- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

The upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup will have a decidedly MLS feel.

Such is the case when the tournament falls in a year with World Cup qualifying the priority for many of the teams in the region and some of the bigger names make way for younger players looking for an opportunity on the international stage.

Forty-eight MLS players were on the final 23-man rosters announced Thursday for the tournament that begins next week. The United States leads the way with sixteen from MLS. That includes the likes of Seattle’s Cristian Roldan, Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer and New England’s Kelyn Rowe, all of whom could make their national team debuts during the tournament.

The decision to go with a heavy MLS-based roster was by design for U.S. coach Bruce Arena. The notable newcomers are joined by a handful of national team veterans, including Graham Zusi, Brad Guzan, Matt Besler and Alejandro Bedoya.

It’s also a chance for those whose opportunities with the U.S. in the past year have been limited - Gyasi Zardes, Dax McCarty, Jordan Morris, to name a few - to flash in a more prominent role.

The U.S. opens the group stage of the Gold Cup against Panama on July 8 in Nashville.

“We have a large number of domestic players because our European-based players need a break. They had long seasons plus the June World Cup qualifiers, so they needed a break and then they need to start their preseasons in July.”

Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was on the preliminary 40-man roster for the U.S. and his request for change in association was approved by FIFA on Thursday. Gonzalez had represented Mexico at the U-20 level.

Canada’s roster includes nine MLS players, headlined by 16-year-old Vancouver product Alphonso Davies, who could become the youngest Canadian to play in a Gold Cup match. Jamaica features seven MLS players and Costa Rica has six.

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THE OTHER CUP: The quarterfinals for the U.S. Open Cup will include one of the best stories in American soccer.

USL club FC Cincinnati continued its impressive run in the tournament by knocking off Chicago on penalty kicks in the round of 16 before a crowd of more than 32,000. Goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt made three saves in the penalty shootout to send Cincinnati to the final eight against fellow USL side Miami FC. Cincinnati beat Columbus in the round of 32 before knocking out the Fire.

After failing to have a lower division squad reach the quarterfinals in 2016, the tournament is assured of having at least one lower division team reach the semifinal round.

In other action, FC Dallas beat Colorado 3-1 and advanced to face Sporting Kansas City after its 2-0 win over Houston. New York Red Bulls ousted Philadelphia on penalty kicks and will face New England after its 2-1 win over D.C. United. And San Jose ousted Seattle 2-1 and will face Los Angeles in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup are scheduled for the second week of July.

In another non-MLS competition, Toronto beat Montreal 3-2 on aggregate in the Canadian Championship thanks to Sebastian Giovinco’s goal in the closing seconds of the match.

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ROAD RIVALS: Last week’s handful of rivalry showdowns went in the favor of the road teams.

The one victory by a road team went to New York City FC and its impressive 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. NYCFC got goals from Jack Harrison and Ben Sweat to earn the club’s first points ever against their Hudson River rivals at Red Bull Arena.

The two draws for road teams came in decidedly different ways. FC Dallas got a goal early in the second half from Maxi Urruti for a 1-1 draw in the Texas Derby with Houston. Seattle’s 2-2 draw at Portland in a Cascadia showdown was even more dramatic thanks to Clint Dempsey’s header in second-half stoppage time to pull the 10-man Sounders even. The draw dropped Portland to 2-3-5 in its past 10 MLS matches after starting the season with five wins out of the first eight.

There is one more rivalry showdown this week: the California Classico where more than 50,000 are expected for San Jose’s match against Los Angeles at Stanford Stadium.

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CLEARED TO RETURN: Orlando City star Cyle Larin has been cleared to rejoin his club following his arrest for drunken driving. Larin was given an assessment by the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavior Program doctors and deemed eligible to resume team activities while continuing to participate in the program locally.

Larin was arrested on June 15 after driving the wrong way on an Orlando street. He was entered into the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program and was ineligible to play for Orlando City until this week.

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chicago forward David Accam was voted the league’s player of the week after scoring a hat trick in the Fire’s 4-0 win over Orlando. Accam also assisted on Chicago’s other goal as the Fire are unbeaten in nine straight league matches.

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