Mex­ico’s game in Denver is about se­lect­ing na­tional team, not to men­tion win­ning ti­tle.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Meyer Ja­son Con­nolly, AFP John Meyer: jmeyer@den­ver­ or @john­meyer

As the bi­en­nial CONCACAF Gold Cup un­folds over the next two weeks, na­tional soccer teams from North Amer­ica, Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean will bat­tle for pride and a ti­tle they give high pri­or­ity.

But for Mex­ico and the U.S. na­tional team, there is an­other un­der­ly­ing drama at work: What hap­pens now could shape the makeup of their World Cup squads next sum­mer.

As with Team USA’s Gold Cup ros­ter, the Mex­i­can team that will play Ja­maica on Thurs­day at Sports Au­thor­ity Field at Mile High is es­sen­tially a B team, but some of the play­ers will be hop­ing to play their way onto the first team in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia.

That in­cludes Je­sus Molina, one of the best mid­field­ers in Mex­ico, who plays for Mon­ter­rey.

“My po­si­tion is very com­pet­i­tive,” Molina said of Mex­ico’s mid­field depth. “I have to show my best with the op­por­tu­ni­ties I get, and with that I can earn a po­si­tion for the World Cup. I have one year to per­form the best I can, and then be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Mex­ico fin­ished fourth in the re­cent Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup in Rus­sia, which was more or less a dress-re­hearsal tour­na­ment for next year, but that was Mex­ico’s first team.

De­fender Luis Reyes is the only player here who played in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. This isn’t a team filled with sec­ond-divi­sion play­ers, though. It has sev­eral play­ers from Mex­i­can league cham­pi­ons Chivas, and most would fa­vor Mex­ico to hoist the Gold Cup on July 26 in Santa Clara, Calif.

“With this group, the ma­jor­ity is very young play­ers con­sol­i­dat­ing with each other at a se­nior level,” said Mex­ico coach Juan Carlos Osorio. “It’s go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing game for all the Mex­i­can team.”

Be­fore the Mex­ico-Ja­maica game, El Sal­vador will play Cu­ra­cao. Or­ga­niz­ers an­nounced Wed­nes­day that ticket sales had sur­passed 40,000. A large con­tin­gent of Mex­i­can “El Tri” fans are ex­pected to turn the Bron­cos’ sta­dium green, white and red.

“This and ev­ery sin­gle game the Mex­i­can team plays in the United States is im­por­tant to Mex­i­can na­tives that live in the States and Mex­i­canAmer­i­cans be­cause they feel that is their team,” said Es­drel Peinado, the Span­ish-lan­guage voice of the Rapids for more than a decade. “I have two boys that played with the Colorado Rapids DA (de­vel­op­ment academy) teams, and even though they were born in the United States and were looked at by the United States na­tional teams, they still feel the Mex­i­can team is their team.”

The CONCACAF Mex­i­can team is largely com­posed of younger play­ers, Juan Carlos Osorio said.

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