Gold Cup 2013: Why Sunday's Final Is a Must Win for the USMNT

Ryan Tolmich@@R_TolmichCorrespondent IIJuly 25, 2013

The United States will need to defeat Panama if they are to keep their record-breaking win streak alive.
The United States will need to defeat Panama if they are to keep their record-breaking win streak alive.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The United States Men's Soccer team has had quite a summer.

The Yanks have won their past 10 games, setting the mark for the best streak in the team's history. With a combined score of 34-8, the USA has battered its way to both World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup successes by absolutely destroying virtually every team in its path.

However, while the unprecedented run has been a nice ride for American fans, ending it on a Gold Cup loss would be catastrophic. 

This Sunday's finale against Panama is anything but a gimme for the Yanks. Panama just knocked off an always tough Mexico team in Dallas, which might as well have been called a home game at Azteca North. Panama has defended admirably, allowing only three goals all tournament, while also featuring a scoring threat in MLS star Blas Perez.

But let's not over-think things: The United States are expected to win this game. They are the stronger side, they are playing at home, and, most importantly, they have all of the momentum in the world. The odds are certainly stacked in favor of the Americans to win their first Gold Cup since 2007.

However, this is far from a no-win scenario for the Team USA, as there is plenty to play for. A chance to play in the 2017 Confederations Cup is attainable, which could be an essential part in future World Cup successes.

There is also the current edition of World Cup qualifying to worry about. Although the United States appears to be all but qualified, as evidenced by the now famous "We Are Going To Brazil" chants, a loss this Sunday could be exactly the event to derail the entire program.

Finally, when it comes to qualifying, it is always important to be ranked as high as possible. Are the United States a threat to win the World Cup in 2014? Who knows. But if the Yanks could find a way to finish out 2013 riding a big time winning streak, wouldn't it be hard not to consider the possibility?

But that all starts with Sunday's matchup with Panama. A loss to the Panamanians would derail everything this US team has accomplished this summer. A win, however, may be exactly what the Stars and Stripes need to finally vault themselves into the company of the world's top teams.

Will the United States defeat Panama as expected? Discuss the game with a comment below!