The opening match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup is kicking off tomorrow, marking the start of some exciting opportunities. Saint Kitts and Nevis will, for the first time, get to participate in the tournament. With its strong squad, Jamaica could finally challenge the “big three” of CONCACAF — USA, Mexico, and Canada. Some countries are looking to advance to the knockouts for the first time.
However, the tournament creates opportunities for the players themselves. Younger players in North America rarely get the same kind of coverage that their counterparts in Europe or South America get, and the Gold Cup can be a big chance for them to show their abilities to a bigger audience.
In 2021, the Gold Cup Best Young Player was Canada’s Tajon Buchanan. Shortly after, Buchanan (then with MLS side New England Revolution) departed for Belgian giants Club Brugge. In 2019, Chelsea-bound Christian Pulisic won the award and became a star for the Americans. Two years earlier, the accolade went to Vancouver Whitecaps forward Alphonso Davies — now with German giants Bayern Munich. But which players could potentially win the award in this tournament, or impress?
Dujuan Richards, 17, Jamaica
Richards could be the next big thing in Jamaican soccer. After impressing at Phoenix All Star Football Academy in Kingston, the 17-year-old earned interest from across England. Newcastle United was particularly interested, offering him a trial, but, in the end, he agreed to sign with Chelsea. He will join the Premier League giants when he turns 18 in November.
Richards has already earned three caps with Jamaica, starting two matches. With the firepower the Reggae Boyz have in attack, he likely won’t be a starter in the Gold Cup. However, his blistering pace and strength mean he’ll be a nightmare off the bench. He could punish some teams as a super-sub.
Santiago Gimenez, 22, Feyenoord
Gimenez is a glimmer of hope in what is a dark time for Mexican soccer. The striker starred in the Eredivisie this season, scoring 15 goals to help Feyenoord win the title. He also scored five more in Europa League and some top sides are said to be battling for his signature.
Gimenez has earned 12 caps for the Mexican national team, scoring twice. Somewhat confusingly he was not a part of the World Cup squad, but since then he has gained recognition and featured in almost all of their Nations League matches. Mexico will likely rely on him heavily as they try to take back the Gold Cup, which they last won in 2019.
Jesús Ferreira, 22, FC Dallas
Ferreira is currently in the midst of another strong season in the MLS. After scoring 18 goals last season, he has bagged ten in his first 18 games and captained several matches for FC Dallas. This is the 22-year-old’s fourth season with eight or more MLS goals.
Not so long ago, Ferreira looked like he could be the starting striker for the US. However, the recent upturn in form for Ricardo Pepi and Josh Sargent, and, more notably, the recruitment of Folarin Balogun means Ferreira is sliding down the depth chart. However, none of them are on the squad for this tournament, so it’s his chance to prove why he can start. Ferreira will look to guide the US to its second consecutive Gold Cup triumph.
Mayer Gil, 19, El Salvador
Gil is one of the top prospects in El Salvador right now, having joined Colombian side Alianza Petrolera last year. He has scored three goals for the Colombian side, including a late brace off the bench in his first league match. He has featured mostly off the bench and should get more minutes next season.
Gil will challenge his two brothers, Brayan and Cristian, to start at striker. However, if he doesn’t start, he will still be a lethal option off the bench, as he proved in his first match with Alianza. A pacy striker with a good shot, he will be key if El Salvador reach the later stages of the tournament.
Aarón Suárez, 20, Costa Rica
Suárez is one of the most exciting players in the Costa Rican Primera División right now. In the Clausura, which recently ended, he scored eight times and assisted eight goals as Alajuelense finished second in the table. They lost the final to rivals Saprissa.
Suárez has made seven appearances for Costa Rica, scoring once — a crucial equalizer against Martinique in the Nations League. With Costa Rica bringing a rotated squad, he could get decent minutes in the Gold Cup, even if he has to feature as a super-sub.
Image Courtesy of Brand Marketing team of CONCACAF and creative design agency Thirsty., CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons..