Concacaf’s biennial international championship – the Gold Cup – starts Saturday with two games in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. El Salvador faces Curaçao at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, then reigning tournament champion Mexico takes on Trinidad and Tobago at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
On Sunday, Canada and the U.S. hit the pitch at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. After Canada takes on Martinique, the USMNT – recent victors in the Concacaf Nations League – returns to action against Haiti.
Of Major League Soccer’s 27 teams, 24 will be impacted by player absences due to either the Concacaf Gold Cup or the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where the men’s soccer competition kicks off on July 22. The only teams without any players representing their countries are Austin FC, New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake. Four teams – the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy and Toronto FC – lead the league with five players absent. This will be a storyline to follow in the league over the next 2-3 weeks as those teams must find ways to account for the unavailable personnel.
In all, 57 MLS players representing 12 countries will participate in the Gold Cup. The USMNT features the most MLS players with 19, while Canada has 13 such players on its roster.
Brothers representing different countries in Gold Cup
Seattle Sounders FC’s Christian Roldan and his younger brother Alex Roldan will represent the USMNT and El Salvador, respectively, in the Concacaf Gold Cup.
While Christian has earned 20 caps for the U.S., Alex is receiving his first national team call-up after recently electing to play for El Salvador, for whom he’s eligible via his parentage.
Alex Roldan has had himself quite a season so far. On May 12, he was called on to play goalkeeper when starter Stefan Frei went down with an injury. He made three saves to preserve a 1-0 win. On Sunday, he notched his first career MLS goal.
MLS news and notes
Seattle Sounders make history: With Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo, the Seattle Sounders own the league record for games without a loss to open a season at 13. They broke a tie of 12 such games with the Los Angeles Galaxy (1996, 2010), Kansas City (2000) and Real Salt Lake (2014).
Leagues Cup is back: Mark your calendars, sports fans. The Leagues Cup schedule was announced Wednesday and the first round of games will take place Aug. 10-12. The semifinals will take place Sept. 14-15 with the final on Sept. 22. What also was revealed was the full roster of teams: New York City FC, Orlando City SC, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City of MLS; Club León, Pumas UNAM, Santos Laguna and Tigres UANL of Liga MX. You can be forgiven if you don’t remember the Leagues Cup. It was held just once in 2019 (Cruz Azul won) and canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One year ago Thursday … the MLS is Back Tournament kicked off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. When Orlando City defeated Inter Miami CF in the tournament opener, it represented the first MLS action in nearly four months after the 2020 regular season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. A month later, the Portland Timbers emerged as tournament champions, earning a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League competition (in which Portland reached the quarterfinals). The MLS is Back Tournament was the second major sports event to open in a bubble, following the NWSL’s Challenge Cup (which kicked off on June 27) and preceding the NBA bubble (where the season resumed on July 30).
MLS rankings: Top 10 power poll
1. Seattle Sounders: Now that they have an MLS record with 13 games to start a season without a loss, how long can Sounders keep their undefeated run alive?
2. Sporting Kansas City: SKC – which doesn’t play again until July 21 – gets a couple weeks to bask in the glory of a three-game winning streak, including an impressive road victory over the LA Galaxy on the Fourth of July.
3. New England Revolution: What had been the league’s second-best start to the season (behind the Sounders, of course) has hit a snag of late, losing twice and tying once in the previous three games.
4. Orlando City SC: Like the Revolution, Orlando has hit a rough patch lately, losing twice in a six-day stretch.
5. Los Angeles Galaxy: The Galaxy have won three of four, but a long-term concern could be developing around the health of Chicharito, who suffered a calf injury minutes before kickoff of the Galaxy’s loss on July 4.
6. Philadelphia Union: The Union will count on depth over the next couple weeks, as they will be without star goalkeeper Andre Blake, one of their top goal-scorers in Cory Burke, and defender Alvas Powell. The trio will be playing for Jamaica in the Concacaf Gold Cup.
7. Nashville SC: Nashville – one of this season’s surprise teams – is adding some talent to its attack, signing forward Aké Loba for club-record $6.8 million. The 23-year-old forward would be Nashville’s third designated player, joining Hany Mukhtar and Jhonder Cádiz.
8. New York City FC: NYCFC had a five-year, nine-game undefeated streak against Montreal snapped in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss.
9. Colorado Rapids: Minnesota United had been one of the league’s hotter teams … that is until the Loons went into Commerce, Colorado, and were defeated by the Rapids on Wednesday night.
10. Columbus Crew: Columbus is winless in its last three games entering its rivalry showdown with FC Cincinnati on Friday in the “Hell is Real” derby, which will be held at TQL Stadium for the first time.
Others receiving votes: DC United
USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mike Craven, Austin American-Statesman; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gold Cup: Christian Roldan, Alex Roldan to play for USMNT, El Salvador