Gold Cup 2019: Players to Watch, What to Expect from USMNT and Mexico

The 2019 Gold Cup gets underway on Saturday and its central theme looks set to be the same that characterized each of the previous 14 editions.

Namely, can anyone stop the U.S. or Mexico?

While it's unlikely to see that particular duopoly being broken—except from Canada's solitary triumph in 2000 no other team has won the Gold Cup—there are a number of storylines worth looking out for.

Changes afoot for the U.S. and Mexico

The two teams have dominated the tournament since its inception in 1991 but arrive into this year's edition with more questions than answers. The U.S. did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup and have not played a competitive match in 20 months.

Mexico, meanwhile, was knocked out in the round of 16 for the seventh consecutive time and will be without the likes of Hirving Lozano, Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez

Both sides are in a state of transition, a dynamic exacerbated by the fact both teams have new coaches at the helm.

Gregg Berhalter only took charge of USMNT in December, while Gerardo Martino was appointed as coach of El Tri a month later.

Despite all of the above, it would be extremely surprising not to see one of the two teams lifting the trophy in Chicago on July 7.

New frontiers

This year's Gold Cup makes history as it marks the first time games are held in a country other than the U.S., Mexico or Canada.

Costa Rica and Jamaica will host two games each in San Jose and Kingston, respectively, marking the first time Gold Cup matches will be held in Central America and in the Caribbean.

Taking the tournament to Costa Rica and Jamaica should be a success given the countries' love for soccer and could be replicated in the future.

Michael Bradley, USMNT
Michael Bradley #4 (fourth from left) of United States talks with teammates Cristian Roldan #10, Gyasi Zardes #9 and Djordje Mihailovic #8 during the first half of the international friendly against the Panama at State Farm Stadium on January 27 in Glendale, Arizona. Getty/Christian Petersen

The Cuban issue

Cuba returns at the Gold Cup for the first time since 2015 but politics could take center stage over soccer. Four years ago, striker Keiler Garcia left the team to defect and was soon followed by six other players and then-coach Raul Gonzalez Triana

The risk of defection remains high and aside from political complications it could have a hugely destabilizing effect on the team, which would be left shorthanded.

In 2015, Cuba only had 16 players available for its opener against Mexico.

Players to watch

Christian Pulisic has the chance to impress on the international stage for the first time since USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The 20-year-old has played just five times for the national team since but will be looking to put down a marker after securing a big money move to English Premier League team Chelsea.

One of the players Pulisic will come up against in the EPL next season could be Mexico's star player Raul Jimenez.

The 28-year-old scored 13 goals in 38 Premier League matches for Wolves in his debut season in England and Martino will be looking at him to supply goals in the absence of Hirving Lozano, Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez.

New kids on the block

Bermuda and Guyana will be making their debut at the tournament and, unsurprisingly, are ranked as 250/1 outsiders.

Both teams feature players who are either semi-professional or play in the lower tiers of the football pyramid in England, France and Spain.

Little is expected of Bermuda and Guyana but the former in particular will be hoping to cause an upset or two, having already beaten El Salvador.