NEW YORK — At the Hammerstein Ballroom, the Sunday-night spectacle lasted a televised hour, but it only took a single segment to dash any hopes US national team fans may have had of landing one of the easier groups at the Copa América Centenario draw.
But despite drawing Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay – the toughest group in the summer tournament by average opponent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings – USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann found himself buoyed by a sense of familiarity, even as he acknowledged the necessity of advancing to the quarterfinals.
"That's the objective," Klinsmann said. "It's clearly getting out of the group, even if that's not easy. And then we're going to go, and that's what we said after the experience in Brazil [at the 2014 World Cup]: We have to learn how to win knockout games. No better way to start than in a Copa América."
The US will play the tournament's opening match against Colombia on June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Klinsmann is excited for the matchup, making reference to the teams' November 2014 friendly at Craven Cottage in London, which Colombia won on an 87th-minute winner.
Klinsmann felt the US played Colombia even, an encouraging thought now that he knows they're the first opponent. The thorough preparation can begin.
"For the players, I think it will click in the next couple weeks," Klinsmann said. "We talked about it always, but now it's a reality.
"It will help us also in terms of World Cup qualifying, because the two Guatemala games are big, big games to make a statement to your group about Copa América."
Colombia's Group A assignment drew some gasps from the assembled crowd as the challenge facing the US became evident.
"Is it the Group of Death? Yes. Please, please. Spread it all around," said FOX Sports soccer analyst and former US national team defender Alexi Lalas, on hand as a draw assistant, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. "As we know, the US team plays great when people doubt them; the US team plays great as an underdog.
"It's difficult," he conceded. "But if you want to win the World Cup and you want to be one of the best teams in the world, you have to go through the likes of Colombia."
But Colombia, and star James Rodriguez, are only the first obstacle in the US national team's path forward. If the Americans win their group, they take on the second-place team from Group B (Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti and Peru); a second-place finish and they could be in line to take on FIFA No. 6 Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 17. Of course, they will likely need results against Costa Rica (June 7, Soldier Field, Chicago) and Paraguay (June 11, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia) before they can even consider the knockout stage.
There will be no gimmes at this Copa America – an obvious statement when you consider the tournament field, featuring six of the world's top 15 teams, and the quality of players that will be making the trip stateside.
"I think we all want to see the best players from South America come and represent their country," Klinsmann said. "We can't wait to see James Rodriguez here, [Lionel] Messi, Neymar, all these wonderful players showcasing themselves in the United States, they all have to come with their best teams. And they will. There's no doubt about it."