Gold Cup 2013: Biggest Storylines Heading Into CONCACAF Tournament

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJuly 3, 2013

June 23, 2013; Carson, CA, USA; Chivas USA defender Walter Vilchez (4) defends against Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (10) during the first half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup is set to begin on July 7, and the storylines are building for one of the biggest international tournaments of the summer. 

Twelve teams highlight the field, which aims to bring the best national squads from the CONCACAF.

Of course, the field is highlighted by both the U.S. and Mexico national teams as the North American foes look to improve their form in the hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup. They'll highlight a field that also features the likes of Costa Rica, Haiti, Canada, Honduras and many more. 

Let's take a look at some of the biggest talking points for the upcoming Gold Cup. 

The full schedule for the upcoming Gold Cup can be found here.


Will Landon Donovan Re-Prove His Worth?

If one name has been synonymous with the USMNT in the past decade, it's Landon Donovan. 

The attacking midfielder is America's all-time leader in scoring and assists, and also boasts the claim of being the top goalscorer in Gold Cup history. However, Donovan hasn't suited up for a USMNT match in months. 

Now, the 31-year-old will make his return in a tournament that often plays second fiddle to the World Cup qualifiers, as is told by the amount of young players and unheralded names on the roster. 

No American soccer player has had more success for the national team than Donovan, and they'll certainly need his help if they want to put themselves in the best position next summer. 

Perhaps this is Klinsmann's vision of easing Donovan back into playing time in a tournament that he can watch him closely and doesn't have to expect anything off the bat. Before inserting him with the likes of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, he can see how he does with mostly reserves. 

If Donovan can get his game back and emerge as a constant threat in the Gold Cup, the implications will reach much further than this summer's tournament.


Is Mexico Slumping At the Wrong Time?

This summer was shaping up to be a huge one for the Mexico national team, but it's been a nightmare thus far.

Mexico entered the summer looking the part of the most talented team in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but the table doesn't show it. After six games, the standings from ESPN FC show that Mexico is behind both the U.S. and Costa Rica. 

The Mexicans also had a chance to gain some momentum and improve their form in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, where they faced off in a daunting Group A that featured Italy, Japan and Brazil. Unfortunately, they lost their first two games in Brazil before topping Japan in their final match, having already been eliminated.

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has proven his worth as the team's obvious hero, but he's not receiving enough team help for Mexico to feel too hot about their chances moving forward. It'll take a major shift in their form for Mexico to be able to bounce back.

The Gold Cup would be a great opportunity for them to do just that. As the defending champions, they'll come in with some added swagger and it should be to their benefit as they look to keep their struggles behind them. 


Who is This Year's Sleeper?

In every year and in every tournament, a sleeper team always emerges and makes their way into the later fixtures. 

This year should be no different, as teams like U.S. and Mexico may have their ultimate sights set on World Cup qualification. Meanwhile, some teams who had to qualify to make the Gold Cup will be playing with a completely different motivation level.

Perhaps Honduras could be in the hunt for a deep tournament run. They've showed up well in World Cup qualifications, proving themselves able to hang with the best North American teams out there.

Trinidad and Tobago is another squad to keep an eye on. They haven't advanced to the semifinals in the Gold Cup since 2000, but they did qualify for the 2006 World Cup, and that alone is a huge bragging right for any national team.

Costa Rica's successes in the 2014 World Cup qualifying have already been noted, and they could give the U.S. some problems in Group C.

If one thing is certain, it's that there are numerous teams that could make things really interesting by making a deep run.