For Premier League fans, watching the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup might seem a bit like sitting through a high school production of West Side Story. While it’s clearly important to the participants and you might even recognize a few of the stars, only a handful of players are going to do anything on a bigger stage.
Yes, many of the countries in this year’s tournament have sent “B-Teams” to give their European-based stars a rest. And sure, two of the teams, Martinique and French Guiana, aren’t actually members of FIFA. But if you can look past that, the Gold Cup is more exciting than competitive soccer in July has any right to be.
There will be plenty of talented players looking to make a name for themselves with the World Cup less than a year away – seriously, this is your last chance to be the guy who knew about Kellyn Acosta before it was cool – but the Gold Cup also has something to offer Premier League fans.
Here are three names to keep an eye on at CONCACAF’s big dance.
Joel Campbell – Costa Rica (Arsenal)
It’s hard to believe Campbell is already six years into his time with Arsenal, having made just 23 Premier League appearances for the Gunners since joining the club in 2011.
During that time, he’s scored against Uruguay in the World Cup, Manchester United in the Champion’s League and the MLS All-Stars in…the MLS All-Star Game, without doing much to raise his stock in North London.
For Campbell, the Gold Cup should serve as something of an audition. With one year left on his Arsenal deal, he’s already been linked to several big clubs throughout Europe, including Olympiakos and Galatasaray. An impressive performance for Los Ticos could help Campbell raise a few more eyebrows abroad and give Arsenal a chance to increase its asking price for the 25-year-old forward.
Matt Miazga – USA (Chelsea)
This is basically cheating, since Miazga didn’t play a game for Chelsea during their run to the Premier League title in 2017. But the young American enjoyed a successful loan spell with Dutch club Vitesse last year and should factor for Chelsea during a preseason that could determine his future at Stamford Bridge.
Before he tries to impress Antonio Conte, Miazga will hope to win over Bruce Arena during his first call-up to the United States men’s national team in over a year. He’s one of the least experienced defenders on the Gold Cup roster, but some less-than-intimidating group stage opponents should give Miazga an opportunity to make his case for a trip to Russia in 2018.
Keep an eye on his relationship with some of the veteran center backs on this roster. If Miazga can thrive alongside Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler, it might be tempting for Arena to use his aerial ability and considerable motor in bigger games down the road.
Scott Arfield – Canada (Burnley)
When Scott Arfield takes the field for Canada in the 2017 Gold Cup, it will be the culmination to one of international soccer’s strangest journeys.
The Clarets midfielder made 17 appearances for the Scottish U-21s (he was born just outside of Edinburgh) before waiting for a call to the senior team that never arrived.
So, he took advantage of a Canadian father to make his one-time international switch and delivered Canada – a team that hasn’t escaped the Gold Cup group stage since 2009 – one of the most experienced Premier League players in the whole tournament.
Arfield’s versatility will certainly be welcome on a Canadian side looking to bring talented youngsters like Cyle Larin and Alphonso Davies into the fold this summer. It might even be enough to escape from a group with Costa Rica and Honduras as favorites.