MIAMI (Reuters) - Mexico are aiming for a record seventh CONCACAF Gold Cup title when the tournament kicks off on Sunday but Juergen Klinsmann’s United States, with Landon Donovan back in their squad, believe they can stop El Tri from a third straight tournament win.
The championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean, played every two years, features 12 teams in three groups, before an eight-team knockout stage, with games played across the United States.
The tournament also marks a chance for CONCACAF to move on from the body’s report into fraud involving resigned officials Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer.
“We are looking forward to an exciting tournament, we have seen in World Cup qualifying how competitive the level of play is in our region and we are looking forward to seeing the same in the Gold Cup,” CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb told Reuters.
This year’s competition comes after an intense series of World Cup qualifiers in June meaning the leading teams have been forced to rest some of their key players.
The past three finals have involved the United States against Mexico and while the pair begin as favorites, there will be an unfamiliar look to both teams.
Mexico, who also played in the Confederations Cup in Brazil, have named a youthful squad featuring players exclusively drawn from their domestic competition.
The U.S. also have a weakened squad, without key European based players such as Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, but there is plenty of experience with Donovan back in the fold along with Malaga defender Oguchi Onyewu and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden.
His country’s all-time top scorer, Donovan lost his place in Klinsmann’s squad after taking a break from the game and missing key qualifiers in March, but the Gold Cup is a chance to get back in the frame for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
“For me, it is just an opportunity and I want to do well,” said the 31-year-old.
“I want the team to succeed here, that part for me is the most important. If I do my best and it is not good enough, then so be it. Hopefully at the end of the month, we are lifting a trophy together,” he said.
The U.S. kick off their campaign against Belize in Portland on Tuesday and also face Cuba and Costa Rica in Group C.
Mexico have a tougher start when they face Panama at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Sunday following the opening game in Group A between Canada and Martinique.
The toughest group to predict is Group B which features old rivals Honduras and El Salvador along with Trinidad and Tobago and a Haiti team that put in impressive performances in recent friendlies against Spain and Italy.
In a new element to the tournament this year, the winner will qualify to face the champion of the 2015 Gold Cup for a place in the next Confederations Cup, to be held in Russia in 2017.
Editing by Gene Cherry