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What 2 Watch 4 at the 2020 PBR Global Cup USA

By: Darci Miller

ARLINGTON, Texas – With the top bull riders in the world converging on Arlington, Texas, for the 2020 WinStar World Casino and Resort Global Cup USA, presented by Monster Energy, bull riding dominance and national pride is on the line.

From powerhouses to underdogs, each of the six teams from five nations has something to prove.

Read on for more information on each squad, which riders are poised to lead their teams and which are sleeper picks to break out.

Fans can watch all the action from the Global Cup on RidePass (Feb. 15 at 7:45 p.m. ET and Feb. 16 at 2:45 p.m. ET). Tune into CBS for the bonus round on Feb. 16 at noon ET, and CBS Sports Network for a pre-show and the final round on Feb. 16 at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ET.

TEAM BRAZIL

 
Of note:

The two-time reigning Global Cup champion is poised to extend its run of dominance, ushering in a true Brazilian dynasty. The heavy favorite heading into Arlington, the Brazilian squad is stacked with talent and, with no requirement for a representative from PBR Brazil on the roster, is potentially an all-around deeper team than either of the last two winning rosters.

Look for a big performance from…

Jose Vitor Leme is currently the world No. 2 bull rider, the runner-up to the world title in both 2018 and 2019, and has the highest-ever score in Global Cup competition (90 points on Frequent Flyer in 2019). Leme is 6-for-11 in three prior Global Cups, going 2-for-4 in Brazil’s winning effort in Arlington. He won back-to-back events in Sacramento and Oklahoma City, is tied for most event wins (2) and round wins (6) on the Unleash The Beast this season, and has the most 90-point rides (4).

The difference-maker could be…

According to three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes, Dener Barbosa is going to be the key to Team Brazil’s success. Barbosa was a member of the Brazilian squad that won the title in Sydney in 2018, going 1-for-2. The former world title contender had a brutal 2019 that saw him suffer from various injuries and get cut from the premier series, but 2020 has been a different story. Barbosa won the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour’s Jacksonville Invitational to win his way back on tour, and he went 3-for-3 for a fifth-place finish in his return in Manchester. He’s 5-for-10 on the premier series this season and, should he stay on in Arlington, could be a key cog in the wheel for the Brazilians.

TEAM USA EAGLES

Of note:

The Eagles have been snakebitten as of late. The 2017 Global Cup champions have been decimated by injuries, losing team captain Cooper Davis, Chase Outlaw, 2019 Rookie of the Year Dalton Kasel and six-time PRCA champion Sage Kimzey. In 2017, Team USA won its first – and, to date, only – Global Cup title with a ragtag squad of injury replacements, and they’ll look to do the same in 2020.

Look for a big performance from…

Jess Lockwood might be one of just two original Eagles remaining on the roster, but having the two-time and reigning World Champion to anchor a team is far from a bad thing. Lockwood won the 2019 world title on the back of a historically strong season, and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, but he’s underperformed in two prior Global Cup appearances, going 1-for-4. In Arlington last year, Lockwood broke his collarbone and subsequently missed three months of competition. Coaches Justin McBride and J.W. Hart have since challenged Lockwood to step into the leadership role and, with several key veterans missing, that challenge is all the more poignant now.

The difference-maker could be…

Cole Melancon played a key role as an injury replacement in Team USA’s 2017 triumph and, as a late injury replacement again in 2020, he’ll look to duplicate that feat. Melancon went 2-for-2 in Team USA’s winning effort in Edmonton, and subsequently focused primarily on a rodeo career, qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo twice. In 2020 he began his PBR career in earnest, winning the Velocity Tour’s Lexington Classic to earn a berth at Iron Cowboy for his premier series debut – and won. Now ranked No. 6 in the world, Melancon wowed McBride and locked up his Global Cup berth with the win, so he heads into the Global Cup riding some incredibly strong momentum.

TEAM USA WOLVES

 
Of note:

Like the Eagles, the Wolves have been unable to escape the injury bug. Veteran Ryan Dirteater suffered multiple thoracic fractures and will be out for a minimum of three months, forcing him to withdraw from the Global Cup. It’s a significant blow to the Wolves’ chances, but head coach Ted Nuce has assembled a tight group and emphasized mental strength, so the Wolves’ grit could prove essential.

Look for a big performance from…

Colten Jesse, the highest-ranked Wolf in the world standings at No. 7, had a red-hot start to 2020 as he returned from 2019 shoulder surgery. He earned a career-best second-place finish in Manchester, in addition to a sixth-place finish at the season-opening PBR Major in New York City. While he’s cooled off since then, he’s still 8-for-18 on the premier series, and went 1-for-2 in his one prior Global Cup appearance.

The difference-maker could be…

Stetson Lawrence steps into the primary veteran leadership role with Dirteater out. In two prior Global Cup appearances, Lawrence is 2-for-4. He’s just 3-for-13 on the premier series in 2020 but, in Sacramento in January, he earned his first round win in nine months. If the Firewalker can find his groove, the Wolves’ prospects in Arlington increase dramatically.

TEAM AUSTRALIA

Of note:

After a fourth-place finish in Edmonton in 2017, the Aussies came agonizingly close to winning their first Global Cup on home soil in Sydney in 2018, losing out to Brazil by 0.75 points. They finished fourth out of six teams in Arlington, and hope to rebound once again in 2020.

Look for a big performance from…

Aaron Kleier has made the leap to the United States in 2020 after winning two PBR Australia titles. He finished 2019 ranked No. 22 in the world competing almost entirely in Australia, and is currently ranked No. 19 in the world. In his first full season on the premier series, he’s 5-for-18, and is 3-for-8 in three prior Global Cup appearances.

The difference-maker could be…

Ky Hamilton is the next up-and-coming rider for Team Australia. He’s competed in both PBR Australia as well as on the Velocity Tour, but has been focusing on college rodeos as a student at Sul Ross State University and is pro rodeoing. Hamilton made his Global Cup debut on home soil in Sydney in 2018 and converted in his only out.

TEAM MEXICO

 
Of note:

In 2019, Team Mexico had its best-ever finish at a Global Cup, finishing fifth out of six teams with four qualified rides. In 2020, head coach Gerardo Venegas has added assistant coach Jerome Davis to impart wisdom on a Mexican squad looking to continue its improvement.

Look for a big performance from…

Edgar Durazo is the horse to which Venegas is hitching his wagon, as he was the coach’s most-desired pick for his roster. Durazo has primarily competed in Canada for the last several years, winning the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association championship in 2019. He’s yet to make his 2020 PBR debut, but is 2-for-6 in three prior Global Cup experiences.

The difference-maker could be…

Alvaro Aguilar Alvarez is a rider that Venegas has high hopes for because of his confidence, and he could show up big for Mexico. Alvarez is 1-for-5 at two prior Global Cups, with his ride coming in Arlington to help move Team Mexico up the standings. He also has a knack for being memorable – in Sydney in 2018, he got knocked out trying to make the 8-second whistle, and when he converted in Arlington in 2019, he danced on the dirt in celebration.

TEAM CANADA

Of note:

Team Canada doesn’t want to remember the 2019 Global Cup. Going just 3-for-18, the Canucks fell to a dismal sixth-place finish. They’ve since undergone a coaching change and are now helmed by head coach Scott Schiffner and assistant coach Tanner Girletz. Schiffner in particular has brought in a no-nonsense attitude, and after being humbled in 2019, the Canadians are ready to prove themselves in 2020.

Look for a big performance from…

Dakota Buttar has been the Canadian most consistently on the Unleash The Beast recently, and that experience should pay off in Arlington. Currently ranked No. 17 in the world, Buttar won the PBR Canada Monster Energy Tour stop in Calgary, and began the season with a win at the Canadian Touring Pro Division event in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. He’s 2-for-8 on the premier series so far in 2020, and is 3-for-8 at three prior Global Cups, including an 86-point effort in 2019.

The difference-maker could be…

Jake Gardner is, according to teammate Brock Radford, still maturing as a bull rider, but is both improving rapidly and no stranger to success – he’s the two-time reigning CPRA all-around cowboy, as he’s both a bull rider and steer wrestler. A member of the 2017 Canadian squad via the qualifier, he went 0-for-3, but a good performance in Arlington could be key to Team Canada’s improvement.

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