By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – No individual can win the 2020 WinStar World Casino and Resort Global Cup USA, presented by Monster Energy, by himself.
When Team Brazil and the Team USA Eagles have won the previous three Global Cups, it was a full-on team effort featuring one or two breakout stars with role players picking up crucial qualified rides along the way.
Last year, it was Jose Vitor Leme and Eduardo Aparecido leading Team Brazil with the help of unknowns like Bruno Scaranello and Fernando Henrique Novais.
The Brazilian squad that took the Australians’ dirt in Sydney were led by 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco and Luciano de Castro.
Possibly the best example of an overall team effort, the 2017 USA Eagles who won the inaugural Global Cup in Edmonton after receiving a somewhat unexpected, herculean effort from Stormy Wing to pair with captain Cooper Davis, as well as a gritty effort from Cole Melancon.
Every country will need a rider, or two, to be close to perfect at the upcoming Global Cup USA on Feb. 15-16 if they hope to win the fourth edition of the international team competition.
Who are some of the individual favorites to take over the competition and help lead their country to victory?
1. Jess Lockwood
The reigning and two-time World Champion just finished off the best season of his career. After winning his first world title in 2017 despite subpar world champ numbers, Lockwood was historically great in 2019.
He concluded 2019 with career highs in qualified rides (44), attempts (65), riding percentage (67.69%), 90-point rides (14), 15/15 Bucking Battle wins (4), event wins (5) and round wins (14) on the premier series.
Lockwood’s average ride score of 88.52 points was the highest average ride score for a World Champion in PBR history, breaking the previous record of 87.79 held by Chris Shivers (2003).
The one thing missing from Lockwood’s resume now is a Global Cup championship. Lockwood was a disappointing 1-for-3 in Sydney and then broke his collarbone last year attempting to ride Wild Goose.
Could 2020 see Lockwood develop the ability to put his country on his shoulders and help lead the Eagles to their first Global Cup title in three years?
With two gold buckles, Lockwood has easily earned the respect of the locker room, and he should feel more than comfortable teaming with his good friend Cooper Davis to try to bring the Americans back to international bull riding dominance.
Career Global Cup Stats: 1-for-4, two appearances
2. Jose Vitor Leme
Leme is the face of bull riding in South America. The 23-year-old has brought excitement, energy and consistency to the arena unlike any of the previous Brazilian greats in recent memory.
The 2017 World Finals event winner had a hell of an answer for the Americans on Championship Sunday last year when he rode Biker Bob for 89.25 points to help fend off the Eagles’ ferocious rally.
In a format that really puts an emphasis on high scores, Leme is the Brazilians’ rocket launcher. He is the one rider on its roster who can be 90 or more points every time he nods his head, and Team Brazil may just need four 90s from him in Arlington to defeat the Americans.
Leme will also have extra motivation. His second consecutive runner-up finish in the world title race will likely have him ready to begin 2020 with fire. The fourth-year pro had one of the best seasons ever in 2019, and it still was not good enough for him to hold off Lockwood for the world title.
The 2017 Rookie of the Year won a PBR-high 18 rounds in 2019, posted 12 90-point rides and was 51-for-93 (54.84%) on the Unleash The Beast.
Leme can still become that much better, and he likely will be better this coming season.
Another positive for Leme is that he seamlessly took over a leadership role last year for Team Brazil with defending World Champion Kaique Pacheco still hindered by a knee injury.
It will be key for Leme and Pacheco to help carry the leadership torch for first-year coach Guilherme Marchi, who is taking over for the respected Renato Nunes.
Career Global Cup Stats: 6-for-11 (one 90-point ride), three appearances
3. Cooper Davis
If this list was based strictly on Global Cup performance, Davis would be sitting No. 1 and in a tier of his own. There has been no rider like Davis in PBR history when it comes to representing his country.
Davis is 8-for-11 (72.73%) in three Global Cup appearances, which is the most qualified rides among any rider.
However, Davis is coming off a 2-for-6 showing at the 2019 PBR World Finals, which is tied for the worst performance of his five-year career in Las Vegas.
Davis is still one of the top Americans in the world, though, finishing just behind Lockwood and Chase Outlaw in the world standings, and could be a World Champion contender in 2020.
The 25-year-old is also the strongest right-handed rider in the world, giving Team USA coach Justin McBride arguably the best left-handed (Lockwood) and right-handed duo for the Global Cup. The Americans will be hard-pressed to not be in the hunt for a round win in each of the four rounds in Arlington.
Career Global Cup Stats: 8-for-11, three appearances
4. Chase Outlaw
Outlaw is the perfect complement to Davis and Lockwood for the Americans. Outlaw is old-school, tough and hardnose. The Hamburg, Arkansas, cowboy is going to bring a much-needed no-quit attitude to the Eagles.
Outlaw’s never-say-never mentality was on full display at the 2019 World Finals as he did all he could to try and rally for a world title despite his low odds. Outlaw went 4-for-6, including a 91.5-point ride on Big Black. It was the second consecutive Finals in which Outlaw shined on the PBR’s biggest stage.
Outlaw also went 1-for-2 at the 2019 Global Cup, and he proved in 2019 that he was a rider who could shine in the toughest situations.
Career Global Cup Stats: 1-for-2, one appearance
5. Ryan Dirteater
Dirteater is the beginning of the dark horse candidates who can possibly take over at the Global Cup. It is easy to look at the top world title contenders as the favorites, but there is also a chance for an lesser-known, consistent rider to go 4-for-4.
Ryan Dirteater was the unsung hero for the Team USA Wolves last year, going 3-for-3 and leading them to a third-place finish. Dirteater may not have the home-run ability of a Lockwood, Leme or Davis, but he can rival their consistency on a good weekend.
The 30-year-old can also bring a calming presence to the Wolves team. He is a World Finals event winner and has consistently been a Top-15 rider in the world when healthy. Dirteater was the No. 9-ranked rider in the world before he lacerated his liver, collapsed a lung and broke multiple ribs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Career Global Cup Stats: 3-for-3, one appearance
6. Luciano de Castro
Castro was something of a surprise pick by Guilherme Marchi as he is not as consistent as some of the Brazilian options who were available for the first-year head coach. Marchi, though, is putting a premium on high scores.
Marchi is well aware of the PBR’s scoring switch for the 2020 Global Cup. With a team’s final score coming from the average of their best 10 scores instead of 12, Marchi believes he needs guys who be 90 or more points more so than 84-point grinders.
The Ring of Honor inductee also believes Castro has untapped potential. Marchi said Castro, who did finish ninth in the 2019 standings, can become a World Champion contender in 2020 if he develops a little more heart and urgency.
Castro said in Las Vegas that receiving a vote of confidence from Marchi certainly boosts his ego, and the results showed inside T-Mobile Arena. Castro concluded his season 4-for-6.
The 23-year-old also was a member of the Brazilian squad that was victorious in Sydney. Castro went 3-for-3 in Australia, but only averaged 83 points per ride.
Career Global Cup Stats: 3-for-3, one appearance
7. Kaique Pacheco
The biggest wild card for Team Brazil will be the 2018 World Champion. Can Kaique Pacheco return to dominance like he had before he tore ligaments in his left knee at the 2018 Velocity Tour Finals?
Pacheco missed the final five months of 2019 because of reconstructive elbow surgery in June, opting to shut down his year and get healthy.
He returned to competition at the 2019 PBR Australia Finals, going 4-for-5 for a second-place finish. Pacheco then went a combined 2-for-4 at his next two events.
We will see what Pacheco returns to in 2020, but Brazil will need the World Champion to win a third consecutive Global Cup.
Career Global Cup Stats: 5-for-7, three appearances
8. Jared Parsonage
Parsonage’s bid for his first PBR Canada championship came up short last month, but he really showed his potential at the 2019 World Finals. Parsonage was an 8-second machine in Las Vegas, churning out a 4-for-6 showing.
Parsonage did not pick up huge scores, but if he could get four rides at A&T Stadium for a Team Canada squad that completely underwhelmed in 2019, that would be one more than the entire squad put together last year.
Career Global Cup Stats: 3-for-5, two appearances
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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