The question "Who is going to be the next Captain America?" is still one of the biggest MCU mysteries ever since Steve Rogers hung up his shield by traveling back in time and staying with Peggy. And even though the old Cap chose to pass his shield to Sam, the question still stands- Who deserves to be the new Captain America? It ain't John Walker, he has already shown that he doesn't understand what makes Captain America the selfless hero he was when he bragged that he has jumped on four grenades and used his specially reinforced helmet to absorb the blast. So, that leaves us two choices- either Sam or Bucky.
In the comics, both Sam and Bucky become Captain America. We agree that the former's arc in the comics is more in line with what happened in Avengers: Endgame- he got the shield after Steve Rogers became old while Bucky got it after the Cap was apparently killed. Both deserved the shield in the comics but when it comes to the MCU, the characters have had different trajectories and that complicates the question of who is more eligible to be Captain America.
Fighting alongside Captain America vs fighting for him
While Sam Wilson was also a soldier like Steve, he did not become an Avenger to protect the world and save lives. He did it because Cap asked him to- he just followed his idol into battle. Though he is certainly a likeable character, is funny, and is indeed a "good man" as Steve said, he has rarely been shown as someone who can strategize or take instant decisions in the moment of need- he has merely tagged along with Cap in the past.
There is no denying that Sam shares a connection with Steve, but again, he is not really someone who resonates with him, unlike Bucky. Sam has fought for Steve while Bucky has fought alongside him. While it doesn't really matter, it is Bucky whom we have seen wielding or holding the shield in all three Captain America films. Anyway, apart from becoming a villain unlike Cap, he has led a similar, if not more complicated life than Steve. He too is a man removed from his timeline and while Steve always had his free will, Bucky fought a hardwired program in his head to fight for what's right.
But there is also the fact that no matter for what reason Sam became an Avenger, he is still fighting the good fight even though Steve Rogers is no longer around, even though his life is problematic enough, and even though being a hero barely affords him any perks. In contrast to why he became an Avenger, today, he is an exceptional fighter, someone who makes brilliant plans on the dot. And what's more, he never hesitates to go after criminals even when they are far more physically powerful than he is- it takes some serious guts to go into a fight where you already know your opponent has all the advantages and yet Sam goes in without batting an eyelash.
Sam vs Bucky: For whom is becoming Captain America a better fate?
Sam has an identity- he is already a hero- but Bucky has just recently shrugged off his title as the ruthless Winter Soldier i.e., if the treatment Shuri employed on him in Wakanda at the end of Captain America: Civil War actually worked. He is free from the HYDRA's brainwashing and just like Steve, he is lost in an era to which he doesn't belong.
He needs a sense of purpose in life, a chance to redeem and unburden himself from the guilt he carries because of the heinous acts he committed as the Winter Soldier. Many may say that he is too tired from the wars to become Captain America but maybe he is just done fighting on the wrong side of the fight? He is tired of being used as a pawn by others and donning the title, which comes with a sense of independence and bravery, is the best thing that could happen to him at a time when the only person who understood him is not there to support him anymore.
But at the same time, we can't neglect the fact that Cap did choose to pass on the shield to Sam, even Bucky himself let him go forward on seeing the old Steve, knowing fully-well what was going to happen. Bucky had been Steve's best friend for, well, literally a century, he is indeed powerful enough to both wield the shield and fulfil the duties of being Captain America.
And yet Steve decided that Sam should be the one to get the title. Why? Because as Sam said, he does what Cap does, only slower and that includes having the heart to put his life on the line for others without letting his past trauma cloud his judgement. Bucky's decisions in life, even now that he is no longer the Winter Soldier, are still affected by his past. He is currently not interested in saving the world but busy proving that Steve was right in believing in him.
Who is the better choice to wield the shield?
It is well-known that Steve Rogers didn't become Captain America because he was fit or a good fighter- he is worthy of the shield because of his good, brave, selfless heart which doesn't hesitate for a second to risk his life for others. What makes one an ideal candidate for becoming Captain America is a fighting spirit that never gives up, the zeal to help, and the belief that there exists goodness in people. And after Steve, this quality can be found in Sam.
When Sam returned from the Air Force, he was traumatized from his years in the military and yet, he spent years as a VA counsellor for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. While it's true that he returned to fighting for what is right for Steve, he did it without a single thought to his well-being. And as we said, Steve is no longer there to guide him and yet he is still fighting, not backing down no matter what the circumstances. Some very strong "I can do this all day" vibes, don't you think?
But there is a second side to this argument too. It has been said, time and again, that physical prowess doesn't matter to become Captain America and yet, Steve didn't become Captain America as the brave-hearted weakling from Brooklyn- he wielded the shield and protected the nation as an enhanced superhuman. This in itself translates that while the goodness of one's heart is paramount, their strength and abilities to shoulder the responsibilities the title, "Captain America," brings with itself is also important.
Also, it's not Falcon who has enhanced strength, amped up proficiency, superhuman abilities, or well, a cyborg arm to wield the shield better than Steve Rogers himself. Take away his gimmick of flying and all that is left is just a regular person.
On one hand, we have Bucky, who is a selfless hero who has already fought for others (in the 1940s, during World War II) and didn't need an idol to willingly become a part of the war and fight for his country. He has already proved his integrity and the goodness of his heart when he temporarily trumped HYDRA supreme brainwashing and did what was right. And even when he had seemingly retired and was living in Wakanda as the "White Wolf," he still returned to fight Thanos. But Steve's absence and his own past are crippling his potential to do better.
On the other hand, while Sam is indeed following in Steve's footsteps, he is not letting anything, past or present, stop him from doing what is right. He has the needed "can do" attitude as well as is someone who is working for the people and not the government.
Thus, now that the title for Captain America is up for grabs and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is many episodes away from revealing the answer, who do you think is a better candidate for the shield- Bucky or Sam, both have their merits and flaws. Let us know!