on the game has made him sought out by Man U

Angelo Henriquez is an upcoming prospect in the Manchester United squad. Photo: @cristo_vergara | Twitter

Ecuador has Jonathan David González on its roster. He is a teenager at only 19 years old. He is a midfielder who has played in Mexican League. Even though his team Leones Negros was awful and will be in Division Two next season, he has shown that he belongs to another level.

Jonathan David Gonzalez at 19 years old for Ecuador

Jonathan David Gonzalez will be featured for Ecuador. Photo:

At Castilla, Real Madrid Division Two affiliated, you can see an attacking midfielder who was born in Spain (although his mother is from Peru). At 21 years old, Cristian Benavente has been described as creative and he is dangerous using both feet. He is one of Peru’s hopes to regain their status as a respected soccer country.

Real Madrid's second division breeds another star

Cristian Benavente is making a big impact for Real Madrid's second divison. Photo: @CBBDix | Twitter

Bolivia will have its own Andrea Pirlo in the tournament. Sebastian Gamarra is 18-years-old, but has already enjoyed playing Italian Serie A. He has developed in the Milan system and is now the youngest on Bolivia’s Copa América 30-man roster. Gamarra, a Tarija native, is an idol in his hometown.

Gamarra's youth has not stopped him from playing in Serie A

Sebastian Gamarra's youth has not stopped him from entering Serie A. Photo: @sebasgamarra97 | Twitter

Venezuela, a country that saw its best performance four years ago in Argentina where they finished fourth, expects Josef Martínez – 22 years old and now playing in Torino, Italian Serie A – to show the same attitude that impressed scouts everywhere (even though he doesn’t break six feet tall). 

Noel Sanvicente, new Vinotinto head coach, will also count on John Murillo, who is a 19-year-old striker almost ready to play in any foreign league. 

Josef Martinez in a crunching tackleJosef Martinez playing in a match that featured a strong challenge for the ball. Photo: @JosefMartinez17 | Twitter

Murillo on the front page of Abola newspaper

John Murillo featured on the front page of Abola news. Photo: @CiprianoDaniel | Twitter

Mexico and Jamaica will be in Copa América as special guests.

One of Jamaica’s new stars is Omar Holness, a midfielder who currently plays for the University of North Carolina. 

Mexico has announced that Jürgen Damm, of partial German descent, is a replacement in its roster. He is 22 years old and hopefully will show spicy flavor once he is given a chance.

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