2019 Gold Cup ultimate preview: Can anyone topple Mexico or the U.S. this summer?

You have to go back to the 2000 Gold Cup to find a winner who isn't Mexico or the United States, but 2019 sees both of those sides enter the tournament with more questions than answers, and they'll be hunted down by teams full of dynamic young talent threatening to upend the order in North and Central America.

The U.S. enter the tournament as defending champions, but all has not gone well for the Stars and Stripes since lifting their continental crown in 2017. After failing to qualify for last summer's World Cup, the Americans jettisoned their second manager of the 2018 cycle and ushered in a new coach in Gregg Berhalter and a new generation of players to restart the program. (So far, the results have been less than promising.)

Mexico, meanwhile, have a new coach of their own in Gerardo "Tata" Martino. While the former Atlanta United, Argentina and Barcelona manager inherited a much more stable situation than what awaited Berhalter north of the border, Martino must cope with a Gold Cup squad shorn of its biggest players, whether through injury or personal reasons.

ESPN FC's Arch Bell dives into the biggest questions facing the U.S. and Mexico, a primer on some of the tournament's biggest challengers and a team-by-team guide to all 16 teams hoping to make a run for this summer's Gold Cup.

Jump to: U.S., Mexico vs. the rest | Key players | Must-see days and matches | Team-by-team guide

Key storyline: Can anyone stop U.S. or Mexico?

It's not often that Mexico and the United States enter a major tournament with new coaches, but here we are with Martino, who has just a few friendlies under his belt with El Tricolor, and likewise for Berhalter.

Despite no Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Carlos Vela, Hirving Lozano and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Martino has the more talented squad and the expectations are always that Mexico wins this tournament. But with so many players turning down call-ups -- MLS MVP front-runner Vela in particular -- Martino is feeling some heat. It hasn't affected them yet, as Martino's a perfect four-for-four in games since taking over, but the stress of official tournament play is its own beast.

Even without the aforementioned attacking players, Mexico still have the most talent in this tournament and are in good shape to win their eighth Gold Cup. Albeit just friendlies, El Tri have responded nicely to Martino with 13 goals in four friendly wins against Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela and Ecuador.

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At the back, they are well stocked with Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes, Carlos Salcedo and others. Rodolfo Pizarro has enjoyed an excellent season at Monterrey and will bolster a midfield that includes Andres Guardado, Edson Alvarez and Jonathan dos Santos. Jimenez will be the man up top; it'll take a near-perfect match to eliminate them.

It will be different for Berhalter. With the U.S. in a new cycle and the wounds still fresh from not qualifying for Russia 2018, U.S. fans will be keen to see how their team plays. While not winning the tournament would be disappointing, an attacking brand of soccer from a young U.S. team would be a decent consolation, though warm-up defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela have fans wondering what the best- and worst-case scenarios might be this summer.

There is an intriguing unknown surrounding the Gold Cup hosts at the moment. Berhalter has called upon plenty of experienced players, such as midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, who are well-acquainted with lifting the Gold Cup trophy. He's also counting on two players from his former club, Columbus Crew, in key positions, with Wil Trapp expected to anchor the midfield and Gyasi Zardes the back-up option at striker.

Defensively, center-back John Brooks failed to be healthy in time, meaning things look a little shaky all of a sudden: a back four of Nick Lima, Matt Miazga, Aaron Long and Tim Ream conceded three times to Venezuela in the first half in their final tune-up. It's not all bad, of course: Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Pulisic is a dream midfield trio that U.S. fans are pining to see, and this Gold Cup could be the start of something special. If Berhalter can find the right combo at the forward position, like finding a partner for Altidore, the U.S. can feel good about their chances.

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Outside of Canada's Cinderella conquest in 2000, no one from outside the "big two" of Mexico and the U.S. has ever won. Of the remaining teams, the first one that springs to mind is Costa Rica. Even without Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who withdrew from contention for the fourth consecutive Gold Cup, the Ticos have the ingredients to go all the way. One has to go back to the "Snowclasico" of 2013 to find the last time the U.S. beat Costa Rica with Navas in goal.

Other teams that could flirt with a deep run are Canada and Jamaica. The young talent is there for Canada with Alphonso Davies, while Jamaica were finalists in 2015 and 2017. The Reggae Boyz are a difficult out for anyone and did just stun the U.S. 1-0 in a tune-up at D.C. United's Audi Field.

Beyond that, one team capable of a shock this time around is Curacao. They were three-and-out in 2017, but all three matches vs. Jamaica, Mexico and El Salvador were very close affairs. With a team boasting players from the top two divisions in the Netherlands, Curacao shredded opponents for 22 goals during CONCACAF Nations League qualifying to finish fourth in the table and punch their ticket again to the Gold Cup.

Taking coach Remko Bicentini's team lightly would be a mistake.

Players to watch: Jimenez, Pulisic, Davies

Christian Pulisic: Ever since the infamous Trinidad and Tobago loss, Pulisic has hardly been seen in a U.S. uniform, with five appearances since October 2017. Without question he is, or should be, the leader of the U.S. team.

And so, the 2019 Gold Cup serves as Pulisic's first chance to put his stamp on the U.S. team and dominate their CONCACAF opponents. The U.S.'s opener against Guyana on June 18 will mark 20 months since the team's last official competitive match, and after a strong finish to the Bundesliga season with Borussia Dortmund, a good Gold Cup would be the right way for Pulisic to launch into his Chelsea career.

Raul Jimenez: With Hirving Lozano likely out and no Hernandez or Vela, Wolves striker Raul Jimenez will be the guy that Martino will rely on to supply the goals.

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Jimenez excelled in his first season in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals in 38 league matches. He served as a substitute in last summer's World Cup, coming off the bench in two matches, but after his fine season in England and at age 28, he is poised to take the Gold Cup by the scruff of the neck. His big, physical stature will suit him nicely against the big CONCACAF center-backs he'll encounter.

Alphonso Davies: Davies had his international breakout two years ago in the 2017 Gold Cup, when he finished tied as the tournament's top scorer with four goals at the age of 16. Now with a half-season of experience at Bayern Munich under his belt following his move from the Vancouver Whitecaps, it's all there for Davies to be one of the top players at the tournament and lead Canada on a deep run.

Must-see days and matches

June 19, Mexico vs. Canada, Group A: This can be the game that Canada shows it is a major player in the region. There is talk about Davies, but fellow young attackers Jonathan David and Cyle Larin will be undaunted going against an experience Mexican defense. Canada's history against Mexico is not good -- they were drilled by El Tri 3-0 and 2-0 in a pair of 2018 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers -- but that was the pre-Davies era.

Mexico will, of course, enjoy the majority of fan support, but if they begin to struggle, the whistles and jeers will rain down. With so many key attacking players missing, the lack of goals could increase the pressure Mexico feels and anything outside of a decisive win will be heavily criticized.

June 20, Nicaragua vs. Haiti, Group B: For two teams that rarely faced each other up until a few years ago, this has become a bitter rivalry. The genesis came in March 2017 when the Pinoleros and Les Grenadiers squared off in a two-legged playoff for a berth in the 2017 Gold Cup. Haiti looked to be in control after winning the first leg at home 3-1 and was holding Nicaragua to a 0-0 draw heading into the final 10 minutes of the second leg. That's when Juan Barrera exploded for three goals to stun the Haitians.

Twenty months later they faced off in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying and Haiti had the last laugh with a 2-0 win in Nicaragua.

June 22, United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago, Group D: Do we really need an explanation here? In April at the Gold Cup draw at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, an audible "oooohhh" was heard when these two teams were placed into the same group. Yes indeed: it's the rematch of that October 2017 World Cup qualifier when the Soca Warriors dashed the Yanks' World Cup hopes with a shocking 2-1 win in Couva.

Most of the players have moved out of the U.S. frame in the time since -- five players have carried over from that night in Couva in Bradley, Altidore, Pulisic, Paul Arriola and Omar Gonzalez -- but there will be a lot of pressure for the U.S. team to deliver. Perhaps former U.S. international Landon Donovan put it best when right after the draw he told a pair of reporters, "Well, I know I'd be ready for that game ..."

Team-by-team Guide


Group games: vs. Haiti (6/16, 6 p.m. ET), vs. Costa Rica (6/20, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Nicaragua (6/24, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 175
SPI chances of winning: 0.1 percent

Why they'll go far: Opponents would be unwise to count on an easy three points against Bermuda. After a poor start to Nations League qualifying, losing 3-1 to Aruba, Bermuda closed the four-match slate in very strong fashion with a 1-0 home win over El Salvador and then a comeback 3-1 win away to the Dominican Republic. Led by QPR forward Nahki Wells, Bermuda will be playing without pressure given their low expectations. Midfielder Zeiko Lewis and forward Justin Donawa are also proven goal scorers.

Why they won't: Their defense faces a trial by fire given that it's mostly comprised of amateur or semi-professional players. They performed admirably against El Salvador but rainy conditions last November in Hamilton helped slow down the Cuscatleco strike force. Whether they can contain the likes of Campbell, Nazon and Barrera will be a big question mark.

Player to watch: Nahki Wells

Best XI (4-5-1): Dale Eve; Donte Brangman, Dante Leverock, Jaylon Bather, Calon Minors; Roger Lee, Willie Clemons, Reggie Thompson-Lambe, Lejuan Simmons, Zeiko Lewis; Nakhi Wells


Group games: vs. Martinique (6/15, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Mexico (6/19, 10:30 p.m. ET), vs. Cuba (6/23, 6 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 78
SPI chances of winning: 2.8 percent

Why they'll go far: The joys of youth. Davies and David are two exciting, talented players who can carry Canada to at least their first semifinal since 2007. Plus, there is enough experience to rely on with midfielders Samuel Piette and Junior Hoilett. While most eyes will be focused on Mexico and the U.S., Canada can swoop in and make some noise. El Tri might get the best of them in the group stage, but the two could meet again in the semifinals.

Why they won't: Yes, this is a different Canada but it is mostly inexperienced in big-time international matches. Two years ago they limped to a 2-1 quarterfinal defeat against Jamaica, and outside of some pretty easy fixtures in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying, this new core of players hasn't been tested. A poor response to the first sign of adversity could make for a quick exit.

Player to watch: Alphonso Davies

Best XI (4-3-3): Milan Borjan; Doneil Henry, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Derek Cornelius, Zachary Brault-Guillard; Samuel Piette, Jonathan Osorio, Scott Arfield; Junior Hoilett, Lucas Cavallini, Alphonso Davies


Group games: vs. Nicaragua (6/16, 8:30 p.m. ET), vs. Bermuda (6/20, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Haiti (6/24, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 38
SPI chances of winning: 12.4 percent

Why they'll go far: Costa Rica don't have the luxury of Navas in goal, but they showed in 2017 that a deep run can be made without Navas when they fell in the semifinals. Spearheading the Tico attack is forward Campbell, who was on fire in Liga MX with Leon, with two goals in the Liguilla and three during the month of May.

Why they won't: There are plenty of questions surrounding the Costa Rica midfield. Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges boast loads of experience but there's a huge gap between those two and the others. Their MLS-heavy defense with players like Kendall Waston, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Francisco Calvo struggled at last year's World Cup.

Player to watch: Joel Campbell

Best XI (5-3-2): Leonel Moreira; Giancarlo Gonzalez, Kendall Waston, Ronald Matarrita, Keysher Fuller, Francisco Calvo; Celso Borges, Allan Cruz, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell; Mayron George

CUBA, Group A

Group games: vs. Mexico (6/15, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Martinique (6/19, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Canada (6/23, 6 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 174
SPI chances of winning: 0.5 percent

Why they'll go far: The Cubans are no strangers to Gold Cup competition. This will be their ninth appearance in the past 12 Gold Cups. They're coming off a very good Nations League qualifying campaign in which their lone loss was to Haiti. Luis Paradela and Yordan Santa Cruz give Cuba a one-two punch that can do damage.

Why they won't: Any time Cuba is in the U.S. in official competition, there is always the risk of player defections. Such was the case four years ago when a slew of players and a coach defected, leaving Cuba shorthanded. In a tournament like the Gold Cup where depth is the key, the defection situation always leaves them vulnerable and hampers any chance of a deep run.

Player to watch: Luis Paradela

Best XI (4-4-2): Sandy Sanchez; Erick Rizo, Yosel Piedra, Yasmany Lopez, Dariel Morejon; Roberney Caballero, Andy Baquero, Daniel Luis, Yordan Santa Cruz; Arichel Hernandez, Luis Paradela


Group games: vs. El Salvador (6/17, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Honduras (6/21, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Jamaica (6/25, 8 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 82
SPI chances of winning: 0.6 percent

Why they'll go far: This is not a team lacking for weapons. Rangelo Janga hit six goals in the Nations League but won't be at the Gold Cup. Not to worry, as other key contributors like Leandro Bacuna (three goals), Gevaro Nepomuceno (four goals) and Edson Hooi (three goals) will be present. With the large majority of their players plying their trade in the Netherlands' top two divisions, Curacao have the talent to make a deep run. Premier League veterans Cuco Martina and Bacuna will be undaunted going against the likes of Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador.

Why they won't: Curacao is still not very well-versed in the nuances of the CONCACAF game. They lost all three group-stage matches in 2017, albeit by narrow margins; if they get behind in a group stage match, they'll need to keep their composure. Honduras and El Salvador are well acquainted with the art of frustrating opponents when ahead.

Player to watch: Leandro Bacuna

Best XI (4-4-2): Eloy Room; Cuco Martina, Shermar Martina, Darryl Lachman, Jurich Carolina; Shanon Carmelia, Leandro Bacuna, Michael Marina, Edson Hooi; Gevaro Nepomuceno, Gino van Kessel


Group games: vs. Curacao (6/17, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Jamaica (6/21, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Honduras (6/25, 10:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 71
SPI chances of winning: 0.6 percent

Why they'll go far: El Salvador has made it to the quarterfinals in three of the past four Gold Cups and will be plenty familiar with their group opponents. The Cuscatlecos defeated Jamaica 2-0 in Nations League qualifying and also faced the Reggae Boyz and Curacao two years ago in the 2017 group phase. With Nelson Bonilla and playmaker Gerson Mayen, El Salvador have the goods to win the group and potentially reach a first-ever semifinal.

Why they won't: El Salvador have long had the problem of errors and mishaps at key moments completely wiping out their strong soccer. They can play a very good first half and then unravel in a 15-minute span, especially against superior sides. The defense can sometimes lack discipline and a lack of depth in midfield could hurt, especially if they come up against the U.S. in the quarterfinals. A clash of egos between coach Carlos de los Cobos and LAFC striker Rodolfo Zelaya means that the latter won't be called, which is a shame considering Zelaya was El Salvador's best player in the 2017 Gold Cup.

Player to watch: Nelson Bonilla

Best XI (4-5-1): Henry Hernandez; Bryan Tamacas, Ivan Mancia, Roberto Dominguez, Jonathan Jimenez; Oscar Ceren, Darwin Ceren, Narciso Orellana, Jaime Alas, Gerson Mayen; Nelson Bonilla


Group games: vs. United States (6/18, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Panama (6/22, 5:30 p.m. ET), vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/26, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 175
SPI chances of winning: 0.01 percent

Why they'll go far: Nobody is expecting anything from Guyana so if any team has the impetus to stun their group stage rivals and put a charge into the tournament, it's the Golden Jaguars. Led by former Birmingham City legend and Jamaica international Michael Johnson, Guyana have a core of players who play in England's Football League, plus Philadelphia Union defender Warren Creavalle knows the U.S. team well. Forwards Sheldon Holder and Emery Welshman each fared well in Nations League qualifying and will be called on again in the Gold Cup.

Why they won't: There simply isn't the quality and depth for Guyana to make a serious run. They might be able to steal a point against Trinidad and Tobago or Panama, but overall the outlook is grim.

Player to watch: Emery Welshman

Best XI (4-5-1): Akel Clarke; Kadell Daniel, Sam Cox, Terence Vancooten, Ronayne Marsh-Brown; Anthony Jeffrey, Callum Harriot, Neil Danns, Keanu Marsh-Brown, Elliot Bonds; Emery Welshman

HAITI, Group B

Group games: vs. Bermuda (6/16, 6 p.m. ET), vs. Nicaragua (6/20, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Costa Rica (6/24, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 100
SPI chances of winning: 2.5 percent

Why they'll go far: Haiti will come into the Gold Cup feeling plenty confident about their chances of advancing far. Les Grenadiers topped CONCACAF Nations League qualifying with a perfect 4W-0D-0L record, 19 goals scored and just two conceded. The Haitians boast one of the region's most in-form strikers in Duckens Nazon, who scored six goals in just two Nations League matches. Four years ago, Haiti proved a tough opponent for anyone they came up against. Derrick Etienne of the New York Red Bulls also provides strength in attack.

Why they won't: There are still some vulnerable spots in the Haiti starting XI, specifically in midfield, where there just isn't a lot of experience or depth. While Haiti's talent can compensate for any midfield shortcomings against the likes of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Nations League, teams in the Gold Cup won't be as forgiving. In a group in which a spot in the knockout round could come down to goal difference, Haiti's lack of midfield depth could rear its head.

Player to watch: Duckens Nazon

Best XI (4-3-3): Johny Placide; Alex Junior Christian, Mechack Jerome, Ricardo Ade, Carlens Arcus; Charles Herold Jr., Bryan Alceus, Wilde-Donald Guerrier; Duckens Nazon, Frantzdy Pierrot, Mikael Cantave


Group games: vs. Jamaica (6/17, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. Curacao (6/21, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. El Salvador (6/25, 10:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 61
SPI chances of winning: 2.3 percent

Why they'll go far: Honduras are no strangers to reaching the final stages of the Gold Cup. In 2009, 2011 and 2013 the Catrachos made it to the final four and head coach Fabian Coito will be expected to return them there in 2019. The attack is very promising in the form of Girona's Anthony Lozano and Houston Dynamo duo Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. Elis in particular looks primed to take the next step at the international level.

Why they won't: Honduras certainly does not lack for experience but the aging legs of Maynor Figueroa, Emilio Izaguirre and Brayan Beckeles could exact a toll when the knockout round comes around. There are also questions in midfield. FC Dallas man Bryan Acosta looks a surefire starter, but after that Coito has to decide whether to go young or stay with age and experience.

Player to watch: Alberth Elis

Best XI (4-4-2): Luis Lopez; Emilio Izaguirre, Maynor Figueroa, Henry Figueroa, Brayan Beckeles; Michaell Chirinos, Luis Garrido, Danilo Acosta, Alberth Elis; Alexander Lopez, Anthony Lozano


Group games: vs. Honduras (6/17, 9:30 p.m. ET), vs. El Salvador (6/21, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Curacao (6/25, 8 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 56
SPI chances of winning: 1 percent

Why they'll go far: Been there, done that. Jamaica have defied the oddsmakers and reached the last two Gold Cup finals with a strong defensive team and opportunistic scoring. Head coach Theodore Whitmore, who constructed the team's 2017 run, is back in the fold as are many of the protagonists from that team, like goalkeeper Andre Blake, left-back Kemar Lawrence and forward Darren Mattocks. There's also the intangible of Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey, who finally accepted the call-up in May and will represent his place of birth despite reports he was trying to get eligibility to play for England. It remains to be seen how he'll fit in just yet.

Why they won't: At age 35, Watson does not have the speed and quickness of past years and that will be a concern. Also, Jamaica struggled to score goals in the final two games of Nations League qualifying, mustering just a pair of goals against Suriname and then being held scoreless at El Salvador. Mattocks and Cory Burke have their fair share of doubters.

Player to watch: Darren Mattocks

Best XI (4-4-2): Andre Blake; Kemar Lawrence, Damion Lowe, Alvas Powell, Michael Hector; Devon Williams, Je-Vaughn Watson, Ricardo Morris, Leon Bailey; Darren Mattocks, Cory Burke


Group games: vs. Canada (6/15, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Cuba (6/19, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Mexico (6/23, 8:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: N/A
SPI chances of winning: 0.0 percent

Why they'll go far: Not a lot is expected of Martinique so they'll hopefully be able to enjoy themselves in the U.S. this summer. Martinique performed quite well in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying to claim their Gold Cup berth, joining Haiti and Canada as the only teams with a 4W-0D-0L record. Two years ago, they put a major scare into the U.S. in a tough 3-2 group-stage loss thanks to Kevin Parsemain's two goals. He'll be back leading the line and will be keen to make the bigger boys in the group sweat.

Why they won't: While Martinique could spring a surprise and get a result against Mexico or Canada, they could also very well go three losses and out. Most of the players on the Martinique squad play in the country's amateur league, while all their opponents play in some sort of professional capacity. Squad depth will also take a toll.

Player to watch: Kevin Parsemain

Best XI (4-4-2): Loic Chauvet; Sebastien Cretinoir, Yann Thimon, Jordy Delem, Samuel Camille; Christophe Jougon, Wesley Jobello, Stephane Abaul, Karl Vitulin; Kevin Parsemain, Gregory Pastel


Group games: vs. Cuba (6/15, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Canada (6/19, 10:30 p.m. ET), vs. Martinique (6/23, 8:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 18
SPI chances of winning: 30.7 percent

Why they'll go far: In every Gold Cup, the teams with the most depth rise to the fore. Playing every three to four days during a U.S. summer takes its toll, but Mexico have the deepest squad going into this tournament, especially in defense and midfield, and that should manifest itself in the knockout rounds. Mexico also boast one of the best goal scorers in the tournament in Jimenez and a sound tactician like Martino should be the thing that gets El Tri across the finish line first.

Why they won't: If Jimenez gets hurt, Mexico could suddenly find themselves in a striker crisis, with Vela, Lozano and Hernandez already out. There is always a level of drama and off-field distractions that Mexico must contend with, and if El Tri are not up to their best in the group stage, the pressure from media and fans alike could lead to a toxic atmosphere that can't be overcome.

Player to watch: Raul Jimenez

Best XI (4-3-3): Guillermo Ochoa; Luis Rodriguez, Nestor Araujo, Carlos Salcedo, Jesus Gallardo; Edson Alvarez, Jonathan dos santos, Andres Guardado; Roberto Alvarado, Raul Jimenez, Rodolfo Pizarro


Group games: vs. Costa Rica (6/16, 8:30 p.m. ET), vs. Haiti (6/20, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Bermuda (6/24, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 129
SPI chances of winning: 0.04 percent

Why they'll go far: For the second consecutive time, the Pinoleros are in the Gold Cup, and the lessons learned in 2017 -- in which they lost all three games in somewhat close fashion -- can be applied to this year's edition. If they can keep things close in their opener against Costa Rica, there's no reason why they can't win their other games. Leading the way is Barrera, the national team's all-time leading scorer with 17 goals. Coach Henry Duarte also has the experience of 2017 under his belt.

Why they won't: Things could just as easily break the other way for Nicaragua. A lopsided loss to the Ticos could sink their efforts in the following two matches. There was also a 2-0 home loss to Haiti in Nations League qualifying, so questions will be asked if Nicaragua can overcome that mental hurdle when the two sides meet in the second match. Ghosts of 2017's failure could come back to haunt.

Player to watch: Juan Barrera

Best XI (4-3-3): Justo Llorente; Josue Quijano, Manuel Rosas, Luis Fernando Copete, Oscar Lopez; Marlon Lopez, Luis Galeano, Juan Barrera; Bryon Bonilla, Renato Punyed, Jorge Betancur


Group games: vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/18, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. Guyana (6/22, 5:30 p.m. ET), vs. United States (6/26, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 74
SPI chances of winning: 2.7 percent

Why they'll go far: Despite the retirements of national-team stalwarts like Blas Perez and Felipe Baloy, Panama still have many familiar faces from teams that know how to battle in this tournament. New York Red Bulls' Michael Murillo is one of the best defenders in the region, while in attack Montreal Impact man Omar Browne, who torched Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League, will be one to watch, along with forward Gabriel Torres. Also back in the fold is manager Julio Dely Valdes, who led Panama to the 2013 final.

Why they won't: One can't help but think that Panama is going to suffer a post-World Cup hangover for a while. Reaching the World Cup was such a momentous accomplishment, but with so many leaders leaving the team, it might take getting a few lumps in this Gold Cup for the Canaleros to fully adjust to being back in a new cycle. Also, outside of Torres, there isn't really a proven goal scorer in the squad.

Player to watch: Gabriel Torres

Best XI (4-4-2): Luis Mejia; Michael Murillo, Harold Cummings, Fidel Escobar, Erick Davis; Alberto Quintero, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Jose Rodriguez; Edgar Barcenas, Gabriel Torres


Group games: vs. Panama (6/18, 7:30 p.m. ET), vs. United States (6/22, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Guyana (6/26, 6:30 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 93
SPI chances of winning: 0.4 percent

Why they'll go far: After missing the 2017 Gold Cup, Trinidad and Tobago are back in the fold with a squad that boasts good experience in defense and midfield. Joevin Jones of the Seattle Sounders, Alvin Jones and Daneil Cyrus anchor the back, while Khaleem Hyland and Kevan George are two midfield stalwarts. Outside of Joevin Jones, what do those other four have in common? They all have experience beating the U.S. in competitive fixtures.

Why they won't: While the sight of Alvin Jones may spook some of the U.S. players -- he was the one that scored that long-range golazo on Tim Howard -- the Soca Warriors don't exactly have a scorer they can turn to in a time of need. Kenwyne Jones is now retired, and with this forward pool held scoreless in their past three friendlies, the jury is still out.

Player to watch: Joevin Jones

Best XI (4-4-2): Marvin Phillip; Alvin Jones, Makeil Williams, Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones; Kevan George, Nathan Lewis, Khaleem Hyland, Kevin Molino; Shahdon Winchester, Lester Peltier


Group games: vs. Guyana (6/18, 10 p.m. ET), vs. Trinidad and Tobago (6/22, 8 p.m. ET), vs. Panama (6/26, 9 p.m. ET)

FIFA rank: 24
SPI chances of winning: 43.4 percent

Why they'll go far: This Gold Cup represents a full clean slate for the U.S. team since their World Cup qualifying disaster, and the new generation of U.S. players will be keen to stake their claim and erase the nightmare of the past 20 months. There is Champions League quality in midfield with Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, plus head coach Gregg Berhalter can count on having one of the deepest squads at the tournament to counter the injuries and suspensions that are sure to come.

Why they won't: The U.S. suffered from poor center-back play in World Cup qualifying, and there are still plenty of question marks over whether Long, Ream and Miazga can get the job done. If Brooks isn't 100 percent, he can be really bad. Injuries are also a worry up top. Altidore's track record of health is not the best, and who exactly will be scoring the goals for the U.S. has yet to be answered.

Player to watch: Christian Pulisic

Best XI (4-4-2): Zack Steffen; Tyler Adams, Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson; Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Paul Arriola; Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes