Argentina, Copa América
Lionel Messi celebrates winning Copa América 2021, his first trophy with the national team at the senior level Ricardo Moraes/Via Reuters

SEATTLE - The wait is almost over. In just a few more days, the United States will host 16 nations all over the Americas for a new edition of the oldest competition in international soccer.

Copa América 2024 will kick off June 20 with a match between Argentina and Canada at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As one of the authorized voices of Copa América 2024, Lionel Messi talked in an exclusive interview with Infobae about his time with the national team, his expectations for this year's edition and other things.

One of the most interesting remarks made by the Argentine superstar was that, in his opinion, this Copa América will be evenly matched despite Argentina arriving as reigning Copa América and World Cup champions.

"When any tournament starts, Argentina is a contender to win it just like Brazil. I think that, at this point in time, the South American teams are really strong," Messi said. "Uruguay is playing well, Colombia, Ecuador...I think it's going to be a very exciting and an evenly matched tournament," he added.

Despite its shortcomings before a successful campaign in 2021, Argentina has been one of the most dominant national teams at the Copa América level in the 21st century. Out of the eight tournaments held since 2000, the 'Albiceleste' has reached the final five times, one more than Brazil.

Messi knows it will be hard to win back-to-back titles, as many South American teams are currently in great form. Besides Chile between 2015-16, only Brazil has been able to win consecutive Copa América titles in the last 30 plus years.

The last time Copa América was played in the U.S., close to 1.5 million fans attended the matches through the tournament, making it a record edition. Despite losing the final on penalties to Chile, Messi remembers fondly his time during Copa América Centenario. "We played Copa América in 2016 here in the United States and honestly it was spectacular. We had a good time and we had a great tournament despite losing the final," he said.

On top of having to face some of the best national teams in the Americas, participating countries will all have to face a common enemy: the weather. After having to deal with the hottest May on record, the city of Miami will be hosting a few Copa América 2024 games, including the final.

When asked if the scorching heat could be a factor when it's time to kick a soccer ball under the Miami sun, Messi said that games played in South Florida will be unique. "The games played here in Miami will be very different because here the weather changes a lot," Messi said. "Lots of heat, lots of humidity...but we only have one game in Miami and, if we keep on advancing, we won't have to return until the final. But outside of Miami, I don't think the heat will play a role in the games."

Since losing the opening match of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Argentina has only lost once in its 18 games since. A 2-0 loss to Uruguay at the famous "La Bombonera" is the only time Lionel Scaloni's team has been bested in that span.

Argentina will not cross paths with Brazil nor Uruguay until a potential final in Miami on July 14.

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