Gold Cup 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders in Each Group

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Gold Cup 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders in Each Group
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The 2013 Gold Cup field features many lesser-known national teams, but there are still a couple of teams who stand out from the pack.

This year's CONCACAF event, which runs every two years in a regional format, won't live up to the importance of this summer's World Cup qualifying matches for some teams. But for others, it's their biggest chance in years to win a big-time international tournament and put their nation on the map.

The 12-team field is split into three groups of four, with a round-robin format deciding which teams will move on to the knockout stage. 

Let's take a look at the top contenders in each of the three groups.

 

Group A: Mexico, Canada, Panama, Martinique

Top Contender: Mexico

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The Mexico national team came into this summer's slate focused and ready to make a splash in three events: the Confederations Cup, World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup. It hasn't had much success in its first two endeavors.

Thankfully for Mexico, though, it strolls into the Gold Cup as one of the major favorites and the defending champ. 

However, it'll be without Giovani dos Santos and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, saving its two most potent attackers for future World Cup qualifying events. That'll make things a bit trickier than normal.

But the six-time Gold Cup champion knows what it takes to win this tournament, and that'll ring true even without two of its biggest stars. 

Canada is in its group and is the only nation other than Mexico or the United States that can say it's won a Gold Cup (2000), but it's bringing a young roster that will have to go through some growing pains.

With Mexico's eyes set on the big prize of notching Gold Cup win No. 7, a depleted attack won't deter it from winning Group A.

 

Group B: Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti

Top Contender: Honduras

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Any group that doesn't have Mexico or the U.S. in it for the Gold Cup is wide open, to say the least. Throw in no Canada as well, and you have yourself a group that is up for the taking.

Enter Honduras. 

The Honduran national team may not be on the same plane as the two CONCACAF giants, but it's proven that it's one of the better teams in the region with a slew of solid performances in World Cup qualifying. It's hung with both the Americans and Mexicans on a handful of occasions.

It boasts enough talented young players to make this one interesting, and the youngsters should be hungry to score big goals on a huge international stage. This is one of those teams that you can bet will be ready to play and hungry to win matches.

With the Gold Cup's better teams sending weakened rosters, Honduras could end up being as strong as any team in the field.

 

Group C: United States, Costa Rica, Cuba, Belize

Top Contender: United States

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Fewer star players, still no problem for the USMNT

The Americans, despite cutting out some of their best players in the efforts of staying healthy for World Cup qualifying, bring a slew of top-notch footballers into the Gold Cup.

Led by the return of Landon Donovan as well as able players like Oguchi Onyewu, Stuart Holden, Herculez Gomez and DaMarcus Beasley, there's a heap of experience headed to play in the Gold Cup. While so many other teams will feature youngsters, it seems as if the Americans are seasoning up their roster.

Younger players like Jose Torres and Brek Shea will provide some quicker firepower for the squad, but you won't be seeing Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley or a couple of other notable American players in this tournament.

The United States' biggest competition in Group C figures to be Costa Rica. The Central American foes are right behind the U.S. in the World Cup standings and have a lead on Mexico for the time being.

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