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By ESPN Staff

U.S. accepts invitation to Copa America

CHICAGO -- The United States accepted an invitation to play in next year's Copa America in Venezuela, returning to the South American soccer championship for the first time since 1995.

CONCACAF, soccer's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and its South American counterpart routinely have invited teams from each other's confederation to their nations championship since the early 1990s.

"The tournament offers the dual advantage of quality opponents and a challenging environment that will provide long-term benefits for our team," U.S. Soccer Federation Sunil Gulati said.

The U.S. finished fourth in the 1995 Copa America, beating Argentina in the early stages. The next Copa America is June 26-July 15 and starts two days after the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament in which the U.S. is the defending champion.

The USSF did not say if it will send largely different teams to the competitions, which come in the middle of the Major League Soccer season.

The U.S. has been without a national coach since July 14 when the USSF said it would not renew Bruce Arena's contract. Under Arena, the U.S. reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup but was eliminated in the first round of this year's tournament in Germany.

Arena subsequently was hired by the New York Red Bulls and Gulati has said he plans to announce a replacement by the end of next month.