It is summer time on the soccer calendar and that means the sport’s biggest events are on the horizon. One those events is the semi-annual FIFA CONCACAF Gold Cup which showcases the best national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. This year marks the 14th edition. The last edition was held in 2015 and won by Mexico. More importantly it decided the CONCACAF bid for this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup. This year’s event however will be strictly for regional bragging rights.
With the United States hosting for the 11th time, the 2017 tournament will present a diverse pool of teams. Competition will range from the usual suspects (United States, Mexico, Canada), to first timers (Curacao, French Guiana), and perennial underdogs (Nicaragua, Martinique). In the process we’ll get the privilege and pleasure of seeing some of the world’s top and in some cases undiscovered talent. Every tourney has its share of veterans, role players and breakout stars. We canvassed all 12 teams participating in El Copa Oro and here are the players to watch.
Christian Pulisic, Midfielder
At just 18-years-old, Pulisic has been heralded as the future of U.S. soccer. But he’s also been a driving force in 2017 with three international goals (against Honduras in March and two against Trinidad and Tobago in June) during World Cup qualifying games which has kept Team USA’s bid for an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance alive. His combination of youth, athleticism and exposure on the big stage could be what the USMNT needs to take home their sixth Gold Cup title (and first since 2013).
Erick Gutierrez, Midfielder
With Mexico’s main squad playing in Russia for the Confederations Cup, the FMF is turning to “El Tri’s” B-team to repeat as Gold Cup champions. Having just turned 21, the Sinaloa native is considered a rising star in Mexico. He notched five caps and four goals for Mexico’s Under-23 team before getting his chance with the main national team earlier this year. He’ll have to be a major contributor if Mexico wants to keep the Gold Cup title in their trophy case.
Bryan Ruiz, Forward
When you think about Costa Rica’s success over the last few years, Ruiz was there for every big moment. In 2011 it was reaching the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup and beating Bolivia in the Copa America. In 2013 it was winning the Copa Centro Americana, in 2014 he helped Costa Rica become a World Cup Cinderella, while 2015 saw Costa Rica reach the Gold Cup quarterfinals yet again and hold their own in friendlies against Russia, Venezuela, the United States, Uruguay and Mexico. With all these accomplishments, like it or not Ruiz is the face of this team.
Now Ruiz has to answer the question as to whether or not he can finally lead this team to a Gold Cup championship.