Early Takeaways From Concacaf’s Preliminary Gold Cup Squads

Early Takeaways From Concacaf’s Preliminary Gold Cup Squads

The Gold Cup contenders each revealed squads of up to 60 players, which will be trimmed down to 23, but there are still significant indications given by such sizable groups.

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There’s no speculation quite like roster speculation, but at the very least, Concacaf’s Gold Cup contenders have given more insight into how they’ll craft their teams for next month’s regional championship.

The nations who will compete in the Gold Cup—including guest nation Qatar and those who still have a qualifying round to get through—have revealed their preliminary squads for the competition, listing up to 60 players apiece as part of the process of selecting their final teams.

The preliminary rosters represent a formal step and ultimately are just really long lists of names in each respective nation’s player pool. “Narrowing” pools down to 60 or so players isn’t really doing much, and those final, 23-man lists aren’t expected until the end of the month. But the preliminary squads do give an indication into managers’ thinking and approach to the competition.

The U.S., for instance, has long been clear that its top squad won’t be called in for this competition. The top-end, Europe-based contingent, it’s been said, will be getting a break after a long, compressed season and will be linking up with their clubs for preseason at the time of the Gold Cup. So that means no expectation that Nations League-winning stars like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest and beyond would take place. That much was confirmed with the Friday release of the U.S.’s preliminary roster. But not every nation is necessarily following suit.

Canada, for instance, has included its three premier, Europe-based talents in Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Cyle Larin on its preliminary list. Mexico, meanwhile, has the entirety of its 23-man Nations League finals squad as part of its 60-man group, and while Hirving Lozano, Tecatito Corona and other Europe-based stars may not necessarily feature in the competition, they at least remain in frame for the next couple of weeks.

Here are a few more takeaways and notables from Concacaf’s roster dump—which precedes the one that actually matters:

The U.S. doesn’t omit the entire European contingent

While the core U.S. players won’t be taking part in the Gold Cup, that doesn’t mean some from Europe aren’t being considered. 

Reggie Cannon, Julian Green, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown, Matthew Hoppe, Shaq Moore and Nicholas Gioacchini are all Europe-based players in the 59-man mix, though it remains to be seen how the transfer window and club demands impact their actual availability (Daryl Dike, who starred on loan at Barnsley, has returned to Orlando City, but he could be on the move abroad this summer as well). Of that group, Green, Hoppe and Cannon were called into the most recent camp, with Green making his long-awaited return to the U.S. and Hoppe taking part in his first camp, while Cannon went on to be part of the Nations League-winning squad.

In all, only Cannon, Kellyn Acosta, Sebastian Lletget and Jackson Yueill are preliminary roster carryovers from the Nations League team. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter had previously indicated that center backs Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson were players he was eyeing for the Gold Cup and, barring injury, they can be penciled in for two of the 23 spots.

Another intriguing carryover element is that of veteran players. Brad Guzan, Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes have been included in the larger group, while the likes of Michael Bradley, among others, have not. At this point, Berhalter’s core is skewing considerably younger and is pretty transparent, but it’s still worth monitoring who remains in frame and who does not, with the compressed qualifying format perhaps forcing the manager to dig deeper into his player pool than in past cycles.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the vast amounts of young players included, with one eye-opening addition being that of Louisville City’s 17-year-old Mexican-American defender Jonathan Gomez. It’s not unheard of for players in U.S. lower-tier leagues to get looked at by the USMNT, but it is unusual. Another 17-year-old of intrigue is D.C. United’s Liberia-born Moses Nyeman, who is in the process of securing his U.S. passport.

The full U.S. preliminary roster can be seen here.

Beyond Mexico’s Nations League core…

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández has been in peak scoring form for the LA Galaxy this season after his well-documented struggles of 2020, and El Tri’s all-time leading scorer has been included on the preliminary list by Tata Martino. The 33-year-old hasn’t played for Mexico since a September 2019 friendly vs. the United States, in which he scored the opening goal as part of a 3–0 win—the last of his 52 international strikes.

He’s joined by his club teammate, Efraín Álvarez, who maintains U.S. eligibility and appeared in a winter camp with the USMNT. It looks more and more like he’s leaning El Tri, and an appearance in the Gold Cup would cap-tie him to his parents’ birth nation.

A new addition for Mexico is Monterrey striker Rogelio Funes Mori, who just received clearance from FIFA to change his allegiance from Argentina. The 30-year-old has been a stalwart for Monterrey in Liga MX and strengthens Martino’s options up front.

El Salvador’s U.S. contingent grows

El Salvador, which will host the U.S. in the opening match of Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying Octagonal, is coached by a National Soccer Hall of Famer and former U.S. international and U.S. Soccer youth coach in Hugo Pérez. His nephew, Joshua Pérez, is a former U.S. youth product. U.S.-born Eriq Zavaleta and Walmer Martinez were part of the team that helped La Selecta qualify for the Octagonal.

Well, El Salvador is expanding its reach, recruiting Seattle Sounders right back Alex Roldan—whose club teammate and older brother, Cristian, is highly likely to make the U.S.’s final roster. Alex Roldan is in the process of finalizing his eligibility to play for El Salvador, but if it is completed in time, there could well be a brother vs. brother showdown, either in the Gold Cup or World Cup qualifying down the line. Other potential U.S.-born additions for El Salvador include California native and San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Eric Calvillo and New Jersey-born New Mexico United forward Amando Moreno, who made Hugo Pérez’s preliminary squad as well.

Akinola appears to be Canada’s

A year after his breakout summer performance at the MLS Is Back tournament, Ayo Akinola appears to have made his international choice. The Toronto FC forward is part of Canada’s preliminary squad, which doesn’t lock him into anything. But, like with Álvarez and Mexico, should Akinola make the Gold Cup squad and appear in a match, that would be that for his international allegiance. The 21-year-old Akinola played—and scored—for the U.S. in a December 2020 friendly vs. El Salvador, but he has only appeared in camp for Canada since.

Jamaica swings for a big addition

It’s no secret Jamaica has been trying to expand its player pool with English internationals who also have Jamaican eligibility, and West Ham striker Michail Antonio is one who has pledged his allegiance to the Reggae Boyz. He’s yet to make his debut, though, with an injury keeping him from facing the U.S. in March, but it could come in the Gold Cup. Coming off consecutive 10-goal seasons in the Premier League, the 31-year-old would add an instant boost to Jamaica’s attack.

Reading’s Liam Moore and Watford’s Andre Gray are two of the other recent dual-national additions to Theodore Whitmore’s squad, and they’re both included on the preliminary squad—as is Bayer Leverkusen star Leon Bailey.

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