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USA plays Canada in Gold Cup opener

DETROIT – With the next World Cup still three years away, the United States is already playing games that will affect the national team well into the future.

The Americans open Gold Cup play Tuesday night against Canada, and the champion of this regional tournament will earn an automatic berth to the 2013 Confederations Cup, an important World Cup tuneup. The United States played in the 2009 Confederations Cup, shocking Spain in the semifinals before dropping a 3-2 thriller to Brazil in the final.

“The main goal this year has been looking forward to this Gold Cup, and making sure we win,” midfielder Clint Dempsey said. “We want to be in the Confederations Cup.”

The U.S. is trying to build momentum after that impressive showing in the Confederations Cup and Landon Donovan’s dramatic goal at last year’s World Cup that put the Americans in the round of 16. It’s not easy to gauge where the national team stands in non-World Cup years, but this tournament, played every two years for the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean, provides a decent test.

The U.S. and rival Mexicans are the favorites, having met in the last two Gold Cup finals. The Americans won in 2007, earning their berth in the 2009 Confederations Cup. There was less at stake in the 2009 Gold Cup, and the U.S. fielded an inexperienced team that was routed 5-0 by Mexico for the title.

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