Last week's announcement that the winner of this summer's Gold Cup will meet the 2015 champion for a spot in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia doesn't change much for the U.S. national team.
The Yanks still want to win this year's tournament, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann still will be forced to pick a second-string roster for the competition, which kicks off July 7 in 13 American cities.
World Cup qualifying remains the clear priority for Klinsmann. And with three qualifiers between June 7 and 18 (preceded by friendly matches against Belgium and Germany on May 29 and June 2, respectively), there is virtually no chance that a player named to the U.S. squad for high-profile Hexagonal games against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras will stick around for the Gold Cup, even with the stakes raised.
"Guys that are playing in qualifying can't then be expected to go all the way through Gold Cup and then the next day go back to their MLS or European teams," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told reporters during the federation's centennial celebrations in New York City last week.
"It's impossible, especially with the European[-based] players," Klinsmann added. "They need a break."
Complicating matters is the fact that most European teams begin preseason training in July. Even though clubs are required to release players for the tournament, summoning a player against his employer's wishes might not be in the national team's best interest if it compromises his minutes in the season leading into Brazil 2014.
At the same time, the Gold Cup will be Klinsmann's last chance to take an extended look at bubble players who couldn't quite crack the qualifying roster. So at least a few call-ups from Europe in July are likely. But they'll have to be evaluated carefully, on a case-by-case basis.
There are fewer obstacles for Scandinavia- and Mexico-based players. Still, expect the list to be MLS heavy.
Coaches have some flexibility. Because of the packed summer schedule for the top teams in the region -- in addition to the Hex, two-time defending champ Mexico will represent CONCACAF at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in mid-June -- the nations that advance beyond the group stage will be allowed to swap up to four players out of their 23-man squad after the group stage is complete, provided any additions come from the 35-man preliminary roster that teams are required to submit by May 24.
That means that, in theory, an MLS star like Graham Zusi could spend May and June with the varsity, go back to Sporting Kansas City for a month and then join the Gold Cup squad for the knockout rounds.
It will be a balancing act, and it's hard to know which players will be available until the qualifying games begin. But again, don't expect much overlap between the two squads.
Here's an early, position-by-position look at some players who could be pressed into duty in July:
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