Which players are the likeliest to win the Copa America Golden Boot? We evaluate the main contenders, as well as some outside shouts.

A festival of football is about to kick off in the United States as the Copa America sparks into action.

Argentina, the reigning champions, get the ball rolling when they face Canada in the opening Group A match, and Lionel Messi will be the main man as ever for La Albiceleste.

Messi was the joint-leading scorer at the 2021 Copa America, netting four goals to lead the standings alongside Colombia’s Luis Díaz.

The Barcelona great is expected to be right up there again when it comes to the 2024 Copa America Golden Boot, and here, we dive into the main candidates for that award.

Lionel Messi

We’ll start with the obvious.

Not only did Messi finish as joint-top scorer at the 2021 Copa America, he was also the leading assist maker. Then, 18 months later, he led Argentina to World Cup glory, scoring seven goals in the process; only Kylian Mbappé (8) netted more times in Qatar.

As soon as he features for Argentina at this tournament, Messi will become the Copa America’s all-time record holder for appearances – he is tied with Chile great Sergio Livingstone on 34, as it stands.

Messi has scored 13 Copa America goals, which puts him joint-seventh on the all-time list, alongside fellow Argentina great Gabriel Batistuta.

If he is able to replicate his four goals from the 2021 edition, Messi will join Norberto Méndez and Zizinho at the top of the all-time charts – that is unless Peru’s Paolo Guerrero and/or Chile’s Eduardo Vargas were to net at least four times each to set a new record.

Since the start of the 2011 Copa America, Messi has had 102 shots – more than any other player. Surprisingly, his conversion rate stands at just 10.78%, which is the second-lowest out of any player to have netted at least five goals in the competition in that time.

But there can be no doubting Messi’s genius, and the little magician is entering what will surely be his final Copa America in fine form. He has scored 12 goals in Major League Soccer for Inter Miami this season, outperforming his 8.3 xG and averaging a goal every 86 minutes.

Messi MLS xG 24-25

Argentina are the Opta supercomputer’s favourites to win the Copa America, and group matches against Canada, Chile and Peru provide Messi with a favourable jumping off point to win the Golden Boot again.

Vinícius Júnior

Fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid (and scoring in the final – again), Vinícius Jr heads into the Copa America as Brazil’s talisman.

With Neymar absent through injury, the onus will fall on the winger to provide the creative spark and clinical edge to drag what looks like a more dogged, workmanlike squad through to the latter stages – Brazil are, according to our model, second favourites behind Argentina, with a 23% win probability.

If the Seleção are to challenge the holders, then they need Vinícius in top form.

While he played as a split-striker for Madrid this season as Carlo Ancelotti found a way to get the best out of Jude Bellingham, Vinícius is more likely to play out wide left for his country, though his cutting runs from out-to-in will make him a constant threat, as long as the likes of Bruno Guimarães and Lucas Paquetá can pick him out.

Vinícius netted 24 times for Los Blancos in 2023-24, and attempted 286 dribbles – 10 more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues across all competitions. He averaged 8.4 take-on attempts per 90, a tally bettered by only Jérémy Doku, while Vinícius also completed 3.3 dribbles per 90.

Vinicius progressive carries

He is yet to score at the Copa America, however. In fairness, he did not make a single start in 2021, with all four of his appearances coming as a substitute, and he managed only one shot and completed just one of this seven dribbles. But such has been his stellar form under Ancelotti in the last three years, there is no doubting he is now Brazil’s main man.

Brazil face Costa Rica, Paraguay and in-form Colombia in Group D, but none of those defences should strike fear into Vinícius.

Luis Díaz

We could hardly list the 2024 Golden Boot candidates without touching on the joint-leading scorer from 2021.

Luis Díaz enjoyed a superb campaign three years ago, scoring two absolute screamers – one came in the group stage, an overhead kick against Brazil, while the other came in the third-placed play-off, as Colombia beat Peru; it was a stunner from outside of the area, with the then-Porto winger lashing into the top-right corner after skipping in from the flank, going past several defenders.

Indeed, the quality of Díaz’s finishes were shown by his xG in 2021, which was just 1.0.

And Díaz’s excellent shooting at that edition is further evidenced by his expected goals on target (xGOT) figure of 2.2.

Luis Diaz xG Copa America 2021

Díaz had only 10 shots, 18 fewer than Messi, yet boasted a hugely impressive 40% shot conversion rate. Only Messi (57) and Neymar (77), meanwhile, attempted more dribbles than Díaz (43) at the 2021 edition, while it was only the same superstar duo who completed more dribbles, too (Neymar 35, Messi 34, Díaz 26).

His performances at that tournament piqued the interest of Premier League sides, and Díaz subsequently moved to Liverpool in January 2022. So while he will not be quite the unknown quantity that he was three years ago, if he is at his best, he will still be hugely difficult to stop – especially with James Rodríguez pulling the strings behind him.

Darwin Núñez

Bookending this list of the top Golden Boot contenders is Uruguay’s Darwin Núñez. The Liverpool striker has been superb in recent times for his national team under Marcelo Bielsa, and looks to be El Loco’s main attacker, even with Luis Suárez in the squad.

Núñez scored 11 Premier League goals for Liverpool in 2023-24, but underperformed his xG (16.4) by 5.4. While he was unfortunate in a sense – he hit the woodwork on nine occasions, four more times than any other player – he was also erratic in his finishing, with his xGOT dropping to 15.5. Núñez also missed 14 big chances, which ranked behind only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland (34).

Darwin Nunez xG Premier League 23-24

The 24-year-old may never be ultra-clinical, (he had a shot conversion rate of 10.2% in the Premier League this season) but his pace, tenacity and work rate make him the ideal Bielsa man up top.

Núñez scored a hat-trick in Uruguay’s 4-0 demolition of Mexico earlier in June, while he is the leading goalscorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, with five to his name.

Uruguay head into the tournament in fine fettle, and Bielsa will always be willing to risk it all in attack – meaning plenty of opportunities should come Núñez’s way.

They are in a group with the hosts USA, Panama and Bolivia – the worst-ranked team in the tournament – so Núñez should be aiming to make an impact early on.

The Other Contenders

Lautaro Martínez

Lautaro Martínez had an outstanding 2023-24 season for Inter, who he led to the Scudetto while finishing as top scorer in Serie A, scoring 24 goals in 33 appearances, and comfortably outperforming his 17.6 xG.

However, he has not yet netted for Argentina in 2026 World Cup qualifying, and is not a regular starter under Lionel Scaloni, so chances may not be there for him.


Boy wonder Endrick, who will link up with Vinícius, Bellingham and Mbappé at Real Madrid next season, has scored three goals for Brazil in his last three appearances. He scored those in successive matches, though he was unable to become the first Seleção player since Neymar in 2021 to net in four consecutive games as Dorival Júnior’s team drew 1-1 with the USA in a warm-up match.

At 17, Endrick looks like a superstar in the making, and he could be an outside bet for the Golden Boot.

Endrick international xG

Luis Suárez

Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer Suárez is bang in form heading into this tournament. The veteran has 68 goals in 138 caps and has netted 12 times already for Inter Miami in MLS this season, averaging a goal every 96 minutes.

Of players to score at least five times in MLS in 2024, Suárez has the fourth-highest shot conversion rate, too (33.3%). Uruguay are ranked as the third-favourites by the Opta supercomputer, so Suárez could have plenty of matches to add to his international goals tally.

Christian Pulisic

The USA cannot get much consistency under Gregg Berhalter, though they did draw 1-1 with Brazil in a friendly on 13 June.

If the hosts are to make a serious run, they will likely need things to run through Pulisic. While the former Chelsea winger is more likely to act as a creator, he has proven he is more than capable of putting away chances. He scored 15 goals for Milan in 2023-24, making it the best goalscoring campaign of his career.

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